Monday, September 04, 2006

The Abuse Excuse

I have a particular problem with the "abuse excuse". There are abusers who can point to a personal history where they were abused as children. (Sometimes the victims of an abuser will point to this history too in order to avoid having to deal with the concept of EVIL embodied in their abuser.)

Those who try to explain the reason narcissists exist will often fall back on the old Freudian concept of early childhood "damage" caused by abuse or neglect. This is very unscientific and unreliable as an explanation. For one thing, for childhood trauma to explain the creation of a narcissist one has to ask the very important question, "why do so many children raised in abusive situations NOT become narcissists?" This theory is too inconsistent with what we see in real life. There is no clear cause and effect because there are more examples of children raised in these situations who do not become narcissists than who do. This is a clear indication that individual choice is involved in how we ultimately develop character.

The other paradox is that there are narcissists who spring up in homes where no abuse or neglect can be found. No set of parents is perfect. Every parent makes mistakes in child-rearing, but those mistakes are greatly mitigated when parents really love their children. Children tend to be the most forgiving of creatures where their parents are concerned. There are narcissists who sprout up in these imperfect but loving homes. So, obviously, childhood traumas can not apply here.

Narcissists can be formed in homes where the child is greatly spoiled, fawned over, sheltered from all consequences of their bad behavior, and generally not taught self-control. Some would argue that this constitutes "child abuse". In the old days we just called it spoiling. For millennia society recognized this kind of parenting would raise up rotten children. Spoil....rot.....same thing. Along the lines of spoiling, I have personally witnessed personalties who are so bent on what they want that from an early age they spoil themselves. I've seen it with my own eyes. I have a sister, who from a very young age, lost no opportunity to indulge herself. This propensity strengthened with the years and became worse. She was spoiled by our mother when she was very young. When our mother stopped spoiling her, my sister just picked up from there and finished the job. More evidence that narcissists create themselves.

We see narcissists come from all types of situations and home upbringing. They can come from abusive homes, non-abusive homes, homes where they seem to get everything they want, all societies and socio-economic strata. What causes narcissists? Who can know?? Why is the why important? What we need to center our attention on is what they do. They are human predators. They are dangerous. We need to put our energies into understanding this reality and not waste time fussing over how they got that way because that is a total waste of time. Our understanding the why will not change what the narcissist is.

Back to the "abuse excuse". It is more egregious when a victim of abuse turns into an abuser. I find it completely inexcusable. I loathe the psychobabble that uses previous abuse in an abuser's history as an explanation (excuse) of some sort. The explanation is an excuse because society often gives a reduced penalty when the abuse excuse is brought in. It is insane logic. I remember being a very small child and making the conscious decision that I would not inflict abuse on my own child when I grew up. (A promise I kept.) The abuse I received enabled me to empathize with how it feels to be abused. Please take note of the power of choice I employed that stopped the abuse cycle. Please also note that I was around three years of age when I made this decision. Children make choices at a very young age that shape who they become. In spite of their circumstances, good or bad. Someone who has been abused knows what it feels like and is all the more evil to turn around and abuse others because they know exactly what it feels like. Those who were abused have looked into the face of evil. If the abused becomes the abuser they made a choice to become evil too. Since they know what it feels like to be abused we can only conclude that they enjoy inflicting the pain they've experienced onto others....what is this but evil?

We are all beckoned to come to the "dark side" very often throughout our lives. How can we admire those who choose the path of light, truth and compassion if we can excuse those who take the dark path? Was it all a coin toss? Some may think yes. I certainly don't.


Anonymous said...


I remember thinking, from a young age, that there was something "wrong" with my mother. Anyone who screeched at such high decibel levels about miniscule things was, I understood even from a pre-school age, not right, on some level.

I see now, in retrospect, that a lot of my outside-of-school time during childhood was spent with my nose in a book, or daydreaming on the couch listening to music, or playing music, or walking in the woods with the dog. I also thank my grandparents (her parents, ironically), who were calm and even-handed and fair at all times, and never took a bad day out others...they gave me a glimpse that life could be different, and if they hadn't raised me about a third of the time during my pre-school days, I'm sure I would have had a lot more trouble.

I think it was a real blessing that she turned her wrath on me as little as she did. I steered clear as much as possible. My resulting conflict avoidance caused me a ton of problems later in life, but given the situation back then, it was exactly what a very young child needed to get through.

It's a really good thing that you were able (at an even earlier age than I was) to "call a spade a spade", on whatever level was possible for a tiny child.

Anna Valerious said...

I spent much of my childhood in a book or spending hours outside walking in the woods as a way to stay out of trouble and to get away from my scary mother. Pop music wasn't allowed, so I wasn't able to escape that way.

I, too, used conflict avoidance as my main survival technique. It did trip me up later as an adult...what works when you're a kid isn't usually what works in the real world as an adult.

Your comments on your mother's parents are very interesting to me. It would appear to be yet another evidence that narcissists create themselves as your grandparents sound very loving, fair and decent. The assumption by many, even in the ACON group, seems to be that abuse created the narcissist. It doesn't sound like your grandparents were abusive at all towards you. Quite the opposite. If they had abused your mother, they certainly would have gone on to abuse you as well. My own Nmom employed similar techniques on my own daughter when I wasn't around as she did on me as a child.

In my estimation, the narcissist has no one to blame but themselves for who they've turned out to be. I will not be swerved from this opinion by any so-called expert. Your testimony is clear evidence against your Nmom. She chose to be what she is. Just as you and I have.

The narcissist is their own creation. We all have the power to choose who and what we'll be despite our circumstances. If we don't have the power to choose, then virtue does not exist and neither does evil.

Anonymous said...

I have two narcissist parents. I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused from the time I can remember. I was the scapegoat child. However, my son is the golden grandchild. My parents never abused him although they disparage the majority of the other grandchildren. I've asked myself why this is. The only thing I can come up with is that it was a way to prove to him that I am as insane as they tried to make me believe. If I try to tell my son how they treated me, would he believe me? They are "wonderful" grandparents to him. I am just being my usual evil self if I try to tell him what they are really like.

(Un)Fortunately at 23 years old, my son has been a witness to some of their treatment of me. The lies, the twisting of the truth. He knows me for what and who I am and can see the game they are playing. So I don't think grandparents necessarily abuse their grandchildren in the same way they abuse their children.

Anonymous said...

This hits home. I've re-written this comment three times so far. What I really want to say boils down to this:

It's not even just abuse that N's (and victims) use to justify the behavior. It could be a health problem, life situation, or (as in my N's case) being stared at due to a *tiny* physical oddity on the face that was removed before the N was even five. Seriously if our parents didn't mention it the N would NEVER have known or remembered it.

If that is reason enough to be a N, then everyone who accidently drops their doughnut before getting a bite has "ample" cause.