Incongruity

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

 

A friend of mine recently went around a room straightening curtains and pictures. Now, I’m tempted to label him obsessive, but he is simply a person who has a keen eye for incongruity. He sees things that don’t fit and, when he can, he does something about it.

Most of us live regularly with things that don’t fit. We may not even see them. But we usually feel them. There is a whole movement of interior decorating and design that promises to minimize the feelings of incongruity we often feel in our homes or at work. The idea is that incongruity adds to our stress, even when we don’t know it.

When something is wrong in your world, what should you do? You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. Something isn’t right. Maybe you feel it in your body. Not exactly pain, but discomfort. A sense that things aren’t what they should be. Maybe it’s something with your child. Nothing you can point to, but something worries you. Maybe it’s something in your marriage.

You hate even to admit the feeling to yourself. You shrug it off, over and over. You tell yourself that everything is okay. You reinterpret the words that were said, the discovery that you made, and blame the suspicions on yourself. You convince yourself that you are feeling okay. And he didn’t say what you thought you heard. And she couldn’t have meant that.

We want things to be okay. We are invested in things being okay. We don’t want to have to deal with things not being okay. Yet, a part of us knows that something is not okay. And, when we experience this, we find within ourselves something called “cognitive dissonance.”

That “dissonance,” just as the word indicates, is made of two competing harmonies. It would be like listening to two songs at the same time. The attempt to do both is uncomfortable and futile, so we find ways to adjust. We sense the incongruity, but we convince ourselves that everything is okay. After all, we were taught to doubt ourselves. “It’s just me,” we say. It isn’t hard to dismiss the feeling that something is off.

The brain does this often with sounds and smells, even sights. For example, you can work all day in a certain room without noticing the hum of the fluorescent lights until someone turns them off. We all know the relief that comes when the hum is gone, but we didn’t hear it or notice the stress before. Your brain does this because you have to focus. It rightly categorizes the sounds of ticking clocks, whirring fans, humming lights, and more as understandable and not important. The stress is there, but not particularly uncomfortable. At least not as uncomfortable as it would be if you had to focus on all those sounds.

Most of us have learned to do this with the behavior of others. At the airport, people are often rude, intrusive, and aggressive. Some are confused and in the way. We overlook these things because to focus on them would be almost overwhelming. Besides, we tell ourselves, it doesn’t really matter.

And we do this in our relationships. We hear things that are said and we let them go. It isn’t just forgiveness. It is self-preservation. With some people, we have to let go of a lot of things. They give orders rather than requests. They tear down rather than build up. They speak with a mean spirit, rather than a kind heart. And we let them. We excuse them. We feel the incongruity and we let it go. We adjust the reality we see so that it fits the reality we want.

Narcissists count on this. Narcissists understand that most of us will excuse their behavior, not question their motives. When the narcissist contacts your client and encourages criticisms of your service, you find it hard to believe that he would undercut you that way. He must have had a reason, you say. He must have been trying to help, you say. If you talk to him, he says the same thing. Not a big deal. You are blowing it out of proportion. You can trust him. But when he ends up with your client and you lose the business, you finally understand. The incongruity was there and you knew it, but you covered it up.

The narcissist knows that most of us do this. We do it because we doubt ourselves. We do it to protect ourselves. But sometimes we do it to our own hurt. So many have said that they had no idea what was happening until it happened in their relationship. Narcissism sneaks up on its prey. There are hints, but those hints are subtle sounds of incongruity.

So what do you do? You look and listen and admit the truth. Begin to trust your heart. When something is wrong, acknowledge it as wrong. Then make a conscious choice. Confronting the incongruity has a cost, but so does covering it up. Choose what you will do.

I was taught to listen to the car as I drive. If something sounds off, even if I can’t identify what it is, it bugs me. I listen and focus until I understand what that noise is. My wife and kids can’t hear it, but they aren’t driving and aren’t responsible. Sometimes I will stop to investigate the sound. Then, once I know what it is, I can deal with it. Most of the time it’s nothing and I can just get back to driving. Sometimes it really is something, but I can’t deal with it at that time. And sometimes, I have to stop and deal with it right then and there. Knowing the truth gives me freedom to do the right thing.

You have to face the incongruities you feel in your relationships. Why would that person say that or do that? Should you just overlook it? Should you ask? Should you investigate? Don’t just dismiss the feeling. Make a conscious decision. When you do that, the narcissist might not sneak up on you.

