When we have a potential or actual Narcissist in our lives, often the things we say and do can actually facilitate the Narcissist’s abuse of us. This, of course, will not be true of every victim of Narcissism. It’s helpful to examine which category you fall into, especially if you are unsure or new to the issue of narcissism and dysfunctional relationships.
There are some things to consider in order to avoid inviting and/or allowing family, friends and co-workers to abuse you. One thing I learned when I began recovering from narcissistic abuse relationships is that I needed to stop certain behaviors that invited abuse in the first place. There were things I was saying and doing, often subconsciously, that attracted the negative feelings of others and left me wide open to disdain and disrespect.
It led to more than a few people abusing me. I was pretty angry about it, because I knew that I was a good person and did not deserve that treatment — especially since I was having so many challenges.
What took me a long time to understand is that people who are basically good people still have unresolved issues. If we are saying and doing things that trigger their unresolved issues, or their actual personality disorder (which we may or may not be aware of), we are leaving ourselves wide open for abuse and/or betrayal. See my case in point below the following list.
1. Notice what is their usual m.o. Is it cheerful? Is it easy-going? Is it friendly? Forgiving? If it’s mostly negative, avoid them.
2. Are they a loyal, circumspect (discretionary) type of person? If so, they’re a keeper.
3. Are they overly controlling? Do they always need to “be the boss?” Do they talk “at” you? Are they intimidating, especially to you? Do you allow all of this behavior while being very uncomfortable and knowing full well that it is wrong? These are major red flags that someone has issues you don’t want to take on. It only gets worse with time.
4. Don’t engage in too much self-disclosure, even with close friends. When people know your private business, especially the negative stuff, they often judge you and start thinking of you differently and treating you differently. Some even start thinking you’re a jinx and will avoid you and even gossip about you.
5. Don’t be a downer, and don’t complain about stuff too much: politics, societal deterioration, your crazy family, the weather… whatever!
6. Don’t reveal too much about your personal challenges. Do so, if you must, by talking about it generally or vaguely, and always with a rational tone and a positive end note.
7. Don’t be too self-deprecating, except in a humorous way that is silly or preposterous. If we denigrate ourselves, we are only revealing our low self-esteem, and giving them permission to disrespect us.
8. Don’t talk about your fears too intensely. Speak generally and rationally. Joke about fears. (“Hey, I might end up a bag lady, but probably not. There’s always a way out.”)
9. Don’t disclose private details about relationships, or financial and legal details. When we’re having trouble, we’re tempted to confide in people. Don’t.
10. Don’t trust people with your secrets. Like them, engage with them, but don’t expect people – even your best friends – to keep secrets. They can’t. Secrets are always juicy. It’s human nature to feel compelled to share something juicy. People will use secrets against you more often than you believe. You’re setting yourself up for betrayal if you think you can control a secret once it’s out there.
11. Don’t trust people too much. Don’t engage in naive trust. Don’t kid yourself that people will always or usually take the high road. These days, you never know what you’ll get. Practice healthy discretion, don’t get too attached too quickly or easily. Look and listen for the right cues and make good choices.
12. Don’t use friendships or romantic partners for therapy. Work on your difficult challenges with a professionally trained counselor.
13. Stop being a “truth-teller.” Meaning: (1) only tell your own truths; and (2) choose your battles. Kellevision has written an excellent article on this issue: Scapegoats: Stop Telling the Truth. If you’re the Family Scapegoat, you need to read that article. Many victims of Narcissistic Abuse are the Family Scapegoat and have been for many years.
14. Last but not least: GET OUT OF “VICTIM CONSCIOUSNESS.” Stop playing the victim. People don’t give a shit. They really don’t. They’ve got their own problems. This isn’t 1970. This is the Brave New World. Get with the program — especially if you’re over 50 and remember a kindler, gentler world. If you don’t know how to do it, learn. There is a wealth of material everywhere about moving out of victim consciousness.
15. Remain positive and upbeat as much as possible. Life is for enjoying!
My own case in point about attracting abuse:
In 1996 I met “S,” a woman who became my friend for 6 years until I finally ended the friendship. I have not seen this former friend since mid-2002. I cut off the friendship when I realized that she was actually very critical, judgmental, intolerant, closed-minded, stubborn and verbally abusive. I knew that it was only going to stay the same. Indeed, it was getting worse.
“S” was a jovial sort and a lot of fun, so at the beginning our friendship developed easily and quickly. The first couple of years were fairly abuse-free, although after about 12 months we made plans to share a home together a couple of different times, several months apart. Both times she backed out at the last minute, vehemently denying that she had ever agreed to such a thing, causing me inconvenience and financial and emotional stress.
After the second time you’d think one would dump such a friend, but I forgave her and carried on with the friendship. That is a clear message, a clear invitation to someone that you are willing to accept whatever they dish out. And let me tell you: they lose respect and then the abuse escalates. The longer you give them a pass, the worse the abuse becomes.
“S” was very spiritually oriented in a metaphysical way. Sometime during the final two years of our friendship, “S” had been told by a metaphysical healer from South America, a woman who called herself Maria Christina, that she was “karma-free.” People, don’t EVER believe that ANYONE on the face of this planet is free from issues! As long as we are alive, to the day we die, all of us – every single one of us – face issues and challenges. It’s the nature of life.
It was after being told that she’d resolved almost all of her issues that ”S” became particularly arrogant, argumentative and difficult to deal with, though there’d been signs of these things much earlier. “S” actually had a lot of self-loathing and unresolved issues, like many of us do to varying degrees. At one point about 3 years into our friendship she started carrying on about her teenage grand-daughter and what a loser she was. The grand-daughter was exhibiting all of the same behaviors and circumstances “S” had engaged in and brought upon herself in her own youth.
