Monday, October 08, 2007

Why doesn't the victim leave the abuser?

In my last post, I didn't address the often asked question, "Why doesn't she leave him?"

People usually ask it in the context of a wife not leaving her abusive husband, but it could be the other way around. Or it could be a person not cutting off ties with an abusive family or a family that serves as a proxy for a narcissist within it. Whatever - why doesn't the victim leave?

Every victim asks him- or her-self the same question! Truth is stranger than fiction, but here is the controlling fact of the matter: That's what normal people do when subjected to abuse.

In other words, people who say "Why doesn't she leave him?" wouldn't leave him themselves if they were in her shoes.

Well, that isn't exactly right. People do vary in how much abuse it takes to get them to leave. That is, some will leave sooner than others. But they all take far more abuse than anyone would think a human being could. Why? It's counter intuitive.

The well documented Stockholm syndrome partly explains why. But making the victim cling to the victimizer is an ancient art. It's the art of the Inquisitor and the torturer. A black art that works like magic. The Inquisition and KGB had it down to an fine art form.

The crucial point is that this is what NORMAL people do. The abuser creates an upside-down world in which all normal human reactions work backwards.

Denial is the chief culprit.

How long? how much abuse does it take to make you face facts and see that he or she is just evil - this person you love with all your heart ... is evil. An unthinkable thought, no?

AND he or she loves you back about as much as you love a cockroach. Has just been playing you for a fool. Another unthinkable thought, no?


Yet in the cases I know about, the victim always does eventually face facts and leave. None came into the relationship "seeking" abuse either. In fact, that is so contrary to the Law of Nature that I won't believe anybody does THAT till I see it.

The victim hates the abuse and tries to avoid it. The problem is that narcissists are deliberately impossible people, so the only way to avoid narcissistic abuse is to avoid the narcissist himself = get away from him.

Look at the situation you've got. Love is an attraction. You love this person with all your heart - an irresistible attraction to him or her. But he or she emits a blast of antigravity in the abuse they respond to your love with. An irresistible repulsion from him or her.

Something's gotta give in this bizarre situation. Sooner or later the victim realizes that it will be her mind if she doesn't come out of denial and face facts.

Here she is on her knees before her abuser, clinging to him for dear life in the naive belief that she can exorcise the demon inside him. The more violently he rejects her, the tighter she clings. Something's gotta give.

I myself have asked "Why doesn't she leave him?" about a neighbor. I understood all this very well already and had him pegged as a narcissist, but still I asked the question. It seemed to me that she was being exceedingly dense.

But she wasn't really. (She only lasted a year or two.)

All victims deservedly do suffer guilt and shame for eating lies and putting up with abuse longer than we should, especially if it was in a marriage (rather than a birth family) and there were children affected.

But that guilt isn't guilt for the abuse. To share in the guilt for abuse, you would have to be a CAUSE of it. And just being within range of it isn't causing it. One might as well blame a murdered bank teller for taking a job at a bank.

The victim's guilt is a failure of integrity. A failure to protect, a failure to have a backbone, a failure to be honest with ourselves and KNOW THE TRUTH.

But it's absurd to view that guilt as partly JUSTIFYING what the abuser did. Nor does it TEMPT the abuser. Just being there doesn't TEMPT anyone to abuse you. Loving someone doesn't TEMPT them to kick you around. Being vulnerable and defenseless doesn't TEMPT them to eviscerate you.

Yes, you should have run away. But the victim's failure to doesn't take one whittle of the guilt and blame FOR THE ABUSE off the victimizer and place it on the victim.

As it is often said, though a woman walks down the street naked, no man has the right to rape her. And in that case, she is tempting the abuser.

But I have never seen a victim of a narcissist tempt their abuser. In fact, it's quite the other way around.

Whenever I find myself asking "Why doesn't she leave him?" I withhold judgement. I do this on the basis of the concept of competence to judge. It's a judicial concept that holds true in personal judgement. I am just not competent to judge her for that, because I don't know the whole story. What's more, there are sometimes compelling practical reasons for why she cannot leave him and just draws battle lines within the household to keep him at bay.

We know enough only when the victim is ourselves, and then we are not competent either, because we will be either too easy on ourselves or too hard on ourselves.

But one thing is for certain: THAT guilt, is for a different sin. It doesn't matter that she hasn't run away from him. Her being there is no CAUSE of a predator attacking her.

The abuse is 100% the abuser's sin. He is 100% guilty of it and deserves 100% of the blame.

Ironic, isn't it? Blame is the only thing narcissists share.

See also Why Do You Put Up With Abuse on the main website.

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At 8:46 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

You know, Kathy, I am coming to believe that the linchpin in the thing is an idea - not practical things like money or housing or friends or whatever, and not the whole of that emotional tie between the two people who are collaborating in the abuse, but just a small element of that emotional tie.

I think it's the idea that "no one should be treated like this," coupled with "I am part of everybody." There's some sort of feeling of being "special" if one is a victim of unreasonable behavior. It's being special because I can "take it" or I am so "good" that I can be nice even when the other guy's horrible, or some other feeling of being heroic. I think that's where victim guilt comes from - the Narcissist's self-aggrandizement is outward focused, but the victim's is inward focused, and that's what they have in common. One's so all powerful that abuse can come from him any time anywhere, and the other's so heroic that he can take anything the abuser dishes out.

But if we can just put ourselves into the category of "everybody" instead of "unique" (in this very twisted idea of "unique"), then we can - or ... I finally could - come to a place where we can say, "It doesn't matter who you are or who I am -- no one should be treated this way, and from now on I refuse to be." After that, the details fall into place for the practical issues.

