Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Narcissists and Conflict

One simple but easy-to-forget thing about narcissists is that, unlike normal people, they don't mind conflict. They enjoy it.

Conflict makes normal people uncomfortable. We try to minimize it in our dealings with others. Oddly, we love it in fiction (Conflict is the gunpowder of fiction, and it's near relative - controversy - is the gunpowder of journalism. Maintaining constant conflict is the secret to storytelling success). But note that this is "safe" conflict. In real life we hate what we love to see characters go through in fiction.

Narcissists have a whole different attitude toward conflict. They use it strategically to manipulate. They seek conflict. They become impossible people, flying into conflict with you over anything you think, say, do, feel, or wear. As if THEY have the right to determine what you say, think, do, feel, or wear.

This isn't just arrogance. It's a game in which you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, because they are being deliberately impossible to please.

When this is the motive, what happens when you try to defuse conflict, when you try to appease? The narcissist sees that as a sign of weakness, as sign of backing down. It just makes him bolder. This is no testing run at you anymore: now he is serious about running you over. He sees your "weakness" as REASON to come on stronger = to get madder and even more impossible. It's how he's controlling you.

In other words, trying to smooth it over, trying to appease the narcissist just backfires, making him more aggressive, not less aggressive.

So, don't do it.

This is just one of many examples of how normal human behavior backfires in Wonderland, simply because of a narcissist's alien mentality.

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At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fell for this my entire life.

Until I realized "there was no right answer"....I recall once I said: "You're right"

To an absolutely absurd statement...silence.
And they stammered: "Well, then, yes, ahh, OK."
That was before I even knew of malignant narcissists (lets just call them psychopaths!!)

Once I stopped fighting, went no contact--I think they were a bit shocked.

Done. Gameover.

It is baffling how their behavior is, contrary to anything normal. The attack the cowering...etc.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some years back, when my N brother was being divorced form one of his many wives, he did what he always does - searched the Internet and found a woman who would let him move into her house, even though she had only known him for a few days. She has since divorced him after getting tired of being smacked around, but that’s another story. Anyway, while he was going through the divorce, his (admittedly unstable, that’s the only type he is attracted to) wife would show up when he was around family members and co crazy screaming at him, or call relatives, us, to try to speak to him, sometimes several times a day. The big mystery was why she would seem calm for weeks at a time, then go off the deep end. The N would use these occasions to call her a “psycho” and whine about how he just wanted to finish the divorce and “get on with his life.“ He would say, “Why does she just keep going psycho every so often, completely out of the blue?!” Much later I found out what I had suspected all along - he would deliberately cook her feeble brain up with crazy threats about the children and then refuse to take her calls just to make her behave like that, all the while claiming that he had never called or spoken to her at all, as per his attorney’s instructions. He would play the victim and, of course, the rest of the family believed him, just like they always do. He just can’t live without friction and drama, all the while playing the victim. The poor, poor narcissist. When will these evil women ever leave him alone!

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

During my twenty two year marriage, my N husband would pick holidays, birthdays, family events and vacations and go in for the kill. So many Christmases, our anniversary, my birthday. It was a game to him and he played it so well.

This past Christmas morning it was just me and my children, and it was one of the best days of my life. I am free.

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As if THEY have the right to determine what you say, think, do, feel, or wear."

It was the "or wear" that got me. The N told me what to say, think, do and feel. In fact, she started to speak on my behalf to others, telling them what I thought and felt: all bogus, of course.

It was when she wanted me to dress in hand-me-down men's clothes and shoes that she really showed how far she would go to try to control me. Hello? She wore men's clothes. Her daughter wore men's clothes and shoes. So, any female member of her extended family must wear men's clothes. Never mind that the N and her daughter were built like men, and acted like men, right down to belching. What was right for her is the way everyone must live, whether they like it or not. The issue became so bizarre, a hill to die on for her. Ah, recreating the world in her own image, just like God.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good way to piss off your N is to claim victory over a conflict. The words "I win" go a long way. These are not words of appeasement, they flipped my N into FULL BLOWN ATTACK MODE. They are just two simple words, but they eat eat eat at an N, like salt eats at a Slug.

