Monday, April 02, 2007

The Ugly Bystander

I think the misplaced sympathy out there for narcissists comes from people wishing to push unpleasant stuff out of their minds so that they have but selective awareness of an event like narcissistic abuse.

When we say that narcissists lack empathy, we mean exactly that. In plainer language, they are brutal, treating those they abuse subhumanly. Their callousness is something one must see to believe. Often the victim cannot get his or her mind around it and goes into a state of shocked disbelief of their own eyes and ears.

When narcissists see that they are drawing blood, they get sadistic.

This behavior makes no sense till you remember why narcissists do this. They are stomping you down to elevate themselves. It's the Teeter Totter Game I give many examples of in the eBook.

In doing this, they are morally trampling you to have something to thump their chests about and give a Tarzan yell.

They get HIGH on treating others like dirt.

So, keep a tight grip on that fact: they don't do it because it's evil; they do it because it makes them feel good. They are sick in the head. They have unbearable pain/shame inside that keeps trying to surface to consciousness on them. This pretending to be grand by stomping you is just their way of killing that pain by keeping it repressed.

Abuse is an addiction with narcissists. The more they degrade you, the bigger dose of this high they get. Which is why they are sadistic.

So, here you have them abusing their victim in cold blood sadistically. Then, when the victim complains, they turn around with their little Wouldn't-Hurt-a-Fly mask on for the bystanders, whining about their need to "heal."

Yes, THEIR need to heal.

Some folks don't know a joke even when it slaps them in the face like that.

Right out of the bystander's mind goes what's on the other side of that coin - what that angel-faced narcissist just did to that victim. In other words, they take this "Poor-Little-Me" act out of context.

More important, the bystanders thus avoid having to know what they know about such phony face changes = that the narcissist is diabolical and laughing up his sleeve.

All they let themselves see is whiny angel-face before them right now. Because it's warm and cuddly and doesn't rattle their cage or require them to do anything about anything.

Or cross this guy they are suddenly afraid of.

Ah, that whiny little angel-face he has, upon whom they misplace their wretched sympathy.

Then they go off and correct the VICTIM for wrongdoing. Yes, that's right: some folks don't even know a joke when they tell it.

The victim has sinned by feeling angry or wanting a divorce or wanting to retaliate so as to make the abuser stop it. THAT'S the only sin the ugly bystander sees. Nothing the narcissist did gets a peep out of him or her about it.

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At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is something that my father did quite frequently. He would bombastically talk about something. He was always opinionated and he expected everyone else to agree with him and never challenge him. However, here is the kicker: if someone ever challenged one of his outlandish opinions, he would rarely get angry. Instead, he would get his feelings hurt and start playing the victim.

What we learned as children was to keepto ourselves about our father. If we disagreed with his opinion, we had to keep quiet because if we disagreed then we hurt his feelings. In short, we became the guilty party, the perpetuator, the persecutor for simply diasgreeing with him. And he became the victim. It was a neat little setup he had going.

I saw the same thing with my ex. She was very pushy, but if anyone ever pushed back, she became this huge victim. Same dynamic.

Here is the thing I finally discovered: With this dynamic, you can never win and this technique keeps them from every growing and moving out of the narcissism. If every time they are challenged on some statement they make, they retreat into victimhood, it means that they are avoiding the substance of the argument. It is a truth avoidance mechanism. They aren't interested in any truth. They are only interested in being heard and and seen and if someone disagrees with them, then wilt into victimhood.

As usual, it is always about image.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had some of these apologist bystanders in my life, and I have absolutely no use for them. In my opinion, they are the only ones in the room more cowardly than the narcissist.

I have come to believe that when they take the narcissist's side because they are afraid of the him, at least half of them are trying to convince themselves that they are righteous, rather than afraid.

They take the path of least resistance, and when they are giving you that "You overreacted" crap, they are trying to believe it themselves, so they can push down that voice inside them that says, "You're afraid of the bully, you're just a little coward."

And they are little cowards, too, those bystanders. If it isn't your battle, fine, then stay out of it. Otherwise, shut the hell up. Don't try to calm me down or play peacemaker just to hide from your own discomfort.