(And by the way, any adult who puts a child into an expertly "managed" situation where the child learns to "manage" abuse is, in my opinion, just about the worst of bullies - I don't care if that bully is also a victim. No kid is made safer or happier or stronger by learning that love is about power like that.)

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I think you are absolutely right. And children raised in a home with a narcissist are trained to manage abuse just this way.

They are trained to apply a double-standard to themselves. The narcissist must be cut miles of slack, but you are no good if you fail to take it in heroic proportions.

I'll never forget the day I dumped that load :)

And it IS a form of grandiosity ("inverted" grandiosity?).

What a relief to be just human.

And I agree that both the victims and the bystanders need only to see that nobody should be treated like that. It's as simple as that.

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compared to the mate of a narcissist, I think that children of N's have a deeper understanding of how entrenched the narcissism really is. (Once they acknowledge the problem.) Children of N's know that narcissism defines their parent. Mates of N's are much more likely see the narcissism as now-and-then bad behavior that could change.

It's a general thing. I've never heard an adult say that they are going to change an irritating habit in their parent. It would just sound stupid. But it's acceptable, even admired, to say that you're going (to try) to change a 'bad' habit in your boy/girl friend or spouse. Why the difference?

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

One of the hardest things I've ever had to do is get completely honest with myself about the real and true answer(s) to, "What do you get out of it if this situation continues? What will you lose if it stops?" In essence, is the devil you know really better than the devil you don't know? Most of us draw the conclusion that it is. So we don't get out of unreasonable and harmful situations because we figure we know what to do where we are - and can't imagine knowing who we are or what we're for otherwise.

And - one of life's little ironies, don't you think? - you can't know what to do about any situation other than the one you're in until you actually get to the new one. It's not possible to plan like that in life. We have to go there first.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post.
DENIAL:the bandage we apply to our hurt feelings,broken hearts,wishful thinking, and even more terrible acts committed against us.Rip off that bandage and let light,(truth) be the antiseptic to try to heal the wound.If a dog bit you every time you pet it, you would stay away from that dog.Not just put on another bandage.Sadly, we don't want to face it, but we must stay away from the "N".

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was having my thought processes so controlled that I could hardly make a decision anymore for myself. I got help by seeing a therapist who has dealt with those trying to get free of cults. I learned A LOT about the abuse of language such as using NLP and no I do not blame myself after becoming aware of how utterly helpless I was against all the tactics used against me.

I would now because I know the early signs. I'd run at the first sign of confusion. Denial for me wasn't a real choice to go into. I wasnt' thinking clearly enough for that...I was isolated. Yes, there was denial going on but, it was a denial of things so weirdly fantastical that it would be hard to believe it about a stranger much less someone I had loved and was now isolated with.

Some psychopaths and narcissists are so studied at control that really if you got out at all the real question should be "How on earth did you ever get free of that?"

Being a lot more educated now about how this works. How documented it is and how there is an actual formula for it, I can see so clearly what happened to me. How smugly I used to ask and wonder about victims of abuse before this happened to me.

And that's EXACTLY why it was able to happen at all. I thought I was too aware, too independent, no abuser would dare to prey upon a woman as educated and strong as I was. I wouldn't put up with that for five seconds. I knew NOTHING of how this really happens. How mixed up your thoughts are. That's the first red flag. CONFUSION. In the first six months I said to a friend "I feel So confused lately, I think something is wrong with me." But, it COULDN'T be the narcissist because on the surface of it he was being so kind wasn't he?? It happens so slowly and is so subtle that you are in the deep end before you can even half think you are being used and exploited and controlled on purpose.

It's REALLY important that we all learn how psychological manipulation works, how language is abused as it is in NLP. I never recognized anything so clearly as when I was directed to read about NLP and the tactics of cults. THERE was my narcissist from day one to a t. Right there in black and white.

It's almost an insurmountable task to get out when you finally realize what is going on.

You have PTSD, are depressed, maybe you now have panic disorder, we get physically ill too from the stress AND usually the narcissist has spent all our money. We are isolated in all this and judged. The therapist says it's our fault. The narcissist steps up the abuse when you are trying to get out and this far down too. The friends who might have helped us have been driven off and now sit in judgment too. So?? While you can't think straight, are ill, are still being abused you have to find a road out and if you did that then you are amazing. Some of us crawl out while we are suicidal. And usually we do it mostly alone.

I feel ashamed that I once wondered why people stayed in these relationships. I knew nothing of that kind of state of mind or psychological torture. My N was a monster and a master of mind twisting.

It's vital to learn what happens with abuse victims mentally and how to better help them to get out. I still learn and read about this as much as I can but, the more I learn the more compassion I have for myself and all of you. If you got out, as I did then how did you do it? Perhaps we should be asked this question more often. And what was it like?

The human spirit is an amazing thing. If you survived this and got out then you are a hero in ways people who have been fortunate enough to never meet up with an N or P might never grasp hold of. But I've seen it in those who did amazing things for themselves under the most horrible conditions and made it out and then fought like tigers to thrive and did.

Narcissists only pick the best of the best and that is so clear to me when I see how many people actually managed in the middle of physical, mental and psychological hell to get out at all. Everyone marvels at the hard work people do to get away from a cult. They have sympathy for how hard that must be. The psychological scars they have.

