In the comments on my post of April 27, 2008 a line of discussion developed on the pros and cons of writing letters, especially kiss-off letters, to the narcissist in your life. Some say yes...some say no.
I say yes and no. It depends. Maybe.
You may or may not have noticed my lack of dogmatism on this point if you have read much here. That is because it really depends on circumstances and personalities as to whether or not it is a good idea to put pen to paper. It is a personal decision you have to make because only you can ascertain whether, in your circumstance, it is better to write or not write. You know the characters in your particular play. You know yourself. You get to decide.
The 'no letter' crowd are more vocal about their position. They have good reason to believe that it is an exercise in futility. A waste of time. It can hand ammo to the enemy. These are excellent points and you must carefully weigh them when making your decision.
You had better know your own mind very well before embarking on a letter writing course. If your thoughts are not crystallized, if they are not well-organized, if you are uncertain of your position; these are contraindications for writing a letter.
For my family and circumstances letter writing was the right plan. I am competent with the written word. There were many things that had never been said before and I wanted them out there. And I wanted to be able to say those things without interruption. I have the type of family members that I knew would read every word I wrote...and then re-read them. So even long letters were an option. If the narcissist you're dealing with has a short attention span then you would need to consider that fact. The most important aspect for me was having a record of everything. It was something I deeply felt I needed. I wanted a record of exactly what I said because my family members are big on revisionism. I wanted to be able to quote chapter and verse what I said so they couldn't get away with that. Just as important to me was having a written record of what they have said. This has been invaluable to me. Because my family are even more inclined to rewrite their own words.
My family members were highly confident of their ability to carry off their deceptions and sleight of hand tricks on paper as well as they are able to do face-to-face. Their confidence worked in my favor. My mother, my father and my sister in turn all began with great confidence. They were sure of their ability to pull one over in writing. Only too late did my mother recognize how the written word works against her. When I could hold her to her words and when I could prove she was twisting my words, she backed into her corner and quivered in fear. My sister isn't as smart as my mother, so sister dearest still has enough hubris to come at me again, after two years, in writing. She will likely regret her decision. My point is, narcissistically-driven people don't see how they reveal so much of themselves when they write things down. The written word is tangible. Solid. Grab-able. You can grab their words and hold them to it. Because it is written they are greatly hindered in their habit of taking back what they say. That worked beautifully in my situation. Because they are so unprincipled they contradict themselves or outright lie because they only have their eye on the outcome they are pursuing. Getting what they want from you. If you can get them to write down their responses to you then you are able to document their lies. Guaranteed. They talk, they write, they lie. It is nice to get those lies down in black and white.
I really believe that people know in their gut whether or not it is useful to write an kiss-off letter listing some of the reasons for saying bye-bye. I have no regrets for having written letters, kiss-off and otherwise. Those letters are invaluable to me. I have assembled a fat file filled with my letters and their responses. Forever and ever I have written proof of who they are. (I have redundant copies in various places to ensure they don't get lost.) They each in their turn completely revealed themselves on paper. I have all the proof I need that these people should not be in my life. In the early days when I could still have moments in insecurity about my decision to cut them off (particularly my mother) I could go back and re-read the letter exchanges. Those letters, both mine and theirs, contain proof. Proof that I did everything I could to try to persuade them to reason. Proof that I extended myself to the uttermost in order to attempt to save some kind of relationship. Proof that they rejected my efforts and would only agree to their own terms. Totally unacceptable terms. Unlivable terms that I had lived with for four decades.
Obviously, I am pro-letter under certain circumstances. But I am also very aware that with some narcissists it would be a complete waste of time. Or worse. When I wrote my letters I was extremely careful to not hand my family ammo to shoot me up with. I succeeded brilliantly with that. I didn't give them handles on my emotions. I was able to protect myself. If you are not confident you can do that with letters then it is best to not write. Yes, my mother showed my letters to those in her circle of sycophants to prove what an evil daughter I am. That doesn't matter to me. In my mind, if anyone could read my letters to my mother and still perceive me as being evil, then screw 'em. I don't need people like that around me. Their opinion is of no weight in my estimation. Mommy dearest showing my letters to people she was sure would support her is not, in my opinion, using my letters as ammo. No, what I'm talking about is whether or not my family could use my own words to prove to me that I'm a bad person. I said nothing to them that I want to take back. I said what I meant and meant what I said. And I didn't shoot below the belt. They can't guilt me with my own words. Also, I didn't dwell on or make a point of my negative feelings be it hurt, anger, frustration, etc. I kept on the subject of behavior. Theirs and mine. Stay away from describing how they hurt you. That is rich fodder for their future plans of annihilation of you. This is what I'm talking about when referring to using your words as ammo to shoot you up with. Do not tell them what makes you tick.
Did my family accept my arguments? Did they understand me? Hell, no. If you are writing a letter expecting those outcomes, then fugeddaboudit. In that sense, letters are a waste of your time. If you're writing a kiss-off letter, remember, they are for kissing them off. Not for persuasion. My letter writing was a bigger effort than kissing my family off. I started each letter writing campaign as an effort to try to do what I could to save some semblance of a relationship with them knowing that if I didn't achieve that outcome at least I would have proof to myself that I tried. Ultimately, I ended up with each of them in turn having to write that final letter closing off contact. But I think I've shown there are other outcomes you can be going for when writing a letter besides an expectation of gaining their understanding. In fact, you never approach a narcissist hoping they will gain insight or understanding from your words. That would just be stupid.
The last letter I wrote to my sister didn't definitively shut the door forever. I left a little ray of hope that someday I would contact her again to see if she had grown up yet. The reason I did that was because I was quite conflicted about blowing her off forever. She isn't an evil genius like my mother. Sister is very narcissistically driven, but I can't be sure she is a malignant narcissist. I can't be entirely sure because I have maintained a large emotional distance from her all my life because she was so consistently untrustworthy. She would pull out emotional knives at unpredictable junctures, so I learned to keep the emotional walls up with her very early on. I can't answer the question of whether or not she is predatory. It feels like she is with me, but I can't know if I'm the exception or the rule.
Because I didn't slam the door completely shut I am now faced with her latest attempt to persuade me she is changed. I am presently in the position of deciding whether to write or not write. I know it will only accomplish one thing if I do write her--she will leave me alone again. For awhile. I am inclined to write for that reason alone. Persuasion? Reconciliation? No, those will not be my objectives. Her email proves she in exactly the same place she was two years ago. Her so-called proofs that she is changed actually prove to me she is utterly unchanged. She is also playing games in her email. I want to call her on it really badly.
So, off I go to spend some considerable mental horse power deciding for sure whether I'll write...and if I do...what I'll say. That reminds me of one other reason to write. I start composing in my head and there is no stopping it until I get it out in writing and I say it just the way I think I need to say it. Only then can I stop the infernal persecution of composing at 4:00 a.m. when I would rather be sleeping. My private analysis of my sister's non-apology letter that I wrote in the week following my buh-bye letter to her was done for this reason. I never sent that analysis to her. Just getting it down in writing silenced the composer in me.
Anyway. Wish me luck.