It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have often found that people who have never experienced a certain challenge find it easy to offer advice and criticism. Like sofa quarterbacks and back seat drivers, they assess the situation from the outside and think the answer is easy. These same people usually don’t have such easy answers when they face trouble.
From the safety of their comfortable chairs, people yell at football players and other sports people. They criticize newscasters, politicians, soldiers, law enforcement officers, and fictional people on the television. They have the answers for the team, for the government, for the business, for everyone.
And, let’s face it, sometimes the answers are easier from the spectator’s position. Why didn’t the quarterback throw the ball to the receiver who was wide open? It was plain to see, from the perspective of the aerial cameras in the instant replay. The criticism is correct, but ridiculous at the same time.
So there you are, hurting from yet another encounter with the narcissist in your life, and your friend says, “Why didn’t you say xyz?” or “Why didn’t you do this?” And you wonder the same thing.
You see, the answers are often simple, much simpler than the process of getting to the answer. Yes, you should have talked to the boss when the narcissist began his abuse. Yes, you should have distanced yourself from your parent when you had the chance. Yes, you should have never married that guy in the first place. Yes, you should have listened to the warnings. Yes, you should have cut off that friendship years ago. Yes, yes, yes……
And now you feel stupid and guilty. You know you made the wrong decision. You already blame yourself, for then and for now. You can see it now as plainly as the critic can see it. But that doesn’t really help, does it? Blaming yourself for making a mistake doesn’t move you forward.
The reality of the situation is very different from that seen by the observer. Whenever I am tempted to criticize the quarterback, I stop and think about those 300 lb men running at him to hurt him. In the pressure of that moment, he is supposed to see things on the field and around him at the same time. He is supposed to make quick changes to his plans and, at the same time, try not to get hurt. He is supposed to throw a ball that will be in the exact place necessary when the receiver dodges his opponents and is ready to catch it. And he is supposed to do it in about five seconds, if he has that long.
The people who offer simplistic answers in your situation are not in your situation. They are not experiencing what you are. They don’t know the pressures, the pain, the fear, the worry you are feeling. Their simple answers might be right from the outside, but nearly impossible from the inside.
So give yourself a break. Don’t expect that the situation should change as easily as the critics believe. Those who have not experienced a narcissistic relationship really have little understanding of the manipulation and control of the narcissist. Those who have been through similar relationships should know better than to offer simple answers. You do not need to feel guilty just because they think your way out seems easy.
I would guess that most of the simple answers for narcissistic relationships center around you standing up for yourself and forcing the changes. “You shouldn’t take that!” “You should speak up and tell her what you think.” “You should just walk out.” In other words, you should be strong enough to deal with this person. Why aren’t you”
Let me remind you of some things, things that others might not understand.
- It is probably not in your nature to confront people, cut people out of your life, tell people off, or even to stand up for yourself. You were not taught to do that, and you dislike conflict in general. You care about other people and want them to care about you. That’s why the narcissist chose you. You did not present a risk to the control the narcissist would need.
- You may have been already weak when the narcissist found you. Pain from a previous relationship, abuse by parents, feelings of loneliness or isolation or inferiority. Narcissists are predators. They can tell when a person is vulnerable. What you may be understanding only now is that the narcissist did nothing to build you up and become healthy and strong again. Instead, you have been kept in your weakened condition.
- You have almost certainly been compromised along the way. Many people don’t see the narcissistic relationship for what it is until it’s too late. The narcissist has been preparing for a confrontation since the beginning. He/she already has your words or actions to use against you. Or the narcissist has managed to cultivate your sympathy. You will feel bad if you try to confront.
- You may feel threatened. Narcissists threaten openly. They withhold things you need or take away things you want or do things you fear. Some will share your secrets with others. A spouse may threaten to keep the kids and kick you out. Narcissists are very good at separating you from support, money, opportunity, and almost anything else you need to act on a decision. Acting alone and without resources can be terrifying. Narcissistic threats are real and common.
People outside your relationship rarely see the picture you see. They don’t feel what you feel. They offer what makes sense to them from the outside. Yes, they should know better, but their motivation might still be good. Sometimes the answer really is that easy. It’s just that getting to that point is hard.
And, please, don’t blame yourself if you are struggling in the conditions listed above. Life is what is it. All you can do is start today to see the truth and find the freedom promised. Build your strength little by little. Pray for guidance and listen. Do what you can to move forward today.
The quarterback in the game can’t worry about what others think he should have done. He can only do what he can do in the moment. Sometimes he will make mistakes. But he has to move forward to the next play. His concern is the game, not the play.
Your concern is not what you should have said or done, but how you will become healthy and reclaim your identity and feel good about yourself again. Those who can do that win the game.