For anyone who’s ever been involved with verbally abusive and manipulative people, at some point we ask ourselves:
Why Do They Act Like That?
Why does a cat stalk a mouse? Because it’s a predator. Even when well fed (as my cats have confirmed) it will still hunt.
The mouse won’t like it. If mice could analyse the situation, they’d probably wonder: “why me?”
The cat, of course, doesn’t care.
As Dr. George Simon, a psychotherapist with decades of experience dealing with narcissists and covertly-aggressive, explains it, the cat isn’t predatory through some kitten-hood trauma, some inner insecurity brought about by the presence of a little mouse.
It’s just doing what most cats do instinctively: hunt.
I used to believe the many excuses and justifications my sibling threw my way:
- a grade one teacher who he said didn’t like him (seriously, this was brought up more than once)
- our father’s drinking
- our poor, working-class upbringing
- living somewhere he said he didn’t like (though it was where he had a very good job)
We had to feel sorry for him and put up with whatever belligerent or mean thing he said.
I wasn’t allowed that excuse. Others’ experiences, whether identical far worse, will be minimized and tossed aside. If finally cornered and unable to deny that someone else has suffered more, you’ll hear rationalizations like: “It’s different for them/you, they/you can take it” – (and in the next breath they can accuse the other of being “too sensitive”).
It’s crazy-making. Done on purpose.
Are They Just Insecure?
From everything I’ve read, and experienced, I don’t believe so, at least not in the majority of cases. It’s another tactic we can too easily fall for: feeling sorry for all the “pain” the narcissist is going through.
I mean, let’s face it. Don’t we all have pain? What about our own – at times abysmal – upbringings? Why do the rest of us try to overcome the emotional and psychic traumas from our past?
Manipulators learned how to get their way, no matter who they trample over, and they are responsible for how they act – no excuses allowed.
Just as we are responsible for protecting ourselves.
It goes without saying that we are influenced by authority figures in our lives, where and how we are brought up, things said and done to us.
As children we had no choice.
As adults, we do. We have free will.
A narcissist thinks they have the right to mistreat and hurt you, but you don’t have the right to react or stand up for yourself. They are allowed to criticize, voice all their opinions, be rude, cruel and insensitive, but how dare you point out their bad behaviors, or say anything back to them.
Their behaviors suddenly become all your fault and you are “crazy”, a “drama queen” and a “horrible” person for standing up for yourself and not accepting and tolerating their crap. They never blame themselves or see their own horrific behaviors. – source unknown
Are we supposed to just put up with everything that’s thrown our way? Can they blame everything and everyone else and absolve themselves of personal responsibility for their actions?
Of course not.
But that means facing ourselves in the mirror, digging up the reasons why we are triggered and feel incapable of standing up for ourselves or walking away from the abuse.
Then the hard work begins of getting through the other side.
(Some may say that those with severe narcissistic personality disorder have physical differences in their brain structure which causes them to act so callously. All the more reason to just stay the hell away. They cannot change.)
A Double Whammy
To make matters worse, others often won’t believe you when you finally muster up some courage to confide in someone.
How many times have people said: “I don’t believe it. S/he is so nice.”
Narcissists/manipulators have been described as “street angels, home devils.”
No longer the lovable, purring cat wanting something from you (to be petted, fed) – they see a chance to hunt their prey (you) and right before your eyes morph into predator mode.
Make no mistake – manipulators are intelligent and clever. If they feel you start to pull away, they’ll play on your sympathies, try to convince you to be “understanding”.
If you’re codependent at all, you’ll feel guilty.
You’ll want to believe that they’ve “seen the light”. That they’ll change.
You’ll try to make sense of the senseless.
Don’t be naïve.
That’s exactly what they want you to do.
They set the trap, you walk into it. You think (again) “if I only do this – or that – it’ll be okay. They’ll be happy. The sibling / intimate / friend relationship will be repaired.”
No – it won’t.
Manipulators like themselves just the way they are. They see no need to change.
They’re about winning and one-upmanship – not relationships.
I know I’m repeating myself. It took me a long time to accept reality, despite it slapping me upside the head time and again.
‘Cause narcissists/manipulators/covert-aggressives are looking to feed off of others, get their next fix – you.
Now it’s your job to stop being the fix.
I’ll describe how I stopped being the enabler, the “fix”, for my unworkable sibling relationship in a future post.