Chronic rage is a trap, not a trophy.

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If we are survivors of narcissistic abuse, we are all at different stages of our recovery. If we are just coming out of a relationship with a narcissist or in the process of going No Contact (which is the best gift we can give ourselves), it’s natural to feel anger and even hatred toward our abusers. Our anger overrides the fear they instilled in us and makes it possible for us to take the actions necessary to disconnect from them.

When I started this blog, I too was extremely angry at my narcissists, particularly my psychopathic ex. As an ACON, I railed on about my parents too, particularly my MN mother. Early posts of mine on this blog have a much more bitter and angry tone than my more recent posts, some of which attempt to understand why my narcissists did what they did to me and about what makes narcissists tick in general. I don’t regret making those early, angry posts, because that’s where I was at emotionally on this recovery journey. I NEEDED to feel that anger and hate. It served a survival purpose. But anger is a survival emotion and is meant to be temporary, not become a psychological and spiritual forever-home.

I am no longer in a situation where I am in close contact with malignant narcissists, and I was finding that holding onto all that rage was turning me bitter. When a person is filled with rage, the body’s cortisone levels rise and blood pressure rises. These are physiological changes that make “fight or flight” possible. But over prolonged periods of time, being in such a physiological state is bad for you and can lead to physical illness.

Besides being unhealthy for the body, holding onto rage way past its expiration date makes it impossible to move forward to a place of real healing. If you feel rage all the time, you simply cannot move forward. It blocks you from opening your heart to all the good things that life can offer. Frankly, I was just becoming bored with it. There had to be something better beyond it–and there is!

I see this unwillingness or inability to let go of chronic rage and hatred in many survivors of narcissistic abuse, especially ACONs who were raised by narcissistic parents. Of course it’s perfectly understandable to feel an almost overwhelming sense of injustice and betrayal when you realize your own parents didn’t love you and in fact probably hated you and set you up to fail in life. It’s understandable to hate the people who were supposed to nurture you and give you the tools you needed to have a happy life but instead attempted to murder your soul. I get it, I really do. I felt that way about my mother for many years.

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Some of these chronically angry abuse survivors have embraced a mentality of perpetual victimhood, using their rage as a sort of trophy “proving” how abused they were. They can’t or won’t let go of their rage because it makes them feel vindicated. I remember reading a comment from one angry ACON who said if he/she were to let go of their bitterness and hatred, they would have let their abusers “win.” But this person is wrong. Because paradoxically, remaining stuck in misery, rage and hatred is making it impossible for this person to heal and live a happy life, and isn’t being miserable exactly what their narcs want? Holding onto rage and wallowing in all the ways they victimized us vindicates the narcissist, not the victim. If our rage destroys or kills us (because eventually it can), the narcissists will be throwing a party to celebrate.

I think the best revenge is to live well. If a victim of abuse moves into a place of peace where healing is possible and can learn to become happy and even successful in life and stop using their victimhood as a kind of trophy, their narcissists will HATE that! Nothing enrages an abuser more than seeing their victims become happy and successful (and not bitter or angry). So how does healing ourselves and letting go of our “trophies” of rage and hate let the narcs win? It doesn’t. In fact, WE win and THEY lose.

But if I were to say this to them (and I have), I would be accused of “victim blaming” and even “narc hugging.” They would say my blog is “dangerous” to abuse survivors (and they have!) They would accuse me of having no empathy for their plight and am in fact taking the side of those who abused them! None of that is true. They just don’t get it. They think that because I’m suggesting they move away from their hatred, this means I’m blaming them for their misery and making excuses for the narcissists who abused them. This is a dangerous and tragic misunderstanding because they can’t even see the way they have been turned against themselves by their own narcissists! They can’t allow themselves to ever feel happy or let go of the bitterness that continues to hold them hostage to their narcissists even after they’ve gone No Contact.

Narcissism is the “gift” that keeps on giving if you let it. You can’t be happy if your default setting is rage. All that rage will eventually destroy your body AND your soul. In fact, living in a state of perpetual rage can turn a person narcissistic themselves. It’s a fact–I have seen it happen and it’s a horrible and scary thing to witness.

