Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Responsibility" Wrap: Narcissist Hurts You to Make YOU Guilty of the Sin of Feeling the Pain

Remember when you were a child and you used to say that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"?

Even little children instinctively know enough to hide their pain when someone has hurt their feelings. This instinct is good, even when the enemy isn't really an enemy - just a friendly opponent in a tennis match. Don't let the emotional effect on you of bad things show. It encourages the adversary.

But keeping them to yourself doesn't get rid of those feelings, does it?

Children, however, live in very different minds than normal adults do. Like Alice and Peter Pan, they don't distinguish between fantasy and realty, preferring fantasy, where they learn the (delusory) power of magical thinking. In some cases this pretending goes so far as to imagine into existence an imaginary friend, expecting Mom to set a place for her at the dinner table.

So, children have no problem getting rid of unwanted feelings. They just pretend them away. They just pretend their feelings aren't hurt.

They aren't really altering those feelings though. They're just repressing awareness of them to the subconscious and pretending to have other, good, feelings instead.

You can tell, because their behavior is such as proceeds from bad feelings, the repressed ones, not the feelings they pretend to have. In other words, those repressed feelings are still there and having their normal motivational effect on the thinking that controls conduct.

Unfortunately, however, the child is unaware of those buried feelings and therefore unaware of why she's doing what she's doing.

When feelings are repressed, it takes a good deal of of introspection to get in touch with those feelings again, so that you know why you're doing whatever you're doing.

I'll never forget this little exchange between Sister Mary Peter and a budding sixth-grade narcissist who had done something vicious that was totally inexplicable and whose mother was there and totally snookered by the conning brat. Seeing that the mother was willfully obtuse, Sister Peter got blunt...

Sister Mary Peter: Why did you do it?

Narc: I don't know.

Sister Mary Peter: Do you know what we do with people who don't know why they do things?

Yes, people who don't know why they do things are seriously mentally ill. And when you bury your natural feelings, that is what you are doing to yourself. You will soon NOT know why you are doing things.

But narcissists aren't the only people who refuse to grow up and quit clinging to the cherished myth that they can make unhappy feelings go away and make them into happy ones instead. Many people cling to this belief that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" because I am strong and I have high self-esteem, when really all I have is a habit of lying to myself.

One thing I remember about the Bible is how virtually anything can be "uncircumcised." Like your heart. Your eyes. Your ears.

In fact, according to the Bible, things that are circumcised can suddenly get uncircumcised. Kinda calloused-over with some crusty shield.

So, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what this figure of speech means. But, like a dog with a bone, I kept at it till I got it.

Nothing uncircumcises a head faster than stating the simple, self-evident truth that we cannot control our feelings, that feelings are not conduct and therefore cannot be right or wrong.

Just state that plain truth to many people and you can almost see it happening: that person's forehead suddenly gets thick as a brick. Reason bounces off it like missiles bounce off an Abrams tank


Uncircumcised Head

They act like they didn't even hear what you said. They just come back with, "But" and a reply that assumes you can control your feelings and that certain ones are sins.

How's that for being blockheaded? They can't even give you an answer - just nothing but this complete dodge all the time.

Which is absurd. Feelings are sensations, emotional sensations. You cannot alter sensations (except with hallucinatory drugs and hypnosis). If you get burnt, you should feel burned. If you don't, something is wrong with you. If the narcissist punches you in the face, he is responsible for your pain, not you. If he forces you to your knees and shoves your face into garbage he threw all over the floor, he is the one responsible for your anger, not you.

To think otherwise is incredibly stupid. The cause of a sensation is the stimulus that produces it, not the mind of the person who experiences it.

The worst thing about repressing unwanted feelings is that burying them locks them inside. They never go away then! Just as normal physical pain motivates action and then passes, normal feelings motivate action and then pass whether action has been taken or not.

But denied pain paralyzes and then just festers in the subconscious, motivating negative behavior (usually passive-aggressive behavior) like an unseen puppet master. And not just against the abuser - but rather against any available target, people who had nothing to do with the person who abused you. Hence we see many people subconsciously getting even with a parent by mistreating their spouse decades later.

That's crazy.

So, the very premise that codependency therapy rests on is invalid. Manifestly invalid. Of course people swear by it, though. But that doesn't mean that codependence "therapy" works. It just means that they think they have made their bad feelings go away. But they have merely brainwashed themselves and were conned into doing so. Sooner or later the price for doing that will have to be paid.

The pain of narcissistic abuse is sheer torture. I have no doubt that it drives many mentally healthy people all the way to suicide. And often without the narcissist even laying a hand on the victim. It's THAT bad when you're bludgeoned with it day after day after day.

But in my own experience, I found relief when I stopped trying to fight those feelings off. When I asked myself why I was angry, sad, outraged about this or that. When I accepted my feelings as having a valid cause and owning them. I could see that my feelings were a natural human reaction to what had been done to me. I no longer felt like a pressure cooker about to explode. I could bear it. And it got better - just a little better - every single day.

