Document!

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Every so often I find myself telling someone to document everything. Write it all down. Accusations without support might work in the political arena, but they don’t work in the courtroom unless there is careful documentation. Documentation can save the day with the auto mechanic, the doctor, the salesman, and the narcissist. Even if it is just in your notebook.

I don’t pretend to be an attorney, so check these things out locally. Most states are “one-party consent” states. That means only one person in a conversation needs to know that conversation is being recorded. In other words, phone calls and personal visits can be recorded as long as one of the participants is aware of the recording. Only eleven states require both to be aware, and recording a conversation where you are not a participant is not legal in any state. You can find this information online. Check this link.

What this means is that threatening words, lies, promises, and more can be recorded. There may be several reasons for doing this, not the least of which is to help you remember what was said. When the narcissist tries to make you think you are crazy, you can play the recording for yourself to know just what was said.

Now, you might not be able to use these recordings in court. They might also be against the rules at your workplace. The value may be limited and the risk might be high, but this kind of thing is possible. If you have an attorney, talk to him/her about this.

And remember: you can document without recording. Emails can be saved. Notes written down at the time or immediately following an event or conversation will be more accurate than trying to remember later. When the mechanic guarantees that your car will be finished by 5:00 and then says it won’t be ready until morning, your notes can “remind” him of his promise. In the same way, when the narcissist says he will be by to pick up the kids at 5:00, and you write it down with him standing there, your notes will help when he denies making that promise.

There are so many ways of doing this, just find something that works for you. A small notebook carried in your purse or pocket, a pad by the phone, even a good note app for your cell phone. Something handy and easy to protect. When the phone rings in the night, note the time and number (if your phone doesn’t already do that). Transfer that information to your daily log or diary or notebook. Keep track of the days and hours of custody visits, and a log of the kids’ reports after those visits. Whatever you think you need to remember.

At work or in the organization, these notes can be just as important. You have the right to a personal notebook, even at work. If the boss requires you to do something you think is inappropriate, write it down at the time you were asked. If you see activities or expenses that are questionable, write them down. Even if you see the abuse of others, you can write it down. Keep the email threads somewhere offline (unless that is also forbidden at work). Work may have different rules that could result in you being fired or disciplined, so be careful. But don’t let that stop you from doing something.

Be careful. Yes, there may be some danger in this. The narcissist will be very angry if he knows you are keeping track in this way. Think that through. Some have had their notebooks mysteriously disappear. Others have found that the narcissists become very silent and non-committal when things are written down. Some find that their email accounts are read or even deleted. If this is a battle for you, there can be a price to pay for trying to protect yourself.

At the same time, contemporaneous notes are powerful tools. They help you remember, and they give convincing witness to your concerns. Just imagine how much more strength would be given to the accusation of a sexual harassment victim if she had a diary or personal log with dates and times and phone numbers and verbatim conversations. No, these notes would not have the strength of a good recording, but they would still be something of value.

And, again, understand that your notes may only serve to help you remember. The court or the higher-ups of the organization might not take them seriously. Your attorney might not even want to read them. But you will know that you are not crazy, not even forgetful. You will have evidence to support your own heart—and we know that is needed when narcissists are involved. Sometimes looking over the notes from past months will give you the courage to do what you need to do. Seeing the accumulation of the wrong behaviors will make it far more difficult to dismiss each one as “just a misunderstanding.”

Bare minimum: get a small notebook and a pen or pencil. Keep it with you. Be ready to write down the things that happen. Document.

*
(Anyone have examples of how your documentation helped in dealing with your narcissist?)

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Revenge

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

 

“Vengeance is fine, says the Lord.”  Oops!  That isn’t quite right, is it?  The verse says this:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.    Romans 12:19

We are instructed not to seek vengeance, not even against the narcissists in our lives.  But isn’t that hard?!?  I remember Sam Vaknin saying something like: “the most common reaction of a person who realizes that he/she has been victimized by a narcissist is rage.”  I haven’t quoted that precisely, but that’s what opened my eyes to what I was seeing in the counseling that began my study of this type of abuse.

