Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Narcissist and Self-Loathing

In the comments section of the post on self-esteem vs. self-respect I made this statement,

I have been witness to both. I have seen what were obviously real periods of self-loathing by Ns. I have also seen the theatrical versions. The "feel" of the fake version is quite different to the observant witness.
I was asked to explain the difference between the faked self-loathing and the real demonstrations. I will try.

First, it is important to not mistake a malignant narcissist's self-loathing as being connected with remorse. Do they have regrets? Oh, yes. But not for your sake. Only for their own sake. They only regret not getting what they think they deserve.

Sam Vaknin, the most verbose of narcissists, contends that narcissists are, "immersed in self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and distress most of his waking life." Ref. Cry me a frakking river. Life is tough when you're always on the run from reality. If you read Vaknin's answer to the question "Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry?" (link above) you get treated to an eyeful of self-pity and a wide dodge of the general question itself. Whatever.

Here's the deal. A malignant narcissist's life sucks. I'll grant Vaknin's point on that. But his self-loathing, however briefly experienced, is earned. It is the narcissist's just desserts for being so despicable in his treatment of others and even how he treats himself. I wish a narcissist was constantly tortured by self-loathing, but the truth is, they aren't. The narcissist's self-loathing is very intimately connected with self-pity. They only really hate themselves when they aren't getting what they want! The narcissist's sense of self-loathing is very quickly turned into being the fault of someone else or the fault of circumstance. In practical reality this means they don't truly feel self-loathing. It is a fleeting thing instantly transferred into his wallow of self-pity. Boo hoo. Never waste your pity on a narcissist...they have plenty of that for themselves.

Here is what the evidence tells me: narcissists never feel self-loathing to any real depth or degree. I believe it is more of a dispassionate observation they make about themselves devoid of the crushing emotion we associate with the term.

I saw a very good demonstration of this in a movie recently. It was a period piece titled, "Daniel Deronda". A movie I liked, by the way. There are two characters in the film who are narcissists. Well, one is most definitely a narcissist...the other is well on her way to being totally corrupted. The female, younger and very narcissistic character, Gwendolyn Harleth, more than once dispassionately admits to her heartlessness, her corrupt character, her utter selfishness, her abuse and use of others. It was intriguing to see her admit to these flaws of character without a tinge of discernable shame or remorse. Or any real emotion. It was just a fact she was stating with no more emotion than we would quote statistics. This I found a very accurate representation of the utterly self-involved. I have seen this type of admission in narcissists which has always lacked emotional depth. It is just an undeniable fact that the narcissist may sometimes be willing to admit. They are not feeling the pain of having inflicted pain on you even if you get such an admission from them.

If they do feel the pain of self-loathing it is inextricably linked to their own self-interests and their ever-present self-pity. It is about how they are down on their luck. It is about how they can't support their sense of grandiosity at the moment and therefore are feeling persecuted by the universe. It is about how unfair everyone and every thing is and how the narcissist doesn't have what they deserve. Of course, in their minds they deserve what they want, not what they get.

Okay. So, down to the difference between a real demonstration of self-loathing and a faked one. In my opinion you can detect the difference between the two in the level of emotion involved in the expression. Is there a lack of emotion in the admission? Or are you being treated to a full display of tears, weeping and gnashing of teeth?

The more emotion displayed the bigger fake you're witnessing

The more dispassionate the expression, the closer you are to seeing a narcissist acknowledging a truth about themselves.

But, again, this self-loathing is greatly tempered for the narcissist. He or she has powerful defenses against truly feeling the depth this emotion would call forth in someone who isn't a malignant narcissist. The narcissist's ever-present self-pity and sense of absolute entitlement blunt their ability to really feel the self-loathing they should be experiencing. They relate to it as we relate to a scientific fact. It is an intellectual assent to the truth but it never gets down to the seat of their emotions. It can't. They have rendered themselves unable to truly feel anything. Like Vaknin says somewhere else, narcissists confuse their wants with emotions. That simple statement hints at the enormous mis-wiring the brain of the narcissist has been subject to. Let's be clear...this re-wiring was a job the narcissist did on their own brain. Temper your pity with that fact.

The upshot of this is that the narcissist never truly experiences self-loathing in the way we would. It is a very different experience for the malignant narcissist than for you or me. When a decent person with an uncorrupted conscience feels self-loathing it is intensely excruciating because the decent person won't allow themself to shift the blame to someone or something else. They have to feel the full force of the emotion. Hence, we are actually capable of feeling the full spectrum of painful emotions normally associated with the term 'self-loathing'. Which is one reason I spit on Vaknin's appeal to the 'pain' the narcissist is always in. I only wish he was in more pain.

