Us and Them

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Normally, I don’t hold with an “us versus them” perspective on life.  It just isn’t helpful.  However, sometimes it is necessary.  There are times when it is important to remember the distinction between you and someone else.

Victims of narcissists often exhibit signs of “losing themselves” in the relationship.  They no longer know what they like or who they are.  The narcissist is so strong, so manipulative, that the only emotions and opinions that are tolerated belong to him.  A counselor or friend may hear a victim say something like, “I used to like country music, but I don’t listen to it anymore.”  A friend or family member may be surprised at how the victim no longer shares any opinion, “Oh, wherever you want to go is fine.”  This may be because at home there is only one opinion that matters.

Add to that the narcissist’s ability to project his own negatives onto others.  “You are always so angry and critical,” the narcissist says.  The victim has tried hard to be neither, but begins to wonder if the narcissist is right.  Projection is a favorite tool for narcissists because it has the double value of diverting negative attention and making the victim even more compliant.  Some people call this, “blaming the victim.”

There is need for the victim to begin to see himself or herself as separate from the narcissist.  That may take several forms and it may require a considerable amount of personal strength.  Some have to divorce, change jobs, leave a church, or physically relocate.  Some will have to express an amount of anger that will disturb others.  Some will use name-calling.  These are all tools to begin that process of differentiating.

The narcissist de-personalizes others.  He robs them of who they are and uses them as mirrors of his own pretense.  The effect on the victim can be quite powerful.  Other powerful means may be necessary to restore that division.

I would not suggest this in a normal relationship because I see it as a powerful tool for division, but it may begin as simply as thinking about the narcissist as him or her.  That’s her opinion, not mine.  That’s his thinking, not mine.  I am not him.  Eventually, the words may become stronger, but this simple idea of us and them may help the victim of a narcissist find the beginnings of freedom.

Your thoughts?

 

12 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

12 responses to “Us and Them

  1. In healthy relationships, each person takes an interest in the other’s interests just because they each want to learn and get to know each other better. When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you begin to question why you have certain interests because the narcissist makes you doubt your reasons behind liking something.
    A narcissist doesn’t say, “Oh, you like to write a blog! Show me some of your writing.” Instead, the narcissist will say, “Oh, you write a blog? Why would you waste your time doing something like that?” And then he’d go into how much time writing takes away from being in a meaningful relationship with him. So, you stop writing in your blog. Soon you discover that all this “quality” time with him gets wasted on doing the same things over and over that he enjoys (walking his dog, going to his favorite restaurants, watching movies he likes, listening to his music collection); talking about materialistic crap that doesn’t result in growth of any kind; and wondering where your spark went. (Well, dummy, the narcissist succeeded in sucking that spark, that energy you put forth in writing your blog and left you relying on him for things to do.) You start to think, “Hmmm? I guess he was right. I don’t have time to write. Blogging IS silly.”
    Until you can start saying ‘I’ again, you’ll remain trapped in his lair and sucked dry of everything that once defined who you were as a person, an individual. It’s insidious and happens over time. When you think he just loves you so much that he wishes to spend every waking moment with you, that’s when you need to snap out of it and say, “This is NOT normal. This is what happens in movies, not real life. No one sacrifices their entire identity in order to be truly lovable and loved.”
    Yes. Start saying ‘I like” and ‘I will” but be prepared for the rage.
    Thank you for today’s post!

    • Thanks, Paula. This is a helpful comment. It seems odd to have to remind people that they can have their own opinions. As you say, in normal relationships, this isn’t a problem. Victims of narcissists need to understand that their relationship is not normal.

      • Barbara

        I spent 27 years married to a narcissist. I heard things like “You want to go back to school? That would be a waste of money, you’ll never follow through,” “You would never make it as a music teacher–you have no patience with kids,” and “You like (insert musician’s name here) music? How lame!” When I finally realized I had “lost myself,” and started pursuing my own interests again, including returning to school, the rage began. After I proved him wrong, graduated Magna Cum Laude, and getting my first job teaching music, he left me. Once he realized he could no longer control me and fit me into his mold, I was no longer of use to him. Paula is absolutely right in her assessment. Be prepared for the rage. Once words stopped working to control me, the physical violence began. His leaving was God’s blessing on this family, because, as a “Good Christian,” I never would have done the leaving. Of course, he being a “Good Christian” too, he had to come up with a Biblical excuse for the divorce, and proceeded to lie to all our friends and family about my supposed years of infidelity. I am just glad to have been free of him for the last 10 years, and finally feel like a person again. Funny thing is, I never realized how abnormal our relationship was until after he was gone.