WE suffer the same and we still make it usually without that kind of understanding. Our pain might even be harder since our very similar abuse happens in an isolated environment one on one with someone we love. At least a cult member has other group members as a witness to what they are going through even if they can't speak about it outside. We too are silenced by the narcissist. The biggest SIN with them is when you start to tell. Just like a cult the abuse must happen in secret.

They don't say we are "caged" for nothing. If you are figuring out how to break free and learning for yourself how to do that, then you are brave and taking a very bold step for yourself. If you got out then you are a freedom fighter for your own life and I'm not even kidding. We were preyed upon, manipulated to the extent that our very reality was co opted and we were told how we felt and shouted down or twisted into pretzels when we tried to assert ANY independence.

The center of a vortex causes you to be spinning constantly and if you try to step out of it you step INTO a storm till you get out the other side. If you can't see the other side then you dont' know if you will survive that or not. What if you step up to the edge of that cliff and jump off and do survive it but, the narcissist is there too? Mine was waiting for me at the bottom of the cliff he pushed me off of to hand out more abuse. Yes.

What then? There are so many fears and you are not well by the time you are trying to get out. It comes down to finally fighting back no matter WHAT because it cannot possibly get any worse. You get out because you know if you don't that this will be all there is for you till you die or die of it.

It's an unimaginable maze of hoops and hurdles to navigate at your lowest point. If you got out, how did you manage that kind of strength? Bah humbug to those who say we could have done this better or sooner and to the woman I once was who would've said it could never happen to me. I left her in the dust and got smart enough to know that no one is that smart, no one is immune unless they know ALL the red flags and heed them without fail. Another reason I did not get out? I could not imagine in my wildest dreams that all this I was going through was being done on purpose. You have to learn to accept a kind of evil that you never thought possible. You have to think the unthinkable and believe it.

Think that's easy to face even when you are in the best shape of your life? Try it when you are so beat down it's a triumph of your day to just get out of bed.

Narcissists know when you are thinking of leaving and they brutally step up the abuse. When you are really far down, that's a weakness and they HATE that so they abuse you harder. If you have ever been psychologically abused you know what I mean.

Try dragging your butt out the door when you can hardly put one foot in front of the other and the N is between you and the door. On top of that they usually have control over or have wasted every red cent you have. You might be awake to the horrors of what they are now but, you are in shock at that and wondering if you will actually get out of this with your life in some cases.

What would the average person do? JUST exactly what we end up doing. Staying till you can wake up and fight for your life again in the best way you are possibly able to. I laugh now sometimes when people ask "why do they stay" KNOWING that the person asking would do no more or more less in the same situation. They just don't know it and I hope they never have to find out.

It's important to find out the real reasons we get stuck and stay, and warn others. The more I know, all I can ask is "Why is it that the victims of such abuse are strong enough to actually escape this type of torturous abuse? They MUST be pretty amazing people." Narcissists only pick the best you know. lol...and perhaps what made us targets to begin with is in the end our salvation. Armed with knowledge now though that we can go on and thrive even better than before and never be prey again to these people.

Blogs like this one are so important because it keeps us aware of how easy it is to get into the narcissists net and how hard to get free. Nobody is more interested in what went wrong than we are. Nobody is braver and more willing to face the truth for ourselves. Another good question is "How willing are those on the outside to face up to what we have had to and already know?" "Will they continue to sit on the side lines?" "Why did they become a by stander with the narcissist?"

They are the ones who ask "If he was so bad why did you stay?" Will they face this with us? Because we are more than willing to answer these questions for ourselves and for society in general. But the answers are hard, and they are very ugly sometimes, meaning that we are not the only ones who need to look inside for reasons why this happens and why we stay. I ask this knowing I was once someone who didn't get it either.

Who is braver than we are now to face these questions? Because I am waiting for the day when someone besides the victims has the guts and the compassion to ask them. I have hope that when therapists and by standers want these answers as much as we do then maybe there won't be so many victims to begin with.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt in my mind that N's pick amazing people as their victims. Just read these comments! We kept waiting for the N's to acknowledge what was right in front of their eyes, namely, that we were smart, insightful, sensitive, empathic people, when really we just have to know it ourselves.

At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Marisol said...

AMEN to every word of the 4:34 poster's post!

I left my N in December. He beat me to the joint bank accounts and emptied them, telling everyone that I was having some type of mental illness breakdown thing and so he was protecting my assets for me. Everyone thought this was him being his usual saintly self.

I had a scholarship to a grad school and a job. But I did not have skills and the job didn't pay enough to live on. Worst of all, the illegal basement apartment I rented was almost incompatible with life. It was unheated, except for some heat that radiated off some pipes--hot water pipes maybe. I had to give my cat away (I didn't want to leave him with the N) because he was too cold. The basement apartment also had bugs. After 4 months I was in the hospital getting intravenous iron, I was so anemic, and I had what looked like hives all over--it was from bedbugs. I went from a top 1% income bracket with my husband and not working (he didn't want me to--I saw it as him being kind--he wanted me to work on my creative writing hobby) to that. And standing over me was my husband, wringing his hands and telling me he was sorry, he was sorry, he had discovered he was an alcoholic, he was never going to drink again, he had found God.

Everyone was telling me to give him his chance. (Not that I had any friends of my own left, because he had chased them away...but therapists, doctors, nurses...oh of course he made sure everyone saw the hand-wringing and the waterworks...