The narcissist, of course, is sure that no one has ever felt pain they way they feel it. They have no idea that only a decent, good-hearted and empathetic person with a fully functioning conscience is capable of feeling the depths of human emotions be they happy or negative emotions. He gives himself far too much credit for being able to feel anything. And there is no nobilty in feeling self-pity. Anyone can feel sorry for themselves. Only decent people can rise above self-pity without trampling someone else to get there. The narcissist assuages his self-pity by finding another source, i.e. victim, to give him what he wants.

I'll quote a larger portion of Vaknin from the same reference above,

But he has a diminished capacity to empathise, so he rarely feels sorry for what he does. He almost never puts himself in the shoes of his "victims". Sure, he feels distressed because he is intelligent enough to realise that something is wrong with him in a major way. He compares himself to others and the outcome is never favourable. His grandiosity is one of the defence mechanisms that he uses to cover up for this disagreeable state of things. But its efficacy is partial and intermittent. The rest of the time, the narcissist is immersed in self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and distress most of his waking life. In a vague way, he is also sorry for those upon whom he inflicts the consequences of his personality disorder. He knows that they are not happy and he understands that it has something to do with him. Mostly, he uses even this to aggrandise himself: poor things, they can never fully understand him, they are so inferior. It is no wonder that they are so depressed. (from Narcissism FAQ #14: Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry)

The stench from this load of self-serving crap is damn near overwhelming. Please read his words carefully. Even though he uses the term "self-loathing" there is not one description of true self-loathing in his self-serving answer. It is all self-pity. The most he hates himself for is that he's in pain from his lack of getting what he wants. Your pain? It is a vague concept to him. It is nearly not an entity of any form to his mind. It is incidental at best.

My conclusion of this topic is that the narcissist is completely incapable of true self-loathing. The only pain he'll let himself feel is the pain of being denied what the selfish little three year old wants. Take away his toy and watch the tears and tantrums and self-pity begin.

He saves all his loathing for the poor victims of his predations and abuses. He can loathe you utterly...meaning having complete disdain and disregard for you as a person. As for himself, he only loathes momentarily...right before he shifts into a full blown pity party. Big, fat babies.

Obligatory icon credit

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Examining Freud

Because of a thread in the comments on the last post I am segueing into today's topic. I am quoting from an article that concisely sums up much of what I was able to independently conclude from my own research years before having read this article. The article is simply a handy device to jump into the subject with. I am not going to attempt a post which includes documentation and sourcing because it would become too unwieldy and unreadable. If you are open minded to investigation the resources are freely available if you apply yourself to finding them.

Two years ago I came across an article that I will share with you now. It is titled, "Freud or Fraud?" by MercatorNet. It came out shortly after Freud's 150th birthday in May 2006. The article is an interview with psychologist Gerard Van den Aardweg who has been in practice since 1963. Certainly long enough in the field of psychology to know the field.

My research into the theories of Freud began about eight years ago. What stimulated my research was my curiosity as to whether or not Freud's theories were compatible with Christianity since it seems that pop Christian psychology has thrown itself head-long into Freudian theories even while secular psychology at large has distanced itself from many of Freud's often...shall I say insane...ideas.

One of the aspects of this interview/article that I found intriguing (and relevant to the subject matter of my blog) was the description of some of Freud's character traits. I have excerpted below the more negative descriptions of Freud as a person for your particular perusal. Who this man was as a person is very relevant to his theories on human psychology. The character of a man devising a new way of thinking about the human mind is completely relevant. This is a man who claimed that the human mind is the cure to the ills of the human mind. And that this cure is effected through talk. So let's look at the evidences of his mind, shall we?

He presented himself as having the answers to the problems of living devoid of any spiritual context. He was not bashful in making it clear that he intended to demolish Christianity with his theories. This is relevant to Christians. There is particular peril in adopting the theories of a man who was antagonistic to the very belief system, Christianity, that you claim to believe in.

Dr. Van den Aardweg makes this statement which I know is the truth from my own extensive and independent research on this point:

he presented his “discoveries” as a doctrine of salvation promising to free the mind -- and even mankind as a whole -- from its troubles, and posed as a great prophet, on the same level as Copernicus and Darwin.
"Doctrine of salvation". Precisely. This belief often infects those who accept his theories. They, too, talk of the salvation only found on the couch with heaping servings of self-focus. This is why I was particularly alarmed when I saw the "ministry" of two psychologists in my Christian denomination making overt statements that their Freudian-based theories and exercises were essential to salvation, both temporal and eternal. An augmentation of the Gospel itself. You know...the part God forgot to mention (though they didn't say it that way it was the logical conclusion if you followed their lines of thought). What inevitably happens when someone tries to meld pop psychology "salvation" with Christian beliefs on salvation is that the Christian beliefs take a back seat to the psychology. They are competing doctrines, not complimentary belief systems.

