A few days ago, I saw today’s featured photo on my social media feed. I decided to share it myself, mainly because I wanted to write a blog post about this phenomenon manipulative people use when they’re trying to get their way. Manipulative people try to frame your impression of them before they engage in manipulative behavior.
When I think about the people in my life who have turned out to be manipulative, I realize that they all seem to follow a pattern. At first, they’re super nice and flattering. Then, often at the beginning of a relationship, they tell you how “honest” they are. I remember very clearly, early on in a business relationship Bill and I had, our former associate told us how they didn’t care about money and wouldn’t look for money until at least a couple of days had passed the due date. This person tried to play themselves off as unconcerned about money. Instead, they stressed to us that they wanted us to be “happy”. I also remember hearing a pretty speech from them about how important “trust” is…
Later, when we had an issue that required bills to be paid, the person put all of the responsibility on us, even though the responsibility was actually not ours. I remember being told that they’d “never had a problem” like the one we were experiencing. I was invited to call other people and hear it from them. Something tells me that if I’d actually requested to make those phone calls, the manipulator would have been insulted… and they would have ultimately refused to give me the information, or had me call someone I suspect was a “flying monkey” type who was in cahoots with them.
As time went on, it became obvious that this person we were doing business with was neither trusting nor honest. I was blamed, personally, for everything that went wrong, and they went to great lengths to pass all responsibility to me, personally. We were subjected to guilt trips, insults, and devaluation. I remember it to be a very uncomfortable situation. Sadly, it ended with a lengthy legal battle that ultimately ended in our favor, but only after a lot of psychic pain and inconvenience.
That’s just one example. There have been others. In fact, just this morning, someone tried to manipulate me into doing something with which I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to get into specifics because, frankly, I’m still a bit pissed about it. Long story short, this young guy sent me a PM late last night, asking me for help with a “fundraiser”. I don’t know this guy personally; he lives in another country, and he doesn’t speak English very well. I know of him because he’s the one who rescued Noyzi.
A couple of months ago, he asked me to help him share information about his dog rescue. I told him I would, once he had a Web site set up. I didn’t hear from him for weeks and forgot all about it.
Now, he seems to be saying that he wants me to set up a fundraiser for him. When I replied that I wasn’t comfortable doing that, he basically tried to guilt me using insults. He accused me of “playing games” with him and scolded me for saying I would help him and then declining to help. He insists that he’s not asking me to do anything dishonest, even though warning bells are going off in my head.
I explained to him that I had donated a lot of money when I adopted Noyzi. I gave money to help with vet care and food. I didn’t mind doing that, and I thought he was asking me to share information. But I don’t want to be in charge of setting up a fundraiser, collecting money, and sending it to him. I’m just not comfortable with that. Aside from that, it’s now Sunday, and I don’t want to spend my day setting up a fundraiser for a person I’ve never met in the flesh.
What’s more, before I realized he wanted me to set up a fundraiser for him, he sent me some screenshots of the Web site he has prepared, but hasn’t launched. I noticed a couple of typos. I asked him to fix them. He said he doesn’t have the password to the program he used to make the Web site. Then he told me to just share it as it is– very directive. He’s insistent that this must be done right now. When I demurred, he tried to make me feel bad, and implied that I wasn’t being fair and was reneging on a promise. This statement was meant to put me on the defensive. I don’t remember promising anything. I said I would help, but I never promised– and I certainly never agreed to do what he seems to be proposing.
Of course I want to be kind and helpful. I always prefer to be nice when I can. But I just became aware of all of this twelve hours ago. Now he’s pressuring me to help him with what seems like a sketchy proposal… just a little while ago, he brings up using Western Union. I finally decided to mute the conversation, because I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I quite clearly and firmly said “no”, but he’s still insisting, and has engaged in several manipulative tactics to get me to do what he wants, along with implying that I’m being “shady” because I am questioning what he’s asked me to do (which is still not altogether clear). It’s definitely not something I want to deal with on a Sunday morning… especially when the only thing I would get out of it is feeling like I did someone I don’t know very well a favor.
