As I mentioned previously, I frequent Sweet Violet’s blog. I commented on her most recent post, which inspired a discussion. The topic of the discussion that I started was how continued rationalizations as an adult can keep you stuck in the dynamics of your family of origin.
My original comment on Sweet Violet’s blog ->
It’s hard to not slip back into “they did the best they could”, or “they loved me their own way”. The truth is, both of these statements are true and false at the same time, which is why it is so confusing. They did do the best they could with the tools they had available. Most parents who abuse grew up abused and have no idea how not to abuse. They did what they thought was the right thing to do, even if it was all about them. The other reality is that they did love you “in their own way”. They didn’t love you with a healthy definition of love. They didn’t love you for who you were, with your different opinions, your mistakes and your shortcomings. They loved you for what you could do for them. If you did your job and properly mirrored your parents, they were very proud of you. It’s not that the narcissist is incapable of love, they just have an inaccurate definition of what love is. To them, love is given when you are doing your job correctly by mirroring them properly. It’s conditional on your performance.
Codependents have the same problem with love. They believe that love involves pleasing others and performing to standards, which is also an inaccurate definition of love. This is the definition of love that they learned growing up and continue to pursue in adulthood.
(for more on this topic, please visit my blog post on Loving a Narcisist in Related Articles at the bottom of this post)
Response from a reader of Sweet Violet’s Blog ->
Stephen, if they thought they were doing the right thing why did they know enough to treat strangers differently than they treated their own daughter? My father would never dream of being disrespectful or cursing out a bank teller, grocery clerk, medical receptionist or even a door to door salesperson. Yet, even ay age 94, he continued to demand my time and attention while treated he me with a complete lack of respect (I’m 67!) even raising his voice and cursing me out. My mother (age 91) either said nothing or made excuses for his behaviour. Once, while he was screaming verbal abuse at me, dear mother kept insisting he’d never raised his voice to his children.
My response to this post ->
One of the most confusing things that occurs when dealing with a narcissist in a close interpersonal relationship is that often they are loved by everybody else. They can be pillars of the community, preachers, volunteers and do many other things that make themselves look good. It seems everybody thinks they are wonderful except for you, their abuse victim. This leads to the rationalization of the abuse victim that “it must be me, because look how everyone else thinks they are so wonderful”.
In order to understand this dynamic, you have to think differently. Yes, a narcissist will treat strangers differently than they do you. Why? There are a lot of reasons:
First, this behavior is still programming from childhood if their narcissitic injury was due to parental abuse. They were taught to be “respectful” of strangers at the same time their parents were most likely abusing them. They were taught that the family image was more important than any individual family member’s needs. Also, it wasn’t the bank teller that was abusive to them in their childhood, it was their parents or some other significant authority figure. Again, they are modeling the behavior they were taught during their childhood.
Second, a narcissist is always looking for narcissistic supply. Being seen as a “wonderful” person by others validates them and helps them to believe they don’t have any issues, making them think along the lines of “I can’t possibly be a bad person, see how everyone adores me”. They need to turn on the charm in public to keep the charade going. In my experience, a narcissist is always running from anything that could possibly make them face their issues, which is why they are nearly impossible to treat in counseling and will never admit to being wrong or apologize. They live in a constant state of denial of their behavior and will lie to others and themselves in order to rationalize that their behavior is “really not that bad”.
Another slant on the narcissist always looking for narcissistic supply is that they are always looking to “upgrade” their current primary source of supply, which is why the bounce from relationship to relationship and never find fulfillment. Who knows, maybe if he turns on the charm, he can seduce that cute bank teller that’s half his age and have an affair with her, only to discard her later when he tires of her.
If you have ever dealt with a relationship with a narcissist in your adult life, you know how “perfect” that intial phase of the relationship is. How your new found partner is the most wonderful person on earth and you can’t believe he / she has had so much horrible luck in relationships and how they always seem to find people who abuse them. Narcissists are masters at projection and manipulation and will quickly find your soft spots and use that knowledge to set their hook. You seem SO connected to your narcissist and it seems just too good to be true. Unfortunately, it is too good to be true.
I can understand how painful it was for this reader of Sweet Violet’s blog to have her 91 yr old mother stand there and pretend the abuse wasn’t happening. It’s horrible. But what options does her mother have? After so many years of denial and rationalizing her husband’s abuse of her children, do you think she will suddenly have a realization that the man she has spent her entire life is a child abuser? Furthermore, could you imagine the emotional devastation that her mother would be required to go through if she were to acknowledge that she had permitted her children to undergo a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her spouse? No, denial is a much much more comfortable place.
- Who Loves a Narcissist? (thenarcissistsson.wordpress.com)