  2. joni24walter

    narcissim is an extreme disease of self-protection, self-righteousness self protection and selfishness. i just dont know how to counter or deal with a narcissits.

  3. Jim Robbins, author

    So true. Narcissism and control go hand in hand. The narcissist must deflect the blame from herself to others, in order to avoid responsibility for her diseased behavioral patterns.

    Though the narcissist is often deeply wounded, and hasn’t healed — often the cause of her malformed responses, they are no less responsible for becoming a healthier person.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hi Jim! Welcome! You are right on. The narcissist is sick and broken, but certainly responsible for actions and attitudes. Their cruelty and apathy are chosen responses. I believe much of narcissistic behavior can be unlearned and I believe Christ can heal. However, the problems are deep-seated. Most counselors have neither the time nor the wisdom to deal with the problems.

      • Barbara

        In my experience, the narcissist is a hard nut for the counselor to crack. We went to marriage counseling for three years. The counselor at one point brought in another counselor to listen to the sessions, because he could not figure out what the problem was. In individual sessions, I kept being questioned about my childhood, because of suspicions he had that I wasn’t telling all. Makes me wonder what he heard from my narcissist in his sessions. I am certain he tried to make the counselor believe that I was the one with all the problems. In joint sessions, all my narcissist ever said was that all the problems revolved around things I wouldn’t do for him. You would think that would be a big enough clue as to what was going on, but the solution was always that maybe if I just did some changing, all the problems would go away. How frustrating that was–all I ever did was change, and just when I reached the bar, the bar would be moved. Going to counseling was just one big exercise in frustration.

  4. Several authors mention the fact that narcissists are hard to diagnose. My next post (Friday) will talk about why.

  5. I hear what you are saying, but can not figure out how this part fits into Scripture. “Some have to divorce, change jobs, leave a church, or physically relocate. Some will have to express an amount of anger that will disturb others. Some will use name-calling.”

    Are you saying that we should encourage that? Or just that we should be patient with it when it happens? One of the trickiest parts of dealing with a narcissist is that as believers we are taught to control our anger, not to call people names, to always be kind, to love our enemies, to put others before ourselves, etc. Regular rules like these do not fit the same way in a warped relationship but the underlying principles might still fit somehow. Can you show me from scripture how this fits together? I can see that “name calling” might actually be “truth telling”, for example. But it seems to me that any time we lose it and start an uncontrolled rage we are probably not handling the scene in a biblical way. What do you think??

    • Kathy, I would never recommend that someone divorce. Change jobs or churches, maybe. My comments were not prescriptive as much as descriptive. People do these things to separate themselves. How they do that will be according to their own hearts and, as a counselor, I want to be careful not to tell them what to do or what not to do as they sort out how to make the change. My job is to help them through the process.

      I realize that could sound wimpy. But the problem a victim of narcissism has is that he/she has been told how to think and how to act in order to fit the desires of someone else. My guidance could just continue that process and become part of the problem. Instead, I can help with the sorting process.

      For example, I had a woman who began to swear like a sailor once she reached the stage of being angry at her husband. He had manipulated her for years and had succeeded in portraying her as crazy to their friends and community. When she finally found the courage to begin separating from him (separating identities, not marriage) she began to cuss. So much of his manipulation was religious that she proclaimed her liberty from the religious system that supported him by being profane. I was able to help her see how that ultimately did not serve her purpose, but I certainly didn’t judge her for that or even tell her she was doing something evil. Nor did I tell her not to be angry. Her anger came from the feeling of disgust and violation she had as she looked honestly at their relationship. I could show her how sustained anger would begin to draw life from her and be a detriment to her health.

      So, no, I couldn’t support any of these actions from Scripture, but that’s not what I would even try to do. I would know for myself and remember in my counseling that these things do not solve problems and I would hope that these would be temporary methods for the person to establish that identity separation. In the case of a divorce, I always find it very hard to watch a marriage break apart. At the same time, I realize that the truth about the marriage is different from what is good and right and that the health of the person is important. So I understand the desire for divorce and I would put a narcissistic relationship into a similar category as a physically abusive relationship. Some people do choose to stay.

      Another interesting aspect is that some people go from one narcissistic relationship to another. A divorce from one spouse will not solve the inner needs that open a person to the manipulations and abuse of another narcissist. This is why I would say that the divorce can’t solve anything. It may provide distance and separation, but it does nothing to heal the heart. I have heard too many times of spouses who leave narcissists only to return to them later or to continue to be manipulated by them even after the divorce.

      I hope this helps. Thank you for the opportunity to try to clarify my thoughts and words on this.

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