I could go back to the freezing cold and the bedbugs or back to my comfortable former home and maybe it was true the guy was an alcoholic and would now be the wonderful guy he was always pretending to be. Have you ever slept in an apartment with bedbugs? You don't want to. There is no sleep. I chose to return to the 'alcoholic.' I was so exhausted I don't even remember the doctor I went to for the anemia. And also, when the guy's got that much money, he gets a great lawyer. I, being married to that much money, did not qualify for free legal assistance. I managed to scrape up enough for some guy who was operating on only a brain stem or something, and his lawyer, who is also the star lawyer in the most prominent divorce case in my state, had little trouble dancing around my lawyer. My husband's lawyer's argument was that I was having an episode of mental instability, and he didn't 'see any reason why we had to be in court at all'. He did not have much trouble making that case since when my husband met me I was in the middle of a deep depression and associated financial mess, and the N husband 'rescued' me. So...I went back to the 'recovering alcoholic' and the bedbug basement was thoroughly fumigated and many of my belongings thrown away...I might have been able to find a better apartment, even without documentation of a job (I got the job after the apartment), except I could only get away from my husband for one day. He was watching me like a jailer and was very paranoid and frightening then. So I only had one chance to travel to the city I was going to school in, and time to look at only one apartment. I saw it and I took it. Oh well.

I don't care who tells me next time I should fight my narcissist for money. He has a diseased attitude toward money and he keeps 'debting' it away. He said once 'maybe he was throwing all our assets away so I wouldn't be able to leave him' (making a pouting, sad face for sympathy). I am going to leave and he can have everything. This is a man who will fight to the death. I don't want to deal with that 'thing' of a person next time. On the other hand I dont want a repeat of the bedbugs and anemia either. The people who say 'why doesn't she leave him'--they can go live in a moldy unheated basement with bedbugs and see how they like it. Whenever it was damp, water seeped up from the floor about an inch deep. And the public assistance people seemed a little creepy to me also. I am going to try to plan before I go, so I can support myself. If the N husband wants a divorce, he can pay the star lawyer of the state to draw up whatever, and I'll sign. It's true, I've noticed that attitude of 'Ho hum, if she's not going to leave him, I have no sympathy and she should stop whining.' I think they're wrong, but, I am not whining (except here), so they should be happy. And in the meantime I will do what needs to be done.--By the way, I have been 'no contact' with my narcissistic parents for 8 years. I did reach out to them once. They were worse than ever. I have no problem with no contact. I have a problem with finances. I am working on that with a self-help group I discovered...I'm hopeful.

It is true that I was in denial and did not realize I 'should not' be treated like that. It's very insidious as the 4:34 poster said. Also, having had 2 NPD parents, I hardly knew anything different. When I discovered that my N had no feelings for me, it was like a dam breaking. I really grieved. After that, it was just a matter of getting out. The N had had 8 years to make it hard to do, and he had done a good job.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Like Kathy, I will not judge, not anymore. Not after I've seen the brave and wonderful women who have escaped from their abusers. Nor do I judge those who have decided to stay, either temporarily or permanently. There are reasons why they stay, and most of them are valid for a length of time.

I'm a different person now, 5 years ago I was firmly convinced that a person as strong and educated as me would NEVER end up in an abusive relationship and 4.34 poster has summed it all up beuatifully, with a deep level of understanding.

It's not always about denial. I was NEVER in denial about what my N was doing, I ALWAYS knew he had some sort of problem or realised that his problem/s were his, I just didn't know it was labelled abuse until earlier this year. I never loved him either. I tried but he was never reciprocating for a long enough period of time for me ever build a sense of love with him.

One of the other reasons for not being judgemental is you don't know the whole story. My partner and I came together later in life with the common goal of wanting to start a family. We did, but the baby died and was still-born. Until then my partner had been kind and attentive but became angry after we buried our baby. His anger became mixed up with grief and red flags were flying off all over the place with him. But I felt I couldn't leave. Today, I know it's called Trauma Bonding, those attachment feelings I had actually have a name and is a real temporary disorder. I fell pregnant again and things got back on an even keel. Then the baby arrived, and the sulking and ignoring happened, but not too bad, then we bought a house together, and once I was totally enmeshed with him financially was when the abuse totally escalated within days of signing the mortgage with my deposit on the house. It was like the last piece of the puzzle he was waiting for to show his true self. That was just over 2 years ago and the anger and abuse became intolerable about 1 year ago and I started making noises about splitting up.

Now, here comes the hard part. All my savings went into the house, I've got a baby and no job. He earns in excess of $100,000 pa and his weakness is his irresponsibility with money, so he's handed the finances over to me and I ensure my girl and me don't do without.

I had to weigh up the disadvantages of giving up everything I own and having him live in the house, while I go and rent some pokey horrible place with next to zero income (read financial deprivation here) and then agree to hand my baby girl over to this anger addict every 2nd weekend? Nup - no way.

My decision to stay is focussed on living in a nice house in a nice area, spending his money on things we need, while I pay all the bills on his credit card in his name which is increasing monthly - not my problem.

Stephanie says, "What will you lose if it stops?" Who says leaving him is going to make the abuse stop? In many cases it's a catalyst for escalation and in some cases, murder. In my case, my N is a flight risk to another country, what if he disappears with my child on his weekend access? I have no grounds on which to refuse him access, I'd be kicked out of court, there's no evidence he's screamed at her, other than what I have documented, heck, I don't even have evidence to insist on supervised visits. The courts system now mandates 50/50 access, which is 1 week off and 1 week on. There's no way I'd leave a 2.5 year old child in his unsupervised care, no way at all.

