Do we give “the narcs” more power than they deserve?

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In my last post, I ranted about a few bloggers that targeted me when I began to move on from my righteous anger at what my narcissistic parents and ex did to me.  About a year ago, I reached a point where my rage at “the narcs” was no longer serving me well. I began to see things in a new way–that my narcissists were victims themselves and that’s why they became so abusive.   These bloggers didn’t like that.  As far as they were concerned, I was a traitor to the narc-abuse community  as well as a narc-sympathizer. They told me I was evil and going to hell.

But that’s also when I began to see myself a lot more clearly and realized what I needed to do to begin to heal.  Why? Because while righteous anger is good and healthy when you’re trying to go No Contact or get away from abusers, once it no longer serves that purpose and you have gone No Contact, all that rage has nowhere to go.  At that point it becomes hatred and begins to poison your soul. And there isn’t anything more toxic to healing than hatred. These bloggers have become so trapped in their rage it has poisoned their souls and they have become what they hate. Unfortunately for them, they are utterly blind to it.

When I began this blog, I was a lot more angry at my narcissists, and narcissists in general. If you read some of my early posts (within the first year or so), you will notice a lot more rage and even hatred toward narcissists than in my later posts. As long as I remained in that anger, I was A-OK with these bloggers. And at the time, that anger was healthy. It was how I processed the whole experience of being an abuse victim, and it validated my decision to go No Contact. It wasn’t a bad thing and I don’t regret it. But at some point, I began to chafe at the constant narc-bashing I saw, and wondered if perhaps “the narcs” were being given more power than they actually deserve.

I’m going to make an analogy here, because it ties right into this idea. I can’t embrace fundamentalist religion for a number of reasons, but here is one of them: some fundamentalists (not just Christians, but Muslims too, and really, fundamentalist anything) gives the entity commonly known as the devil or Satan a lot more power than he/it deserves. They seem to equate his power with that of God. They tell us the world is under Satan’s dominion and we must repent and believe exactly as they do or we’re going to hell. They tell us Satan planted scientific evidence that indicates evolution exists (which means he somehow got bones into the ground that looked half-human, half-ape.) They tell us he brought every bad thing that exists to the world–disease, famine, death, war, you name it. They tell us God has allowed this because of “free will.” They quote the Bible (or Q’uran, or whatever–to back their claims). But if Satan exists at all, he’s merely a fallen angel–with about the same amount of power as Michael, the archangel–he doesn’t even come close to God’s level of might. Would Michael be able to do what God does? Would he be able to create life and rule the universe? Of course not–the idea of it is laughable. To give the devil that much power is an insult to God, in my opinion. In fact, God himself created Satan!

The power some religious people give Satan causes a lot of people to fear God because God seems to exist solely to punish humanity (who “disappointed” him by sinning) for giving in to or being fooled by “the adversary.” The whole God vs. Devil argument seems like an enormous cosmic opera, with God continuously waging war with this all-powerful entity who represents evil to God’s goodness–but in the end, God’s behavior is just as “evil” as Satan’s–judgmental, authoritarian, punishing, jealous, and controlling. In fact, I would say that God acts quite a lot like a…malignant narcissist. People have turned away from religion or are put off by it because of this punishing, negative view of God as Holy Avenger. And among those who embrace it, how many are doing so out of fear, and not out of genuine love for God? If your father was an authoritarian, punishing parent, you may “love” him but you will never be able to have a healthy relationship with him. You probably did what he said because you HAD to, not because you wanted to. You feared his wrath if you did not. You find it difficult to be happy or grow into a loving, joyful person with a satisfying life and relationships because your father’s wrath and judgment became internalized. It continues its live on inside you, as an inner critic that continues the abuse in the form of self-abuse. I think that’s often the case with fundamentalist religion too. It’s nothing more than brain-washing and negative programming whose intent is to frighten and control.  What sort of God would even WANT his creations (who he holds in contempt for even questioning that might) to quake in terror at his presence?  A narcissistic God who craves power and control, that’s who.