I am very grateful that he rescued Noyzi and has helped so many dogs. I would like to help him. But he’s come to me with a mess, and has insulted me to boot. Even if what he’s proposing is totally above board, I’m just not comfortable with it. Getting involved in these kinds of things can lead to big trouble if one isn’t careful. Or, at the very least, it can become a real hassle.
It’s interesting that this situation came up last night. I saved today’s featured photo two or three days ago, with no idea that this morning, I would be reading it and realizing that I’d be dealing with manipulative tactics this morning. I think most of us are manipulative sometimes… it’s part of being human. Some people take it to an art form. I don’t know this person well enough to know if he’s a manipulator or not, but I didn’t like his tactics this morning.
You might say that today’s post is a continuation of the one I wrote on Sunday. In that post, I wrote about how a new and mind blowing insight hit me as I listened to a very familiar story Bill told me about how his narcissistic ex wife made him feel. If you haven’t read that post, this post may make less sense than it could. On the other hand, maybe it will make perfect sense. The first post has some of the backstory that led to the revelation that is spawning this morning’s post… which I don’t expect everyone to care about. It just helps me to write these things down, both for reference, and because it’s kind of fascinating to me.
Next month, Bill and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Throughout the course of our marriage, I’ve repeatedly heard the story about how Bill decided that he would agree to his ex wife’s demand for a divorce. He realized that she’d drawn a metaphorical line in the sand. She wanted him to cross it. But if Bill crossed that line, he would lose part of himself. It also would not have taken long before he was back on the wrong side of the line. Somehow, he realized that it was pointless to keep trying to appease his ex wife’s demands. He agreed to the divorce, even though it wasn’t actually what she’d wanted. What she wanted was to regain control.
Bill is a kind and sensitive man. He tries very hard to make other people happy. His ex wife was never an exception. He wanted to love her and care about her. She couldn’t, and didn’t, return the sentiment. She wasn’t driven by love. She simply wanted security and control.
In Ex’s defense, I suspect that the reason she wasn’t “driven by love” is because she grew up in a chaotic home, where she was taught lies and forced to accept abuse. Somehow, as she came of age in that home where she was never valued, she never quite matured beyond adolescence. She probably never had time to grow up, since she was probably focused on survival– or perhaps that was just the perception she had. Somehow, she never got the message that real love isn’t supposed to be a contest. It also goes both ways.
I don’t think Ex even really knows what actual love is, beyond the most primal passions and urges. Her version of love doesn’t include respect, kindness, or gentleness. It doesn’t include trust, or the ability to relax and enjoy another person for who they are. She is constantly testing people, keeping them on their toes to prove their loyalty to her. But it’s not a two-way street. She expects people to fight for her, but she won’t do the same for them, except in a bid to own them somehow.
When Ex’s victims inevitably quit trying to please her, she accuses them of abandonment… when really, they are simply exhausted and defeated. They get tired of trying to win a contest that can’t be won. In essence, they realize that they can’t cross the chasm and shouldn’t want to cross it. Crossing the chasm means losing themselves and becoming someone who isn’t authentic. They become a shell of who they are.
Last night, Bill and his younger daughter Skyped for the first time in awhile. During the discussion, Bill decided to test my theory that he was not alone at the “chasm” he had frequently described to me over the course of our relationship. He asked his daughter if she ‘dever felt like she was standing on one side of a chasm, while everyone else important to her was on the other side with Ex. Sure enough, she identified.
They talked some more, and Bill pointed out that, in Ex’s world, no one is supposed to talk to anyone else. This is especially true when there’s trouble or someone is being shunned.
It occurred to me that people in Ex’s realm are like spokes on a wheel. If you look at spokes on a wheel, you see that they all connect to the middle, but they don’t touch each other. Imagine the narcissist as the middle of the wheel and the spokes as all of the people in the narcissist’s realm. They all support the narcissist and keep the wheel turning. But if they ever touch each other, that means they’ve broken, and the narcissist gets less support, just as a wheel does. What do you do with a broken spoke in a wheel? You repair or replace it.