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two-faced, relentless sadistic abuse and butter-wouldn't-melt con artistry sounds like the N I know.

But you can't blame bystanders for not seeing when even the target of abuse is repeatedly taken in by the lies, denials and gaslighting.

:) Blue

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

" can't blame bystanders for not seeing..."

Not seeing what? That he's insincere? I think you can blame them for that. And yes, the victim unsees too. Only because the victim doesn't WANT to see, not because it's hard to see as you imply.

The victim has very strong temptation into denial. Much stronger than the byestander. Much better excuse.

But even the victim will eventually face facts and tell you that he or she is angry with themselves for refusing to see what was staring them in the face.

So where is the byestanders confession to that effect?

And the bystander has no excuse for saying, "I'm going to the north pole" and turning to head off south. It's preposterous for their only criticism to be OF THE VICTIM. It's preposterous for their sympathy to be FOR THE VICTIMIZER. And I have too often said how absurd it is to regard feeling as a sin. There is no excuse for anti-logic.

I understand the bystander's fear of the narcissist and fear of getting involved. That is legitimate. But then to turn around and find the only fault you find IN THE VICTIM - that deserves contempt. Virtually every victim gets this treatment from bystanders. Narcissists just play them like fiddles.

At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

on the topic of bystanders trying to calm you down or be peacemakers......
When you've been targeted one too many times and actually speak up for yourself, suddenly the bystander is there trying to "make things better"

Where were they before? That is the big question. Because they could have said something a multitude of times before, when all sorts of stuff was happening, but they didn't. They only say something when they can say it and feel like they know better, that they know more, that they are more mature, or have more insight into the world and human nature than you do. Some bystanders honestly want to make you feel better, because then they feel better; you know the type, the people pleasers. But I have found the majority of bystanders are in it for the moment of celebrity that they feel when they get to use there powerful problem solving and peacekeeping skills.

I have taken a workshop on confict and peacekeeping. If the parties in a conflict are given a voice, that is often enough to not escalate a conflict . Its only when one party feels invisible and not heard that conflict actually becomes unmanagable.

What I hate about bystanders is that they actually try to make you quiet down, like its a crime to show any emotions good or bad. I would like a bystander to ackowlege the targeting, but if for some reason they are in denial about that, then really can't they just let you say your part. Why can't they be your witness and hear your story?
Deal with the discomfort of knowing that there is "bad" people in this world. These are the same people that say "turn that frown upside down!" in a non ironic way.

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I think these comments about the bystanders nail it.

Add it up: they do nothing to counter the abuse, only speaking up to stop the victim from feeling free to do anything to put a stop to it or even act like it is happening.

Those actions speak louder than words. The bystanders take the evildoer's side. There is no denying that. That is contemptible, not matter how holy the halo they put on it.

They are enablers of the abuser. Like accomplices who work the situation for him to allow him to keep getting away with it. They shut the victim up for him. They call the victim naughty for even just feeling his anger, thus helping crush the victim into abject submission to the abuse.

The term "innocent bystander" is an oxymoron. Like Hitler, narcissists know they can count on a high percentage of people to do this for him if he just puts on his whiny victim mask so that they can PRETEND they are righteous, not traitors betraying you to abuse.

After studies of the contemptible behavior of the bystanders during the Holocaust, an inscription was placed on a monument to it (in isreal I think) that says something to the effect: 'Never again be a victim; never be a perpetrator; and never, never, never be a bystander.'

Amen. Bystanders suck.

To make them stop blaming the victim for rape, society had to make it politically incorrect to do so. It's about time society did the same thing with all forms of abuse. Bystanders won't stop serving as a proxy for abusers till people get slammed for doing it.

At 3:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Witness the shameful abandonment of the victims and opponents of Saddam Hussein and his tyrannous regime by the 'Stop the War' coalition in Britain.
We had the grotesque sight of the liberal left (and the hard left) marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Islamofascists in an attempt to prevent the overthrow of a narcissistic, psychopathic tyrant, who probably killed more Muslims than the Crusaders.
And the same kind of thing went on in the Thirties, of course, with the attempts to appease Hitler.
It is impossible to appease a bully, which is why so much of this conflict-resolution crap plays into the hands of psychopaths. They are simply not singing from the same hymn-sheet as everyone else.