I have pointed out on this blog the conclusions of some of the most well-respected researchers into the character-disordered that psychology and its therapies make the character-disordered worse. Not better. Quantifiably worse. This conclusion is based on the scientific approach of observation, not on antipathy toward psychology as a body of thought. These doctor/researchers are within the psych community and tried to apply the doctrines of psychology on their subjects only to be defeated and befuddled time and again. They came to recognize the need for a new basis of thinking where it concerns the disordered character. They were forced to conclude that psychology was missing some huge and important pieces of the disordered human mind puzzle. This is quite a revelation and admission considering that the field of psychology is specifically supposed to know how to deal with disordered minds. "Mental health" is their venue, yet when confronted with the "unhealthiest" among us psychology is seriously out-gunned. Largely clueless. Dysfunctional.

It is logical to conclude that the theories of Freud, and the derivatives of his theories as they've been morphed over the decades, are lacking in some essential realities concerning the psychology of the most disturbed minds among us. These are very minds psychology lays claim to the right to diagnose and treat. My research into the subject of psychology as a science has proven to me beyond all doubt that the majority of the field of psychology is not science. It is art at best. It is guesswork. It is philosophy. To quote Van den Aardweg, "The whole field of personality psychology and psychotherapy is chaotic and still highly experimental." Emphasis mine. (I think he is being gentle in his assessment.) His is a statement of fact that is easy enough to perceive even with a cursory examination of the field. This "chaos" and "highly experimental" state of the field after 150 years is a powerful argument against psychology being science, in my opinion. Held up against the continued and remarkable advancements of the hard (as in real) sciences in that same period we see the proof against the claim of the psych field being classified as being part of the sciences. The continued chaos and literally thousands of lines of thought in this field with there being little unity of opinion is little different from other areas of human philosophy. It resembles religion in its fundamentals much more than it resembles science.

I do not believe Freud was a malignant narcissist because I've not seen any proof of that, but what has emerged is a picture of a very self-centered man with strong narcissistic traits. I think this must be considered when you are basing your assumptions off of his theories of the human mind. How likely is it that a man with a demonstrated penchant for fanciful interpretations of reality was able to divine the essence, the truth, of human psychology? How is it that a man who could tolerate no dissent from his opinions was able to form a comprehensive and accurate view of universal human thought, motive and action from the machinations of his mind alone? How is it that his desire to throw out millennia of human wisdom based on a historical understanding of humanity, a desire which motivated all his theories, is now the right basis of understanding? What about his own personal delusions of grandeur?

With this preamble please read the descriptions below of the man who is the grandfather of modern psychology. A man who with all his years of self-analysis never managed to change even himself let alone others. A man who must be understood in light of his being "exceptionally self-willed, proud and arrogant". The tendency of society and culture has been that of accelerated declension, not enlightenment. In this modern age of post-Freudian psychology we cannot point to a society filled with happy, balanced, moral and productive people. The claims of psychology fall flat in the face of reality. When tested against the most destructive and devious among us, the malignant narcissists, psychology is exposed. All they have is the prescription pad or refusing to 'treat' these human predators.

In the end people only change when they determine to do the hard work following honest introspection. That some people are able to use the devices of the couch to accomplish this doesn't validate psychology as being science. Nor does it prove that psychology cures anything. The dusty pages of history prove the determination and grit of the human spirit when it reaches higher than itself to accomplish that which is difficult. Rising above nature is what gives dignity and spirituality to humanity. Freud and his intellectual offspring tend to encourage the baser drives of our natures because it chooses to ignore the spiritual aspect of humanity. Whatever is "natural" is considered good. This type of philosophy degenerates into the "law of the jungle" and "survival of the fittest". Morality is the first casualty of Freud's philosophies.

I have only copied most of the article's descriptions of the man that was Freud. I encourage you to follow the link to read the whole article in context. I want to state upfront that my 'take' on this article is not that of the author or interviewee of the article. I do not want to misrepresent their views. The views in this post are mine.

"...Freud seduced readers with his brilliant style."