I have learned that no one in a narcissist’s life is indispensable. They are always looking for someone to support them. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they’re up to the job. A spoke in a narcissist’s wheel has to be willing to focus all of its attention to the narcissist. It’s a thankless job, but crucial to the narcissist’s existence. And when the spoke inevitably bends or breaks from the pressure, it has to be replaced– discarded… or maybe repaired– punished and “re-educated”.
That’s where the nonsense about coming across the chasm comes in. The narcissist looks at the victim and says, “You don’t have be alone. All of these other people are here with me. Just do what I want you to do, and you can partake of the feast with us.”
But there is no feast… it’s all an illusion. It’s a mirage. Moreover, those people who seem to be on the narcissist’s side, are really on your side of the chasm. It’s as if you all wear blinders, forcing you to look directly across the abyss. You don’t see each other. You’re all focused on the narcissist– the center of the wheel. Somehow, the narcissist makes you think the center is where you really want to be. But the only person who can be in the center of the wheel is the narcissist. Everyone else is a spoke, and necessary to keep the narcissist’s wheel spinning. When one of you breaks, the wheel falters. Swift action must be taken to keep the wheel spinning. Otherwise, the whole thing falls apart. There is no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. There’s too much work to be done.
Why did it take me twenty years to see this? I think it’s because for so long, we didn’t have other perspectives. Many of the people in Ex’s wheel weren’t speaking to us, so we didn’t realize that she was treating them just as badly. It really did seem like Bill was being singled out as someone who wasn’t able to cross the chasm because of his perceived (and falsely attributed) character defects. I think we eventually assumed others were being mistreated, but we didn’t know for sure, because no one was communicating with us, except Bill’s mom. And Bill’s mom was probably the first one to get to the edge of the chasm, because she was the first one to threaten Ex’s perceived position of authority. Ex did her very best to separate Bill from his mother. When that didn’t work, she cast out Bill, too, and led them both to believe that they were awful people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is, in Ex’s world, everyone is defective. She, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Or, if she does do wrong, it’s only because people mistreated her. She’s “owed” the right to be an asshole, because other people were assholes to her. By that logic, being a narcissistic asshole is like a contagious disease– maybe we could even call it “narcissistic COVID”. Of course, Ex would never agree that other people have the right to mistreat her, even though she mistreats them.
Actually, the wheel metaphor isn’t new to me. That thought occurred to me at least ten years ago. I realized that Ex had all of these people working so hard to do her bidding. I wondered why people were so concerned with keeping her satisfied. Of course, now I know that I was on the outside of the wheel. I wasn’t a spoke. She tried to make me one of her spokes when she invited me to my own in-laws’ house for Christmas in 2004. I refused, which made me too dangerous to interact with the family. So she did what she could to lessen my influence and make me out to be a “bad person”. She told egregious lies about me and Bill, and she compelled Bill’s daughters, ex stepson, and even tried to compel his parents to cast him out.
Not long after I started thinking of Ex’s world as a wheel, I realized that everyone in her system was triangulated. She filtered and spun all of the information among everyone in the wheel; like spokes, they didn’t touch or speak to each other. She kept them all distrusting each other, focused solely on her, and competing for her attention. She also misrepresented the thoughts and opinions of other people.
For instance, Ex told my mother-in-law things like, “Bill and I don’t think you’re an appropriate grandmother figure for the kids.” Of course, Bill never thought or said anything of the sort. But by including Bill in that comment, she made it seem like he was on the other side of the chasm with her, when he was really standing right next to his mother, hearing things like “The kids don’t think you know them well enough to buy them presents they actually want.”