At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that CONFLICT just about sums up the whole of an N's life.
But this gives us a very useful RED FLAG.
If an N is grooming you there will likely be minimal conflict ( he is saving that for later ).
However, if you find out that his past is littered with conflict, then this is a warning sign. Lots of different jobs where he was always dismissed ( though NEVER his fault ), siblings who will not have ANYTHING to do with him. Best if such information is gained from an independant source, but if it is offered by the N, he will portray the other party as always at fault.
Another good situation to observe is the N in a social situation where he is in a group involved in a discussion about politics, religion, how best to do something etc. The N will soon turn this into a conflict where he must win at all costs. He is not interested in anyone else's viewpoint except to show that that viewpoint is inferior and his is superior. He will never admit any fault with his viewpoint. He will never concede. The discussion becomes totally irrational, and the N continues until everyone else is so confused that they give up so that the N thinks he has won. You can watch the delight on the N's face as he creates the conflict. I think that the N reveals himself in this situation because he feels safe with his behaviour as it is easily mistaken for a normal heated debate. It is anything but that, it is a conflict that the N has created. Be warned.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this blog and the comments.

More affirmation, which after a psycho exp. I need, every week during our "friendly" get-togethrs it was a bloody battle of words.

It was horribley insulting and belittling. I was so flummoxed, I'd reply in email to make a point. Reply with say a DATE and be told I was confused, that was not what was being debated etc.

Then I was told I was the one getting "hysterical."

Oh, boy. I don't miss that bunch.
But up until learning about narcissism, I just thought I was out of my league intelligence wise.
Well, yeah when they monoploize the conversation and speak only about what they know. One N would classically shut-up the minute he didn't know the subject being discussed inside and out. It was never give and take, not friendly-- just attack.

Anon, Kathy-
This blog means so much. I need to be reminded daily of what happened, or I slip and feel depressed thinking I destroyed "good friendships."

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Writer in Washington said...

My stepson says his mother's home is always a place of simmering stress, erupting into her rages then blaming everyone else for there being "so much anger". She lives for conflicts, thinks her life is a soap opera.
BTW, her whole family is always in an uproar about something. I think that it may be due to their nation of origin--maybe not but everyone that I've ever met from that particular country has similar problems. In any case, her sibs associating with her doesn't mean anything. Birds of a feather--as the saying goes.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"his mother's home is always a place of simmering stress, erupting into her rages then blaming everyone else for there being "so much anger". She lives for conflicts,..."

Typical..where an N. runs the family, there is stress, always.

Only conflicts and nobody knows in the end why or how. The N. does know, he/she is the one who stirs it up and then somehow manages to look like the one who is suffering from all the stress and feights the others cause him/her. Leaving all the others in absolute pain, devostated and feelings of guilt.

He/she walks out, sleeps well, the rest is at war.


At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 3 years of being married to an N, I have finally found the only way to end a conflict is to say nothing and let him think he is right, which for me is extremely hard because I am a peace-keeper and need resolution. Trying to discuss/resolve conflict INFURIATES him, its so backwards ill never be able to completely wrap my head around it.

In my mind I try to remind myself, it doesn’t matter what an insane person thinks or says, there is NO reasoning with that. And if I do stick up for myself or fight back it escalates and gets no-where, then he uses everything I say or do to tell everyone what a psycho I am…charming.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

So, you just keep taking it. You allow him to do that to you. What if you allowed him to do that to your child or someone else you love? Love yourself too: you are your nearest "neighbor" to love.

You say nothing about what happens to your relationship with yourself as a consequence of betraying yourself to mistreatment. As time passes, you will like yourself less and less for that. There are options.


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