 

22 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

22 responses to “Incongruity

  1. noel6119

    Thanks for putting into words what I lived for 45 years! I’m so glad that I am not married to him any more.

  2. Whew- yes, if you’ve been raised to live, to honor, to respect and be kind, you can’t believe such contemptuous words could come out of the same mouth that says,”I love you.” How can that incongruity live inside a person who seems otherwise kind and honest? And her I am on the other side with the compassion of Jesus for him, crying out for six years for God to make Himself vital and real to destroy the lies that man has swallowed that poisoned him toward God and toward me. Come into his life, Zlird Jesus, to make the crooked straight!

  3. Rox

    WOW! I can so relate to this. My best friend of multiple decades had my love and my trust, because he was an authority figure in the Church. He’s been entrusted by God, I told myself, how can he be deliberately hurting someone? It must be me. He tells me I’m in the wrong, so I must be in the wrong. I heard the whirring fan, and I dismissed it. And for all those years, he took my money, my hope, my spirituality, my love, and my trust and ripped them to confetti. Thank God for sending people who made me realize the florescent light was humming, when I was sabotaged into believing it was just something wrong with my hearing. They saved my life . . . literally.

  4. Seeing things more clearly now

    I so needed to hear this! And I needed to hear it this morning! I will post more details later.
    Thank you, Pastor Dave!

  5. Onward

    At some point, I referred to my ex as A Contradiction of Terms. My emotions led me to write this poem that I titled “Conflicted”. It reads: When you exalt me, I feel love beyond compare. When you exploit me, I sink to the depths of hell, And I turn inward. From this high to this low, I cannot go, and survive.

    • I love your poem. It says volumes in a very short way. I am struggling with this reality in my own life. I keep thinking it HAS to be me, at least in part. I shouldn’t be so affected by what someone does or says to me, right? I should be able to know who I am in Christ and that alone should trump anyone’s treatment of me. Or not? I have been exalted and exploited, as you say. High to low. i so get that. Is that my fault for allowing it to happen by staying in relationship with that person? I am only becoming more aware of it now that I am outside of it. Thanks for feedback to my questions.

      • Onward

        Hi freeatlast8. Your name speaks volumes. Please let yourself off the hook. If you are in a HEALTHY relationship, it is normal to expect to be treated well consistently with love, honor, and respect by the other person. Of course there will be disagreement because two people are involved. However, there should be boundaries. Please know that God as our Dad does not like to see his kids mistreated. First and foremost be honest and accepting of your own emotions. For me that was my first step to freedom. What I eventually realized was that my ex was very good at seduction (not limited to sexual). I think that he innately knew that his ability to woo was a needed offset to (and perhaps he assumed that it justified) his recurring bouts of anger and rage directed towards me. The inconsistent treatment is enough to keep you off balance and vulnerable to a N’s need to control. I use 1 Cor 13 as my standard and definition for real love and I encourage you to do the same. God bless you!

  6. Dear Pastor Dave and Friends, what i continually fail to understand is : why is the destruction brought about by narcissists virtually ignored by almost all preachers of the Gospel? i just don’t get it. People are suffering so badly, and until they are able to make sense of anything, how are sucfering peolld to understand and receive the Gospel? Just heard a sermon today – the same-old, same-old just-be-a-smiley-DOORMAT. Still vexed (and glad there ain’t any bourbon in the house ;/)

  7. LoyaltoJesus

    When you are acutely aware of the disonnace but are stuck in the situation you are in, it is an incredibly stressful place to be. I get asked ‘how are you’ about a dozen times a day by people who cannot possibly understand how I am, how living like this is. I hate the question because it renforces my own sense of isolation, I can’t live with my focus on me or how I feel so hurt or he has won but I’m not sure I am winning and it’s really hard.