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Woah! Thank you for that balm on my jet lag. As you can see, I'm operating in your time zone!

Seriosusly, I agree. It's the same thing on a massive scale. A way of looking the other way and masquerading this ugly and callous betrayal as the opposite - as, of all things, "humanitarian concern."

No matter where you go in the world people do this. Narcissistic and psychopathic bullies who become dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Hussein are cynics who exploit this mass behavior like every narcissistic bully does on a smaller scale. The Islamofascist movement is collectively behaving just like that.

And how can we expect Muslims to stand up to it when they see the West afraid to?

I think the only hope is to shame people for behaving this way, because reason and true morality bounces off the forehead of a hypocrite.

I say to them: If you want to stay out of it, fine. Your choice. But when you turn on the victim and demonize those who do have the courage to step up and take action (for the offense of putting your cowardice to shame by their example), you are sinking to the gutter.

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Woah! Thank you for that balm on my jet lag. As you can see, I'm operating in your time zone!"

You're welcome and thank you for your website and blog.

If you are in the UK, Kathy, pop into a bookshop and buy a copy of Nick Cohen's 'What's Left? How the Liberals Lost Their Way'. It only came out in February and is not yet available in the US, I think. It's well-written, informative, spot on and a real breath of fresh air.

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm afraid and ashamed of the idea and observation that i may have been a bystander of my kids having to take flack. they probably lost respect for me when i put up with it, but surely they must have taken hits too.i wish i would have known sooner what i'm learning here. HOW do i stop being a bystander? it's been so hard to find what to ACTUALLY DO and say to counter balance the insidiousness. i feel stupid for not calling it abuse before. when someone is a sneaky bully they are good at flying in under the radar. i think one time i referred to him as a horsefly- you feel em biting but if you're busy you just swat them away til one bites really hard in the right spot and you yell i put up for so long makes me nuts. it's easy to beat myself up but i'd rather do something constructive.jt

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

innocent bystander is an oxymoron isn't it?!! that makes me think a lot. i hated being one- i felt like one at times but i choked on the innocent part for i felt anything but innocent. i felt helpless!!! but not innocent. only i didn't have words for it (before) now i am finding voice and it feels like some progress. being stuck stinks!jt

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Join the club. I doubt there is such a thing as a vicitm of a narcissist who doesn't beat themselves up over having put up with it for so long. At some point you have an epiphany and see what you've done = the horrible "asked for it." By doing that, we give the N a carte blanche to abuse us; we lay down to make a nice door mat; we make it OK to abuse us because there is no response to that abuse. No complaint. No demand to even just stop abusing us. How abject. And so on. I'm sure I don't have to descibe how low we feel when we realize what we've done - how it actually TEMPTS the abuser! It's like staking out a lamb in the backyard of a wolf.

Then we alternate between anger at ourselves for it and anger at those influences in our life that trained us to think it is evil not to be a spineless wimp who keeps turning the other cheek and bending over for it with a smile. (And those pictures of Jesus as a spineless longsuffering wimpy sap are suddenly disgusting to us - we prefer the older Jesus in art, the one who was a man.)

But the pain subsides. Since we are not narcissists blame doesn't kill us. We can let it lay where it may. We accept our responsibility and ARE FAIR WITH OURSELVES. Because we were influenced and trained to make this mistake. The important thing is that we stop making it.

Ironic, eh? We have to repent turning the other cheek.

I don't know whether you're there yet or not, but you will get there. To the point of being at peace with yourself about it. (Largely because you don't do it anymore.)

Also, notice what the bitterness has been about here. Not about bystanders keeping out of it and doing nothing - about the bystanders landing on the VICTIM. Trying to supress the victim's complaint and turn the victim into docile victim, a glutton for punishment who just keeps taking it as though it ain't happening. THAT'S what makes the victim furious with the bystanders, righteously furious. We see right though them, and it ain't a pretty sight. But that isn't what you're talking about.

