Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Narcissists and the Language of Babel

Quite a few years ago, I saw a documentary on TV about batterers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the program or the expert being interviewed, but what he said I think is self evident to anyone who has ever tried to communicate with an abusive person.

What was it? He pointed out that in arguments between the victim and the batterer (not beatings, just arguments), the victim always argued circles around the batterer, beating him hands down. I mean she whupped him.

They actually captured examples on film, from counseling offices and even from cameras placed in the home.

This should be no surprise. Of course she whupped him to shame. Reason was 100% on her side. He either had to concede her points or be totally irrational and blow back a wall of gibberish and bullshit at her, like a character in a Monty Python skit.

Any fair and rational judge of the debate must award the victory to her, by pinning him on every point.

If you live or work with a narcissist, you know that all you ever get is fallacious arguments from them.

But we get so used to the irrational blather of these people that we grow tired of fielding it all and blasting it by exposing it for the nonsense and gobbdygook it is.

So we need to remind ourselves now and then that the way people use language can be a red flag.

I know of a narcissistic administrator who ordered his charges to do despicable and even illegal acts while remaining unaccountable simply by issuing these orders in the Biblical language of Babble.

What is it? It’s confused language, language that confuses things with what they ain’t. I have given examples of this before, like confusing patriotism with nationalism to make patriotism sound like a vice.

If you examine Babble closely, you see that it is nonsense, language as literally meaningless as the babbling of baby. Just noise. Blather.

Nonetheless, listeners get the message the babbler intends from it. How? Through the power of suggestion. And, as they say, Never understimate the power of suggestion.

It’s bullshit, in other words. What writers call gobbledygook. The chief tool of propagandists. A way of saying things without really saying them. A way shooting a sentence through the forest without nicking a single tree. A way to confuse the listener enough that he or she misses the absurdity in what you say.

It works because we are in the habit of fixing other people’s English on the fly. We must, because we all make errors in speaking even our native language on the fly. We start out a sentence one way, see it won’t work, and change some crucial grammatical element like the number of subject or the subject itself mid-sentence. Our listeners follow what we’re trying to say and correctly interpret the sentence anyway.

Experiments have shown that listeners naturally fill in words you leave out, without even realizing that you have left them out. They correct nonsensical phrases to make sense of them.

When, for example, Radar O’Reily rushes in crying, “Major Hoolihan went to get married to Japan!” we are but momentarily thrown overboard and instantly fix his sentence to “Major Hoolihan went to Japan to get married!”

Next time you’re listening to someone, pay attention to how many times you think, “Huh? Oh, he actually means this” or “He actually means that.”

That’s great. But when a particular person requires you to do too much of that, look out: it’s no accident. It just someone blowing a wall of blather at you.

It’s full of extraneous gobbledygook that makes it hard to follow what they are saying. Characteristically, these people put so many miles between the subject and verb, interrupting the thought with everything but the kitchen sink, that by the time your poor cerebral software gets the verb, it has forgotten what the subject was.

You are supposed to get confused and think, “Well, I don’t understand it but it must make sense.”

No it need not make sense! Run a logic check on everything people say before you let it into your head.

The administrator I mentioned above wasn’t nervous at all before an audience. To the contrary, he was in his glory. And he was perfectly capable of speaking perfect English to an audience when he wanted to. But when he wanted to avoid responsibility for what he was saying, he mangled his sentences; he left words and whole phrases out; he started sentences over so many times in the middle of one that there was no way to make English out of that gibberish. And don’t even get me started on the hints and innuendo. His charges understood exactly what he was telling them to do, though any direct quotes you could have supplied law enforcement authorities were nothing but innuendo and incoherent gibberish.

We see this now even in writing. It’s politically incorrect to expect even the most basic standards in email. Blowhards exploit this green light. When educated people, even writers and editors, cannot get through a sentence of email without some unbelievable spelling or grammatical error, or way-off misuse of a word, look out. They are doing that on purpose, to make it seem as though they typed this with blazing speed and cannot be held accountable for making sense or meaning what they say.

Why? Well, because this is email, Baby. And you know the rules of political correctness about email: we babblers can throw up smokescreens, confuse the issues, cloud the issues, sidestep the issues, and utter Nimrodean nonsense as freely in email as we do in speech. And it’s against the rules for you to call us on it. Ha-ha!”

And that’s why the victim blasts every argument of the abuser to smithereens. All she has to do is take his blather one piece at a time and say, “Huh?” exposing it for what it is – bullshit and irrational absurdity.

Narcissists and other abusers never do have a leg to stand on. Reason is never on their side. They never have even a single legitimate point to make. The wall of blather they throw at you is just an attempt to conceal that. It’s like the inky cloud an octopus exudes to conceal its escape route from a predator.

That’s why communication with a narcissist is impossible. Communication is another thing on that long list of things that the poor babies call “threats” to themselves. So, communication with them is impossible simply because they block it, throwing up this wall of flak to prevent anything you say from getting through.

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At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

Schizophasia - its the official language on Planet N

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous gh said...