    • hopeful

      LoyaltoJesus

      You are right on about people asking how we are doing. Sometimes I want to scream “I FEEL NUTS. I FEEL CRAZY. MY HUSBAND BLAMES ME FOR EVERYTHING. I NEED SOMEONE TO TELL ME I AM NOT NUTS. I NEED SOMEONE TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW THEY VIEW MY HUSBAND. STOP TELLING ME TO PRAY AND BE A GODLY WIFE. I NEED VALIDATION. I AM NOT A FAILURE. I AM NOT MEAN AND ABUSIVE. I AM SICK OF BEING ACCUSED OF THAT. ASK ME HOW I AM….I NEED LOVE AND SUPPORT. I AM DYING ON THE INSIDE.I AM INCREDIBLY ALONE. MY FINANCES ARE A MESS. MY HUSBAND TREATS ME LIKE A DOG. I HAVE NO ONE AT HOME THAT CARES. NO ONE THAT TELLS ME I AM PRETTY, OR APPRECIATED, OR HONORED, OR TO PRAY WITH. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW..I LIVE IN A FOG. I LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY. I CAN’T PLAN. ….this is my answer to being asked ” how are you doing?”

      • LoyaltoJesus

        It’s difficult because almost everyone has their own stuff they are struggling with and I can’t let N make my life all about me and my issues with him, dragging down people around me, or he’s won a perverse victory. Emotionally I feel like I have been buried alive and it is wonderful to connect to other people who genuinely understand, even if it is only online. I sometimes feel like Jesus is the only one who can possibly have any idea of where I am and then another ‘Grace for my Heart’ email comes in. Bless you all, he dries each and every tear!

    • UnForsaken

      LoyaltoJesus, I love your name. It says you are loyal to the One that matters, to Him alone no matter what happens!

      You really are winning, and there is a way I know that. The more you try, the harder the N tries to confuse. So the more confused you’re feeling, the more likely you are making headway, at least in becoming more aware. Awareness is a Weapon. Ns hate it.

      It is always darkest when there is so much irrationality surrounding you that you can’t see. Keep looking up. and seeking Truth. You won’t always feel what God is doing for you, but He IS on your side!

      These ‘polite’ questions are so irritating! I try to see them as nonsense words that come before a more important real conversation. Get the formalities over, because very few people are Actually asking the true answer to that question. It’s the extent of conversation itself that shows they care. After giving your quick reply, try to let the “question” go in one ear and out the other. I have the same problem with ” What do you do?”. That’s not even a very polite question, mostly placing people in an income bracket ( at least where I live ). My serious answer would be ” Everything!” The whole point is to keep it light, show you have a sense of humor so when the real conversation does proceed there is more of a chance they might begin to listen. It’s an odd thing, but the more serious a situation, the more I need to sound upbeat at the beginning and end to Get them to listen. It kind of eases people into listening to something that is a lot deeper than they expected. What your conversation says will be the truth and also show that you care enough to confide in them. Just make sure you really wanted to confide in That person! If it’s not someone you know you should tell this to, you can always fall back on the formalities too. They can be useful for something! And you might be surprised. Sometimes people ask the question they wish someone would ask them. When you ask, they may confide in you, opening up possibilities for you to share too.

      Everyone asks this kind of thing multiple times a day and doesn’t think anything of it, but when we are having a hard time it’s easier to see how ridiculous and even painful it can be. Because of this I’m trying to become more aware of what the other person might be feeling before engaging then in conversation. I’ve felt so stupid asking the same questions that make me nervous, and yet they usually do make most conversations run smoothly – the reason they were invented, I suppose! 🙂

      You probably know a lot of this already, but I hope you can feel a hug over the miles and know that as you free your mind it will NOT be isolated! And as your mind is freed, you will be given peace and direction and new creative ways to be released from physical isolation. Remember as long as God is with you, you are never truly alone, and He has promised never to leave you. ” Underneath are the everlasting arms”. God bless, Sweetie! ❤

  8. noel6119

    One time my xnh saw a sign that said, “No body gets to see the wizard. Not no body no how!” He read it and said, “I like that!”

    Well, I now see the wizard and believe me it isn’t pretty! They are so good at what they do.

  9. Kitkat

    This perfectly describes how a N can sneak into your life.

  10. Pam Kaan

    This explains everything! Truly, not just for my marriage with Russ, but my first marriage too!Sent from Yahoo Ma

  11. In the book “The Gift of Fear,” Gavin De Becker talks about this, but you’ve adapted it to dealing with narcissists. Thank you. It’s such a relief every time I’m reminded that my perception of the incongruity isn’t unfounded.