So I stay so that me and her go out each weekend by ourselves, both days. Leave him at home doing his own thing. Each time he says something inappropriate to her, at least I'm here to say, "Daddy is wrong to say that, let's go ask him for an apology." I can't do that if I'm not there can I? Each 2nd weekend I'd be sitting in my tiny low-rent flat in an undesirable area worried sick about what he's saying to her, how impatient he's being with her, how much he's making her cry and she doesn't have her Mummy to take her away.

Nup, sorry, don't be too quick to judge others. Leaving and N is not a solution to having abuse stop, if not managed correctly, it's a formula for increased abuse, possible child abduction and possible character assassination with the possiblity of him being given 100% custody.

And I'm sure my circumstances are not unique, my reasons for staying (for the time being) are valid to other women in the same situation too.

Sorry for long post, a soap box topic for me...:-)

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Let me make something really clear here. I think we have an obligation to protect a powerless child - and if that means staying because staying is really safer than leaving would be, then the answer to "what would I lose?" is "too much." (And you know by then not to bring any more children into it, and you know to find healthy relationships into the child's life, etc.)

It's not judgmental to ask the question - asking the question doesn't assume that the answer will lead to a solution that's easy - sometimes we have to go all the way through wretchedness to get to the other side. But if the question leads to clarity that there is no genuine reason to stick around, then there shouldn't be any sticking around. The question just has to be answered, in my opinion.

And if the answer is "he's a flight risk to another country," then staying there to make sure the child is safe is obviously the best and bravest option.

At 5:55 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

There are people who stay for the wrong reasons. For the trophy spouse. For the money. I give the example of "the game player" in the book, who thinks she can win this game and never learns. Then there's the one who says, "I want my children to have two parents." That's a good one: they don't have two parents NOW. I think it's safe to say that nearly every grown child of a narcissist wishes their parents had split up to rescue them from a childhood of being made to feel unworthy of the air you breathe. I know that at least some feel that their other parent let them down, sacrificed them to the abuse. This must be weighed in the balance. Heavilly weighed in the balance. A narcissistic spouse has no claim on your life, but your own children sure do.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Kathy, my previous post is in twice, you can delete one.

Stephanie, thank you for further clarification, I can see what you are saying now. I may have been too quick to jump on my judgemental soap box, I apologise if you feel I was criticising your viewpoint, it was unintentional, my intent was to offer further information for a wider understanding. Thank you for responding kindly.

My partner has family in New Zealand with a current passport. I have her passport hidden. I believe I could have her passport number blocked for passage out of the country, but who wants to take the risk of testing their system? No sane person, really.

And I certainly do agree that hanging around an N for the wrong reasons is detrimental to the child and the reaction when they grow up is exactly as Kathy has explained.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Woops. I thought I deleted the duplicate. I hope I didn't delete some other comment by accident.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephanie said:"One of the hardest things I've ever had to do is get completely honest with myself about the real and true answer(s) to, "What do you get out of it if this situation continues? What will you lose if it stops?"

I really thought about this and do you know what the answer was to "What will you lose if it stops?"

The delusion that no one could actually be that evil and devoid of humane feelings towards others. I believed, especially having been in social work for a long time that EVERYONE who wanted to could improve their life. I believed that background does not have to predict your future though I know now that with narcissists it's not about that really.

Facing that someone you love IS this completely repugnant being actually doing what they do with forethought and not caring over and over is a pretty incredible thing to grapple with.

If you really love a family member you have this built assumption that they are good at the core of their being. It's about survival. We are not animals who couple with others like beasts. Narcissists seek to create intense connections with you and they exploit those later on.

To have to face up to the FACT that I had been with someone who yes, was exactly THAT cold all along was the hardest part of it for me. They seem to pick really compassionate people and that is what works against us in letting go. Telling yourself you have been snuggling up to a kind of freak of nature *because that's what it feels like* is a mind altering and soul twisting experience like none other.

The day I had to let go and really believe that he was exactly as bad as all the evidence said he was, was the most painful thing I've ever done. I grieve when people I love die very deeply but, with the narcissist I not only grieved that he was gone from MY life I grieved that he never was even there not for me, or himself, not ever. He cannot ever know love at all. That pained ME terribly. In the end it was as if I had to even grieve for him those things he is not capable of knowing he even should! It was bizarre and not like letting go of anyone else I ever knew. It's a place and an experience I never, hope to have to repeat as long as I live.

Facing up to the fact that you never even knew them at all. You have been interacting with an image, a phantom is a sickening gut wrenching thing.

It takes a long, long while to even think it much less fully accept it. I believe now that the reason people go back is being humane they do not want to accept wholeheartedly that someone they have loved so much IS this alien thing that we have such a hard time understanding at all. Getting these ideas intellectually is one thing. Accepting them fully emotionally about someone you have loved? That is another thing entirely. Those dazzling uber, over the top love bombing days at the beginning don't help since THAT is the person we WANT to believe we are still with. It's a delusion to be sure and one that is pretty hard to grasp. No one could be play acting ALL of that could they?? Because we've never known anyone else that crafty and cold. There is no point of reference sometimes.

When you do fully accept it you don't want to go back and can see the futility of it too.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Marisol said...

I'm still drugged from those painkillers but I really would like to speak up. I apologize for not being able to follow the arguments of the whole thread and still speaking.