"...he presented his “discoveries” as a doctrine of salvation promising to free the mind -- and even mankind as a whole -- from its troubles, and posed as a great prophet, on the same level as Copernicus and Darwin. So he had the charisma of a guru. A profound thinker, however, he was not, neither as a psychologist nor as a philosopher. What he proclaimed sounded thrilling, especially of course the sexual stuff, but it was not at all “deep”, even though it is known as “depth psychology”. Mostly it consists of far-fetched fantasies, several of which are positively bizarre."

"Throughout his life he remained immaturely attached to his mother in an ambivalent way. As a boy, he could not make friends and felt disliked by them."

"Freud was a neurotic and cynical man, probably somewhat feminine, a chronic complainer who felt all his life that he was an unrecognised genius and a victim of a hostile world. He was an outsider who was angry with society. He was very self-centred; in his relations with friends he had to dominate; he could not tolerate dissent from his views -- which is actually the reaction of a person who feels that he has not been accepted."

"Incidentally, you cannot understand Freud if you do not see that he was exceptionally self-willed, proud and arrogant."

"Here is a curious thing. Freud pretended to be very accurate in his observations and descriptions, but in fact it was often a mix of observation and fantasy. That has been solidly proven by now."

"Patients he described as cured turned out on later examination not to have been cured at all. Studies of the effects of analytic methods, which are often hardly really Freudian any more, do not support them. Talking and analysing does not change people. One of the first disciples of Feud, sexologist Wilhelm Stekel, long ago remarked that “if psychoanalysis does not find something new, it is doomed”. And Freud never managed to change himself despite all his self-analysis."

I have been upfront on this blog that my opinion of psychology as a body of thought is a skeptical one at best. The studies that have been done by the psych community to judge itself have consistently disproven its theories and opinions of itself and its efficacy in helping people. These studies are usually buried and hidden. The few honest and outspoken critics which have arisen from psychologists and psychiatrists inside the hallowed halls of the "mind sciences" are buried under an avalanche of media driven pop psych drivel which is far more attractive to people than the harsh realities these honest few have tried to bring to the fore.

Do I believe that all that falls under the label of psychology is non-scientific? No. Some research adheres to basic scientific approaches which means it stays away from speculative and unprovable theories. Science is only science when it is based on what is observable, when it can be tested and proven or disproven, the results of such tests being reproducible. An untestable theory is not science. An unprovable hypothesis is of no scientific value. When psychology confines itself to observing and describing human behavior it can be rightly called science. When psychology then delves into speculation, surmising and assignation of values it can't prove -- it has left science. It is now philosophy. Please learn to recognize when psychology is being scientific and when it is being philosopher. This explains why I am willing to use the psychological label of NPD: because it is based on a description of observable behaviors. This means it is a label based on observable behavioral fact.

I'm sure there are many who will want to attest to the wonders of psychology in helping them. You are certainly entitled to that opinion and I won't attempt to argue you out of it even though I would love to give you the credit for any positive changes you've made. What I am attempting to get you all to consider is that this body of thought is naked and helpless when forced to go up against the malignant personalities among us. This fact may very well be attributable to its founder, Freud, who himself was a very flawed man. Believing he had all the answers, his fantastical theories were transmogrified into science by sheer force of personality. He was openly antagonistic to Christianity in particular as he mocked God's ability to change or spiritually benefit human beings, yet his own theories couldn't even change himself. This must not be overlooked. Freud demonstrated many of the hallmarks of a charlatan. But because he presented a humanist theory that "intellectuals" were receptive to, his ideas gained ascendancy in the halls of academe and professional offices. And even though psychology has shifted and morphed from Freud's founding ideas his spirit still pervades. I am hoping you will seriously question psychology as having the answers for humanity's problems of living. When your common sense collides with it...please, go with your common sense.

A good definition of common sense is, 'wisdom which comes from being dedicated to reality and therefore ignores all that conflicts with reality'. Common sense discards the speculative in favor of pragmatism. I have much more respect for the hard-earned experiences and observations of people like you and me who have been in the trenches with the narcissist than I do for silly little theories which tend to turn the abuser into the victim. Any theory that does that is a fancily dressed-up turd, not science.

Do I believe there are good psychologists out there who have tangibly helped people? Absolutely. Interestingly, studies have shown time and again that the success levels of psychologists is much more correlated with their ability to emotionally connect with the patient rather than with education levels. In fact, studies have also revealed an inverse relationship between levels of education in the psych doc and how well they help their patients. More education does not equal better care. Interesting, no? Some studies have pitted regular college students against trained professionals in counselling people. Guess which group got better results consistently? Yeah, the college students. What keeps being revealed by these internal studies is that the elements of friendship and common sense are the essential ingredients in helping people get past their problems of living. So, in this age where so many are isolated and haven't got a good friend, psychologists can certainly fill this gap. You can pay for the benefits of friendship by hiring a shrink...assuming, of course, you can find a therapist you "click" with. It is clear from examination of multiple studies done by and for the psych field is that having a good friend who will be truthful with you is worth a handful of therapists.