The point of this isn’t to make a point about religion, though (that’s a whole other post I will probably never write). Many narcissistic abuse survivors talk about narcissists as if they were actual demons. They talk about them having almost supernatural powers over the rest of us. Yes, it’s true, their behavior is dangerous and can destroy the souls of those they abuse. But they don’t have any more real power than anyone else. They are broken people, not devils. Their brokenness is what causes them to abuse others. In their own minds, I don’t think (in most cases) they actually know what they’re doing. In their own minds, they may even think what they do is the right thing–or they don’t think about it at all. They are incapable of seeing their own narcissism and how it destroys.

Some narcissists are sociopathic and actually take pleasure in hurting others. But I think that only applies to those at the top of the spectrum–the ones who have turned malignant. Most narcs are simply unaware of the way their behavior impacts others. It was programmed into them just as surely as many victims were programmed to remain victimized throughout their lives.

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Narcissists are emotionally retarded, so much so they are incapable of having enough empathy to be able to stop playing out the elaborate (and mostly useless) defense mechanisms they constructed to protect themselves. They aren’t devils and don’t have any real supernatural powers; they are merely blind and stupid. Dangerous? No doubt they are, and it’s always best to go No Contact. An angry rhinocerous charging toward you isn’t evil; it’s just doing what nature has programmed it to do. It defends itself by attacking even though you mean it no harm, because that’s in its nature and it assumes you will attack first. While the rhino isn’t evil and doesn’t get its thrills from watching you bleed to death, it does what it does and it’s best to get as far away as you can. Same thing with a narc, who (unless they have become malignant or sociopathic) isn’t evil; he or she is reacting to internal programming that was probably instilled when they were very young and defenseless. In their emotional stupidity and blindness, they think you are going to attack them (or think you are already attacking them), so they instinctively jump on the offense and launch “pre-emptive” counterattacks on you. They lie to themselves about your intentions AND their own (and I think most of them actually convince themselves these lies are the truth). They may even even think what they do is “for your own good.” Just like that authoritarian, punishing father or that judgmental, angry, jealous God.

So what’s so wrong about thinking narcissists are evil and have supernatural powers or are possessed by demons? After all, they do act pretty evil. They nearly destroyed us with their abuse. They made us incapable of living happy, normal lives or developing any self esteem. Thinking of narcissists as these powerful evil entities from the depths of hell is natural when you realize what you’ve been up against and what their actions did to you. The righteous anger you feel also helps you get away from them. I think at first, thinking of narcissists as having that much power is a healthy thing because it gives you the motivation to remove them from your life. Here’s the problem with it though. Righteous anger isn’t meant to be permanent. It’s a fight-flight response that ensures survival, but when the danger has passed (and you know your going No Contact was justified), it becomes bad for both body and soul. Besides building up unhealthy levels of cortisol (the fight-flight hormone) in the blood that can lead to physical illness, never-ending rage in the absence of an enemy has nowhere to go but inward–or turn itself on innocent people. It becomes hatred and hatred will eventually destroy its bearer. You begin to see “the enemy” everywhere and are constantly on the offense/defense against real or not-so-real monsters. You begin to see narcissism everywhere, even in normal human behavior. You live in paranoia and terror and the world seems like a hostile, evil place. Your fear of supernatural and uncontrollable forces beyond anyone’s control (even God’s) can even cause you to become a narcissist yourself, in self defense.

