It’s Narcissist Friday!
Last week I wrote about the difficulty many have in explaining the actions and abuse of the narcissist. Some find that they simply are not believed when they begin to describe the kind of attacks and manipulation they have suffered.
I wanted to suggest some ways to prepare for telling your story. Please understand that there is no magic incantation to make someone believe you. As I explained last week, there are times when the recipients of your story feel that they cannot support you, even if they do believe you. And, at other times, the narcissist simply wields his super ability to persuade others and you lose. I wish it were some other way.
But there may be a few things that could help.
- Keep records. Contemporaneous notes, records written very near the time of the event, are considered to be stronger evidence than just a story later. If you can write down, within an hour or so, the exact words used or the particular times of the event or some very specific information, you will find that people receive your words with greater trust. This is a well-respected technique in negotiations, probably because it seems more difficult to fabricate. Use different writing tools from time to time to accent the fact that you are not writing this all at once.
- Report abuse. Seriously, if you have been physically abused or if your children have suffered in this way, take pictures and go to the police. I know it is hard and it will have consequences. If you do not, they will ask later why you didn’t. You will try to tell people about the abuse and they will doubt your story because you didn’t make a big deal at the time. If you are afraid of the narcissist, tell the authorities. Yes, sometimes this backfires and there is a risk, but most of the time you simply have to do it anyway.
- Tell the right people. Can your pastor really do anything? Will the narcissist’s mother even listen to you? Maybe these are not the right people. This is a time to build support for yourself, rather than find a solution to your problem. Do both if you can, but don’t forget that the day will come when you will need someone to stand beside you. A close family friend who will listen, a neighbor who has maybe heard his abuse, a teacher who sees the effect on your kids—someone who will listen. Find a shelter and talk to the people there about how to build a support structure. Maybe there is someone who warned you about the narcissist. Find that person and talk. Don’t expect the ones who listen to your story to do much more than give support and prayer. Those things are important.
- Don’t mention narcissism. There is something about an unprofessional diagnosis that makes people reject the story. Perhaps too many people have claimed diseases or disorders just to get attention. Someone once told me that she was bipolar. When I asked her what she was doing about it, she said nothing. She hadn’t been to a doctor, but she was pretty sure that’s what she had. It is easy to dismiss something like that. You don’t want your story to sound that way. Instead, be very specific about words and actions. Tell what he or she does. Describe the narcissism without diagnosing it.
- Don’t tell your life story. The more you tell, the more they will dismiss you. Sorry, but that’s usually the way it is. You may need someone to listen, but they hear stories all the time. Every divorce has two victims/perps, according to the judge’s perspective. Don’t make your story longer; make it more specific and factual. Make it clear and have something reasonable that you expect him to do. There are few people out there who will champion your cause. You have to know what you need and tell only what will move your listener to that action.
- Report crimes. Often the narcissist is willing to bend the rules because he or she feels they should not apply. If you know of a crime that your narcissist has committed, seriously consider revealing that information to authorities. There is certainly a risk in this and you have to be wise, but too many have waited until the divorce proceedings and then it looks phony and self-serving. If your narcissist is a co-worker, you may discover over time that he has made it look like you did the deed. Waiting or avoiding may not be your best choice.
- Play the game. If he says you are stupid, then stupidly say the things that need to be said—in the company of others. Use his accusations and criticisms against him. Let him underestimate you while you build your support structure. If he thinks you can’t handle money, he may not expect you to be tucking some away for the day of reckoning. I don’t know what this might mean in your relationship, but I know that there are ways to play his game that will give you the advantage.
- Get healthy anyway. Ultimately it won’t matter whether others believe you or not. Yes, you may lose a great deal, but you must find the way to health. No matter what it takes, build yourself back to what you should be. Perhaps people will listen at a later time. You will have suffered, but you may still have the last word.
What has helped to move people to believe your story?