I told someone at the shelter the following theory of why my situation was hard, for me, to escape from (speaking for myself): When you're in a terrifying situation, and it's actually rational to fear somewhat for your life or somebody else's, because this Mr Normal guy you're living with is waking you up in the middle of the night and making sincere-sounding and vehement threats of suicide and murder and other stuff and acting totally insane, and then in front of everybody else he seems fine, except for bizarre behavior that only you and strangers see, or bizarre behavior he only claims he carried out in front of witnesses, but you can't question the witnesses for some plausible reason or other; and if you don't see things his way he can go into a blithering rage like the Tasmanian devil in the cartoon, but you can't quite object to it because somehow, miraculously, nothing very heavy ever hits you, sometimes it's counterproductive to see the whole situation clearly all at once in the 'big picture' way, because that can paralyze you with fear and undermine your confidence, when maybe what you need is (a) to be able to react very very quickly to whatever unexpected things get thrown your way, moment by moment, and (b) also to keep finding creative ways to reality-test and stay rational when all sources of support and therefore reality-testing with have been removed from your reach by the N, and half the time he is saying he is really insane with a dangerous mental illness and giving you all kinds of scary details, and some of the time he is telling you you are crazy and you are imagining all this and he never said any of it, and the rest of the time he is sobbing hysterically about how he doesn't know why his mental illness makes him deny his behavior that way, because he really IS murderous--and is so right NOW. To me, this was an impossible situation to get out of. I'm not saying it is for anyone else. I'm sure for heaps of people it would be easy as pie. I can't imagine how anyone gets out of that situation, but obviously lots do and my hat is off to them. And obviously lots more think they would and congratulations to them for thinking ahead so well--hats off to them too. It always feels to me so impossible to explain that situation (my personal one, I mean, before I recognized it was unacceptable and I'd be better living on the street and started to prepare) unless you've experienced it. I'm not good, I guess, at explaining how in the middle of the fear situation, when you need to have fast reflexes, it can be hard to sit back like the Thinker with your chin in your hand and go 'Hmmm...' and meditate about the nature of evil, when at the same time you're isolated and being told you're insane and so forth. The nature of evil etc is the last thing you want to meditate on when you're trying to keep your sanity. Trying not to be insane and not to believe you're insane, simultaneously, is kind of tiring by itself, and with all the reacting and dodging I was having to do moment by moment, meditating on Freaks of Nature and trying to conceive of precisely how alien N's were and visualize precisely what such people were capable of didn't seem in line with my goals of the moment (avoiding insanity, avoiding the appearance of insanity, and staying safe). In the beginning I would call his friends--'He's foaming at the mouth--his face is covered with dried foam--he says he's too paranoid to go out of the house--he says he's afraid he might hurt me--I called his therapist and she said to call onen of his friends and get them to talk to him and not to go home so I'm calling from the gym, can you talk to him?' I couldn't believe it: his friends, who'd been nice to me forever in a normal way, would not believe me. And then he would deny it to them. And then he would cry to me heartbreakingly about his mental illness and how it would not allow him to reveal his real, suicidal and murderous self even to his closest friends. (Coincidentally, his real, suicidal and murderous self could only be talked down off its metaphorical ledge by letting it have sex on the spot any way it wanted. When the DV shelter told me that was rape, I sure felt like a fool. But that was my weakness, because I had known the pain of mental illness myself and seen it in my family too--I felt sorry for people lost in AUTHENTIC mental illness, and felt compelled to try to talk them back to reality. So of course my N husband picked up on that, and everyone here KNOWS, I'm sure, that any N could get themselves committed to a psych ward in 10 seconds.) As I've said before, I think, I had been hospitalized for depression before I met him. That made me not very believable against my husband, with all his success and social status and veneer and so on. I was very aware of that. My husband's threats and actions had of course made me more aware of that. In the end, I discovered I had no chance worth trying for, legally either, against that, not without resources he could make sure I didn't have. So now, I don't bother too much about not appearing insane. I only worry about not being insane, and keeping safe. That's a lot easier. I mean, yes it hurts to have people think judgmentally of me in any way, and I used to care a lot about what people thought of me, but I can't afford to put too much energy into that now, or into trying to top my husband by being the 'sane one.' It just isn't possible. And leaving with assets is, similarly, so hard as to be not worth it. It's a waste of energy to avoid his attempts to paint me as a nut. I just remind myself that when I am out of the marriage, people will see me as the strong, stable person that I am (as they did during the 4 months I was away from him, working and in school). They'll just shrug and notice they were wrong. Except most likely I will have no contact with anyone who knew me during my marriage. Which is great, because it has sure been humiliating.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I can't imagine I would ever have escaped, if a misfortune had not befallen my N: he became addicted to too many things at once, and his behavior crossed the line, broke laws, became visible to neighbors, and came to the attention of the police. He was able to cover up most, but not all. I was not eager to have my situation known anyway, so it's not like I was flying paper airplanes labeled 'HELP' out the window. Nevertheless, in the end, though I did not exactly have social support, I had validation, I had reality testing, and a few people even came forward and told me of behaviors of the N's I didn't know about, that targeted others, and these behaviors were so horrible that I would feel too sorry for him to ever reveal them. Worse than anything he did to me by far. That scared me and gave me the last push out the door. If he hadn't gotten addicted (oops), I'm sure he'd have never given himself away, and those people would not have had the opening to speak to me. And I bet I'd still be in that trap, unable to see the big picture for fear of slowing my reactions, unable to see the big picture for fear of losing my grip on reality, unable to see the big picture for fear of SEEMING to have lost my grip on reality, because if you act IN PUBLIC the way someone naturally would who is being targeted by n-abuse, while the n walks beside you cool as a cucumber, nodding to all his solid friends, you are going to seem like a nut. So unless you have a great poker face (which I totally don't), you can't let yourself see the big picture for fear of looking crazy--since no one believes in the big picture, you will seem to be reacting to something that is unreal and not there! And in that situation it's not very safe to look crazy. Also, unless you have that poker face perfected, it's not very safe in front of the N to noticeably 'see' the reality the N doesn't want you to see. I learned that from my N parents and that increased my fear of this. When you are in a malignant-n-trap it is dangerous to see reality at ALL unless you have that poker face. My n-parents vigorously discouraged poker-faces, since they (especially n-mom) liked to see hurt expressions. And even when you do see glimpses of the reality you doubt yourself. No one sees it but you. And if you're the kid of an N, you've been taught that that doesn't count. It really is a trap. I am so thankful that my N got addicted and became obvious, because once that happened, all his other behaviors became part of a very visible, obvious pattern that I didn't feel crazy seeing.

