Monday, March 17, 2008

It Ain't Personal

On Feb. 17, 2008 I posted this blog about being "Devalued and Thrown on the Junk Heap". In the comments on the 18th I described the cat and mouse game of the narcissist. This was because there was a discussion on my assertion that what the narcissist does to you isn't personal. I used the cat and mouse as a way to describe the perspective of the predator toward its prey.

I mention the dates because I wanted it to be clear that I wrote about this before the author of this article did. His article came out on the 21st of Feb. His article is titled "Psychopaths' Cat and Mouse Game". What I really liked about the author's use of this analogy is that he took it to the same place I did...that it ain't personal:

When the psychopath takes you for a ride—that is, when he is victimizing people—it’s really not personal: You’re simply not enough of a person for it to be personal. In the psychopath’s eyes, you are an expedient, nothing more. When he crosses your path, the psychopath is assessing your expediency. He is asking himself, “Is there something this impending-sucker has for me? Is there something I can take from this fool that I want? Something I can take that will make me feel good?”

I realize this article is talking specifically about psychopaths, nevertheless, it applies to malignant narcissists as well. This is because both psychopaths and malignant narcissists are predatory. Since most psychopaths do not become serial killers the fact is most of their torment of their victims is psychological. Just like narcissists. Dr. Hare has established the fact that all psychopaths have a narcissistic personality pattern. Therefore, when we talk about psychopaths we can apply much of the discussion to malignant narcissists.

It really can't be over-emphasized that it isn't personal. Again, this is an important thing to grasp because it is essential for you to really know and feel how objectified you are in the narcissist's eyes. You are an object. Not a person.

Part of their manipulation of us is how they will pretend there is an emotional bond between you and them. You believe that they must love you in "their way". So you hang in there. You swallow more lies. You stick around because you live in vain hope of change. You feel guilty for breaking contact because you believe them when they say they love you. Instead of seeing how they use the word 'love' to keep you stuck, you choose to believe they care in some way because you care about them (being the decent person you are). And because you stay, they continue to have the power to torment you. Yes, it feels personal as they adjust their torments to your reactions. You mustn't be fooled by the customization of their torture of you. It is just how they maximize the amount of amusement they gain at your expense. It is all about their pleasure, their gain, their lusts. It's not about you.

If you have determined that you are in a relationship with a narcissist or psychopath you need to expunge the word love from your expectations of them or your beliefs about their feelings toward you, or anyone. They do not know what love is. They can say the word. That is all it is to them -- a word. They know the power that little word has over you, but they do not experience love on an emotional level. They only use the word because they know it has emotional meaning to you. If you can really absorb the reality that they don't love you, that they never loved you, it will greatly facilitate your ability to walk away. And not only walk away, but to disentangle your own emotions from them. Residual worry on your part that you've 'hurt' them in some way emotionally by leaving will vanish because you will know down to your bone marrow that they were never connected to you emotionally by bonds of love. Or even hate. You were no more a person than your Lazy Boy lounge chair in the living room. When you can really know that, you'll be free both body and soul.

Remember my maxim: when words contradict actions you must believe the actions over the words or you'll end up being someone's meal. Don't believe protestations of love when the actions consistently contradict how love is truly demonstrated. Add to that this truth as it applies to torments dished out by narcissists: it ain't personal. You are only a means to an end to them.

For the full article mentioned above, read here.


So, what IS in a heart? said...

Oh, they "love" you alright. They "love" you hurt. -_-

Jeannette Altes said...

Wow. This is at the crux of my struggle right now. How do you wrap your mind around the idea that your mother, over the 40+ years of your life, has never really cared about you? My head knows, but my emotions are struggling. Thanks for this post. How can they do the most horrible things to us emotionally and we still want to believe they love us? Argh!!

Anonymous said...

There's a bit of consolation in understanding it ain't personal when it comes to people you don't expect or need to have love you. Knowing it ain't personal when it comes to my mother and soon to be ex-husband is something else again.
It is absolutely (ignore it to your everlasting sorrow) TRUE that ACTIONS are the only reliable indicator. If they don't match the words, skedaddle right on out of that relationship!

Anonymous said...

Narcissists translate language differently than normal people - words of emotion are translated only in terms of how much they can manipulate you with them, they have no intrinsic meaning to someone with no emotions (other than for themselves, that is).

