Thursday, September 20, 2007

A little more on feelings

Something I learned from tennis.

It is probably best to keep your feelings to yourself out there. The greatest players usually do. Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg.

They weren't phonies, acting as though their feelings were different than they really were. These players simply kept their feelings to themselves. Bjorn Borg, for example, would afterwards say that he was so nervous he could hardly hold the racket. But you couldn't tell that by watching him.

I have a friend who says he never believes anything his mind tells him during a tennis match. Which is the best advice I've ever heard.

But let's say that you have listened to your stupid mind and that it is getting to you. Maybe you do need to blow off a little steam, as a result. So long as you control your behavior to keep it within acceptable norms, it won't hurt anything.

Though it migh boost your opponent's morale. And that's certainly no good. Which is why it's usually best done with a touch of humor.

This might help with your narcissist, since narcissists compete with the other party in every interaction.

It may be best to keep your feelings to yourself. But that doesn't mean that you must be a phony. It doesn't mean that you must repress your feelings and delude yourself about what they really are. For, doing that is bad for you.

But does your N need to see an expression of those feelings? What's the point when an N just reacts perversely to them?

He or she will see through any phony facade you try to put on and smell blood. But if you just give NO reaction, that's different. That is not what an N wants.

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At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a coincidence, I have been through just such a situation and I welcome the opportunity to vent my story. I hope this post is not too long.

I have just bought my first home, well that's what I thought. Right from the start, I was dancing to the beat of the vendor's drum but as he was upfront about his conditions and there seemed to be a reasonable explanation for them, it did not trigger any warning in me. Contracts were exchanged with the vendor being required to install certain amenities and was given a longer settlement period to do so.

The day before settlement, I found out that the vendor was not ready to settle, which threw me into chaos as I had to change all my arrangements at short notice as well as ask special permission from my landlord to stay living in my house. I was furious!

I immediately instructed my solicitors to issue a notice of completion. This means that he has to complete the terms of contract and settle in 2 weeks and 2 days. Failure to do so means I can renegotiate the contract or even cancel the sale altogether. I also have the option of suing him for breach of contract.

The uproar that then ensued has led me to believe that the vendor is a malignant narcissist who is using the contract to create as much havoc as possible. He is obeying the letter of the law but violating the spirit of the law and is driving his realtor, his solicitors and mine crazy.

Included in his repertoire: Blatant lying, blaming everyone, comparing what he agreed to do with finding a cure for cancer, "sacking" his solicitor, hanging up on people, telling me that my solicitor is plotting against me because she has mental problems and arguing minutiae about exactly what the contract means (for example he has to install an oven, so he is arguing that this doesn't include wiring up the electricity for it!). He is ratcheting up my expenses beyond my budget and keeps changing the date on which he expects the work to be done and is callous to the fact that I might not have a roof over my head in the mean time. (Fortunately, I have a good relationship with my understanding landlord's agent, even though my situation is disruptive to the smooth running of their business). I am bound by contract so I cannot walk away, much as I would like to.

The situation escalated when I had to go to the property over some specious reason (an hours drive away). Even though I was furious and totally stressed out, I was determined not to express it, nor argue with him as I knew he would just use it as justification for more abuse, a game which Berne called "now I've got you, you son of a bitch!" Only narcissists playing this game will make up a justification, even when one isn't there.

When I got there, a week after settlement, I found out that he still had his stuff there and he hadn't started work on any of the amenities he had to install, a blatant lie to his solicitor, my solicitor and me. This made me even more angry and I was shaking. He started abusing and attacking me while moving his stuff (ignoring me) but I calmly stated that I had fulfilled my end of the bargain and that he had nothing to be angry at me for. By this time, his realtor and a tradesman had arrived and he called out, "I'm being berated! and while I am moving a washing machine too!"

What followed was extremely unpleasant and stressful. The presence of the other people did not stop the abuse. At one stage he said, "my solicitor has advised me not to talk to you!" (if only!) I calmly replied, "I respect that and I won't talk to you if that is so, but please stop bringing things up with me then." At another stage, he came up to me and said, "Truce?" I refused to own any of this and calmly replied, even though shaking, "I am not fighting you, I am just trying to resolve this." I thought an apology would have been more appropriate! Finally, he yelled at me to get out of his house and I couldn't resist responding with "which I have paid for!" He argued that I hadn't, but I ignored that and went for a walk with his realtor.

Out of earshot, I immediately burst into tears and was shaking uncontrollably and she was sympathetic to me, but I don't trust her either.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Yep, no reaction gets my vote. It works for me. Couple that with no eye contact, an indifferent tone of voice when you say, "Yes, dear" and it seems to appease them. They seem to think it's normal.

But you must maintain your own opinions, feelings, viewpoints dialogue in your own head for self-esteem purposes.

