Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Your Memory -- Use it

The article I referenced in two earlier posts, "Narcissism and the Dynamics of Evil", is a treasure trove of observation, insight and profound wisdom. I suspect I'll be spotlighting various points in this article from time to time because many of the author's points should be emphasized to maximize their impact.

The article makes an important observation and recommendation that I think we would all do well to digest and absorb especially since it goes directly against what our narcissists have worked hard to train and prevent us from doing. Underlining and emphasis mine:
Man is a person, from the Latin persona (through sound). He longs to express himself, to communicate himself to others, whether depraved or not. Just as those who contemplate the marvelous or the beautiful cannot hold themselves but will cry out in praise of what they behold, so too the depraved cannot help but on occasion burst out and spit their bile, thus providing others a momentary glimpse of their interior rot. Moments such as these are clues that must be stored in the memory and, like disparate pieces of a puzzle, assembled later in order to acquire a more complete picture, which will be a horror to behold, or an experience of terror -- if the narcissist discovers that he has been found out by you. The clues, in isolation, will suggest only minor imperfections or character flaws. But taken together over a number of years, they suggest something much more ominous. The inconsistencies evident in the behaviour of the narcissist -- prior to his discovery -- should never be simply accepted, only to be forgotten. Rather, one must ponder the inconsistencies in behaviour until they become consistent, that is, until the apparently inconsistent behaviour acquires an intelligible narrative that rings true.
This is truth profoundly well-stated. Notice, first of all, you likely won't perceive the narcissist quickly. The author is describing a rather elongated process ("a number of years") not a snap impression. This may seem discouraging if you're looking for a quick way to read someone so you can avoid a blood-sucking narcissist. There are signs you can look for so as to spot one more quickly, but I'm not addressing that in this particular post. Many of us who have been entangled with a narcissist have been in that entanglement for years already. Especially when we are talking about an adult child of a narcissist or a marriage. Years have become decades. So this quote above is especially relevant if you've had a long contact with the evil narcissist.

The one thing which is a clear and present threat to the narcissist's reality revisionism is your memory. I am sure you can think back right now and immediately recall how the narcissist has tried to subvert, change, re-invent, disparage, lie and deny your memory of every one of those moments when his true colors were displayed. Those moments when his "interior rot" was exposed. The narcissist is supremely agitated when you dare to voice your recall of events which reflect badly on him. Accusations are hurled at you about how you are "unwilling to let go of the past", you're "unforgiving", cruel and mean-spirited. The hypocrisy of these accusations we'll overlook for now as there is nothing like a narcissist for loving to rehearse your past ad nauseum when it suits him. What we are focusing on right now is how the narcissist is always actively working to prevent you from forming "an intelligible narrative" of who she is by her campaign to discredit and invalidate your memories of her bad acts. The very thing you need to do the narcissist is desperately working to prevent you from doing.

"The inconsistencies evident in the behaviour of the narcissist -- prior to his discovery -- should never be simply accepted, only to be forgotten. Rather, one must ponder the inconsistencies in behaviour until they become consistent, that is, until the apparently inconsistent behaviour acquires an intelligible narrative that rings true."
What this requires is that you pay attention to those behaviors which seem inconsistent and which strike you as being wrong or "off". Early on in a relationship you may just accept these as anomalies, but do not forget. I am not suggesting you take an unforgiving and harsh attitude in your relationships. I'm simply saying pay attention to those moments when your inner radar is alerted and don't just dismiss your impressions and observations and flush your memory banks. Your memory is essential in the long term if you are going to make sense of what may not make sense at the time it is happening. If what you've seen or experienced is truly an inconsistent moment the passage of time will testify to that. Over time, though, inconsistencies may very well become consistent in what they reveal. You must be willing to use your memory and re-form the narrative of your relationship with this person when you have enough evidence on hand to do so. Do not let another person have the power to force you to revise your memories to suit them.

If you've already had a long term relationship with someone you suspect is a disordered character of some sort then now is a good time to start searching the vaults of your memory and reassembling the pieces of the picture into something that makes sense. Do not cave to the demands of this person to "stop delving into the past". Don't be intimidated by their assertions of what a mean person you are being because you are daring to use your memory. As the oft-quoted proverb of George Santayana goes, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There is little hope you will escape the grasp of a narcissist, psychopath, sociopath if you are unwilling to follow the simple advice of Santayana. By the way, it is not an unloving or un-Christian thing to use your memory and form a correct explanation for your relationship with someone. God gave you a memory...use it.

Once again, your best defense against the malignant narcissist is to think. You're going to have to use your memory and your judgment if you're going to minimize the damage these individuals inflict on your life and those around you. Notice I said your memory and your judgment. Narcissists are diligent in their efforts to have you substitute yours for theirs. When you allow that to happen you render yourself defenseless against them. The tools of self-defense against these people are in your possession. It is up to you whether or not you use them. Narcissists know your memory and your judgment are your best defense against them which is why they work so hard to disarm you of them.


Anonymous said...

I would swear we have the same mother. ;)

Anonymous said...

And if you're afraid of being gaslighted, or talked into "forgiving and forgetting," start a journal. Write down what happened, the date and time. And then, go back and refer to the incident if your memory is later called into question.

I have found this quite effective.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I have the same mother too...creepy.

JW said...

I have a great memory but I have always been the kind of person to just let bygones be bygones and not really make judgments about people. But when I did start to think that I had been emotionally damaged and manipulated by a narcissistic coworker, my memory went into overdrive and I started to write down everything that I could recall about this person's behavior. It was enough to pretty much form a consistent pattern of disordered behavior.

Hellboy said...

Hi Anna,

This is another of your posts that channeled my thinking in the right direction.

Despite knowing that my Father is a classic N, my mind always used to find excuses for his behaviour and doubt used to surface at times; thoughts like "perhaps he did what he did for my own good" or "he is not as bad as I think" etc.

On reading this post, I trudged down memory lane and scribbled down many memories of his heinous behaviour and all doubt dissapeared.

Thanks once again,


Unknown said...

This is very helpful and validating to what I've bee sharing with my NPD mother and golden child brother & sister- THANK YOU-

Unknown said...

I have taped my last and FINAL 'discussion' with my narcissistic friend and have sent her the taped recording :)

No names allowed said...

My n partner found a way to subvert my normally excellent memory. He manipulated and bullied me into eating as poorly as him, which got me very fat, very quickly. I developed sleep apnea, which among other things, deprives the brain of oxygen while you are "asleep". This ruined my ability to recall or interpret events, and made me the perfect victim. Ironically, it wasn't until he came home one day and announced he had met someone else and that he was moving out that I finally had a reason to go to a doctor and not accept "I don't know what's wrong with you" as an answer. That got me my diagnosis, and I'm now being treated. My brain has now recovered and I am able to see what he is doing as it happens. It makes me so goddamn angry that I let this happen to me, but a least now I can see it. Needless to say my exit has been planned. NC here I come.