You: love means caring, wanting that person to be happy

The N: love means you do what I want, I use that word and get what I want from you

Etc. Don't forget, N's have no empathy, so they feel NOTHING for you. NOTHING. Got it? say it over and over NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING!!!

Anonymous said...

One of the things that has helped me stay 'no contact' is to hold constant in my mind that my Ns USED everything that is PERSONAL of what is MINE. It doesn't matter if (in the beginning), it was unwittingly (on my part) or if I LET them (later....when I was too worn down by them). It was MY 'person', MY time, MY energy, MY 'things', MY emotions, MY body, MY 'sense' of life. That's why it feels so PERSONAL. It hurt(s)me ONLY because I loved and my love had that kind of depth and dimension...and it was wasted on Npeople who only saw it as OPPORTUNITY. I could have been ANY naiive, available person. Was I 'targeted'? Only in the same sense that a rapist 'targets'. My process for healing REQUIRES that I RECLAIM (for myself) all that belongs to ME...that I learn to 'self-reference'....learn WHEN and to whom I say 'yes' and 'no' to. The more value I place on myself, the more careful I am of sharing what is 'personal'/MINE.


Cathy said...

I think why so many wrestle with this whole thing is because our Narcisstic mothers are the antithesis of all that God created a mother to be and it is highly unnatural to have to make the decisions we have had to make with respect to said mother who is and does things so incomprehensible and incongruent with what a mother should be that your mind finds it hard to wrap around such a horrible truth.

That is why your blog is so helpful, Anna, in identifying what is truly going on.

Anonymous said...

The only way to separate it out is put emotions in the background and see it for what it is. Never look back. My relationship with Nmon and Nsib is amicable, businesslike. There is no love, there cannot be. They drive me crazy still with their actions just like an insensitive co-worker or boss. They can't hurt me beyond that anymore. When I recall childhood pain and confusion before I became enlightened about narcissism, it still hurts. But now, while it is very tough to deal with them, it doesn't torment me emotionally due to the acceptance. I actually feel relief, because I no longer wonder why - there is a logical reason for the craziness.

It is up to us to find acceptance in the truth, and I really believe we can be OK.

Writer in Washington said...

I agree that the hardest part is that my Nmom should have loved me, but didn't. It took me years to accept it, and the help of my husband, but I have been able to look that square in the face. And allow myself to be angry about it. That was always forbidden, only righteous indignation was ever acceptable in my FOO. Except for her of course, she had regular temper tantrums.

Writer in Washington said...

PS: I think I was more of a servant than anything. I was the caretaker/rescuer/"responsible" daughter who ended up with all the S*** detail for everyone. Including caring for both of my parents when they died from cancer. My Dad had enough good grace to apologize to me for how he'd treated me, and allowed her to treat me, all of my life. Had to be dying to do it, though. She never did admit to anything. But she died in mortal terror of death--I think she was afraid of facing God with all the debt she owed to us. So, there is some justice. JK

Constance said...

You described the cop I adored for four years to a "T".

Thank you for this post. Every single sentence is chillingly true.

He even told me towards the end that he just thought of me as an object, like any other beautiful woman he'd see walking on the street when he was out on patrol.

And you know what ? It wasn't personal - you are right.

He's just sick, and you identified the whole game...

I'll be back to

Found you via Babe's blog...

Wrote a post about him on my blog in January of this year, called 'Every Lie He Ever Told Me'.

Malignant narcissist or psychopath - either or both are definitely predatory, and enjoy the torment they dish out so skillfully.

It IS all about them. Wow. I wish I'd read this a long time ago, but I'm clear on it now, instead of being mislead by pretty lies and kept on the string.

His words were always contradicted by his actions. I'll be alert for that next time I meet someone - and be out the door a.s.a.p. if I see that pattern again.

All the connections he claimed he felt for me since the day we met were as illusory as a fog bank.

Loving Annie

Constance said...

oops, Anna, that post about the cop was on my nice girl blog, http;// - not the erotica one.

I've been skimming through your other posts. This is SUCH useful information, and so clearly and well-written. THANK YOU. I'm sorry you had to live through it to learn it - but grateful you write this so others can benefit and understand.

Loving Annie

jacqueline said...

Anna, great line "If you can really absorb the reality that they don't love you, that they never loved you, it will greatly facilitate your ability to walk away." It's all about tearing down the lies and rebuilding on truth. Extremely painful, incredibly courageous, But oh so rewarding when you finally come through to the other side!!

Anna Valerious said...