And rage desires vengeance.

Well, we understand some of the reasons why we should not seek vengeance, don’t we?  It lowers us to the level of those who hurt us.  It rarely accomplishes what we think it should.  It often hurts others the abuser has gathered to his life.  But let me add that attempting vengeance against a narcissist rarely works.  The narcissist is way ahead of you.  He/she has played the game much longer and is far more ruthless than you would be.  Many could tell stories of how their vengeance backfired because the narcissist’s image was so strong.  Now the friends you used to share see you as the dangerous one, for example.  Now the resources you wasted in your fruitless attempt at vengeance are gone, and you have less.

No, vengeance won’t solve anything.  But let’s define vengeance here.  What I am talking about is my desire to hurt someone in the way or at the level in which that person hurt me.  My desire to make them feel the pain and grief and loss I have felt.  If I want vengeance, I want to be the cause of their pain.  I want that person to look me in the eyes and realize I am repaying the abuse he/she gave to me.  And, even as I write those words, I realize why I can’t be in charge of vengeance.  That isn’t me; it shouldn’t become me; I don’t want it to ever be me.

But the narcissist may still get what’s coming to him.  It isn’t that vengeance is wrong.  It’s that it is not ours.  Evil does come with a price.  Those who do not come to Jesus, confessing sin and yielding to Him, will pay a price for their sins.  That is something the church has taught from Scripture from the beginning.  But this is in the hands of God.

At the same time, there are a couple of things that should be made clear.  Sometimes teachers and other believers add to our burdens by making wrong connections.  They prohibit actions that are not prohibited by the Scriptures.

For example, should an abused wife seek a significant settlement from her cruel husband in a divorce or separation?  Should she go before the authorities to force him to provide care for her and her children?  Some people say that isn’t right, that it falls within the desire for vengeance.

But a narcissist father and husband may have an amazing ability to walk away from his responsibilities—and will do so if he can.  So, yes, she should sue him at court if necessary.  A father has a responsibility to provide for his children.  A husband has a responsibility to care for his wife, even when his mistreatment of her drives her away.  This is not vengeance, nor even justice.  This is using proper authority to enforce what should be enforced.  Don’t let anyone suggest that this is somehow tied to vengeance.

Should you report the illegal actions of a boss or co-worker?  Should you expect repayment of debts made by narcissists?  Should you hold narcissists accountable to the same reasonable expectations the rest of us live under?  Yes, yes, and yes.  These things are not vengeance.

Some of these same teachers and believers want us to feel bad if the narcissist ever does receive punishment or consequences for his actions.  We cannot rejoice in the pain of others, they say.  Love does not rejoice in justice, they say.  And, when they say these things, they bind us unnecessarily.

God does not do wrong.  If He allows someone to suffer for their own actions, that is not wrong.  God does love the narcissist and desires that the narcissist would repent and turn in humility to Him.  God would quickly forgive and receive the narcissist in love.  But apart from that, the narcissist will receive just consequences for the life he/she has lived.

If we see someone humbled after a career of abuse and lies, it is not wrong for us to feel a sense of satisfaction.  Sadness, yes.  I suppose.  I would always rather see someone repent and turn to Jesus than suffer for sin.  But there is a sense of vindication when others see what you have seen, when the narcissist is exposed.  And that sense of vindication is not wrong.

What do you think of this:

LORD All-Powerful, you test good people; you look deeply into the heart and mind of a person. I have told you my arguments against these people, so let me see you give them the punishment they deserve.   Jeremiah 20:12 (NCV)

Jeremiah even made this a matter of prayer.  Again, I would rather see a person change than suffer, even if the suffering is deserved.  But it is far better to take your desire for vengeance to the Lord and lay it in His hands.

Let’s be honest.  These people can cause great pain.  They are cruel and uncaring.  When they are done using one person or group, they move on to another.  How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would be exposed and stopped?  How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would feel something of what they made others feel?  Yes, our first desire should be for the narcissist to change, but sometimes the only way for them to want change is to begin to see the truth about themselves.  Exposure, humiliation, legal consequences—these are often the way change begins.  There is nothing wrong with being encouraged when we see these things happen.