Oh man, this is a post worth repeating like once a week. It's so easy to get caught up in arguing with them, trying to get them to understand reason. I forget that they do understand reason, they just aren't interested in it.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

You too? It's like I keep I just can't believe that they don't see how absurd they're there must be some way to make them understand.

I'm getting better though. Usually now, the moment I detect an "arguer," I shut down. I think they really hate it when you're the one who blocks communication.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I would have an argument with my N brother I would come home exasperated. My wife would say "What now?"
I always said to her, "It's like I'm talking Chinese." "He doesn't hear or understand a thing I'm saying."
Or doesn't care to.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! While I may 'win' an argument, I lose by having a stupid, unnecessary, time-wasting argument in the first place.

I find these silly manipulations a good source of comedic material and humour can also be an antidote. Take care, as this can enrage them but mostly they just won't get the joke. The humour is for my sanity.

An example is the use of passive language to avoid responsibility. When I worked for a government engineering concern, we used to lighten our day sending mock copies of the typical correspondence. Apparently there is an entity out there called "it" that is responsible for a lot of dodgy stuff, as in "it is recommended.." or "it was wrong.." Exactly who is accountable for making a recommendation and on what criteria? Exactly who was in the wrong and how does s/he plan to correct it?"

At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally figured out how to 'converse' w/ the Malignant NPD via email: Take their text and break it out line by line. With fine tooth comb then respond line by line to the exhausting bs, in as simple terms as possible. This guarantees the NPD will be faced with his lies, contradictions, and will 'fold' in an effort to defend the bs. Most satisfying response was: "What I was TRYING to say was..." and then it was just more lies and obfuscations, but meanwhile, watching him try to work through his own trail of lies was heartening. Do they EVER actually SEE their bs, or does it all look like truth, which we mere mortals simply can't comprehend? Seriously curious about this...TW

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I've done the break it down line by line thing too. I have also compared notes with another woman involved with narcissist. Imagine my surprise when she posted that her N had complained about the length of her emails to him because I'd had the same experience. We discussed how we did not do this with anyone else but, the N and the reason was to get clarity and to try and make ourselves heard was a very long and tedious proceedure with very little accomplished at all!!

You might if you break it down line by line temporarily get an N or P to acknowledge inconsistencies in the SHORT term but, later they will still come back and fall into the same old patterns as if you hadn't talked about it in the first place at all.

There is no communication with them that is based in any normal reality and trying to create communication and get clarity with an N only results in making you feel twisted into a pretzel and exhausted. It's frustrating and ultimately futile.

The truth never fits in with the "image" so they MUST recreate everything until it fits with their play acting "storyline"

It's not worth going along with it and it's not worth trying to make them acknowledge reality. Too much work, no return at all.

Unless you enjoy conversing about serious relationship issues with a three year old in a grown ups body then this is just another area which proves it's best to have no contact with them at all. I wasted five years in this endevour. It's a wonder I haven't gone completely mad.

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

exquisite timing-- just this last week i ran into trouble getting frustrated confused and depressed because of a brief exchange about something important with my n. hearing you guys helps put me back in perspective. i would be so lonely if not for this site.
i think what i need to do for myself is start analyzing just how much damage my n actually could really do. mine doesn't typically do anything outrageous enough to set off anyone's alarms and for the most part lives a pretty simple life. im figuring out i have been afraid of him but haven't figured out why. i sense a weird competition between him and i but it lacks clear definition. i really have been duped and trapped by the projection. maybe i need to do some reading on boundaries and enmeshment ? jt

At 1:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and YES conversing with an n is like doing contortions ! ! ! the twists and turns are astronomical ! ! ! mine has definitely gotten worse over time with this. and when it comes to our financing and business transaction conversations it's absolutely frightening to me. it doesn't matter anymore if he's doing it on purpose or god forbid he is just stupid... but it is truly unsettling how he can't be straight about anything anymore ! ! ! jt

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy is right about the way they "sound" AT you rather than talk to you too.

They get you listening to their "tone" rather than what they are actually saying and it's almost hypnotic at times. Once I read that I could remember the low tone he would use when he was trying to get sympathy, the way he would almost whisper his self pitying created an intimacy that he never could possess but, made you feel as if you were being told about his secret heart. This would be done for as long as it took to butter you up to ask for a "favor"

The rages too are "sounding AT" you. The words are nonsensical and abusive but, they are using their TONE to get what they need.

It's been interesting to me to read how very close this is to what cult leaders do to brainwash people. The tactics are SO similar and the effects are too. I think this is some therapists working with victims of N's need to look into even more. It might help us tremendously with our recovery to if they understood this. Trauma Bonding is a big part of this too.

Language is a weapon of control with them.

Daily conversations are always this talking over top of you, changing the subject, dominating word pretzels. All part of the control tactics used on everyone.

"Pretzel Logic" indeed. If you are isolated with this long enough, sorting things out for yourself becomes really difficult after a while.

Again though if people know these signs early enough they can avoid these people.


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