It's all about tearing down the lies and rebuilding on truth.

That is exactly what it is all about. Facing truth does present its difficulties, but in the end truth is much kinder than lies. A painful truth is healing if accepted. A painful truth rejected will guarantee that wounds will fester and grow. You are right -- it takes much courage to face truth, but the reward for doing so is ... priceless.

Anonymous said...

I have now spent three days pouring over Anna's blog and countless other sites I have found on the net. I have been utterly transfixed by hearing my own mother so accurately described by Anna and others. This has come to me after nearly 40 years of bafflement over what I could possibly have done to earn the degree of abuse, derision and spite I have received from my own mother. My overriding belief over the years has been that, if I can only figure out how, I will be able to make her love me, or at the very least, stop her from being so cruel. Now I feel myself being liberated from this vain and torturous struggle. I am sensing the emergence in me of a very deep grief, accompanied by enormous relief, to discover that what I most feared, is actually true. My mother doesn't love me, never did and never will because she is incapable of loving anyone. I am, and have only ever been, an object to be manipulated by her. I couldn't accept this truth before as I couldn't believe such a truth existed and because it was just too frightening. Now I am ready to hear that truth. They say when the pupil is ready the teacher will appear. Anna, I only found your blog because, for the first time in my life, I switched my obsession from trying to find out what was wrong with me to what was wrong with her! Someone mentioned personality disorders to me when I was talking about my mother and when I got home I started googling. I came across a few sites on NPD and found myself reading about my mother. Then I got to this site and the scales started to fall from my eyes (along with buckets of tears!). The work you are doing Anna is the work of an angel, you are a messenger of truth and hope. On one of your pages you say that you hope your writing will help those who read it to 'fortify your soul for the battle'. You have indeed achieved this aim with mine. Bless you.

Anonymous said...

I found the post by lara francis very moving.
It is amazing that MNs can get away with what they do for so many years, but it is wonderful how just visiting blogs like yours Anna can suddenly bring enlightenmnent. That's why they get away with what they do - because most people do not know anything about MN. I wish that it could be part of the education system.

Anna Valerious said...

I found the post by lara francis very moving.

As do I. Thank you, Lara. God bless as you embark on life more abundant.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna, my N-SIL jumps fm one religion to another ... and she is fm a convent school! She brings her husband and her daughters (since age two yrs old) fm one religion to another ... 5 religions now ... and counting ... the daughters are now age 10 and 8 years old ... the N-SIL is also very superstitious. Is this normal for Ns ... how will these daughters be affected ... being brought from one religion to another as the mother insists they come along and also the husband. The husband used to be a cheerful confident man. Today, he is a shadow of himself...

Anna Valerious said...

Is it normal for Ns to jump from one religion to another? Not necessarily. Not all Ns behave identically. They can, in fact, behave in ways that seem opposite from other Ns. Yet, when you dig just a little bit you can find they all have similar motivations. How they go about getting their way can vary person to person. Which is why I mostly focus on principles of their behavior and less on how individual Ns may set about getting their way. Ns adapt to their environment. Which is why one N may completely neglect their children, but another N may be intrusively and overly involved with their children. Both are seeking attention and sources of supply...though they may get it in entirely different ways.

I don't know how to predict the effect this religion shopping will have on her children. But I can say that whatever effect it may have, this is likely the least of these kids' problems where it concerns their N mother. The jumping around from religion to religion is a symptom of a much bigger pathology. What is happening in that home is doing much more damage than church-hopping is.

A man is not reduced to a shadow of his former self just because wifey insists he go from church to church and religion to religion with her. The abuse and control she exerts in her home is what does that. Her husband was not as confident as he may have looked at the beginning of their marriage. A strong man would not stay married to a castrating female. His weaknesses made her 'strength' look appealing to him. Unfortunately, he didn't predict that she would eventually put his man parts in a lock box.

Jeannette Altes said...

This comment (Anonymous March 21) is interesting. Your response as well. My mother does not jump from religion to religion, but she wants to seem to be an expert on them all.

From your response, Anna:

"Which is why one N may completely neglect their children, but another N may be intrusively and overly involved with their children."

My mother managed to accomplish both. Like you said, they are not all identical. She was totally unaware and neglectful as to what was really going on in my life - like being molested by another family member - but was constantly in the middle of anything that I was involved in that she thought she might be able to do better. She also has to be friends with all my friends. Couldn't have me talking to someone that she didn't have influence over.

