It’s Narcissist Friday!
It breaks my heart every time someone asks why others won’t believe their story of narcissistic abuse. I know that it hurts and adds insult to injury. Whether it is the judge in divorce court or the pastor of the church or other family members, we want the one who listens to believe. Those who work with abuse cases know that many people will not report abuse because they think no one will believe them. That means they suffer alone.
So let’s think about why they don’t believe your story. First, you are battling your narcissist at the point of his “super-power.” This is what narcissists do best; manipulate what others think of them. He might be incompetent at work or a terrible father, but he can get people to like him and believe him. She might mistreat and criticize everyone, but she can get people to do what she wants. Every part of the narcissist’s energy is devoted to this manipulation because to be seen as vulnerable or unworthy is death.
Basically, narcissists are good actors. They know just what to present to whom and when. The only reason you see through them is because they no longer care about you. Your opinion doesn’t matter. The judge, the school administration, the pastor, or the parent—that’s different. Those people matter at specific times and the narcissist must succeed. So people don’t believe you because they are overwhelmed by the narcissist’s personality.
Never underestimate the focus of the narcissist on his or her reputation. I am confident that many narcissists begin setting up their victims from the beginning of the relationship. They undermine your reputation by projecting their weaknesses and offenses on you. They set you up to look unreliable through gaslighting or telling small lies. Or the narcissist has arranged things so that you have little support and few resources. So when you finally get to the place where you reach out for help, others are already thinking there is something wrong with you—and you might be so stressed that your actions and demeanor prove them right.
At the same time he is doing this to you, he may be doing it to others. The pastor, for example, may be afraid of losing the support of the narcissist on the church council. Others at work may have shared too much information and feel vulnerable in the presence of the narcissist. They may believe you, but don’t feel able to give you support or acknowledgement. Mom may have her apron strings tied around the necks of your siblings. Yes, narcissists really do this.
Also, narcissistic abuse is difficult to prove. What evidence can you give? Usually narcissists are not physical abusers, so there are no marks to show. The continual criticism and the gaslighting can be hard to show to others. And the effect is cumulative. Taken as individual instances, these things often seem insignificant. It’s when it happens every day over a period of years that the effects of the abuse are felt. People who know you realize that something is wrong, but can’t put their finger on the cause, even when they see it happening.
The sad truth is that narcissists often win in the court of public opinion. They have lived their whole lives manipulating the perspectives of others and they are invested way beyond anything the rest of us would consider reasonable. They are usually ruthless in their willingness to attack, even to lie. They tie others to themselves through manipulation for support.
Yes, the narcissist might win. Another reason for not getting into this kind of relationship. If you are not married to the narcissist, don’t. If you can distance yourself from the narcissist friend or family member, do it. There is no magic formula that will guarantee a good ending to your situation, so do what you can when you can.
And, remember, even if he wins, you don’t lose. Wipe the dust off your feet and move on to health.
Next week I will give some practical suggestions on how you might overcome the manipulative power of the narcissist. I apologize for separating these posts, but this is too long already. No guarantees, just some suggestions.
I would be interested in your comments on why you think the narcissists so often win.