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks kathy. the second post i tried didn't get through and was pretty elegant last night- let's see if i can get close now. i said something about how innocent bystander IS an oxymoron. it makes me think. i hated being an 'innocent bystander' only i choked on the word innocent. i felt helpless- but mot innocent.shoot i really can't remember what else i said. something about how having the words to put with it all is helping. anyway thanks for your site. thanks for being here. jt

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous gh said...

Ah, thanks for this one, Kathy -- always a good reminder. When I divorced my N, certain friends and family seemed to go out of their way to continue nurturing a relationship with him -- and he with them, for what better way to perpetuate abuse than to try to lure away the people who should be there to support and encourage the victim?

At first, I excused it, thinking as one commenter said above that I could hardly blame them for being taken in by his act when I myself was taken in for so long. They were just being good people for giving him the benefit of the doubt, right?

Then it hit me -- to give *him* the benefit of the doubt, they had to deny that same benefit to me. The day one of my supposedly oldest and closest friends berated me for not taking my marriage vows seriously and not doing enough to try to make it work, a light switch flipped. *I* didn't do enough?? All my ex had to do to save the marriage was to stop abusing me. He wouldn't/couldn't/didn't do that. In pointing the finger of blame at me this supposed friend necessarily had to accept his song and dance that he was trying everything he could and had to reject (or, better, turn a blind eye) to my side of the story.

There is a time, sure, that you can excuse the bystanders for not seeing. WE do our part, nno doubt, to cover for the N while being abused. But when you speak out about the abuse and the bystanders choose to blindly accept the N's stories, this is the ultimate betrayal. All you can do then, I think, is run from these "innocent" bystanders as fast as you can. They'd rather see you continue to suffer than to have to give up their comfortable ignorance.

At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know how i say i don't say or look at him much-it's cuz i don't want to feed him supply-which i know still does- but do you think that minimizes it? also i say i seem more sensitive to his criticism because i now see it for what it is. something i'm becoming aware of is that i am almost developing tunnel vision with my hearing if there is such a thing. my whole adrenaline system kicks in whenever i hear him talk- i think cuz i'm in 'wait for it' mode cuz i've learned to expect it from him. although he has backed off of me cuz i have made a few boundaries i still wait for him to semi attack someone else. he has gotten even more covert, at least when i'm around (he actually lowers his voice in my presence-maybe cuz he thinks my hearing is defective cuz now he knows i'm smart-chip,chip,chip) i really need to tune in finer to catch him mess with the kids don't i? even though i fear sounding like a nit picker like he is. sometimes i think i may be "letting" him screw himself over with them because logic says if i got fed up, they will get fed up. i know if i blast him i will look like a nag. but- do you think i'm taking the bystander's stance by doing this? jt

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again I am struck by the intelligence, sincerity and similarities between yourselves and all of the rest of us. I believe and have been shown this CELLULARLY, that nacissistic abuse only happens to the BEST of us, and hopefully we each can take our journey of healing and make something astonishingly beautiful of our lives.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

"thanks kathy. the second post i tried didn't get through and was pretty elegant last night- l"

Ooops. Now that I have everyone confused - is that post there now?

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Guys, Stop! There we go again blaming everyone but the cruel manipulator who's evil makes no sense and totally diarms all within reach of it. What my son said out of hurt and pain toward his brother who he loves but does not like is, "I can't do anything because he'll burn my sh__!' That's crude but it is the bottom line, we put up with it to survive and protect our property. Narcissists manipulate, throw unreasonable and frightening tantrums, lie, and cheat (and usually this is how they treat those they claim to love) to get the things most of us would just ask for. They don't make any sense and they frighten us. It is easier to be angry at ourselve or those others who innocently stand by because it is safer than showing anger toward such a creature that makes no sense and we have no idea how they will react.