Allow the Lord to choose the time and method.  Give the right of vengeance to Him and trust Him.  He knows what you have been through, and He loves you.  He will care for you—whatever He chooses to do with the narcissist.  You may not get to see what happens.  In fact, you may think that nothing happens.  Just trust the Lord.

Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you and me.  But it does belong to Him, and when He allows pain and recompense to come into the life of the abuser, it is good.

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Guard Your Tongue

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

What do you do when you discover that you are in a relationship with a narcissist? Obviously, if this is a boyfriend or girlfriend, you should get out. Run, and not slowly. But what if this is in your job or at your church or even in your family? What if you can’t get out? How can you survive?

Maybe it’s your new boss or co-worker. Maybe it’s your new in-law. Maybe it’s someone at the club or church or school. You know what a narcissist is, and this person fits the bill. Now what?

First, don’t be afraid. You are smarter than you were, at least you have more knowledge about this. Your guard is up and your boundaries are in place. There are things you can do to protect yourself.

Once you know that a narcissist is in the equation, guard your tongue. Don’t offer information about yourself, especially not secrets or information that can compromise you. If possible, don’t tell details about your family or your background or even previous jobs. People at work don’t need these details to work with you. Your job is to do your job. They can do theirs. You can be civil, even friendly, without giving information that will be used against you later.

Don’t criticize others. Your thoughts about the company or your co-workers or your neighbors can and will be used against you or them. You may suddenly find yourself on a “side” in a battle because of something you said. You can have your opinions, but keep them to yourself if there is a narcissist around.

Don’t make promises. Narcissists remember and expand your promises. Just do your job and do it well. If you say you will do something, do it. And if you don’t intend to do something, say you won’t do it. Even in a new job or relationship, there is a place for boundaries.

Tell the truth. Narcissists love to accuse others of the things they do themselves. Since narcissists lie easily and believe lies are a good way to accomplish their purposes, they will want to deflect attention from their lies to yours. If you only tell the truth, you can support the things you say when you are questioned.

Don’t agree. If the narcissist makes a bold statement about the company or a co-worker and you nod your head or indicate in any way that you agree, he will say it was you that came up with the idea. You will be pulled to her side in whatever argument she is in. There is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t want to get into it, that you don’t agree, or that you are too busy with your job to care. Whatever it takes to keep yourself out of the narcissist’s manipulations.

Don’t make fun of others, or state strong political opinions, or tell inappropriate jokes, or even give compliments that can be used against you. Believe me, the narcissist is listening for something. Guard your tongue.

Now, some of us would have a hard time functioning with these restrictions. I know I would. At the same time, I sure wouldn’t want to give the narcissist free tools to use on me. Be yourself, but be your guarded self. The narcissist represents a danger to you and to others.

You know that person who seems to be pleasant and kind, but never really enters into the banter and politics? Be that person. You know how others seem to stop their complaining and criticizing and gossip when that certain person comes around? Be that person. Don’t be superior or condescending. Don’t give the impression that you are better than others. Just be separate from the kind of things the narcissist commonly uses in these environments. If you can avoid the game, do it.

Now, you might still get attacked or hurt by the narcissist. These folks often get what they want. Just don’t let your tongue make it easy for them.

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Thanks!

It’s Narcissist Friday! (Almost)     

Each week in our little church we pause to give folks an opportunity to share the things they are thankful for. So often an answer has come to prayers, or an unexpected blessing has happened, or someone just wants to express gratitude for a regular thing we usually take for granted. It is a happy time.

When I counsel people I hear them apologize for talking about their pain all the time. They think they should be looking at the good things in their lives instead of the struggle. But I usually just say that it is hard to think about how good your arm feels when your leg is hurting. The purpose of pain is to focus our attention on something that isn’t right. So we shouldn’t be surprised or ashamed when it works.

