Sunday, February 10, 2008

Welcome to the Narcissist's World - Part 2

Welcome again to the narcissist's world - the wonderland Alice found herself in when she fell down a rabbit hole on a psychedelic trip.

This is the second in a series of posts that gives a simple example of the games narcissists play. (If you haven't read that last post, you really should read it before continuing with this one.) In this case, our hypothetical malignant narcissist is named Jean. In the last post I explained how Jean will use interactions with a friend she has casual contact with, often in telephone chats.

That's because Jean has absolutely no interest in her friend. She simply needs attention, a mirror to admire her reflection in. She views these interactions – these phone conversations – as nothing but material for the work of fiction about her life that her whole life amounts to an act of composing.

So, let's say that you are the friend. You think you are having a normal conversation with a real friend. That would be a two-way street in which people sharing a friendly relationship/connection establish and strengthen their relationship/connection by communicating.

But Jean is no more interested in communicating with you than she is interested in communicating with a mirror she is just posing in.

That ain't communication. The intercourse is all one-way. You are just a mirror, a sounding board. By bouncing her false image off you, she makes it appear as a virtual reality.

Therefore, when you say, "Hello, Jean, how are you?" you might as well say, "Hey, Jean, let's play Pretend that you are that figment of your imagination you identify with."

Off she goes in flights of fancy to carve out that false image of herself that she identifies with. Because that's what she views her interactions with others as – just chances to make that false self appear in a mirror.

You are just that necessary mirror, a sounding board. That's what she needs you for and uses you for. (And that's why you can't get in a word edgewise, why she immediately gets bored if you try to talk about your life.)

Off she goes in "Author Mode" creating a new scene in her autobiographical work of fiction that she identifies with as My Life. It is a delusion that she fights off the truth with.

Like all mortal creators, she can't make something out of nothing, so the material she uses is reality – morphed and falsified on the fly in any way she pleases.

This is why the lying of narcissists is so bizarre that it makes you pinch yourself. Occasionally you catch them in lies that there was no conceivable motive for them to tell. We are dead meat for such lies, because normal people don't tell them.

But guess what? If you check out everything a narcissist says, you will discover that virtually nothing they have ever told is true! Nothing. At the least, virtually everything they tell you is distorted or falsified in some of the details.

Yes, we can detect a reason in most of the lies we catch narcissists in, but not all. That is, usually we can see a motive to aggrandize themselves in a narcissist's lie. But some of their lying is absolutely baffling. As Joanna Ashmun writes, their lying "can be trivial (e.g., about what they want for lunch) or it can be serious (e.g., about whether or not they love you)". The trivial nature of many of their lies, and the recklessness with which they contradict themselves, has convinced me that narcissists lie on whim, often revising reality just to make it more colorful than the plain old truth.

Just like a novelist would. Such are their flights of fancy. Just like a little child's.

Why? Because it's fun I suppose. If you ever sat down to write fiction, you know what I mean. It's a blast. The most fun I ever had was in writing a story about a one-woman mob who, during the advent of World War II, carried out a paid-for hit on a black African archbishop penitently on his knees in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdelene in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Wow! What a blast I had on those flights of fancy in my imagination. It was a flowing fountain of cool and intriguing ideas that riveted the reader to my story, sucking him or her wholly into it.

But that's a fiction writer's job. Jean thinks it's her job when she's talking to her friend on the phone. Like a child playing Pretend.

For example, one narcissist I know embellishes the characters she gives to the other people in the story of her life. Like a novelist, she always paints them as a cartoon (a flat character - that is, a mere caricature, not a real character - drawn without depth) that she spices up with some purely imaginary eccentricity.

It reminds me of the advice James Frey gives novelists to make such a flat (and therefore unreal) character a little "wacky." Why? Because you make the character a mere cartoon so he or she doesn't distract attention from the star of the show, but if you make a cartoon too dull, you lose the realism that makes your story believable. Therefore, you color your cartoon characters by making them a bit odd and thus more seemingly real = not a robot.

So, I think it's for this verisimilitude that a narcissist colors the cartoon she draws of a friend she talks about by giving that friend a brother who is a drug dealer being surveilled by the FBI. That gets your attention, doesn't it? The men she hires to do her yard work and snow removal are "retarded," because kindly her "takes on people like that." How magnanimous of her.

When I caught on to this gratuitous lying, I started checking out all the tales she had told me about others in the story of her life, and I found that all these quirky details are pure made-up fiction about those people.

So, you can imagine how inaccurate what Jean says to others about YOU is. This is one big reason why it is dangerous to have anything to do with a narcissist. You and your precious reputation are nothing but fodder to a malignant narcissist for their Fiction Making Machine.

Again, callous is as callous does.

