Helping

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

You know your story.  You understand it better than before.  You even have a word that describes your mother, husband, or boss.  Narcissist.  At least, narcissism.  The descriptions, definitions, and examples fit so well.  Things are starting to make sense.

So, when your neighbor begins to tell you about her relationship, the one that hurts her so much, you know you can help.  Understanding has helped you so much.  But, when you start to talk about narcissism and what happened to you, she clams up or gets offended.  She doesn’t want to hear it.  She doesn’t want to believe it.  And the conversation comes to that screeching halt that makes it clear you are not going to help.

I have had this happen.  An acquaintance began to tell me why her wedding didn’t happen, what he did just before the ceremony.  She wants nothing more to do with him, and I understood why.  But when I began to talk about narcissism, she shut down.  I should have known better, but I thought I could help.

Here’s what happens: you have had a sympathetic response.  That means you think you feel similar feelings or have felt them.  You connect with the other person’s story in a way that reminds you of the emotional struggle you went through.  In telling the other person your story or what you have learned, you want to communicate that you understand.  Instead, you both walk away frustrated.

Some thoughts: there is a tendency in almost all of us to put what we have learned about ourselves on others.  In other words, we see their emotions and struggles through our own.  Many times, that’s okay.  We are more the same than most will admit.  But it can also be wrong.  I might completely misunderstand someone’s struggle if I put my grid over their words as explanation.

In fact, thinking of my own story while listening to theirs isn’t really listening, is it?  It is important for us to remember that other people are different from us.  Their backgrounds have prepared them in different ways.  The Bible says that each heart knows its own grief.  I have taken this to mean that each person experiences pain in their own way.  I may not understand their way, but that does not invalidate it.

Another common tendency for most of us is to see what we have recently discovered almost everywhere.  We have learned about narcissism and, quite honestly, we have seen it in a lot of places.  But not every jerk is a narcissist.  Nor is every prying or controlling parent.  Nor is every difficult spouse.  Just like people see a recently understood disease popping up all around them, so it is easy to see narcissistic characteristics in many relationships.

And, again, if you and I jump in with our diagnosis without listening to the person’s story, we could do them a true disservice.  Just because you have a hammer, that doesn’t mean every problem is a nail.  Sometimes a different tool is needed.

So, how can you help?  Listen.  Believe the story.  Even if some of the details turn out not to be true, by listening you will connect and open the door for the truth.  Accept the other person’s view of their own pain.  Don’t try to make them fit your understanding of narcissism or abuse.

Remember, if this person is suffering a narcissistic relationship he/she is probably confused, blaming self, defending the abuser, and struggling with trust.  You are not going to fix that relationship any more than you could fix your own.  But the victims of narcissism and abuse need support.  They need people who will listen without fixing, care without controlling.  A gentle friend, accepting and kind, is a great treasure.

You know this.  You went through it.  Maybe you are still going through it.  That special friend or confidant, that one who listened and was there at just the right time with the right words and help, that person was a gift from the Lord.  That person helped.

8 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Helping

  1. Singing Eagle

    OUCH!! Being “taught of the Lord” can be uncomfortable at times but a wise person accepts correction. Holy Spirit uses conviction rather than condemnation. Thanks!!

  2. Yes, sometimes–no, oftentimes–what that person needs is just some one who will really listen. All of us who realize we’re victims of a confusion-causing, invalidating Narcissist ought to know this better than anybody, shouldn’t we? But in our desire to “help,” it’s easy to forget.
    Thank you.

  3. Again — this post came at the perfect time. How do you do that, Pastor Dave?

  4. Amy

    I had too many people just trying to give advice, most of which I now know to be erroneous at best, instead of just listening and hearing me. But many people do not want to hear it, they would far rather turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the truth of abuse, because it’s often easier not to get involved. Too many Christians don’t want to get involved to really truly help, they often offer un-biblical teachings about marriage and if a victim does not fit into their mold of how a wife should be — one who would never ever think of, let alone utter the word, divorce; one who submits through everything no matter how abusive her husband is; one who stays and suffers because she’s been led to believe that is somehow glorifying to God — they simply turn the other way.

    I actually had someone say to me after my abusive then-husband walked out on me in ’09, that they couldn’t take sides because they didn’t really know what had happened to make him leave. And the elder to encouraged my then-husband to return to our house because the elder told him how he was head of that household and that house was his, and when I confronted this man he first asked in an accusing way, “well, did he ever hit you?” and when I said no, he proceeded to tell me how much God hates divorce and only wants marriages to stay together no matter what things are happening in them. We never spoke again and I left that church shortly there after.

    Over these past years since the Lord rescued me from an abusive marriage and opened my eyes to the truth, I have connected with many women from all over the country through my blog and I’ve had the honor of ‘helping’ several as they walked out of an abusive marriage into freedom.

  5. Becoming a Better Me!

    Thank you so much for this…so spot on!

  6. Thank you for listening and encouraging us with this post. ❤

  7. UnForsaken

    A wonderful reminder! I think being around a lot of socially inept people ( well intentioned or otherwise ) can be a difficult training field for kids. Add Narcissism into the mix, some other less harmful personality disorders, and the world of relationships and genuine communication becomes very confusing. I constantly catch myself saying stuff just by wrote or even just sounding as if I haven’t listened because I need to affirm what has been said, and have to rethink how to really convey caring. It’s not second skin yet, but I know God is teaching me a new way of “seeing”, listening and talking to people and myself.

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