It works well.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Erica said...

This is definitely the right, everyday "strategy," but it is hard for some of us very "feeling" types. (I'm a terrible athlete/competitor, by the way.) What I have taken to doing is mainly no feeling, which, I agree, seems perfectly normal to the N!, interspersed with niceness. I do this polite kindness only occasionally to remind myself of what is normal for me and to keep from feeling totally caught in his N world. Since it gets him by surprise, he actually acts almost pleasant. He goes into his "fake niceness with strangers mode" for lack of a better strategy, I suppose. I like it because it makes me feel like the side of goodness and light exists, if only briefly.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't play tennis well at all- not coordinated enough. but i get what you say kathy. years ago there was a tv ad for deoderant that said "never let them see you sweat" meaning too don't let them see you lose your cool. it's also like having a poker face when playing cards.
N's like to keep the lines of engagement blurry. if they are clearly over the line on something and you call them on it -sharply without going on or getting emotional- they seem to back off. but they are so sneaky and manipulative that you do have to try to look like you are ignoring them or they think they have you and they play with you. tricky indeed-balancing our reactions. jt

At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Cathy, thank you for your book it was very informative.I found your book in my search for answers to the way my 14yo Daughter is behaveing and got so many answers to what my Ex has been doing for 18 years.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey kathy?(or anyone else)- my N has been doing more housework lately. what's your take on it? jt

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Kathy, I think that the reason this self-containment works is not just that the Narcissistic person has no power if you don't hand over the ammo, but also because being self-contained IS powerful.

The angry person and the fearful person have both stopped taking in any further information -- so if you're self-contained (and the N never is - because the roots of narcissism are found in deep-seated anger) -- then you're the one with an open channel to the reality of a situation and you retain the ability to respond to it. That is far more powerful than stubbornly shutting down and closing up lest some bit of undesired information should come into awareness.

I learned very early in my life that maintaining composure was intimidating -- but I learned it as a kid, and from a serious narcissist -- so the trick now is to allow myself to feel the feelings at all. It's easier not to.

So, for me, the real power comes in knowing what my completely legitimate feelings are, feeling them in their entirety, and still being strong enough to maintain composure in any interaction with an unsafe person. It's quite a trick, but I'm starting to get it.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I think you nailed it. Feelings have been treated as weakness, so you're raised to repress them. It isn't easy to accept them without venting them. Actually I think accepting them does make it easier, because then pressure doesn't build up due to the effort to repress them. In any case, just because you have feelings doesn't mean you must throw these pearls before swine.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Yeah - that's my take on it too - accepting them DOES make it easier to deal with them.

A few years back, I finally succumbed to a powerful bout with Mono - and I'm sure it was largely due to the stunningly strong ability of various N-people I'd allowed to suck the life from my me. After that, I went to a counselor for a little while, and I asked her about those feelings - she'd already helped me figure out that they were feelings of grief. But I didn't know what to do with them. After all, the person I felt the loss of was still alive - he just wasn't who I'd thought he was, and he wasn't going to become loving or even aware. So what to do? How do I grieve that loss?

Her advice: stop trying not to feel it. Just feel it. That's the only way to get through to the other side.

She was right. After the initial tidal wave, things calmed down and gradually have become much more manageable. I suppose this is because our fight against our own feelings is actually the problem and not the feelings themselves. The feelings just are what they are - if we can stop trying to stop that from being true, we end up making room for other feelings, I think.

At 1:17 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...


Husband doing more housework probably doesn't really mean anything more than a temporary focus of his attention on being a good, contributing family member. If he's like mine, his attention will soon drift to other things and he'll drop it as quickly as he picked it up.

If you happen to mention how considerate he's being (as a positive reinforcement), he'll claim he's always been that way, or even get huffy at the implication that he's not.

If you point out the decline when he stops, he won't know what you're talking about or will point to his recent activity as proof of how much he does and that you don't appreciate it.

By the way, I agree with the post and all the comments--this is what I've been doing for the last five years.

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dandelion- i thought so too. thanks for the reply ! i feel like i'm abandoning my marriage- any other situation i would be guilty. but these guys just take the cake !!! it's so true--- if you compliment to reinforce- they balk- if you do ANYTHING it backfires ! if you do nothing - it backfires ! im so tired of being so screwed !!!!! even when i give up- i lose !!! it is so freaking absurd.
one thought bugging me was maybe this is his way of "nosing ME out" like if he can make it look like "there- we don't need you anymore." this is turning into hell. only he's got the blow torch. ugh. i'm so tired of all this. its like wearing clothes that just don't fit right. only you can't take them off. it is so uncomfortable.
your comment is so incredibly right on true what he is like. enough to make ya puke !
thanks so much. i almost can laugh about it right now- which really helps a lot. man- what are we gonna do?!!! jt


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