From the outside, it is difficult for people to believe that she neglected me because she always seemed so involved. I would sound nuts because I would seem to be saying,"You don't care," and then, "Leave me alone." No wonder things can be so confusing. I am still trying to sort it all out, myself.

These blogs and comments are invaluable to me in the process of sorting out the truth from the lies. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anna, this blog has helped me a LOT!!! My sister is an N. My brother has been even more deeply damaged by her than I was. He's a lost soul at age 47, no ambitions or desires to live life fully. It makes me hate my sister to see what she's done, as I love him very much (he's 10 years younger than I am).

My question: how does one bring a person so deeply damaged to the light when they have no impetus to heal themselves? He's very angry and bitter, this vacillates with passivity. Ns are such damaging people (we're both no contact with the sister, BTW). Thanks again for a wonderful blog.

Anna Valerious said...

My question: how does one bring a person so deeply damaged to the light when they have no impetus to heal themselves?

You don't. And to believe you can bring them to the light so they can 'heal' is to embark on a futile endeavor, at best. You can't bring them to the light, but they can suck you into their darkness.

Anonymous said...

All that separates a malignant N from a P is an O, or zero.

Anonymous said...

I realize it's been almost a year since this was posted, (and my apologies for the length) but I felt a little pang about the last two comments. Regarding "Anonymous" comment:
'My question: how does one bring a person so deeply damaged to the light when they have no impetus to heal themselves? He's very angry and bitter, this vacillates with passivity.'

I may have misread it, but I think you, Anna, responded to the question in terms of whether there is help for a N. Your reply obviously makes sense in that there's no chance of the N 'recovering', but I think the question was about helping the brother, a target of the Nsister, now lost and suffering.

I feel a blaring alarm go off inside me when it appears that an appeal for Nsupport is denied or misunderstood (in this case, definitely the latter), especially concerning men. I certainly feel it for female targets, as well, myself included. I just know how much the issue of masculinity can block a man from admitting how a woman was able to manipulate and control him, whether it was his Nmother, Nsister, Nanyb*t*h.

When I met my boyfriend, he was literally dying from the secrets he was keeping of almost 35 years of abuse by his Nmother. He was deeply buried in shame, chronically suicidal, feeling hopelessly alone and bound by the 'golden handcuffs' Nmother slapped on him from birth.

Five years later, though he is struggling, he finally sees hope and has found liberating clarity. He has just a few obstacles left to achieve no contact with Nmother, and is rebuilding his life and healing in ways western medicine called impossible, physically & mentally/emotionally (me too). It's been painful but AMAZING to love him thru his awakening and see him break free from her. It is nothing short of magic.

Having experienced it in the dual role of being a target of a N myself, as well as watching someone I love resigned to suffer in silence, I really identified with the Anonymous poster's question. Despite this, and knowing that healing is possible even from the bleakest state, I couldn't think of how I would advise her. The desperation I felt to help my bf find help before too late was suddenly so raw again when I read that question, as if I went back in time 3 or 4 years. I suppose a large part of it is that I'm interested to read how you would answer the poster's question.

I mean no disrespect in pointing this misunderstanding out, Anna.

I have held such anger towards the countless individuals (doctors, therapists, teachers, family members, etc) who denied validation and help to the man I love, literally watching him die from his suffering, and, in fact, contributing. (I am NOT implying any wrong doing on your part!) I guess it's that feeling of injustice that urged me to bring it up. It's amazing how reading your posts helps me cope with the anger.

The last five days of reading your blog (&aloud to my bf) has filled in so many of those tiny gaps in clarifying just how Nshe stole him from himself, and me from myself (not to mention every other life she's infiltrated).

Your writing is so clear and human, and for us, it's invaluable that you write from a non-psychotherapy background. Nmother (my future NMIL) is in the profession and has used it ruthlessly. I recognize so much of what you describe the Christian enablers doing, that blocks validation and healing, in the professional 'therapy' perspective N has used on us all.

In a very short time, you have flown to the very tip top of my short list of trusted resources for coping with Ns. If possible I'd love your thoughts on the original 'Anonymous' question, but I'm sure I will also find some info somewhere else in your postings.

It's uncanny how those gaps, the little bits that still didn't fit after 3+yrs of studying up on Ns are represented in the titles of your posts! It's the first time that reading N themed material has purely lifted my boyfriend, rather than overwhelmed him. A new sense of confidence and determination has surfaced in him as a result. For all of this, and much more, I am truly grateful to you.

