Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Narcissist's Inability to Thank

Now we move on to the denial of gratitude in the second part of the article, "Denial of Remorse and Gratitude". A relationship with a narcissist is filled with many complexities, yet those complexities are only variations on a theme once you learn the music. The relationship is dysfunctional beyond all description, yet it can be described once you understand the basic principles that motivate the narcissist. While descriptions of the narcissist are helpful in sorting out the mess, this little expose on the narcissist's inability to show true remorse or gratitude goes a long way toward explaining what is twisted in the everyday dynamic of a relationship with them. The two tools that lubricate human relationships are apologies and gratitude. They are essential components needed to keep intimacy intact. The narcissist's non-apologies and refusal to give gratitude increase the emotional distance and cause irreparable damage to the relationship over time. If we can recognize what is really happening as it is happening then we can quit contributing to the problem. We contribute to the problem by pretending to ourselves that we've really received an apology or a genuine expression of thanks. Then we beat ourselves up because we don't feel like things were made right therefore we feel cold and distant from the other person. We blame ourselves which makes us less able to see where the problem really is.

The article describes the bait and switch of "conferring approval". You get a pat on the back along with a granting of approval for how you did something, but no "thank you" is in sight. You may get fooled by the flattery of someone telling you that you did a good job and wrongly assume they are expressing thanks. Think again. Only a person who is more knowledgeable, more skilled, or more experienced can confer approval on you for what you've done or accomplished. It is from a position of superiority from which we dispense approval. "You did a good job" versus "I appreciate what you've done". One is a pat on the head, the other appreciation for a favor received. If someone is giving you a pat on the head stop and ask yourself if they are in a position of superiority in that area over you. A teacher/student relationship, a parent/minor child relationship, employer/employee relationship can be appropriate for the conferral of approval on your deeds. But in a relationship of equals such as a friend, spouse, co-worker, church member, etc., one needs to assess whether or not the receipt of approval is appropriate for what you've done. Did you do them a favor? Then thanks are in order, not a comment of approval issued down from on high. Recognize the condescension inherent in the conferral of approval from an equal. The message couldn't be clearer. They don't need you in any way. In some way you owed it to them....they only are acknowledging receipt of what was due. They feel generous while they pat you on the head; in their minds that pat is more than you deserve. The narcissist can only remain in a relationship where both you and he treat him as superior in all ways. This makes genuine gratitude on his part impossible. He doesn't need you....he bequeaths you with the honor of his presence. You show him gratitude by doing nice things for him. Its the least you can do.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing that. I am glad that I can see it written down so clearly.

Oh for a little respect from my mother that would be so nice. She expects a lot but she can't give it to me.


Girl From the Ville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WarriorMOMMY said...

This is so true. Over the years I cannot remember a time where I have been thanked or shown gratitude for anything I have done. Always switched around to how I should be doing things for her (my NMother) since she fed me and put me through private school 20 years ago.

No thanks, and never once an apology for any of her atrocities committed over the years. Apparently she is above common human courtesies and manners. Yet God help you if you don't say thank you for even the smallest thing that she does, albeit begrudgingly, for you.

Patrick said...

Wow. Just wow. This explains so much of the dynamic from my ex. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Without people like you taking your time writing things like this people like me would just go the rest of their life wondering what we did wrong and what was wrong with us.