That was a big reason I stayed for so long. But I also realize there are and were many reasons why I stayed. Luckily we don't have kids, so I never looked at things from that angle. Except that I was very firm that I could NOT have kids with this man--I didn't want kids anyway though. My mom was creepy, my parents were creepy, my relatives were creepy, and I did not think it was wise to play around with that gene pool. But--I just kind of wanted to put this out there and get rid of it once and for all-- I'm sure I have the basest possible motives for everything I do, including having stayed longer with the N than 'everyone else' would. It's not that I need people to point my base motives for staying out to me--I know them. You see, that was my N-mom's and N-dad's favorite game with me, to teach me how to dig as fast as possible for the basest motives for everything I did. It was like one of those Games People Play, called Let's Get Freudian and Confess Your Bad Side. They especially loved the concept of the unconscious. I had to know my unconscious mind very well from the age of 5, and be ready at a moment's notice to 'confess,' say, to my mom the unconscious hatred for my mom that underlay my messy room, or the desire to hurt her feelings that lurked behind a random gift I'd worked for months to make her; she'd interpret my dreams, in amateur Freudian fashion, to make them unconsciously 'be' all about her. And for my dad, I had to stay prepared to, say, 'admit' that all children desire sex with their (pedophile, in mine's case) father and to agree that to deny this desire 'means' that this desire is especially intense, especially if the child has been informed of this Freudian precept. Such twisted logic--once you inform a child of this fake Freudian rule, this sexual motive, the kid is guilty of the motive, because you're guilty if you admit it and Freud says you're guilty if you deny it, and Freud was God. (No, they weren't therapists, just weird.) I know probably this is just extra defensiveness coming out of left field on my part, because of my n-parents' strange game--but I just wanted to put it out there that I'm not too fond of taking that nose-dive on command to every base motive that can be scraped up for ever action, and especially not in order to hand it over to someone who says it will be good for me to do so. However, I did learn that mental exercise and I don't think it's easily forgotten.

I'm not trying to be difficult, and I know it's probably still good for me to dig up my icky motives for suffering abuse, and I still have to read Kathy's book, but I'm already guessing I'm stuff like (a) the game player; (b) in it for the money, and (c) attached to the trophy husband concept, although my husband isn't some 'ha ha, see what I've got' husband, but more of a 'validation sticker' husband for me, because of my episode of severe stigmatizing mental depression in my past. More of a 'see, I've got a normal husband, so I'm normal, so stop bothering me and I don't need any more therapists and I don't want your medication and I don't want to get pounced on by any more get-overs who see a vulnerable target and think it would be good for my mental health if we took a peek together into my bank account, and I don't want everybody trying to decide if every joke I make is evidence of a returning mental illness, just leave me alone, because see, I'm married to Mr Normal.' Truly, I am sure I have every base motive anyone ever thought of or ever could have thought of. I guess this is just to say that I hate this game, no matter if my motives for hating it make me basest of all...etc etc.

Now that that's out in the open, and all clear and everything, I did want to add, in defense of people like me (I think there's probably a variety of types of people who get spotted and caught by an N), that I'm not sure that my psychiatric or morally flawed reasons for staying in a messed up marriage is other people's business. I'm not saying anyone here feels it is, but when the nature of my marriage became public, neighbors and people out of the blue did seem to feel that those things were their business. It was quite unhelpful to me and also very hurtful. I am only thinking of purely judgmental people--wondering what business they have to care about someone's 'reasons' in that judgmental way--not the kind of people who are trying to understand because they are actually willing to help or listen or something. I assume there are those helpful ones, although I didn't encounter any of them myself.

I hope someone can understand what I'm trying to get at even though it's muddled. I guess my deepest hope is somehow to exorcise the feeling that, having been maritally abused in a semi-public way, I must now and forevermore expose to myself and any curious person the sordidest levels of the sordidest motives behind my marriage's most sordid moments, and thereby be absolved of being despicable for not leaving; or else that I must somehow express my point of view so that it is understood that I was not really all that despicable or even all that weird for not leaving sooner. I don't want it to be anyone's business, not a crusader's, not someone who wishes their mom had left, nobody's. I know that's kind of illogical, because thank God for crusaders and so forth...But I guess I'm finding all of a sudden that it's an emotional topic for me, 'Why doesn't the victim leave the abuser?'. I think I will take that suggestion about finding a DV group. I guess it's time to go download that book of Kathy's, too. She always hits the nail on the head, so I might be pretty silent for a while, as I hit new lows of shame (if unlucky) or new highs of insight (if lucky). But I hope you all will forgive me for this post and still be nice when I am back in my more educated form (and off my pain meds)! And I really hope it's clear that I think of everyone here as 'on my side' or I would not feel safe enough to express this strong reaction I'm having to the topic of 'why,' even before I have made sense of it myself. And I'm sorry for apologizing since that's icky too, etc etc (see how the flashbacks of that Let's Get Freudian game get me all twisted up? Isn't there something wrong with that game?) And all this looking into motives and verbalizing them is really aerobic and everything, and reminds me of my 6 years of psychoanalysis, but the real confession is this, and all the rest of it is beside the point: My N husband is coming across as if his 12 step program is working on him, and I think I am starting to believe it.