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You can’t heal until you can let go of that rage. That doesn’t mean enabling a narcissist or staying in contact with them. But it means moving on and letting go of hatred. At some point in my healing journey, I was no longer able to hang onto my rage. I began to see them as victims too. Of course, this was heresy to some of the narc-abuse bloggers. But by thinking of them this way, they held a lot less power over me. I became less afraid. You can’t feel terrified of something that is pitiful and broken, and by seeing them as pathetic, toothless victims who were crippled emotionally, they seemed sort of…powerless. It wasn’t until I was able to do this that I began to turn my attention in toward myself–and what I could do to change me. If you’re constantly slaying dragons, you can’t have self-awareness because there’s no room for it. In your mind, if you stop fighting, you will be killed. What people don’t realize is that if you never put down that sword, even after the dragons have disappeared, you turn that sword on yourself.

Narcissistic abusers want you to be afraid. They want unlimited power. They want to control your mind even when they’re not there. So, to hold onto hatred (which is fueled by fear, so there is always terror present wherever hatred exists) is really just giving them what they want–control over your mind and soul. Ironically, thinking of them as broken people is the opposite of enabling them. What would a narcissist hate the most? Being seen as pitiful, impotent, powerless, broken, emotionally retarded people. It’s really the only way you can begin to undo the negative programming that keeps you trapped in fear and keeps you from growing into a whole person. It’s also the best revenge, because then you can thrive in spite of their efforts to keep you down.

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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.

Why unrelenting, chronic rage is so toxic.

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There is nothing wrong with anger when it’s needed. Righteous anger is a normal human emotion and helps us survive. When we are faced with danger, unfair treatment, or have been attacked (either overtly or covertly) by dangerous people, it’s normal to feel rage and anger. Anger is a stronger, more proactive emotion than fear, which it normally overrides if it’s powerful enough. Fear keeps us stuck in abusive relationships. Righteous anger is the only emotion that can give a normally fearful abuse victim the motivation and drive to leave their abusers and/or take action against them. All this is perfectly healthy and anything less than that is bound to keep you stuck in an abusive, codependent relationship.

But some people, especially those who suffered horrendous abuse by their own parents or caregivers who were supposed to love them, cannot let go of their rage, even after they go No Contact. That’s understandable, especially if their lives have been ruined due to the abuse they endured. But chronic rage isn’t healthy or helpful. Staying in a state of unrelenting, permanent anger is physically, mentally, and spiritually dangerous because it continues to fester and build on itself long after any immediate danger is past. Chronic rage destroys the body by releasing unhealthy levels of cortisone (the fight-or-flight hormone) into the blood, and this can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, heart problems including heart attacks, and a host of other medical problems. Anger is bad for the body when it’s chronic. High levels of cortisone brought on by rage are meant to be temporary and allow the person to confront or escape; otherwise it’s a poison.

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Chronic rage is mentally and spiritually dangerous too. It festers away inside a person and causes them to become bitter and toxic to themselves as well as to others. It prevents a person from ever being able to feel true happiness or enjoy life. Chronically angry people are hard, unforgiving, bitter, cynical, easily enraged, and in great danger of becoming narcissistic themselves. I’ve become sadly aware of this sort of thing happening to some victims of abuse. That’s why I don’t think people should remain in a state of chronic anger, if it’s at all possible for them to move away from it. A good (non-narcissistic) therapist can help–or a pastor, rabbi or priest, or even a mature, empathetic non-angry friend if a competent therapist is unaffordable.

Letting go of rage doesn’t mean loving, enabling or forgiving your abusers. It doesn’t mean “hugging the narcs” or feeling sympathy for them, if you’re not so inclined. Letting go of anger when the danger is past is simply a step toward health and healing. The sort of unrelenting, chronic anger I’ve seen so often that keeps people stuck in a mentally dark place even without their abusers present can become a form of self-abuse. In essence, their abusers are continuing to destroy them even if they are no longer in contact.

Chronic, unrelenting rage can turn formerly good people into exactly the kind of people they hate the most–narcissists. They may not be aware this is happening to them, but others can see it. This is also one of the reasons why narcissism is so contagious and is sometimes compared to a communicable disease. Abusive, malignant narcissists can easily turn a person into one of them. Even Henry Rollins said so.