When the narcissist in your life puts the screws to you to keep on keeping on by pointing to their being in therapy... run, don't walk. A narcissist in therapy is a narcissist who is honing all their powers of manipulation. They'll come out of it a more skilled narcissist. One that you'll find harder to deal with because she'll use all the right psych buzz words and 'feeling' phrases to anchor your feet in cement. She will have glombed onto the wonderful psych theories that make her the victim and you the abuser. She will point to her 'hurt' feelings as proof of the damage you are doing to her poor, poor self. Or she will use her childhood misfortunes to excuse her bad behavior and her abuse of you.

The medical profession has the motto, "First, do no harm". I wish this could be said to be case with the mind 'sciences'. There are far too many therapists who lack the wisdom or the will to hold a narcissist's feet to the fire. The rare narcissist who goes into therapy will shop around until they find the therapist who will only tell them what they want to hear. How is being suckered by a narcissist, or choosing to just accommodate the narcissist, doing no harm when we consider the long line of victims in the narcissist's wake? An empowered narcissist, one who is finding 'affirmation' for what they are and what they do, is a danger to society. Yet psychology seems immune to shouldering any of the blame for making dangerously selfish individuals even more committed to their selfishness and their destructive agendas toward their fellow man. Well, at least here on my blog, they will shoulder that responsibility to some appreciable extent.

"In general, few people are really interested in proving or disproving a theory if they like it for one reason or another. Most trendy ideologies are not based on scientific fact." Gerard Van den Aardweg, interview with Mercatornet.

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. 1 Tim. 6:20,21

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Important Distinction: Self-love vs. Self-respect

While I was several weeks into my hiatus this summer a new reader of this blog posed a great question I couldn't resist making an effort at answering despite my being on vacation. Because the question was in the comment section of an old post I thought I would re-post it...and my on the front page. I think it was substantive enough of an answer that it deserves front and center placement.

Perhaps you could write about how it is that Ns can simultaneously "love" themselves and have low self-esteem.

Self-love which is not based on self-respect is the conundrum of the malignant narcissist. This conundrum explains why they can have "low self-esteem" and yet love themselves supremely. They are breathing examples of the consequences of always putting themselves first (which is the Biblical definition of self-love i.e. the one I use.) They are the living proof that self-love doesn't translate into true self-respect and reality-based feelings of liking oneself or at least being able to live with looking at yourself in the mirror.

Some people confuse self-love as feelings of affection for oneself. That is not correct. Self-love is defined by behavior. It is comprised of the behaviors of always thinking of and acting for oneself as if you are everyone's primary concern as well as your own primary concern. As if your wants and needs should supersede anyone else's wants or needs. This is intimately linked with a huge sense of entitlement. This is a self-love which is bereft of self-respect and honest good feelings about the self because it must trample on everyone else in order to exist.

How is self-respect gained? Self-respect is the result of self-discipline (which includes self-denial and putting off gratification) with the eye to future benefit (not only for the self, but also for others) resulting from these things. Self-respect has to be earned. We have to prove to ourselves that we deserve to respect ourselves. Constructive self-discipline is anathema to the malignant narcissist. If they were self-disciplined they would likely not be malignant narcissists.

Another way we could say it is "self-control". Self-discipline is self-control. MNs only use enough self-control to keep themselves from being caught in their crimes. They use just enough self-control to make sure only their victims see Mr. Hyde come out. That is not a constructive use of self-control; neither is it a self-control with any endurance. It is short term self-control used for selfish ends. I give them no credit for their occasional use of self-control. Any use of self-control by the narcissist is, once again, all about getting them what they want. Not about doing the right thing. Their limited use of self-control for their selfish ends only further corrupts them and their environment.

The narcissist doesn't do anything in the moral realm to earn self-respect therefore they tend to loathe themselves when they are forced to moments of introspection. If you've been in a long-term relationship with a narcissist be they parent or lover you've likely witnessed at least one of these moments when they seem black with the despair of their self-loathing. You've also likely been frightened to see the depth of their spiral into the blackness of their own souls. It can evoke great pity from the decent, but the reality is those moments are the dues they are paying to their demons. Every ounce of their self-loathing is earned. They deserve to feel like the pieces of crap they are. Yet it is likely someone will intervene with the necessary praise and comfort to lift these pieces of human debris from the hell of their own making without the narcissist truly having to grapple who they are and making a determined effort to come clean.