But when pain is ongoing, when it is chronic rather than acute, we have to do more than learn to live with it. We have to find ways to overcome it. That’s when being thankful is so important. Being thankful, counting our blessings, changes our focus. We tell our pain to step aside while we remember the good things. The pain might not go away, but it seems to back down for a while.

So, for those in ongoing narcissistic relationships, where the pain continues, I encourage you to take a moment to look away from the struggle. Don’t worry, it will be there when you get back. But you need some time away, don’t you? You get a little time away—in your heart—whenever you stop to give thanks.

There are people in your life who are not narcissists. Give thanks for them. There are places you can go without the narcissist. Give thanks for those places. There are minutes in your day without the narcissist. Give thanks for those minutes. There are people who believe you. Give thanks for them. There are people who would believe you if you told your story. Give thanks for them. There are people who love and are kind even though they know little about you. Give thanks for them.

And there is a God who loves you and never leaves you. He sees everything. He has helped you to be strong. He has walked with you through the valleys. He gives you hope and promise. He accepts you and welcomes you into His presence. He cares for the victims and repays the abusers. He is a God of justice and love.

I understand that words like these can feel empty when you are in the midst of your pain. But there will be a time when you can stop to give thanks. When that time comes, enjoy it like a vacation. Let the love of friends and Jesus flow over you like the warm sunshine. Let the good memories bring light into the darkness that has surrounded your heart. Let hope give you strength.

The day of Thanksgiving is always most poignant in times of suffering and worry. To stop and smell the roses, count your blessings, or live in the light is always refreshing for our souls. There is much that is good in our lives, even though it is hard to see those things when we are hurting. It’s just that the pain does go away a little when we remember the good things.

Giving thanks is far more than a duty. Giving thanks is a blessing from God in itself. Those who are able to give thanks find themselves, at least for a moment, in a place of freedom and peace.

Obviously, I posted this early, before the holiday, hoping to give a word of encouragement. I am so grateful to and for all of you who read here. Your comments and prayers and support are blessings indeed. If you would like to share anything you are thankful for, you are welcome to do so in the comments. Your words may well add encouragement to others. Don’t preach. Just be thankful.

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Paranoia

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Are they all perverts? Good grief! With all the accusations flying around these days, between Hollywood and Congress, we have to wonder if anyone is who they say they are.

I remember an old story where the preacher got in front of the congregation and held up his large hardback Bible. He said, “There is a man in this congregation who is cheating on his wife, and I am going to throw my Bible at him.” When the preacher wound up to throw, every man in the church ducked. Men who have done the things we are hearing are worried about the day when the truth will come out. Men who have not done these things worry about the day they are falsely accused. There is an increasing paranoia, and we are wondering who we can trust.

People who have lived in narcissistic relationships understand something about paranoia. It is easy to see narcissists everywhere. Anyone who is mean or bossy or inconsiderate might be a narcissist. Anyone in authority or in the limelight might be a narcissist. And anyone who is interested in a personal relationship might be a narcissist. Who do you trust?

It seems obvious and reasonable that you should be more careful, doesn’t it? After all, you didn’t see it the first time (and maybe not the second or third). Only now do you have the information that explains what happened. You sure don’t want to make a mistake like that again.

So what do you do? You can’t dig a hole to live in for the rest of your life. No, really, you can’t do that. I know you want to. I know you have tried. But eventually you need others. In fact, there’s a part of you that wants to like others. You long for a friend you can trust, a co-worker you don’t have to worry about, a fellow church member you can enjoy. You even long for an intimate special relationship again. So, no, you can’t hide.

What you can do is return to life with your eyes open. You can admit the truth. There are people out there who use others. That’s a fact. It might be that you will be tricked by one of them again. They are very skilled at their deception. Being tricked, even tricked again, doesn’t mean you are stupid or weak. It may just mean you are a desirable person.