Feelings are nothing to fear. Felt feelings motivate behavior, but they don't rule it. And felt feelings never killed anyone.

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9 Comments:

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous LJA said...

Well said!!! Every Christian 'counselor' should be required to read this.

 
At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feelings are necessary to live at all. Repressing them for "healthy" people, makes them sick. It can take short or long, no way you can run away from it.

Not going through feelings, like angry, sad etc., makes you live like a puppet. What is life, if one represses them? Negativ feelings make you stronger, once you concuered them, positif feelings make you feel good, these are presents to be cherished. If you're not honest to yourselves, there is no road.

An N. indeed doesn't know, he envies you for having them. They want to take it away, or use it against you, in order for you to have the same sad life they have. But that is their choice. Fortunatily, we can and are not afraid to feel and therefore be "whole" people.

Great how you wrote this post again Kathy. It is amazing how you can put insight in written words.

JT B

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You hurt my feelings."

Most kids aren't afraid to say this, yet we adults hesitate as it shows we're not tough.

How about we start make others accountable for the pain they cause us? The rest of the animal kingdom does it, dogs bite each other in the face of harm or transgression. They speak their mind, then get on with life, bearing no grudges. They're totally upfront and honest.

Maybe there's a reason most N's don't like animals, beyond their lack of empathy, that is. Maybe animals remind the N of how dishonest they are.

 
At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

Kathy Babe - YOU ARE ON A ROLL!!

I am still trying to divorce a Narc who abused (still does) me for what his SOCIOPATH MOTHER did to him. BLECH!!

I am cross posting this one to my Abuse site.

You rule Kathy! Kudos to you for speaking the truth!

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Writer in Washington said...

"Maybe there's a reason most N's don't like animals, beyond their lack of empathy, that is. Maybe animals remind the N of how dishonest they are."

Many Ns are "animal lovers". My husband's ex "rescues" bulldogs so she can put on a good face for others. It also got her photo in the local paper with a story about her and her efforts. Its an excellent way to get attention.

Ns may "like animals" when it serves their needs or purposes, This particular one only likes them so long as she doesn't have to take care of them. Her third husband does all the real care of them. She is cruel to them: (abandoned her dog to my husband when they divorced because she was old and needed extra care, insisted that my husband have his golden put down because she was causing too much stress in their marriage) when she chooses to be. I think they "like" animals because of their dependance upon attention.

Very good post, Kathy. I think a lot of physical illnesses are caused by the denial of emotions and feelings about important figures in your life (parents, spouse, children) because to state them would cause outrage. Either in the community or family, I mean. Again, getting free from dysfunctional ties causes a lot of loss to the individual sometimes. So emotions are just buried alive and evidence themselves in other ways.

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ns may "like animals" when it serves their needs or purposes, This particular one only likes them so long as she doesn't have to take care of them. "

Same for the N's I know!! Outrageous how they pamper animals (in the sight of others) but, when they really have to take care, the are not at home. My N. left all the caring for me and my child'ren. By the way, he always had a negatif remark about "our" caring.

Well, it's the same issue with their child'ren or partner. Caring..they have no idea how to do that. They will look after everyone as long as it doesn't affect their lives.

JT B

 
At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love your insight, too. and i really identify with what you have to say about repression and the passive aggressiveness it can engender, and the introspection that is necessary to get to the bottom of feelings. i have a history of extreme unconscious passive aggressive behavior against people who hurt me, usually narcissists. rather than tell them directly, i have found indirect measures that actually get the point across. however, following my own passive aggressive actions, it takes months for me to realize what actually occurred at the time, so repressed were my feelings and the corresponding memory of my own actions and their motivation. it's been hard to unlearn this, and so far, therapy has not been a source of growth and comprehension for me.

 
At 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After having my feelings hurt over and over again by my friend the narcissist, and making up excuses to why he had blown off my birthday, not shown up for dinner on Christmas Eve, I pretended that it didn't matter.

But it did. One day, I snapped and became furious with him over something rotten that he had done, and pointed out that it was not the first time it had happened. I then sited examples A, B, and C and how fed up I was with his behavior. He called me the following day and said, "I'm sorry you feel this way, I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry."

I almost fell off my chair. He wasn't about to take any responsibility for the hurt he had caused, and his apology was hollow-much like his soul.

 
At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After having my feelings hurt over and over again by my friend the narcissist, and making up excuses to why he had blown off my birthday, not shown up for dinner on Christmas Eve, I pretended that it didn't matter.

But it did. One day, I snapped and became furious with him over something rotten that he had done, and pointed out that it was not the first time it had happened. I then sited examples A, B, and C and how fed up I was with his behavior. He called me the following day and said, "I'm sorry you feel this way, I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry."

I almost fell off my chair. He wasn't about to take any responsibility for the hurt he had caused, and his apology was hollow-much like his soul.

 

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