Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Last Incarnation of the Non-Apology

Deflecting blame

The fifth form of narcissistic non-apology described in this article is that of deflecting blame. I doubt you've lived this long unscathed by this mighty diversion tactic. This section of the article is comprised mostly of a description of an event with a psychotherapy trainee with more guns in his arsenal of self-defense (because of his psych training) than even the average narcissist. You can read their example for yourself.

As you read, notice that the false premise of the narcissist is one of complete and perfect self-sufficiency. It is this unrealistic goal, this idealized sense of the world and themselves, that underpins their inability to either sincerely thank someone or to truly apologize. Both states, apologetic and gratitude, require a belief in humanity's interdependency; that we need each other and that none of us are perfect. The narcissist ascribes to, as the article described it earlier, "a sinless, needless self-concept".

If you have dared to point out a short-coming to a narcissist then you probably have experienced how they will immediately hone in on your short-comings, point out your lack of perfection, and therefore disqualify you from ever being able to mention their short-comings. They will then tell you that their short-coming is in your perception only. Probably not directly, but by hammering on your imperfections which you're then to assume are clouding your judgment of them. So, essentially, if you see a fault in them your perceptions are wrong. They devalue you personally, your judgment and your motives.

If their fault is undeniable then the narcissist likely follow this construct stated from the perspective of the narcissist:

"If you deny your part in the dynamic, you are self-deluded and therefore not worth listening to; if you admit it, you and I can lament your shortcomings together, construe my actions as responsive to your mistakes, and avoid looking at my own problems." Denial of Remorse & Gratitude

Either way, you end up shouldering the blame while the narcissist walks away with their grandiose self concept intact. It is the kernel of truth in the narcissist's accusations that trip you up and shut you up. You need to see that the underlying assumptions of the narcissist (that perfection is an attainable and worthy goal not just for him, but for you too) are wrong. You are not trying to be perfect. You're not asking for perfection from him. There is a are addressing it. Don't get distracted. He's trying to get off the hook by deflecting blame onto you. If you point out a problem, you become the problem in the narcissist's thinking. If they accept any blame they will only do so as long as it is clear that you are to blame too.

In my previous post I shared parts of my own mother's non-apology letter to me. I did not accept her apology and let her know that. Eventually this brought my father into the fray. He has always been her defender against any and all who would dare to try to hold my mother to any account. He took it upon himself to write to me after I told my mother I was cutting off all contact with her. He used the method of spreading around the blame in order to make my mother less culpable.

I remember some of your behavior as a young person as being a long ways from perfection. I won’t dignify it by mentioning what they were....

The way I see it is you both have a problem.....Your side of the problem is you have decided the relationship isn’t worth the risk of being hurt again so you are removing yourself from that risk.

Notice how he decides to divide the blame equally between my mother and myself. My desire to remove myself from the situation is counted as equally "bad" as my mother's crimes against humanity! My behavior as a "young person" forever disqualifies me from holding my mother to account in the here and now. This is what I wrote to him in response to his statement above:

This is like saying that the rabbit who sees the shadow of the raptor is part of the problem when he takes cover in his burrow. No rational being faults the prey for attempting to stay out of the food chain by taking cover when the predator is near. Self defense is considered to be a commendable, Yay, even a smart way to deal with a known threat, be it in the animal world or the human. The right of self-protection is one rarely argued with except by despots.....No one faults the lion for being a lion....they just accept what is and stay the hell away. I’m not expecting Mom to change her nature, I’m simply making choices based on her proven nature. Proven by years and years and years of evidence, and years of her words claiming to be different only to see her actions prove that all is the same. So while I concede that I am not willing to place myself or family within striking distance of Mom, I do not concede that it makes me part of the problem. No more than Brier Rabbit is a problem for finding protection in the brier patch. Well, he IS a problem from the predator’s point of view....but for those who don’t eat rabbit, they see the rabbit’s wisdom and prudence as commendable.

Nearer to the close of this letter to my dad I said:

Considering how long-- through your persistent ignorance and consistent, unquestioning support of Mom’s version of any and all events-- you’ve been a part of the negative dynamic that has resulted in a trail of injured souls, I see not how you’ve earned the right to sit in judgment and assign whatever measure of blame to me, or your family, that you believe we should carry. Your partiality to the opposing counsel disqualifies you to sit as a judge in this case. What is called for from you is compassion and mercy for those deprived of it so long. The one thing you could do that would in some measure satisfy justice you refuse to give.

Mom is a verified abuser. Victims of abuse are not to blame for the abuse. The only time we start blaming the victim is when the victim refuses to leave the abusive situation! But you would hold me to blame because I won’t go back for more abuse. I don’t see the fairness in your reckoning. Perhaps this reckoning is based on your belief that no more abuse would ever occur because Mom has seen the light. I can’t subscribe to such magical thinking. As the oft-quoted proverb of George Santayana goes, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I can not and will not un-know the past. My future course will be plotted by remembering what went before so I am not condemned to perpetual repeats of history.

As could be predicted, this letter elicited an even nastier letter from my narcissist-trained father. I'll spare you the insanity.

My hard-earned ability to deflect the blame-machine's efforts to smear me has resulted in freedom from both of my abusive parents. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't let them smear the mud of their dirty selves onto you and then convince you that you made them dirty!


  1. So from your father's perspective, your mother's side of the problem is that she's a *itch and your side of the problem (apparently an even bigger problem than your mother's) is that you don't want to be the recipient of her *itchiness anymore. Nice fellow. Very thoughtful and understanding and empathetic. =P

  2. Sleep with the devil...become her right-hand man.

  3. Yes the never ending oddities of their speech. It drives me crazy this tactic that they use. It is like pointing a honking big piece of food on someones cheek and what do they do? The say you have a teeny spot of food on your cheek and you shouldn't be bothering them about theirs. Come on when you tell a person their faults or annoying traits in the right way it is a favor. (If they are normal)

    Then they can know that that big spot of food on their cheek is annoying someone else and remove it. I love friends who point out my oddities that are down right annoying and most of them are the result of the ever bad example before my eyes. The result I am trying to fix myself. If only a narcissist could realize that it is not bad to be critisized properly and kindly. It is a blessing.


  4. Forever dealing with this but esp. today. Thanks for writing your thoughts down because it helped me get out of my muddled worries. He won't take responsibility, he is forever twisting my words, he calls me every name in the books and I have persisted. Not no more. This year marks my tenth anniversary and my last.