  12. dianablackwood

    I have the gift of flexibility and an easy-going nature. I recently discovered there’s been a whole group of people who have been exploiting it my whole life. Opportunist narcissists who I seemed to have drawn like a magnet. I know nothing about interior decorating simply because I have no eye for incongruity. My youngest daughter who is a toddler is built with a radar for things out of place and she cleans them up when they are on the floor. It brings her joy! I’m pretty content wherever as long as it’s got a couple of my favorite things nearby. God has been opening my eyes to te narcissists around me for almost a year now. At first I wouldn’t believe it. Next I got seriously angry and paranoid. But now I’ve adjusted and accepted it like any other environment. Only this time I don’t let them muscle in and take any territory. They aren’t so willing to interact with me anymore. This includes my husband who I still live with (until he finally decides he’s had enough). He’s moved himself into the guest room where he can attend to his bottomless pit of selfish desires and still have unrestricted access to our three kids. Now that I see the truth and have accepted it, I’m curious what the next step will be. God takes me through each phase in His perfect timing. He has been encouraging me to be meek and mild and to let Him fight my battles. I only need to stay in the fortress of His protection and not allow creeping spies to infiltrate it. Alert the guards and reassure the little ones! That’s my job. It’s hard to wait and watch. I’m anxious to engage in battle, but where would that leave the ones I’m covering? In Christ I abide. In Christ I will be victorious over this oppressive force of evil. It isn’t flesh and blood that I resist. It’s a crafty enemy that only God can protect us from. So, that’s pretty much my life right now. Thanks for a great narcissist Friday post!

    • Onward

      Amen! Our weapons of this warfare are not of this world but mighty through God. Submit to God resist the devil and he will flee. You’ve seen the light and God bless you as you continue to subdue your flesh and allow Him to lead. I pray for you and stand in agreement with you as you continue to do spiritual battle and as you abide in the secret place of the Most High. I see you in your spiritual armor and I hear through your words that you have the only offensive weapon drawn which is the Word of God. Guard your heart as you do battle with a defeated foe. Victory is indeed yours in the name of the Son!

  13. Selma

    I only located this wonderful blog last night, so please forgive my question if it has already been addressed, as well as my hijacking of an unrelated thread but – how should one pray for someone with NPD?

    I realize that, with God, all things are possible, but it seems abundantly clear that the possibility of recovery from NPD is extremely low. I have tried to think of her in the same category as someone with a terminal illness but it really isn’t in the same ballpark. Those suffering from a terminal illness do not inflict the kind of damage that NPDs do on their families and, as the person in question here is in her early 40s, she has the potential to harm others for decades to come. I am extremely concerned for her husband and children (all four of whom are still quite young).

    Thankfully (and I thank God for this every day, multiple times), my contact with her is somewhat peripheral. My husband, the head pastor of one of the larger churches in our denomination in a metropolitan area, is the object of her unhealthy focus and she is a member of our church. Almost from the very beginning (18 months ago), I recognized that there was something not-quite-right about this particular “friendship.” I repeatedly voiced my concern and growing objections to this relationship to my husband and, on two separate occasions, to her as well. I don’t wish to take up too much space here but, suffice it to say that, it has been a very difficult year. After spending most of that time with my husband thinking that I was just a crazed and jealous wife whose low self-esteem caused me to feel threatened when no real threat existed, she finally exposed the depth of her NPD in a rage-filled email sent to me three weeks ago. My husband (devastated, but now thoroughly convinced) and I are trying to figure out how to move forward (together) and set the appropriate boundaries with her. This, as you can imagine, is particularly tricky with her family being long-standing church members.

    So back to my original question – how do I pray for her? What do I pray for her?

    • UnForsaken

      Selma, I’m so glad God gave you an intuitive spirit. More pastors need a wife like you! Now that he has seen this for himself, God will further deepen your ministry to many people. Hold strong!

      The Psalms have been a great comfort to me here, but maybe not the ones on destroying. 😉 I do pray that God will distract my N ( take him out of commission? ), give him trials that won’t harm him, but keep him busy so he won’t harm others. There is always the chance that God’s refining will get the Ns attention. I also pray that his venom will become unbelievable to others ( so they will be given sight and healing ), and his fraud/lies will begin to fall on closed ears . I pray he won’t be able to cause as much damage as he sets out to do!

      Whenever I read about incredible evil or the pharisees, I think of Ns and look for what Jesus said and did. There are much more in depth answers to your question, but I hope this helps just a little. God Bless!

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