name of art: "Effects of Child Abuse"
image is © Lise Winne
watercolor, ink and graphics, 2015
(for questions regarding use of images or to contract an image for your next article
contact: LilacGroveGraphics (att) yahoo.com)
People in healthy relationships work out differences by adopting these practices: "I am sorry." "I forgive you." "I want to understand what happened." "Let's work it out." "I want this relationship to work out, so let's talk it out." "I'm trying to understand where you are coming from." "Do we understand each other? I think that is what is most important right now before we hammer out a solution." "I know you are hurt, but I honestly didn't mean to do that." "I love you. The love is so much stronger than either of our agendas. So I hope there is a compromise we can both live with." "I'd love to resolve this with you so that we are both mostly satisfied, even if we can't be all satisfied." "This is a relationship. That means both of us have to be heard and considered." "You are so precious to me. I would love to work this out with you." "We can resolve this." "I'm so glad we can talk things out." "Let's make up!"
Most relationships fall into that category. It's what most people expect when they are in new relationships too. Which is why it throws a lot of us off guard when we encounter narcissists.
There is a huge difference in the way conflicts are approached when you are with a narcissist.
Narcissists work out differences by going on the attack. They have reprimanding sessions. Their favorite phrase is "You have a vivid imagination." Other attacks include: "I always knew you were crazy!" "I would never say that!" "It's your fault." "You are to blame for ALL of this!" "You know what's wrong with you? I'll tell you!" "You need to learn a lesson!" "I don't care if this relationship works out or it doesn't. I just don't want to hear any more." "If you say one more thing ..." "You need to apologize!" "I'm not going to dignify that with an answer!" "If that's the way you feel, I'm warning you! You'll pay for it!" "I'm sorry you feel that way." (coldly). "You're better than that!" "Wow! You need to get a grip!" "Ha! Ha! Guess what? I don't care!" "You're a spawn of the devil!" "How dare you!!"
And this is not all! Narcissists love (and I mean LOVE) the silent treatment as a weapon. Every time you want to talk normal, in a healthy way, you are met with a barrage of more reprimanding, blaming, stonewalling, patronizing, insults, goading and the sulking silent treatment unless you say exactly what the narcissist wants to hear. Except you'll never know what they want to hear because they are notorious for saying, "It should be obvious!" or "As if you didn't know!" They think everyone should read their minds! So, it is a guessing game. If you don't get the guess right, they just give you more of the silent treatment. It is more indicative of how three year olds act when they do not have good communication skills and want an adult to understand what they are feeling and thinking at all times.
If that wasn't enough, they also expect you to apologize when they've abused you. You are supposed to feel that they can't help but be abusive, that you have to give them a different set of moral standards than they give you. They think that all of their abusive tendencies are because it's someone else's fault and because everyone else except them is flawed and is deeply provoking to the narcissist. That is why they are personality disordered: their view of the world is that they are perfect and no one else is, so everything that goes wrong, even if it goes a little wrong, the blame has to go away from them and onto someone else. When they feel someone is to blame, they retaliate in the most destructive way they can, and feel their victim deserves it. They are teflon people with huge egos.
They have been known to be totally shocked and surprised when therapists tell them they are not so special, that they are not better than others. They have also been known to be just as dumbfounded when they've committed a crime and told they are as culpable and responsible for it as anyone who commits the same crime.
So, the result is that you can't work things out. The narcissist doesn't want to work things out; all he (or she) wants is for you to realize that your stature is lower than his, that you don't deserve equal treatment or to be considered, and that he has a right to belittle you, berate you, lecture you, insult you, dominate you, enslave you to his agenda and abuse you.
In the meantime, you are expected to walk on paper thin eggshells so that he doesn't attack you further.
People who have been brought up in normal households, mostly walk away from relationships with narcissists. Their parents have taught them good boundaries and what respect and understanding sounds like. When you grow up with addicted, neglectful, traumatized, psychologically disordered, abusive, borderline, narcissistic or sociopathic parents, your parents never taught you good boundaries, and your radar for sensing toxicity in a potential partner is compromised. Additionally, if you have been brought up as the scapegoat (where blame for everything that goes wrong in the family is heaped on you), or shaming (which is emotional abuse designed to make you feel worthless) or to feel you are flawed, then your guilt about it can override your boundaries. This is how narcissists slip into your life. Once they are in your life, they wreak havoc, bring misery and trauma, and they can even destroy you. And then you have to figure out how to safely extricate yourself from them (and make no mistake about it, safety is a big concern as perpetrators escalate violence when their target is just leaving, or right after the target has left).
The trauma is what is hardest to get over. Your "We can work it out" healthy attitudes are taken advantage of, stepped all over, and in the end, crucified. "We can work it out" in effect is met with an implied "You are crap! How dare you not capitulate to me!" or "How dare you criticize me!"
"We can work it out" should only be met with "Yes, we can work it out." If it is anything other than that, you are probably dealing with a toxic disordered person.
For a list of cluster B personality disorders that practice abuse and domestic violence go here.
To understand why narcissistic silent treatments are abuse and can cause trauma in their victims (C-PTSD), go here.
To understand why most abusers do not want to change the way they behave, go here.
If you think that you won't be abused if you do everything your abuser wants at all times, and that you are willing to be saintly and altruistic, think again and go here (abuse tends to escalate no matter what, and especially if you become docile, passive and don't fight for yourself).
Most abusers attack you on many levels: verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically, by triangulating, by raging and blaming, by expecting from you perfect execution of words and feelings that they approve of, through gaslighting, through blame-shifting and projection, through gossip and smear campaigns, through isolation tactics, through denouncing your feelings, through financial abuse or underhanded financial competition, through erroneous blaming, through any kind of injustice they can think of, through hypocrisy, and finally by pretending to be the victim of you. If your parent is abusive, they will most likely be playing nasty favoritism games between you and your siblings too, in addition to all of these attacks. If you are married, they are most likely putting you through love triangles. And if all of this is not enough, they get a gleeful attitude, a bounce in their step, a happy smile, which they try to make known to their target (victim) in any way they can -- in other words they "get off" on being abusive and getting away with abuse.
Hopelessness coupled with the trauma of having been abused, is why it hurts so much. Depression, sadness and internalized anger are often the outcomes.
I found this on Peace's facebook page (he has written a number of books under that pseudonym):