Use what you have learned. Relationships that move too fast, co-workers who talk disparagingly about others, church members who are holier than the rest—these are red flags. Someone who pumps you for information, secrets, or who tries to get you “on their side.” Bosses and companies that promise too much. Boasters, liars, manipulators. Even when they are nice to you at first, you know enough to be suspicious. People who use others will probably use you.

But not everyone is a narcissist.

If you listen to the news these days you probably think every man in leadership anywhere is a pervert. All the actors, all the bosses, all the politicians, all the teachers, all the preachers, all the dads—but that isn’t true. There are all kinds of reasons we are hearing these things right now, not the least of which is that this kind of news sells pages and air time. Some of the accusations come out of political agendas. Some come because silence is no longer enforced. Some come because victims feel safer as part of a group. But there are not more abusers than there were a short time ago. We are just hearing about them today.

You have learned about narcissism. It’s on your radar. You see it in places and people you didn’t think to look at before. That’s okay. But don’t be discouraged and don’t be afraid. Not everyone will use you. Some will love you.

When you meet someone, watch for red flags. That’s just good sense. But don’t push people away in your fear. Instead, keep the boundaries you have built around yourself. Value yourself. If someone asks more than you want to give, say no and don’t do it. Trust your new instincts, and meet people with confidence. Build your relationships on your terms. Anyone who doesn’t like that doesn’t need to be with you. Even if you find it hard to trust, be kind and pleasant.

I think you will find that there are others out there just as afraid as you, who need a good friend as much as you do. You have to be careful, but you don’t have to be alone.

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Crisis!

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Narcissists thrive in unstable times.

Think about that for a moment. When a company is in crisis, who is hired to lead? Very often it is a narcissist. It may not be much of a crisis, just a concern about dealing with brand or competition. The company board seeks new leadership with new ideas and a willingness to change without regard to traditions or even compassion. The threat is that the old ways might bring the company down, so someone who can set aside those old ways is desirable.

Enter the narcissist. Great promises. Great ideas. Amazing self-confidence. Ability to say one thing and do another. Ruthless, dedicated, innovative, strong. Narcissists are hired to lead companies that are in crisis or feel the threat of a crisis.

When someone is in trouble and vulnerable, who is there to help? Often the narcissist. The narcissist is on the spot, ready to help. He thinks quickly, makes decisions without regard to opinions or culture, and gets things done. Few people can handle life’s crises as well as the narcissist.

And neither companies in trouble nor individuals in trouble do well at seeing the strings attached to this help. They are just so happy to move forward with some hope that they don’t watch for the red flags. Companies spend resources, merge with other companies, and lose valuable employees while the narcissist leads. Yet, the real cost of that leadership is ignored because of the reassurances of the narcissist. Individuals sacrifice money, supportive friends, jobs, and more as the narcissist directs their lives. But they don’t see the dangers until later.

Later, when the new ideas fail and the changes reveal their weaknesses, the narcissist walks away a winner. The company suffers great loss, but the narcissist moves on with a generous severance package. The individual finds himself or herself almost destitute of resources and support, but the narcissist moves on to “help” someone else. All because the crisis blinded them to the real costs of trusting the narcissist.

Narcissists are planners and manipulators. They are opportunists. They seem to be able to smell vulnerability. Like wolves watching the sheep, they know who is weak and can be separated from the flock. And they present themselves as heroes, deliverers. Always able to embellish past accomplishments, to turn failures into someone else’s fault, the narcissist appears to ride in on a white horse to save the day.

So, here’s a thought: if narcissists thrive in unstable times, then would it not be in their best interest to stir up trouble and keep the instability going? Those who live and work with narcissists know that unpredictability and tension are part of the relationship. Constant criticisms and comparisons, pitting people against each other, gossip, and lies—these are common tools in the narcissist’s toolbox. When the narcissist comes into the church, strange divisions seem to develop. When the narcissist comes to the workplace, the competition level rises and cooperation suffers. When the narcissist enters your personal life, stress and distress become the order of the day.

I am convinced that narcissists deliberately stir up trouble so they can use crisis to make themselves look important and needed. They don’t care what happens, except that they get the benefits. If there is no stress for them to use to their advantage, they will create it.