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I read a post on Constant Supply: The Narcissist’s Wife about the very same thing I’m talking about here, and their post is what inspired me to write this article. I’d been wanting to write about this, but due to the nasty pile-on I experienced from several ACON bloggers a few weeks back due to an article I posted suggesting we stop hating on all narcissists (the message of which was taken WAY out of context–in no way did I EVER suggest we condone what narcs do or engage with them in any way), I’ve been reluctant to post any more articles even touching on this touchy matter.

Reading this blogger’s article gave me the courage to express my feelings about this apparently controversial issue. I’m prepared to be attacked again, but at least I know what to expect now and can arm myself accordingly. While the blogger I mentioned in the previous paragraph does talk about “forgiving” her narcissist, I wouldn’t go that far myself. I don’t ‘forgive’ my narcissists for the way they held me back all my life and nearly destroyed me, but I no longer choose to hate them either. My attitude about them is that they simply do. not. exist. They are no longer an important part of my life and I refuse to give them any more space in my brain than they deserve. Don’t forget that narcissists crave attention–ANY attention–and that includes negative as well as positive attention. To act as if the narcs don’t even exist is what they hate and fear more than anything in the universe.

Living well and healing yourself without reacting to our narcissists either negatively or positively is the sweetest revenge possible. The narcs will hate you for it.

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We are all at different points of our recovery journey, and those who seem stuck in the “rage” setting (which is normal and necessary early in recovery) and have thereby not been able to move forward to real healing should not pass judgment on those who may be farther along the road and have reached a place where holding onto all that hatred was becoming burdensome and harmful.

I chose to jettison all that negative baggage to make my progress along the rocky road of recovery easier, and I have seen many others do it too, and actually become happy people. I hope and pray eventually ALL abuse survivors can reach a point when they realize holding onto their baggage is self-destructive and is holding them back from true healing–and is keeping them trapped in their own identity as “victims.”

I’m prepared to be disagreed with for posting this, but frankly I don’t care. If you are one of those who choose to hang onto your chronic rage, that’s your choice, and I respect that choice. I have no right to judge you or condemn you for doing so. But I don’t think it’s helpful or healthy. Hopefully, some people who have this problem might be able to take away something positive from this article and be able to extricate themselves from the quicksand of rage and continue to move along the road to recovery.

Please also see my article, Why Unrelenting, Chronic Rage is So Toxic.

I think it’s time we stop bashing all narcissists.

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This post is probably going to make some of you angry or upset. I understand that. After all, many of us were badly damaged by the narcissists in our lives. Anger and even hatred is an understandable and very human reaction to their abuse.

The blood sport of “narc bashing.”

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There are a lot of people these days writing about narcissism and the sentiments found on the Internet about “narcs” and “N’s” is overwhelmingly negative:

— They can never change.
— There is no hope for them.
— They are monsters.
— They are demons.
— They aren’t human.
— God hates all narcs.
— They all deserve to burn in Hell.
— There is nothing good about them. Everything they do is evil.
— They were born evil. They are bad seeds.
— They never tell the truth.
— They have no emotions. They are machines.
— They all deserve to die.

Pretty ugly, isn’t it? This attitude is fueled by hatred and behind hatred is fear. Again, I understand this. I’ve experienced that hatred and fear myself. We have a right to be angry if we were badly treated by a narcissist. People with NPD aren’t pleasant to be around. But here’s the rub: unchecked fear and anger lead to hatred, and hatred accomplishes nothing. Hatred builds walls and leads to a refusal to even try to understand people with a devastating mental disorder. Hatred is itself evil–and narcissistic.

Hatred also leads to bigotry and intolerance. There is already too much of that in the world. People with NPD are mentally ill. We don’t malign people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder the way we malign people with NPD, but people with those disorders can also be very unpleasant to deal with. If someone started a blog that spewed hatred toward people with schizophrenia, there would be outrage. That person would be called a bigot and possibly evil.

