It's very obvious what's happening in the lead image, isn't it? Most narcissists are much more subtle than that. Invisible abuse is one of their best techniques.
Last night I was watching a television show that my husband and I like – you know, one of those crime dramas that has enough humor that you don’t bite your nails right down to your elbows. Anyway, a criminal was going to testify against another, very powerful criminal. One of the next scenes was the first guy hanging in his cell and his daughter’s necklace on his cot. The investigators were baffled. The guy had struck a deal, why would he kill himself? And why was that necklace on his bed?
The second guy had sent a minion to take the necklace away from the daughter while she was sleeping and deliver it to the father. The message was clear, if you testify we’ll get your daughter. It was clear to the people involved but meaningless to the onlookers and the investigators. The man knew what it meant and he acted accordingly – he hung himself.
Except it looked like a random act of suicide when it was really a pointed response to subtle terrorism.
Narcissists and Mind Games
Narcissists are very good at mind games. They are intelligent and quickly learn what your triggers are. A narcissist will ignite a potential drama right before guests walk in the door. That way, when he gives you that, seemingly innocent, tone of voice an hour later you explode and your guests think you are nuts. After all, they didn’t notice a thing.
A good example of this, or rather what I believe is a good example, is the video of the woman losing it because her husband wouldn’t take her to the lake. She began crying and screaming – basically having a toddler tantrum. The husband videotaped it and you could hear him speaking to her in his “reasonable adult” voice. His words seemed to be rational unless you start wondering why a loving husband would video his wife’s obvious breakdown and why a wife would carry on like that over missing one day at the lake.
I can’t know what happened. I have always thought that he had been pushing her to the edge for some time, promising her time away and then breaking that promise. I think that she thought they were going to the lake when she got in the car. Maybe she had spent the day prior creating a picnic lunch in anticipation of some couple time. In any case, she gets in and they take off and out of the blue he tells her she isn’t going to the lake because they have to run errands. Then he switches on his video ap.
I think in that video you clearly see the effects of invisible abuse but I’ll admit that I could be wrong.
It Can’t Be That Bad
How many times, when you’ve been fighting for control over your emotions, have you heard someone say, “Oh, it can’t/couldn’t be that bad!”
People, even family members who have been around you, don’t notice the looks, the tones of voice, the words and phrases with double meanings. You are seen as being overly sensitive, over re-acting to his actions, and borrowing trouble. It’s abuse, all right. It’s just that it’s invisible to those outside the not-so-magic circle.
I love this quote from Crying Out for Justice, Non-verbal communications — the winks, the nods, the silences, even the choice of where to sit in a social setting — are also incredibly devious because the real message they express is clearly recognized by the victim, but not by others.
Can you identify? I can.
We’re All Tired of Being the Crazy Ones
I cannot express to you how many times I have had someone criticize my responses to my ex-husband only to come back weeks, months, or years later and apologize after he has removed his mask in front of them. It helps a little but honestly I’d just like people to believe me the first time. After all, if you ask these people which of us tends to be the more honest one they will immediately point to me. My ex has “repented” with crocodile tears many times for his lying and deception. Why then, when I am battling with anxiety/PTSD responses from something he has done or some meeting we have where I will have to be in the same vicinity as him, why do these people all of a sudden change gears and assume that I must be over-reacting?
- Stop playing the victim
- Let it go, it’s in the past
- You need to move on with your life
- Forgive him
- He’s changed
Here’s the thing, it’s a fact that chickens will peck a wounded chickens to death. Apparently humans are a lot like chickens.
If I could talk to them at a time when they would actually listen and actually hear me I’d like to tell them something like this:
I am not a victim, I have survived, I have fought to survive, and I will continue to do so. A victim accepts the travesty that has/is happening to him and believes it is what she deserved. A survivor refuses to accept responsibility for someone else’s behavior. It is in the past and yet he continues to do the same things, have the same attitudes, and pull the scabs off of areas where he has wounded me. That means it’s also very much in the present. Healing takes time and you have to rest the area to allow it to heal. That is nearly impossible when a narcissist is involved.
I have moved on with my life but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be affected consciously and unconsciously by the things that have happened. People who lived through the Depression, or the Blitz, or any traumatic experience are changed forever. Just because I don’t want to be around him doesn’t mean that I haven’t forgiven him. Forgiveness is saying that I will not get revenge or require compensation for what I have experienced. It doesn’t say I have to like him or even tolerate him in my airspace. He may well have changed in his new relationship – I can’t judge that. However, my experience with him leads me to believe that he has not changed when it comes to me.
Stop Trying to Convince People
I don’t try to convince anyone of anything anymore. I wish I could say I don’t care what they think but that would be a lie – and I don’t lie.
Still, I know I am not crazy. I have a friend that saw him throw a metal crutch at my head, an old boss of his told me of the things he bought that were delivered to him at work when we had “no money”. I have kept the emails between his new narcissistic extension and himself that clearly show infidelity just in case the question of me “making it all up” ever arises. I am the one that is called unreasonable and crazy but I have so much proof of his actions that there should be no question of my mental state.
And yet people still judge me on my responses to him – even as they refuse to look at the evidence of his abuse. I hope they never become jury members. I have recently stopped trying prove anything to anyone. They’ll eventually find out on their own and they’ll eventually have more understanding than they could ever dream of.
When that happens I will be there with a shoulder for them to cry on because I know how it feels. Can you identify with any of this? Join First Wives World today and become a part of our vibrant community. Let’s talk – how do you handle those times when people accuse you of overreacting?
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Thomas Leuthard