Anna Valerious said...

You're right. I did misunderstand the question. Oy. Musta missed my morning coffee that day.

I think your and your boyfriend's experience have testified to what my answer would be. My answer is contained on my blog. Truth is the only remedy that will crack open the door to freedom, relief, healing. How to present that truth to a specific individual? I can't answer that question.

You who read this blog are being taught principles. I try to make those principles clear. You who know the people you're concerned about can reach these locked up people with truth because you're connected to them by love. It is our genuine concern for others which will have any possibility of opening someone's heart up to receive truth. If someone doesn't think that the person they are concerned about would benefit from reading my blog then perhaps they can distill what they've learned and present it in their own words and way.

There are many other avenues that hope and healing can reach us by. I can't possibly know what will work for any particular person. I have worked hard to make my understanding of healing truths accessible to others. It is what I know. I would think that if someone has found help and hope here that it would be self-evident that it could do the same for someone else who is trapped in a nightmare with a N.


It's all so interesting and enlightening. I had never heard of Narcissism as a personality disorder. I did, however, realize that my husbands family was 'off', even crazy. I was lead to believe that his mother was friendly and wonderful. It all came apart within the first two weeks of our marriage when my husband told me that if I ever kept him from seeing his mother, he would never forgive me. His parents were divorced and I had given absolutely no cause to say this to me, I thought that it was part of a worry for him to need to help take care of her. I cried and moved on. He was always distant, never really letting me too close or connected. I felt that all he could feel was taken by his Mom and there just wasn't any left for me. Somehow I plowed through thinking this would end, surely he 'knew' and wanted the same thing as me. Connection, a real relationship... I was busy being a mother of 4 and still loved life. He did sabotage many things I wanted to do. I didn't finish college because he would be jealous of the homework. I love art and took oil painting that ended due to his constant complaint of the expense. Slowly the intensity increased until I have had it. I am now 49; I married at 24 and have 4 kids. I went through a lot and believe it or not I always knew it wasn't me. Even though my husband would tell me that if I would change things would be fine. That everyone likes him and thinks he's a great person.
I am happy, I decided a long time ago that I can make that choice, no matter what the circumstance may be at any given time. Some days are harder, sadder than others, yet overall I feel good about myself. Thank goodness for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that I do not have to be the judge of others. The price of my pain has been felt and paid for by only HE who could endure it. I can lay it as his feet. Today I am still married and hold no fear for the future. We have been in counseling for 1 1/2 years now with no real changes. He still threatens to leave and he won't be finding me preventing it. He actually left tonight, only to return after a short while. There is no way have to communicate with him. There's plenty of surface conversations which seem to confuse him into thinking that is the connection I'm seeking and longing for. Thank you for having a blog to read. It's sad that N's can't change. He learned it from his N mother, she implanted it all too well.

Don said...


You are a Godsend right now, I have never read such well articulated material regarding NPD, it is a blessing for those of us who struggle with this.

I have struggled with an NM all my life, I am 56 she is now 80.
I have between NC and LC for the past 5 years, going good amounts of time but then giving in over holidays and pressure from other family.

Every time I do have contact it is like being stung by a wasp and I suffer for days if not a couple of weeks before I gain my composure and some normalcy so I can focus on work and important things... instead of having my mind clouded with emotional angst.

I have had this reaction from listening to a voice mail, or just seeing a letter in the mail from her.

would you kindly explain these feelings that arise with contact..this pain that occurs inside when simple contact is initiated with the NM?? that can throw me for days..?

I do not know where to begin with my story, but I will in another post.

needless to say however, is that I am like many others here wandering in and out of this FOG and finally getting more clarity and insight from being here.

Thank you so much for this blog Anna and the insight you share with us.



Anna Valerious said...

Hi Don,

You posed this question on another blog post. I have attempted to answer it there. Copy and paste the tiny url below.

Amy said...

What makes me furious about these people is not that it's not personal. It's that they pretend MY own behaviour is personal. Whenever my mother did not agree with something I did and had (like being happier, more intelligent, having more material security than she, a better relationship with my father than she), she found quickly excuses to say "You are being like that / doing that on purpose, all in order to hurt me. I know you and your father, you are one of a kind, always conjuring to hurt me!"
Ugh. I can understand how hurt and unhappy she is underneath all that, but still, I can neither bear it nor help her. Boy, am I glad to have cut the ties.