It’s Narcissist Friday!
The Bible suggests that knowing the plans and methods of your enemy is just good sense. Some of the narcissist’s tactics come up in our discussion regularly and it seems like it would be good to expose them more.
Projection is one of the most powerful and most difficult of the narcissist’s tactics. Put simply, it describes what is happening when the narcissist (or anyone else) denies his own behavior but accuses others of doing the same thing. For example, narcissists often believe that the people around them are lying but deny their own use of deception. An adulterous spouse might become increasingly suspicious and accusatory.
There are differences of opinion as to the roots of projection in the offender. Sometimes it appears to be almost subconscious. The narcissist sees the bad behavior in himself, but cannot allow that negative to be attributed to the image he wants to manifest to others. However, the more he focuses on the negative, the more glaring it becomes in his mind. Soon he sees it everywhere.
I once had a man talk with me about his son and the strange way his son talked. He opened only the side of his mouth and spoke from that side. While he was telling me about this, the man was doing the same thing. He was completely unaware that he was doing it. I don’t know if his son was doing it or not, but I was amazed at what seemed like hypocrisy in the man. Perhaps he was subconsciously aware and ashamed of the action, but saw it clearly in others.
Often narcissists make their accusations with what seems like absolute sincerity. So strong are their assertions that the accused begin to believe them. Several people have written to me with the concern that they are the ones with the problems because the narcissist has convinced them. But the truth is that it is the narcissist who is lying, cheating, abusive, argumentative, condescending, or whatever.
Sometimes it appears that the narcissist is very much aware that he is projecting and he is doing it on purpose. Lying is not usually difficult for the narcissist, who is fundamentally practical about protecting himself. If he is stealing, he may accuse you of stealing to divert attention from himself. If he is cruel, he may accuse you of cruelty so that you can’t accuse him.
For example: Kitty accuses her daughter of betraying her confidence. She has told her daughter about certain feelings and now she is accusing her of having a big mouth and not being able to keep a secret. She says that her daughter betrayed her. However, the way Kitty learned this was by reading her daughter’s diary, which her daughter had hidden in her room. Kitty regularly searched her daughter’s room and read her diary. When the daughter repeatedly said that she hadn’t told anyone, Kitty called her a liar and punished her. Then the girl found her diary and realized that her mother had read it. When she claimed that her mother had actually betrayed her privacy, her mother became even more angry and abusive.
Dealing with projection can be very difficult. Often the narcissist will make his accusations to others and the victim will have no opportunity for a defense. And any similar behavior by the victim will serve as support for the accusations. One time of anger is all the narcissist needs to call you the angry person.
The only way to handle this may be to walk in integrity and deny the lies whether or not you can defend yourself. You cannot live in perfect avoidance of narcissistic behavior. People in relationship with narcissists normally feel angry or depressed. It is natural for a victim to withdraw and try to hide from the abuse. Deception or denial are normal parts of dealing with attacks. Those feelings (or the actions associated with them) do not prove the narcissist’s point.
However it comes, projection is a powerful tool for the narcissist. It is an attempt to bring you down to his/her level; or even to force you to swap perspectives. It is a curse that says, “You are just like you say I am.” But it is still a lie.
Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.
Proverbs 26:2 (NKJV)
You do not have to accept the lie, even if others believe it. You can still walk with your head held high and know the truth. Once others see the truth for themselves about your narcissist, they will begin to understand what you have been going through.
There are many good resources online about projection and other behaviors. One group you should know about is “Out of the Fog”. They have a great deal of material on many personality disorders, including narcissism. Their article on projection is here: http://outofthefog.net/CommonBehaviors/Projection.html
Understanding this tactic of the narcissist may not make it easier to bear, but it might help to settle some of the confusion in your own mind.