The narcissist's dependence on the praise of others is how they try to compensate for their lack of self-respect. The unmerited praise of others never has the ring of truth to it to the ear of the despicable one. Some part of their mind tells them these people are either lacking in full information and therefore are deceived, or they want something from the narcissist. But the more forceful part of their mind overrules these concerns and laps up the unmerited praise as their due. The narcissist is constantly forced to pursue more of the cheap imitation (self-love) to overcome the lack of the genuine article (self-respect). Their bad feelings about themselves may start to surface causing them to demand that their sources of supply release some of the sweet nectar of adulation to overcome the threat of self-knowledge.

Narcissists are living proof that self-love is not something to be desired or pursued. Self-love doesn't make us happy or make us better people. SELF-RESPECT should be the goal and aim for lasting happiness, contentment and true accomplishment in the life. Self-respect means you think well enough of yourself not to mistreat yourself. It doesn't mean you think you are better than others.

The narcissist's life proves you can't possibly 'love yourself' enough to overcome or compensate for the need for self-respect.

Self-love requires no moral accomplishment. Self-respect does require moral accomplishment. Anything worth having has to be worked for. The narcissist is not willing to put forth honest and good labor to make themselves into decent people. So they settle for loving themselves above all can see where that takes them. Down the path of evil...

Self-love is as over-rated in our society as self-respect is under-rated. Time to get things into their proper order.

In the movie "An American Psychopath" starring Christian Bale the psychopath's anthem was "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston. It was the song the psychopath said summed up all of the truth of life itself. "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all". This was one of many truths of the narcissistically psychopathic mind portrayed well in this very disturbing movie. Where did self-love take the psychopath? On the path of ultimate entitlement. An entitlement which meant that depriving others of their lives was a worthy sacrifice to his self-love.

Self-love is not a virtue. Pursuing feelings of loving yourself will make a shipwreck of your soul. The narcissist is living proof of this reality.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When Listening A Lot Makes "Conversation"

I just stumbled across this article whose title I'm absolutely in love with:

"How to Talk to a Narcissist...When Listening A Lot Makes "Conversation"

This told me straight up that whatever followed was likely to be on target because the title of the article so nails an essential truth about dealing with narcissists. It makes me laugh. I have all kinds of mental pictures immediately flashing in my head where I see myself listening for hours and hours and hours to the narcissists I've had in my life. I've probably lost entire years of my life listening to narcissists. I started being called a "good listener" by people since I hit junior high school age. I was well-trained by my narcissist mother. You would have had to search a very long time to find a more patient listener than me. I'm not that patient anymore, but I am still a good listener. As in, I hear what is actually being said and catch on very quickly to who I'm dealing with. Sticking around to talk with a narcissist isn't one of my strong points anymore. I'm proud to say.

Anyway, I'll post a link to this article because there are circumstances which require some people to need to keep a narcissist in their life. This means you need to know how to keep the narcissist satisfied, calm and cooperative. I think this article is helpful to that end.

Of course, I am always advising here that you keep the narcissists out of your life insofar as that is possible to achieve. When it isn't possible then you need to prepare yourself for getting what little gain there is in keeping a narcissist around. A brief quote will also show how this author 'gets' narcissists:

Here are some rules that will make things easier for you to interact with a narcissist. (The aim at this point is not to provide comfortable guidelines. Interacting with a narcissist may not be comfortable, but it doesn't always have to be a total loss.)
"How to Talk to a Narcissist..." by William Snow

Yeah, no kidding. There is no comfortable or even completely safe way to interact with a narcissist. But you might find some helpful hints in this article if you absolutely must deal with one. Good luck with that.

Icon credit

If a Narcissist Had an Anthem... might be this song.

Why I Lie
by Liz Phair

If you ask me why I lie to you
I can tell you I don't know myself
Its amazingly dishonest
But I'd have to recognize it
As part of myself

Straighten up
Why can't you straighten up
I've heard you tell me this
So many times
It doesn't even stick

I get it all the time
I get it all the time
You know I love to make
A joke of it

And if you ask me why I hurt you
I don't understand it
I can't help myself
Its a special combination
Of predatory instinct
And simple ill will

I would give some thought to it
If I thought that it might do me
Some good
Some good

Straighten up
Why can't you straighten up
You always say I'll lose
Control of it
And thirty is not too old

Well momma I would give some thought to it
If I thought that it might do me
Some good
Some good
Some good

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Character Revealed by Actions

The character is revealed by the works, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. EG White, Signs of the Times, 1884.