Let's focus on putting the blame where it is due.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jt, honey, you are a hostage just like the rest of us who are related to these folks and getting free of them isn't that cut and dried. You are hypervigalent because you are in survival mode. I do the same with my son this time of year because he bcome hypomanic and sometimes manic in the Spring and his narcissism is much worse at this time of year. We are all walking on egg-shells. The abuse that is used is terror, impending doom, that imprisions your mind and spirit with what they might is insidious.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous gh said...

jt, I think the answer probably lies in what you would want a bystander to do if you were in your kids' position. I know, for me, it goes a long way to hear someone else speak up and say, "Gosh, it's not right to treat someone that way." On the other hand, it can be excruciatingly annoying to feel like a pawn in the middle of someone else's fight -- hearing mom yell at dad for mistreating a kid when the kid doesn't feel particularly mistreated can make the kid feel like s/he's being unfairly enlisted in someone else's war. It takes much empathy, I think, to know which of these situations you are facing at any given moment.

One thing I'd recommend is listening to and watching your kids' reactions closely. If they actually find the courage to speak up -- "That's not fair!" -- and you think they are right, then that is the most important time to be there to back them up. You don't need to take over, but a simple comment, "I agree; that's not fair," is huge. It helps them feel more and more confident to stand up for themselves in the future. I would also pay attention for those times you can see they are feeling hurt/abused, but lack the courage to speak up. Then they need their mom to do it for them, I would think.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heartily second gh's comments on how to help your kids. This also applies to stepping in when the one kid is behaving narcissistically--you intervene and speak on behalf of the ones being abused, when they're still too young to figure it out. This serves not only to set boundaries on the narcissistic one, but to help the younger ones become aware and not be ensnared by the blaming and distorted thinking of the attacker. Repeat as necessary, until the younger ones have learned the script and start speaking up for themselves. At that point give them a pat on the back for speaking up.

The first step to stop being a bystander when you've identified an N is to be skeptical of everything he says. Expect lies and distortions and manipulations and contradictions. Then casually point them out every so often. Since a lot of the N's digs are small and under the radar, fight back in small, subtle ways that discredit him. For example, casually (but non-sarcastically)drop some comment he made in the past that contradicts some behavior he's doing now. Such as, when he's angling for the remote, "Oh, but you don't watch TV--you said so yourself" (earlier when he was disparaging our shows). Then when he denies it or makes excuses, just say "oh" and drop it. This doesn't "win" the argument, but plants seeds of doubt about the N, because the kids certainly remember hearing him say that.

And yes, it is my goal that they don't fully trust what their dad says, because he isn't fully trustworthy. They can fully trust at least one of their parents. It's important to me to teach them the difference, so that they're less likely to get taken in by N's in the real world.

Staying casual means having some emotional distance from the aggravating nature of the N's behavior, as if you don't care much about the outcome of any particular exchange. That way you won't get pulled into a battle. But the point is to make a little jab at them and then pull out, all innocent...i.e. give them a taste of their own medicine (but with grace, as you say).


At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks everyone and kathy, my posts are all there now- sorry if it got a little confusing- i was a little confused at how my computer was acting but its all good now. everyones replies are so helpful. sometimes when i feel like i'm going under i reach for this life ring and stay helps a lot-the encouragements and advice and shared observations are sooo needed.thankyou and keep it coming!!!jt

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Ross Dudley said...

We walked on eggshells while growing up with a narcissistic mother. She could blow and say what ever evil crap she wanted but we dare not say a peep back or suffer the rath of mymomzilla. As adults we continued on our path of eggshells claiming to do it out of respect for our so-called-mother. What mother would abuse their children the way she has?

When our father, her main target died I became the number 1 target. Finally after 44 years of this crap I have had to set myself free by having nothing to do with the shrew. As a result she is attempting to dissmantle any family legacy that there may have been. It is the latest of many grand and obscene gestures to try and have some sort of power and control and to yet again stick it to me in the process. She has lost so much due to her horrific behaviour and yet she'll never admit it. Her loss. I plan on living a healthy and happy life with my wife and children; something she is incapable of doing.

Feel free to follow and comment on my journey at:

At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG That's exactly what my ex-N said . "NEED TO HEAL"

How about... I need you to get lost so I can 1) work up a new victim, 2) lie about you to my wife/partner and 3) need you gone so I can tell everyone YOU abused me and no one will be the wiser.


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