Making Decisions

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Have trouble making decisions?  Once you make a decision, do you find yourself worried about it?  Do you often second-guess, try to rethink the decision you made?  Does the responsibility of making decisions cause you to be afraid?

There are many reasons for difficulty in decision-making, of course, but this is a common problem for victims of narcissists.  One of the more powerful control techniques (brainwashing, if you will) is to strip the victim of the ability to make and hold a decision.  Cults do it, governments do it, and narcissists do it.

Imagine that every time you state an opinion, you are told that it is a foolish idea.  Imagine that every time you make a decision, the person you look up to causes you to fail.  Imagine that every time you try to play by the rules, the rules get changed.  Over and over, as you think you are doing well, you find that there is something you missed, something you didn’t understand correctly.  You try and try, but you never seem to get it right.

Sadly, many people don’t have to imagine this at all.  This is the way they grew up.  Or this is the way their love relationship has been for a long time.  Or this is the way it has been at work or in church.  Eventually, you just want to give up.

I know of a religious group that teaches by asking simple true or false questions at the beginning of the lesson.  No matter how hard you try, when you think you have the answer you find that you were wrong.  The only way to succeed is to find the answer that makes sense and then choose the other.

I know a husband who wanted his wife to make decisions, but then kicked the legs out from under her decisions with a simple sentence: “Do you think that’s wise?”  Obviously the answer was that he didn’t think it was wise and, once again, she was shown to be foolish.

I know sons and daughters who grew up being called stupid and foolish and dumb.  They were often set up for failure by parents who set rules only to change those rules on a whim.  The children never knew what was expected or what would be accepted.

These are tools of manipulation and it helps to understand that.  It wasn’t that you were wrong; it was that you were supposed to be submissive and controlled.  Narcissists must control.  If they can’t control you, they won’t like you. They cannot abide the possibility that you will disagree or show them to be wrong or weak.  So they work hard at keeping their victims humble.

So how to you get over this?  Find a good counselor and begin the process of learning how to make decisions.  That may be necessary if you were the child of a narcissist.  The pattern and the perspective are deeply ingrained.  If you are just coming out of a relationship with a narcissist or a narcissistic organization, you may want to look back to a time when you were able to make decisions and you felt good about them.  Maybe a good friend from those days could help.

I can’t address specific situations in a blog like this, but I do want to uncover a possible cause for a problem many people have.  If you have had a relationship with a narcissist or a controlling organization and you find that you have difficulty making decisions, there is very likely a connection between the two.

It is important for us to know what success looks like.  How do we know we have done well?  What does it mean to be a good Christian?  What makes a good decision?  When the target is hidden or always moving in random ways, the person who tries to hit it should not be surprised at a miss.  It isn’t your fault.


Filed under Narcissism

9 responses to “Making Decisions

  1. joni24walter

    that explains alot for my life that i am attracted to those types from birth with my father, husband, daughter, and a boss and friends!! hmm!! go figure!

    • Joni,

      I apologize for taking so long to respond. Sometimes we find ourselves in a spiraling situation in relationships. We have needs, those needs are exploited and we are hurt. But we still have the needs and, in fact, the need seems stronger. Instead of being wiser, we become weaker and open ourselves again. Should we know better? Of course, but that doesn’t satisfy the need. So it happens again…and again.

      It seems to me that the only way to deal with these unfulfilled needs is to find a way to release them. For me, those needs are released as I trust the Lord. In Him I find acceptance, value, and love. More and more I am able to trust Him. As I trust Him to meet those needs, I am better able to see others objectively and not place my expectations on them.

      Relationships are better when we go into them without wearing our needs openly. Those who love us will do so and we may enjoy their love. Those who would use us are not as able to exploit our vulnerabilities.

  2. J

    Oh my goodness…this is me all over! I would love to get a biblically correct answer to this situation. Narcissists want to control you and get/keep you in submission. So…how does a wife deal with this kind of treatment from her husband, and remain truly godly and submissive? I realize that God can fix everything, and in His time, but how do we behave while He is working the plan? I hope there is more to come on this subject. Thanks.

    • I am torn between being blunt and being vague. We are usually vague when we try to give Biblical answers for these things. But most people already know the vague answers: love, pray, trust, wait. I am not denying the validity of these things, just saying that they aren’t specific answers and aren’t usually as helpful as we would like.

      So I will be blunt. To live at peace with a narcissist will require several things: a tough skin, an ability to say no and mean it, a perspective on your self that is fixed on the truth found in Jesus, and a willingness to lay down all expectations of the things others enjoy in healthy relationships. Yes, God can “fix” a narcissist, but I have never seen it happen and it would truly take a miracle of brokenness. The problem with a husband going through brokenness is that everybody else gets to go along for the ride. And the brokenness required for a narcissist may be severe.

      I am not trying to be discouraging. You already know these things. Your peace will have to come from your relationship with Jesus, rather than your husband. So will your love and acceptance. It hasn’t been easy up to this point, I imagine, and it won’t be easier in the days to come. But the real pain and suffering is what happens in your own heart and you can deal with that through your relationship with Jesus.

      It seems best to stop there. So far what I have written is fairly generic. If you would like to contact me directly, that would be great. I am happy to give support and help you understand what has been happening. We can work on some things to make the future different from the past.

  3. Sue

    “…how does a wife deal with this kind of treatment from her husband, and remain truly godly and submissive? ”

    I wanted to speak here as well, as I am a woman, married to a clinically diagnosed narcissist.

    The first thing you need to do is find a good, solid christian counselor who will help you explore and discover what love really looks like in God’s eyes…not the world’s, not even the religious institutions here in the world.

    In doing so, you will discover what true godliness really is and what God truly requires of us women when it comes to being submissive.

    I have accepted that my husband will never be healed this side of heaven and I am at peace with that. I can continue to live with him and honor him as my husband, all because of my rock solid relationship with the Lord. I have found freedom, joy and peace…despite what my husband does or says.

    You can too.

    I am more than willing to talk with you anytime. I think Dave has my email, as I leave it on my posts.

    Praying for you.


    • Thank you, Sue. I appreciate your comment here.

      Freedom, joy and peace are found in Jesus. They aren’t supposed to come from anywhere else, even from something so precious as a marriage relationship. When we look to our spouses for what we should find in Jesus, we set them and us up for failure. Instead, what we receive from Jesus gives us the strength we need to carry on in difficult relationships of any kind.

      If J asks, I will give her your email.

  4. Because of my inability to make decisions, it struggled with the decision to get a divorce long before I told anyone about it. I had a difficulty with what I would do, how my resolve would hold up once I told him and he went on and on about the terrible decision I was making.
    Turns out that was the very best decision I’ve ever made. Since then, when I worry about making a decision, I just think back to how unsure I felt then, and realize no matter what I decide from now on, everything will be ok.

  5. Cecilia K

    I remember my ex-boyfriend telling me once straight-up that he didn’t think I made very good decisions. Funny that I had done a pretty good job of taking care of myself for 30-some years before he came along (well, actually my parents took care of me for the first 20 of those = ) ), and no one else had ever questioned my decision making ability. Couldn’t really see it at the time, but I guess he just wanted to make me think that I needed him to make my decisions for me. I wanted to remind him that were it not for a very bad decision he had made several years earlier, he would not be in the big mess he is in now, but I refrained – it was very hard, though, ha ha! I was also tempted to say, “Well, I’ll agree that my decision to go out with you was, indeed, a VERY bad decision,” or something to that effect, but I did not, which was probably a GOOD decision, so HA, ex-boyfriend, take that! Ha ha ha = D

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