Narcissists are abuse victims too.

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It’s true that people with NPD are extremely unpleasant to deal with. But all mental disorders are unpleasant. People with NPD weren’t born that way. There is no such thing as a “bad seed.” In almost all cases, a person became a narcissist because of severe abuse or neglect as children. In most cases, they were raised by people who were themselves malignant narcissists or psychopaths.

Pastor David Orrison, who writes about narcissism from a Christian perspective in his “Narcissist Friday” posts, illustrates this well in this sad story. He is rightfully critical of the disorder and its manifestations but his posts are always written in a way that attempts to understand narcissism and people with NPD the way Jesus would have done–holding them accountable without hatred.

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Some of you have said, “but they don’t count because they made a choice to be narcissists.” Yes, that is true, it was a choice. But that choice was almost invariably made when they were young children, as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from being hurt anymore. Narcissists are people who started life with too much sensitivity, maybe more so than those of us who identify as HSPs (because we still found a way to cope with life without constructing a protective False Self). Narcissists felt too vulnerable and naked. They were born without any natural coping mechanisms at all. They knew they couldn’t survive without this protective natural armor, so they had to construct a False Self to cope. The False Self is a lie, but it protects the True Self from further harm. The reason they act so mean is because they live in terror of the False Self being damaged and exposing the too-vulnerable True Self. Like the rest of us, they wanted to survive. This was the only way they knew how.

This doesn’t give them an excuse to act as they do. It doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulations and abuse. I’m not condoning abusive behaviors and that applies to anyone. But we don’t have to spew hatred against people suffering from NPD all over the web either. We don’t have to be so judgmental. We don’t have to pat ourselves on the back because we are “better” people. Only God can judge us that way. We can try to have compassion without giving in to abuse or allowing narcissistic behaviors to destroy us.

A serious dissociative illness.

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Narcissists suffer. They are deeply unhappy people. They don’t know how to feel empathy, or experience joy or love for others. They never learned how–or they dissociated themselves from those feelings at an early age because it hurt them too much to be that way. They are not without emotions. In fact, their emotions are so strong they feel like they must always be on the defensive, 24/7, 365 days a year. Imagine how stressful it must be to go through life in mortal terror of your facade of invulnerability being ripped off, of constantly having to act a part in a play, of never being able to show your pain to others, of never being able to risk loving anyone else or feeling empathy, of being bitter and envious of everyone all the time? It must be hell.

Narcissists, in spite of their name, don’t love themselves. They only love their False Self, and will do anything to protect it from exposure as the mask it really is. Because the False Self was constructed when they were so young, they don’t even know themselves most of the time. How can you love someone you never got to know? If anything, they live in deep shame of who they really are so they hide from the world behind their masks.

Some mental health experts believe NPD should be classified as a severe dissociative disorder. You can read about that here and here. It’s not that narcissists don’t have any goodness in them, but that they have “split” from their good (true) self to avoid further harm–even to the point where they can no longer access who they really are. But the pain they feel still comes through and if we listen closely enough, we can hear what they are really saying: “please love me.”

Narcissists never got to grow up. Their true self is at the emotional stage of a very young child. Inside every narcissist is a little boy or girl of 3 or 4, sitting in a dark corner crying because they feel so lonely and unloved. Their reactions are at the level of a young child too. They never learned how to experience more mature emotions, because the False Self was constructed when they were too young to feel the emotions of an older person.

NPD is a spectrum disorder running from mild all the way to psychopathy and sociopathy at the top of the spectrum. Most narcissists are not psychopaths (who actually have Antisocial Personality Disorder rather than NPD and have built a wall so impenetrable even they can never access it and will never be able to admit they are the ones with the problem). Even malignant narcissists (just under psychopathy on the spectrum) may have rare moments of insight and regret for the way they behave. It’s my belief that NPD is as much a spiritual disorder as a mental one, but that doesn’t automatically make all narcissists “evil.” Who are we to assume that God hates all narcissists and can’t help even the most malignant ones? I believe God can perform miracles should He choose to do so. To speak for God this way is itself narcissistic.

