I’ve been reading a book recommended by a counselor: “Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed” by Wendy T. Behary. It’s really helping.
Because while on the one hand, it’s not telling me anything new – I know exactly what a narcissist is like; I just didn’t know that was what it was called – on the other hand, it’s telling me a whole lot of new things. Such as the wisdom of not reacting out of my own schemas when triggered by my husband’s behaviors, because if I indulge in reacting from my own past hurts and childhood issues, I miss my opportunity to address the issue at hand and communicate vital words of “This is what is going wrong here” or “You are not allowed to treat me this way.”
I have come across blogs and articles in the past about narcissism, and in my limited experience it seems that a large number of them are vitriol-spewing tirades that hold as a common base belief that there is no need to treat a narcissist as a human being, that somehow their hurtful behaviors disqualify them from being considered as anything other than the monster the label invokes. This is entirely understandable, considering that these are generally written by the victims of narcissists, who, once they have come to their senses, have years of betrayal, sabotage and abuse to come to terms with. I totally get that.
But the more I read about narcissists, the more I realize that people who behave in this manner are actually hurting, miserable, scared children who never got a chance to grow up.
Does this mean I’ll just go along with this behavior and excuse it as simply the result of my husband’s messed up childhood? Absolutely not. It is inexcusable. He’s not a child any more, so the statute of limitations ran out long ago on “but I was neglected and wounded as a child.” Sympathy, I’ll give him. Excuse, no.
I will be finding wise methods to deal with it, and I will be telling the truth from here on out – no more joining in the dance to keep the peace.
But I will do it with the basic understanding that this is a PERSON I am dealing with, not a label. He is not a Narcissist and nothing more. He is a hurting person who is lashing out, much of the time without any self-awareness, with narcissistic behaviors.
Because when you take it down to the personal level, he is a human being, just like me, and I am not any more valuable than he is.
In fact, I may not even be more wounded than he is. I’m certainly at a better place to deal with my wounds than he is, because he has had a lifetime of avoidance habits that he will need to get over. If he ever does.
This morning I read Proverbs 9. Verses 7-8 jumped out at me:
7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
I looked up the word “scoffer.” It means, you know, scoffer, but it also means boaster and mocker. Those are three key elements of narcissistic behavior.
The funny thing is, I had started doing this long ago – I learned that there was no point in trying to call him on his behavior or correct it. I found out the hard way all about that “gets himself abuse” part. And on top of the abuse, it never worked. I could never get him to see the behavior or admit to the lies.
So I started recognizing it when it happened, giving it a mental nod and stepping out of the way, and just letting it go. I knew it wasn’t right that he was getting away with this, but I also knew that confronting it would do no good. So I felt a little guilty for letting it continue, but didn’t know what else to do.
This verse handed me the authority I needed – next time I have to sidestep, I’ll mentally invoke Proverbs 9:7-8 to reassure myself that this truly is the wisest course of action.
As for the rest of “Surviving and Thriving With the Self-Absorbed,” I’ll need to keep reading the book to know how that’s going to play out. But I have my first two steps:
- Recognize the fact that he is a wounded, miserable, fearful child inside.
- Don’t try to fix him by directly confronting his behavior.
I have a feeling this is going to be the end of me letting my own behavior be dictated by his. I will treat him with respect because that’s how I treat people. I will not lash out at him in response because that’s not how I treat people.
And I will forgive him because I have been forgiven of so much myself. In fact, that’s what makes any of this possible. Otherwise, I would have walked away years ago.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Phil. 4:13 (NKJV)