We had both studied Scientific Prayer Treatment (Religious Science — NOT Scientology). I suggested that we become prayer partners and direct some treatments toward her grand-daughter. She didn’t want to do that, although I suggested it several times. She also didn’t want to stop criticizing and complaining about her grand-daughter. She wouldn’t even think a positive thought about her own grand-daughter or try to help make things better! Finally, I told “S” that I couldn’t force her to be a prayer partner or help her grand-daughter, but I no longer wanted to hear her incessant criticism and complaints about the girl.
Then I began having some very serious employment and financial challenges due to the recession and my attempts to be self-employed. I was also having trouble disentangling from a very narcissistic and abusive lover. That’s when “S” began abusing me verbally. It was subtle at first. Still, I didn’t make any attempts to avoid her. What I ended up doing was constantly complaining and fretting to her about the events and circumstances of my life.
It became a very unfortunate habit, and went on for far too long. This was during a time when the father of my children was behaving very badly, and I was dealing with things like death threats, etc., things for which I should have been seeing a counselor and disengaging from several toxic people, including “S” and the abusive lover.
After I later became involved with a man who was a self-described black sheep of the family and turned out to be a loser and a con artist, “S” actually took his side. She revealed to him a lot of my personal history that was none of his business, nor was it moral or ethical for her to reveal those very private things she’d been told in confidence.
“S” also had a female neighbor who held herself out to be a psychic. I did not like this woman’s energy and I didn’t care for her attitude and demeanor at all. This woman, this self-described “psychic,” told me after hearing all the gory details about the man, that I would end up marrying him and be very happy. Huh? That woman had an agenda, and it definitely wasn’t in my best interests. I was a sucker then (a masochistic glutton for punishment), but not that big a sucker.
Looking back, I see that the things I had noticed as I got to know “S” were actually red flags. First of all, “S” had become a 16 year old unwed mother in the late 1950′s and had been been kicked out of the house by her moralistic parents. She’d gone on to marry the high school boyfriend, and had another child. She became a single mom, a drug addict, kicked the habit fairly soon, had a third child out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption, became an alcoholic for a while, met a guy at AA who was a drug addict/alcoholic/con man bum, proceeded to marry him, got Hep C from him, got cured… there’s a whole lot more… you get the picture.
One other thing comes to mind that was a huge red flag, had I really paid attention: “S” told me that she used to regularly steal others women’s boyfriends and not give a damn about it. She was quite cavalier in describing the various scenarios.
I ended up dumping the friendship with “S,” because her level of abuse and her betrayal was over-the-top. The last time I ever spoke on the telephone with her was on July 2, 2002. I realized that I never wanted to speak to her or see her ever again. I couldn’t believe the barrage of venomous abuse and put downs that were coming out of her mouth while I was going through an extremely challenging, devastating time. She was literally kicking me while I was down. I happen to know that the con man moved in on “S” after I dumped him. I don’t know details, but I’m reasonably certain that she… let’s just say… learned her lesson the hard way.
In recent years I’ve occasionally wondered why S’s attitude toward me changed as time went on. She had gone from a really fun friend to a critical, nasty, verbally abusive person. There wasn’t any reason in her life that caused that. In fact, her life got a whole lot better while we were friends. She’d received an inheritance, bought a house, bought a new car, got a better-paying job. Her life was going very well, while my had gotten worse.
I finally realized that I had to take responsibility for how I had conducted myself in the friendship. So even though “S” had some nasty consciousness and very unpleasant attitudes and behaviors (and she’d probably been told bogus things about me by the “psychic” neighbor which contributed to S’s attitude change toward me – the neighbor clearly had an agenda which was to get rid of me and have S to herself; those details are not described here) I still had to realize, admit and change the things I was doing that initiated and perpetuated the problem.
By the time we realize the extent of such a problem, it usually means we have to move on. Once patterns become ingrained, relationships are very difficult to change. My pattern had always been to stay in abusive relationships and try to make the other person be better; to see the error of their ways and change. I cut them a lot of slack and was afraid to confront them (and they never apologized for their behavior), therefore, the abuse continued to the point where things were so bad that there was no hope of improvement.
To tell the truth, there never was any hope of improvement in those situations. That’s because I was drawing a certain type of person to me, over and over and over again. There are several such people, and none of them are still in my life. As long as we are stuck in victim consciousness, and our lives are in chaos and actually in need of a miracle, we draw people with their own issues and they become like psychic vampires for us.
We allow them to feed on us, often unaware that they are doing so. Then we discover what’s happening. First we make excuses. Then we try to get them to change. Then we finally realize that these people don’t belong in our lives, and we’re left picking up all the pieces while wondering what happened and why.
I mourn many of the friendships I’ve had, and the vision of enjoyment and fulfillment I had for each and every one. Sometimes I wonder what might have been, but now I know better than to believe that things could have worked out. The friends I have now are very different. That’s because I choose my friends better, I choose my battles more wisely and I choose what information to share, and how I share it.
It’s as simple as that. They abuse, you’re gone. They behave properly, you continue to nurture the friendship.
One more thing: S had several female friendships in which she did not behave as she did with me. That is another thing that made me sad and confused. (The same was true of H, the reason I started this blog.)
When a person stops respecting you and starts behaving badly, it is often because they don’t really want your friendship anymore, and perhaps never really did except for the Narcissistic Supply. They don’t have the courage to just say it, so they mistreat you in order to make you go away (sometimes this is done subconsciously). It’s either they’re looking for Narcissistic Supply and doing things to keep you tied in, or abusing you so that you’ll eventually go away.