I am afraid I will not, in the end, leave.

Why, if I'm so good at that game Let's Play Freud and Confess Our Bad Side? I can understand everything backwards, forwards, up, down, and sideways, so why can't I escape? I am afraid it's because I forgot how to believe in anything. Does that make sense? N's don't believe in anything, they don't think there is 'a' reality, it's all a game. Anything is anything and it's all a game. I hope I haven't similarly forgot that there's a reality. That would make me like the N, so why not stay with him, since now I'm the monster and he deserves it.

How's that for the ickiest motive, do I win?

Can we stop playing now? :(

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Marisol, it looks to me like the one thing you have to have is another person outside yourself. "Validation" and "reality check" and all of those things ... they're the reason we are different from reptilian critters. We're not meant to be solo. We're meant to need other people. It's not the need that's wrong - it's not attaching that's wrong - it's who your needs are attached to.

You write like someone in the bottom of a deep hole - and the only way out is getting hauled into the light by someone else. And of course, after all of what you've said, how are you supposed to tell who's safe and who's not?

Do what Kathy says. Trust your instincts. You have them. I can hear it.

At 2:39 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Marisol, There's a lot in your last comment, and I am replying to just one aspect of here - which in now way comes anywhere near summing it up. But I want to be sure you know that there is nothing between the lines in what I say. When I say that "some people" stay for the wrong reasons, that is exactly what I mean. I don't mean you or anyone in particular here or the victims of narcississts in general.

One more thing. On reading all the comments the past few days, I've been saying to myself, "Kathy, it isn't just you. The travesty of justice in this seems to be what bothers all victims the most, not just you."

The abuse is bad enough, especially since it is repayment for your love and good things you did - that is a spear through the heart. But then to have the devil pull an identity switch with you so that you come through with the character description that belongs to him or her and they come through with the one that belongs to you.

The narc might as well have the life you lived, dumping the one s/he lived on you for you to bear the onus of.

Thus s/he comes out smelling like a rose and you come out looking like the demon in the affair.

THAT is an outrage. A willful and wanton outrage = heaping insult on injury. It is unforgiveable.

THERE IS NOTHING WORSE YOU CAN DO TO A PERSON. Nothing, not even murder. It is murder, because it takes your life.

So long as we live with them having what belongs to us, we cannot accept it. We are like ghosts who cannot rest in peace till the good guys get back their white hats and the bad guys get the black hats that belong to them.

Only THEN is a crime-in-progress stopped so that forgiveness is even a possibility.

You are not the only one who feels the way you do. And the stupid, callous bystanders will be as stupid and callous as necessary to be on the side they know the ganging up will be on.

We are all at different stages. Some are through the traumatic pain and carrying on. Some are in the midst of it. Some are just now coming to the realization that they are being parasitized by a malignant narcissist, a vampire, behind the mask of a person they thought loved them.

There is actually a law against outrage. I'm not sure, but I think it's a federal law that can be applied for punitive damages in a case if the perpetrator made the offense an outrage = "willful and wanton disregard for a person's rights and feelings."

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Marisol, there's tonne of stuff in your post, but I just want to say, in support, that I found the following passages inspirational. Thank you for posting.

Marisol wrote, "I'm not sure that my ......... reasons for staying in a messed up marriage is other people's business." ".....purely judgmental people--wondering what business they have to care about someone's 'reasons' in that judgmental way--not the kind of people who are trying to understand because they are actually willing to help or listen or something. I assume there are those helpful ones, although I didn't encounter any of them myself." And this, "I must now and forevermore expose to myself and any curious person the sordidest levels of the sordidest motives behind my marriage's most sordid moments, and thereby be absolved of being despicable for not leaving; or else that I must somehow express my point of view so that it is understood that I was not really all that despicable or even all that weird for not leaving sooner."

Yes, it does leave a sour taste of 'being forced to be defensive' of yourself when you find yourself explaining to people who clearly are not open to what you have to say.

Thank you once again for posting, very insightful and I hope you won't be needing painkillers for much longer and your back stops hurting.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Marisol said...

I just wrote a note to Stephanie, Kathy and Lynn thanking you for your comments, but it got erased. Anyway: All your responses really hit home for me, and thank you so much for responding to my long drugged comment. Stephanie, thank you for the much appreciated support about my instincts. Lynn, thank you, it helps me to read about your experiences also and to hear that you can relate. I still wish I could figure out why people act like I'm hurting them to be in the position I'm in with my marriage. Much as I'd like to think so, I don't think it's because they're being tortured by excessive compassion, but these people still act, uninvitedly, like I'm DOING something to them. Oh, well. Kathy, you're absolutely on target for me in your whole comment about the character switch etc. You've said it all. I like the part about the ghosts and the hats especially. Thanks for putting all that into words.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I hope that was a Blogger burp and not a mistake I made to erase that post. A few minutes before that I thought I lost a post when Blogger went AWOL for a few minutes right while I was publishing the post, but it eventually appeared.


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