Art allows the True Self to find expression.

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The pain and hurt that fuels narcissistic behaviors can find honest expression. I’ve noticed many or even most narcissists have a talent in one or more of the arts–William Shakespeare, Ezra Pound and even Michaelangelo (who probably had NPD) come to mind, to name a few. Good art is about Truth and is one of the greatest blessings God can give. It’s through these artistic endeavors that a narcissist’s true self comes through, that they dare give that vulnerable hurting child a means to express the truth of how they really feel. Having a creative ability–whether in the visual, literary, or performing arts–is all the proof I need that people with NPD are still loved by God. Through their art, they are crying out through their mask. They want to be loved and they want to feel love. I can think of many examples of this, but the other day I received an email that really stood out to me and made me take a second look at my own negative attitude toward “narcs.”

The email was from a young man who admits he has NPD. He expressed a strong desire to try to heal himself. He hates his disorder because of what it has done to his life and the ways it has caused his relationships with others to suffer. He wants to know how to feel empathy and genuinely love others. I have no doubt his words were sincere and came from his True Self.

This young man said he was a singer-songwriter so I checked out some of his stuff on Youtube. (I can’t post it here right now because I have not asked for permission to do so). I was blown away by his talent. The words of the songs he writes express emotions almost too deep for words. His powerful emotions of pain and the desire to love and feel connected with others come through in his beautiful voice–and in his face when he sings. I have no doubt his music comes from his True Self, not his false one. Through music, he’s able to break through his wall of narcissism and allow himself to become vulnerable, to cry out in the darkness.

Insight and willingness: ingredients for change.

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I don’t know if this young narcissist can heal himself. It’s a difficult enough disorder to treat by professionals, but he says he can’t afford a therapist and can’t find one willing to treat NPD anyway. Most narcissists won’t present themselves for therapy because their disorder is so deeply ingrained they have no insight and think it’s everyone else who has the problem, not them. Some narcissists may have insight into their disorder and know they aren’t well but still not be willing to change because their mask has become too adaptive or they are too afraid. But insight is the first step toward redemption–it’s not possible to have willingness without insight. This man has both the insight and the willingness. With both present, I think there is hope for him.

Tough love, not hate.

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Just because we should stop spewing hate against people with NPD doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulative and abusive behaviors. It also doesn’t mean we can’t leave a narcissist or go No Contact. In fact, doing so may be the most loving thing we can do for them. Going No Contact removes the source of supply we have been giving them, and in rare cases may cause a narcissist to seek help or at least begin to question their own motives. Going No Contact is also the most loving thing we can do for ourselves. Refusing to have further contact with a narcissist isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of self-love and survival.

St. Augustine said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Jesus inspired this quote because He hated no one but was no pussy either. We can hate the behaviors without hating an entire class of people with a severe mental and spiritual illness that causes them even more misery than they cause those they attack. Going No Contact or refusing to play their narcissistic games isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of survival and is just plain common sense. It may even be a way we can show them love–“tough” love.

I realize this post may be controversial because we ACONs have gotten so used to thinking of “narcs” as evil. Their behaviors may be evil, but people with this disorder are still human beings who have feelings–even if they don’t know how to show them properly or keep them under wraps. Except for the most malignant narcissists and psychopaths at the top of the spectrum–who probably can’t ever change–I think calling narcissists evil, or referring to them as demons, monsters, or machines is a form of bullying a group of very sick people and is just as hurtful to them as what they have done to us.

I also realize I may sound like a hypocrite. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve engaged in the popular sport of “narc bashing,” and recently too. While the anger and rage we feel toward people with this disorder may be adaptive while we are trying to disconnect from an abusive narcissist, when these emotions no longer serve a practical purpose (after we have gone No Contact or disengaged from our abusers), they become bitterness and hatred, emotions that eat away at our own souls and can even turn us into narcissists.