Some wisdom has been around for a very, very long time. What is unfortunate is how often the wisdom of ages is lost, ignored or outright rejected. Take the words above by a Christian writer written 124 years ago. How often are Christians today befuddled and kept enslaved to evil because they are told they aren't free to judge the weight of evidence provided by the deeds of someone's life? Far too often.

In my post titled "Is There Good in Everyone" I used the extreme example of Hitler to illustrate how a person's character must be judged on the "tendency of the habitual words and acts"; that an occasional good deed or trait will not mitigate against the weight of evil outcomes of a person's life. In my post "The Mask of Evil" I again talk about Hitler and also Jeff Dahmer in this context. I even loosely use this quote above in my post on the Mask of Evil.

I recognize the general reluctance of many to judge people by the accumulated words and deeds of their lives so I revisit this subject today.

Where do we find the record of someone's deeds?

In their past. History.

No historical record is more important for you to reference than the history you yourself have witnessed. Chances are very good that you've attempted to hold the narcissist to account by not only referring to a behavior in the present but by also pointing out how this behavior has been acted out time and again by them. What is the consistent accusation of the narcissist when you attempt to hold them accountable especially to their past behavior? "You ungrateful, judgmental wretch! How dare you talk about the past. You have only proven how unforgiving you are!" Then the distraction tactics come at you fast and furious. Usually this includes history revisionism along with calumnies of your own character. Perhaps I should note here that the "past" that you are not allowed to reference can include what they did ten minutes ago.

The narcissist reviles, and therefore revises, history. It is obvious as to why. History condemns them. Basic logic is hard to refute, and that logic being that the consistent behaviors we have engaged in are the demonstration of our character. Cumulative history proves who we are. Narcissists must and do reject this logic and demand the same of their victims towards them. We must lose our naivete. I'm talking about the naivete that doesn't understand the wisdom of old as quoted at the top of this post: The character is revealed by the works, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.

It is easy enough to see how effective this rejection of the historical record is in getting the narcissist off the hook of accountability. Without being able to judge them by their past deeds we are left with only this moment. We usually don't feel that it is fair to judge a person by one thing. And, usually, it isn't fair to judge a person on one deed when it falls short of an overt and prosecutable crime. So, there we are. Stripped of an essential truth. The truth of the character of the person in front of us as demonstrated by them over time. When we can only judge one moment in a vacuum then we are rarely allowed to make the right decision.

If you are never allowed to judge a person's character and intent as revealed by history then you are caught in an endless loop. Narcissist does bad act. Narcissist demands forgiveness for bad act. Next time narcissist engages in a bad act you are not allowed to reference the previous bad act of a similar nature because the narcissist demands to be judged by this moment only otherwise you prove that your forgiveness for the same crime in the past was all a sham. Your fear of seeming unfair and judgmental means you offer up another pass to the narcissist.

I say "pass" because you are not offering true forgiveness. As I have said here many times before: you can't forgive a crime in progress. The perpetual do-overs narcissists demand are proof that they are not repentant for their crimes. (A truly sorry person never demands forgiveness, they request forgiveness realizing the request may be rightfully denied.) When you carefully examine the times you thought the narcissist was asking for forgiveness you see they lacked the essential elements of true remorse, repentance as demonstrated by coming clean without blame shifting or excuses, a sincere effort at restitution, and a firm resolve to never repeat the bad act. All of these steps must be present for a true forgiveness transaction to occur. Many if not all of these were missing from that so-called forgiveness transaction with the narcissist. Therefore what you gave them was cheap grace. They happily take your cheap grace and slap you with it in the days and years to come. The only thing you guarantee when giving an unrepentant criminal your cheap grace is that they are emboldened to do more of the same. You only succeed to confirming the creepy criminal in his evil ways. Say 'no' to cheap grace if you truly give a damn about justice and morality.

We are all fallible, and we all have done things to hurt others. What separates you from the narcissist is a willingness to completely own what you did and make it right; being willing to change your behavior when you realize it is hurting others (or yourself). You don't blame the other person for what you yourself chose to do. Knowing that we are not condemned or redeemed by our occasional misdeed or good deed we can take comfort in the quote above. When we can see that the overall habits of our deeds and words are good then we won't be overwhelmed with discouragement when we mess up. We will make it right and move into the future with a firm resolve to be a better person. History is not a fearful reality to the truly good, decent person.