At the risk of sounding political, I have to ask: is it a coincidence that the rise of narcissism in our culture is accompanied by a rise in tension and division? Doesn’t it seem like there are people who do very well in these times of crisis? People who get rich and powerful during the distress? People who really don’t care about the “collateral damage” that follows their pronouncements and decisions? We are beginning to define leadership, in business and government, in narcissistic terms. The idea that leaders are servants, spending themselves and their energies on behalf of the people, just doesn’t describe what we see. Compassion and love are rarely part of the leadership our culture celebrates.

When you feel the tension around you rising, or the stress in the group increasing, look for a narcissist. And prepare yourself.

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Just Mean

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

The other day an advertisement came across my computer screen that intrigued me. It was a little crossbow for shooting round toothpicks. If you picture the toothpick as an arrow (or bolt), the crossbow was just the right size to use to shoot it across the room. In fact, the ad said it would go several meters. Also, the ad suggested that it would be great fun to shoot these toothpicks at people in your family or at work. Just imagine how much fun it would be to get shot with a pointed toothpick! How much fun it would be to get hit in the eye or to sit on a toothpick that has been shot into your pants! Oh, wait. It might not be as much fun to be the one who is shot.

Now, I am as tempted by little toys like this as the next guy. Most men never really stop being boys in some ways. But to shoot toothpicks, sharpened and hard arrows, at another person in fun is beyond me. Instead, I immediately thought of what it would be like to get shot with one of these. I would be more much more likely to be the target.

And who would have been shooting these toothpicks? As soon as I saw the ad, I thought of a certain narcissist I have known. He would love this toy. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t already have one. I can just see him in a meeting shooting this at certain people. And, if that person got angry or hurt, it would just be “in fun”.

Narcissists, in general, are mean. No, not all of them would shoot toothpicks at others. Not all of them would do the petty little acts of cruelty the narcissist I thought of would do (and has done). But the idea of “meanness” goes beyond shooting toothpicks. It refers to the low thinking of a person.

“Mean” is one of those words that comes to us from a long way back. It meant someone or something that was common, but common in character. Interestingly, it is almost always negative. Think “lowest common denominator”. Anybody can be cruel. Not everybody can be loving. To be mean is to sink to the lowest characteristics of humanness.

So what does this look like in society? Bigotry, jealousy, laughing at another’s pain, acting without regard to others, lying, cheating, taking advantage of those who are weaker, abusing others to get what you want, boasting, stealing anything from belongings to accomplishments to attention. These are the base or low things people do to others. This is what mean is like.

Is it a surprise that this is also a list of narcissistic behaviors? You could add to this list. Narcissists do mean things. Narcissists say mean things. Apparently, narcissists think mean thoughts. Your narcissist might actually be one of the most intelligent and capable people you know, but he/she seems to wallow in the lowest places of human behavior. I know men with doctor’s degrees who make it unsafe to turn your back or leave your coffee unprotected. They are just mean.

Why? Why are they so mean? Well, I don’t have the time to go deeply into that here except to suggest that the base emotions tend to bring us down to those low places of behavior. Anger, fear, jealousy, greed: these things seem to cause most of us to lose whatever social graces we have learned. And narcissists always struggle with these base emotions. The underlying anger of a narcissist is unceasing. It’s hard for most of us to enjoy the pain of others, but not hard at all for the narcissist.

Most of us have learned by now that we can’t relax when the narcissist is around. You never know what he/she will say or do next. Just when you think you are safe, you get jabbed with a “toothpick”. It might be a criticism, a cruel reminder of a secret you shared, or even a physical assault. We should know better than to give them tools to use.

So I wrote a note to the company offering the crossbow. I suggested that their sale of this “toy” might not be wise, especially since they advertised the fun idea of shooting others with sharp toothpicks. I reminded them that, if someone got hit in the eye, their company could be liable. We will see what they say. I’m not really against the toy. I just don’t want one of my narcissists getting one.

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