Ashmun again:

The simplest everyday way that narcissists show their exaggerated sense of self-importance is by talking about family, work, life in general as if there is nobody else in the picture. Whatever they may be doing, in their own view, they are the star, and they give the impression that they are bearing heroic responsibility for their family or department or company, that they have to take care of everything because their spouses or co-workers are undependable, uncooperative, or otherwise unfit. They ignore or denigrate the abilities and contributions of others and complain that they receive no help at all; they may inspire your sympathy or admiration for their stoicism in the face of hardship or unstinting self-sacrifice for the good of (undeserving) others.

That will be all you get out of your phone conversation with Jean. In other words, all you get is USED as a reflective surface for her to bounce all this crap off of. Because she isn't talking with you or to you - she is just talking AT you.

You might as well not even be there. Set the phone down next to a tape recorder that says, "Uh-huh" periodically. Jean will be perfectly satisfied.

To be continued...

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At 2:04 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

Well. That was right on. :O
"talking at you"-huh-funny how we miss things like this.

Thank you. The more I learn truths such as this, the easier it is to desensitize myself to their crap. Like a surgeon who shuts off the emotion that would prevent him from cutting into a live body in order to remove a tumor. He is still a feeling human (hopefully) but he has learned to ignore the part of him that says: "poor thing!".

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha, Kathy, great post you hit the nail. Gosh, you can write!

The last you mentioned, sounds like me and my mam. I littarly say no more than, and put the phone somewhere I can hear when she is starting to end the conversation, in the meantime doing the things I really have to do. No use to even try to get any real attention.

The talking about work, etc. and the denigrating part, is exactly how it functioned with my ex.... That is something I realized more and more during the marriage and I got very tyred of it many times.

The part of the stories about others is something I found out by just simply contact them. It was outrageous what answers I got. That was the start of the end of believing this man. The more stories I verified, the more lies came up. At a certain point I didn't want to know more. It had been enough already.

So I ended up with 27 years of lies... how much damage can one person do to, not only me,(which is for me the hardest part) but to ALL the people involved in his miserabel life.

jt B

At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wondered why my mother always seemed to be unavailable whenever I was performing in a choir. When I sang with my best friend at the conservatorium, her mother took us into town on the train and we were to return back on the train, even though it was night and my house was 40 minutes walk from the train station.

I was thrilled when I saw another friend of ours with her mother and brother sitting in the audience. They had taken the trouble to drive and park in town just to hear us sing, so after the concert we all went and had coffee with cake. Then we all squeezed in my friend's mother's car and we were all safely given a lift home.

Behind my back, my mother told everyone that we all "went to the 'Cross to have some fun" (Kings Cross is Sydney's red light district.) I first heard it from my n-Grandpa (her father) at the dinner table in front of everyone when we were visiting. Incredulous, I called them to account for themselves, but I was met with silence and a determined change of subject. I wasn't even given the chance to tell what actually happened and no-one bothered to ask how the concert went.

A few months later, my friend's mother (the driver) heard what my mother had been saying about her and called my mother and had a few heated words to say to her about it. I was summoned before my parents and my mother launched into one more of her over dramatic "how dare she and I'm the victim" acts. Unmoved, I told my mother that it served her right and my mother went into a silent rage. To "punish" me, my father took me to stay with his mother, my grandma for a week which I enjoyed. This was one of the few times I actually got to concentrate on my schoolwork, but I think it was my grandma who ended up having to pay for my mother's slander.



At 2:00 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

Hi Cassandra, I'm glad you shared that. It is important to remember that Malignant Sociopaths and Narcissists BOTH can punish with SILENT RAGE.
They are not always tantrum-throwers.
I AM a tantrum thrower when I have had enough of the N's in my life. They are rare-but I can't claim that they are totally unable to make me explode.
And I am NOT a malignant N.

Silent Rage is a great tool-especially against an extrovert like me who expects answers and accountability!

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sonicido,

Your frustration at the antics of deliberately difficult people is understandable; when I am cornered and cannot get away, I also get angry. On the one hand, I don't want to be goaded into reacting but on the other, the stress at keeping calm is not healthy and sometimes I also "spit the dummy."

My mother's default mode was explosive drama queen, but she would also use silent rage effectively. Not so long after I left home, she and my sister treated my father with contempt and refused to speak to him for years. My father, who is not a victim, put up with this until my mother divorced him. She waited until he retired and his mother died, so she could take every cent that she possibly could from him. Then she hypocritically went on welfare.*

I never understood how people could coontinue to live in such a poisonous atmosphere until I understood NPD.

I left home as soon as I could to get away from her at 16 and later finished my schooling while working.

I always preferred the silent "punishment," as I fould my mother's constant yelling and screaming so stressful. Finally, when I was 21, I confronted my mother with her abuse of me. At the time, I felt that I had to do this or literally go crazy. She responded by disengaging and has refused to speak to, or even acknowledge me ever since and that was a very long time ago.

Despite the hurt and confusion, that has been one of the the best things she ever did for me.

*in Australia, the home is exempt as an asset, so you can have people like my smother living in million dollar houses while collecting from the hard working taxpayer. When I was struggling to set up my business, my mother slandered me by telling everyone that I was a dropout drug addict on welfare.



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