Remember that one of the primary hallmarks of NPD is playing fast and loose with reality. Reality is what the narcissist decides to make it. They revise reality on the fly. The reality of history (i.e. the facts of history) are just as likely to suffer the revisionism of the narcissist as is the present. Don't allow yourself to be talked out of what you know about the truth of history by the narcissist. Good people must recognize their right to judge others by what they do. Good people will not harshly judge the occasional misdeed, but they will correctly judge the overall tendency of a life.

Narcissists demand we disengage our brain's logic centers in order to have a relationship with them. Do you really think you must give yourself a frontal lobotomy in order to be 'fair'? Does it honor God when you allow a narcissist to tinker with your brain like that? God gave you that brain...use it.

Accessing the historical record in order to deal with the narcissist in the here and now is fair play. Do not be baffled with all the B.S. the narcissist will throw at you to shame you into pretending to forget the historical record. You need to be honest with history of their actions. You need to admit what the "the tendency of the habitual words and acts" have been. You need to judge accordingly.

"You can tell what they are by what they do."
Matt. 7:16, Contemporary English Version

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

We Shoot Mad Dogs

The debate will likely continue ad infinitum: are narcissists the result of their own free will choices over time resulting in their becoming dangerous and evil, or are they victims of genetics and/or bad circumstances? The debate will likely never conclude because there will always be a large number of people who refuse to acknowledge the reality of volitional human evil.

The position I've taken on this blog is that malignant narcissists provide ample proof that they've chosen to be what they are. Did they set out to become the menace that they are to all their relationships and society in general? No, of course not. Evil people don't see themselves as evil. They've turned the world upside down so they are righteous and all those who oppose their will are the evil ones.

The debate on whether or not malignant narcissists create themselves or are victims of circumstance and genetics doesn't have to be settled in order to deal with the problem of what they are today in the here and now. We can completely lay aside origins when deciding the best course for ourselves and loved ones going forward.

Consider the rabid dog.

Let's say you are suddenly confronted by a rabid dog. You are staring into the eyes of a beast who has malignant intent toward you. You know beyond all doubt that this dog will bite you given half a chance...and you know that bite will likely kill you.

At that moment does it really matter HOW or WHEN the dog became rabid?

Would understanding all the circumstances and reasons for how the dog became rabid help you in that moment of confrontation?

Obviously not. What the dog is at this moment is all you must enter into your calculations on how to proceed.

Even though the dog became rabid because he himself was the victim of a poisonous bite doesn't matter one tiny bit to your situation of being directly imperiled by the rabidness of that dog. It is completely irrelevant as to the WHYS and HOWS ... what is relevant and useful is how to protect yourself from the rabid beast right now.

I hope my point is clear. No matter how you believe the narcissist in your life became malignant doesn't change how you must deal with that person. After you are safe from the narcissist's predations you'll have more of the luxury to examine the whys and hows of what kind of person they are. Hopefully you won't even then spend too much time on that line of inquiry. Acceptance of the reality of who they are today is much more useful than expending your precious energies on how they got to today in the shape they are in. Because any so-called understanding won't change what they are now.

I know there are individuals who justify their endless theorizing on the etiology of NPD on the basis that this will help us to someday cure NPD. I think this is hopeless naivete. Genetics, circumstances, social forces always provide only partial, at best, explanations. There have always been too many people with fewer advantages, harsher circumstances, more horrible family lives who manage to overcome these things to become decent people in order to explain away the ones who don't. Another aspect of naivete that these saviors of narcissists demonstrate is their reliance on psychology for answers. This should make us laugh ourselves hysterical. Psychology is itself nearly hopelessly clueless on the nuts and bolts of NPD.

I realize that the analogy of the rabid dog is imperfect. Malignant narcissists are not insane, mad, out of their minds. The correlation is the desperate malignant intent toward you and all others; the clear and present danger they are right now. The other correlation is how you ultimately must deal with either the rabid dog or the malignant narcissist. You don't bargain with either. You don't protect yourself by finding the 'reason' for their malignancy. You protect yourself and your loved ones first and foremost by whatever means necessary. You don't overcome them with bargains, with hope, with platitudes, with naivete. You must gain distance as quickly as possible.

We put the mad dog down because we realize there is no cure for the danger they now present to all who cross their path. While we obviously can't solve the narcissist problem that way we certainly can face facts and exile them from our lives. There is no such thing as safe contact with a rabid animal. Similarly, there is no safe level of contact with the predators hiding in human flesh.