Paper tigers: why I choose understanding over rage.

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I know I don’t need to (or should) forgive what the narcissists in my life have done to me. I will never again enable them or give them the benefit of the doubt.  I certainly won’t attempt to fix one (an action about as futile as trying to empty the ocean using a teaspoon). I can’t fix a narcissist and neither can you. The only viable way to deal with a narcissist is not at all. Go No Contact. Release them from your life.

Going No Contact  isn’t an act of hatred or revenge, and it doesn’t break any commandments either (if they are your mother or father) because they haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain as a parent.  If you have narcissistic parents (and that includes having one who isn’t technically a narcissist, but was codependent to the narcissistic parent and never took your side and colluded with the abuse), then you are an orphan.  You were mercilessly abandoned.  So it’s not a sin to go no contact with a narcissistic parent.  It’s an act of self-preservation. The same goes for a narcissistic spouse, sibling, or friend.  You owe them nothing, no matter what they tell you.

That being said, I still do try to understand the narcissists in my life. I see them as broken people who, whether by choice or design, have adopted a way of relating to others that poisons their own minds as much as it poisons the life-force of their victims. Yes, I feel badly for them. I don’t like them or what they do, but I feel badly for them. They cannot help themselves.

Some of you won’t understand my attitude. I understand the lack of understanding. Narcissists have made our lives hellish and compromised our ability to become everything we could have been.

Anger, rage and hatred is a perfectly normal and desirable initial reaction when you find out you’ve been had by one or more narcissists, especially if they were your parents, who were supposed to love you unconditionally. But it shouldn’t be permanent. I’ve been criticized for my attitude before, but I think it was taken out of context, because I’ve never suggested, not even once, that anyone needs to put up with a narcissist or keep him or her in your life. But for me, feeling pity for them (NOT forgiving them!)–from a safe distance–helps me to feel like less of a victim myself.  You might be surprised how well it works, too.

I don’t choose to be an eternal victim because that sucks. I don’t choose to hold onto my rage and anger (been there, done that!) because, well, it’s toxic to me. Seething anger eats away at my soul and turns me into someone I don’t like at all. I start obsessing on my rage and hatred and that turns me bitter, resentful and depressed. It drives home my victimhood and makes me wallow in self pity (“Oh, poor, poor me, WHY did *I* get stuck with such evil monsters as parents/spouse/friends, etc.”)

By seeing narcissists as broken people who can’t help themselves and will probably never change without some kind of earth-shattering shift in their consciousness (which must come from inside them and only them), their power over me seems diminished. They become paper tigers instead of terrifying beasts who rip me to shreds and eat me alive. And by seeing a narcissist, especially one who has “raised” you, as a toothless paper tiger, by contrast I feel more powerful and less afraid.

I used to have as much rage and hatred toward narcissists as any other victim of narc abuse does. That attitude served me well, too, because it motivated me to make the final break. But I found that after a few months, I couldn’t hold onto that anger anymore because all it did was make me feel bitter and depressed, and it also held me into an identity as an eternal victim, which is an identity I don’t want. I’m tired of always feeling like a victim, but to do that I had to change myself and my attitudes.

For me, releasing my hatred and rage allowed me to stop stewing in negativity and self pity, and once I did that I could begin to work on the things in myself that needed working on. Since I moved on from all that rage, my overall attitude toward life has improved immensely. I’m beginning to feel like a real live person who can overcome just about anything my narcs have done to me, because all you can do is laugh at a paper tiger.

And, if you’re still wanting to get back at your narcs,  think about this:  Narcissists WANT you to continue to feel victimized.  They WANT you to be afraid.   They even revel in your hatred because your hatred (which is based in fear) makes them feel powerful.  The best revenge is to see them as ridiculous paper puppets, which is really all they are.  By seeing them as pathetic paper tigers with no teeth or claws, you are giving them the opposite of what they want and they will HATE you for that!

I think the Serenity Prayer is something that can be as helpful to us as it has been to countless people in 12-step programs:

God grant me the Serenity

To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

and the Wisdom to Know the Difference…

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