Meanwhile, Ex would tell Bill’s stepmother, who doesn’t like Bill’s mom, things like “Bill’s mom is smarter than you are…” or “Bill’s mom sends the children better gifts.” Or any number of other statements that are designed to isolate, alienate, or make the other person feel insecure, misunderstood, and not good enough. And Ex would slip in little comments that made it seem like other people shared her warped opinions, when, in fact, they didn’t.
Bill, his mom, and his stepmother, were on the same side of the chasm, looking over at Ex, who seemed to have everybody on her side. The reality was, no one was really on Ex’s side. Everyone was on the same side of the divide, thinking they were alone. But they weren’t alone at all… Ex had fooled them into thinking they were, and tricked them into focusing on pleasing her, when they should have been taking care of themselves and each other.
She would get people so spun up and angry that they wouldn’t speak to each other directly. They would just keep talking and listening to Ex, who would keep them agitated and misunderstanding each other. This was all done to keep her in charge. Got to keep the wheel spinning, you see… there’s no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. No time to build bridges to a place where everyone understands, respects, and simply LOVES each other. And Ex doesn’t want people to love each other. She wants them to admire and worship her. I don’t think even she wants to be loved. I think she simply wants to be adored. Maybe that’s what love is to her.
That was how Bill lost contact with his daughters. She told Bill they hated him. She told her daughters that Bill was an abusive bastard who cheated on her. Bill and his daughters never had the opportunity to speak to each other and learn the truth. Meanwhile, Ex did everything she could to remove Bill from their lives. He was a broken spoke who could no longer be trusted to do the work she required. She couldn’t risk him breaking the other spokes with the burden of the truth. She sure as hell didn’t want the kids to think of me as someone who might be “good” or could offer them love, or anything else. That was too threatening for her.
As I sit here thinking about this– all this crazy imagery– another image pops into my head. Did you ever see the 1976 movie, Carrie? It was based on Stephen King’s book about a teenager who has telekinetic powers. She’s a mousy girl, timid and shy, and raised by a weird mother who belongs to a religious cult. The other kids make fun of her. When Carrie gets angry, she turns into a demon from hell, whose rage kills.
In that film, just before Carrie’s final act of rage at the senior prom, a sympathetic character named Sue, who had tried to show Carrie kindness and understanding, shows up to watch Carrie and Sue’s boyfriend, Tommy, be crowned prom king and queen. Sue is initially happy for them… but then she notices a slender rope that runs under the stage. There are two mean kids there, waiting to pull the rope, which will dump pig’s blood all over Carrie. Sue has a perspective that no one else has. She’s not a part of the wheel. She tries to warn someone, but the others, thinking she’s just there to cause trouble, refuse to hear her warnings. So Sue is banished… much like I was. And then, the carnage begins.
Brian DePalma does a masterful job showing all of those perspectives. He shows what Carrie imagines to be happening. He shows Sue realizing what is actually happening. And he shows all of the other doomed people at the prom, not realizing that they’re about to be slaughtered. In fact, DePalma even shows these perspectives in a wheel that spins.
Naturally, this situation with Ex isn’t just like Carrie. So far, Ex hasn’t killed anyone with her narcissistic impulses. In fact, I don’t think Carrie was a narcissist. She was enslaved by her rage, which caused her to be destructive. Maybe if she hadn’t died at the prom, she would have had something more in common with the Incredible Hulk– a mild mannered scientist who turns into a green monster when he gets angry. The point is, in Carrie, there’s someone who has the perspective of seeing what’s happening. She’s not in the wheel. She tries to speak up, but no one hears her. Sue ultimately escapes, but everyone else stays trapped… until Sue lets her guard down in a nightmare and tries to bestow one more act of kindness toward Carrie, who betrays her by trying to pull her into Hell.
Hmm… maybe being friends with a narcissist is kind of like being friends with Carrie, after all. I still don’t see Carrie as a narcissist, though. Maybe given time, and enough cruel treatment by others, she might have become a narcissist. She might have become hardened and cruel, rather than misunderstood and sheltered. Maybe when she was much younger, Ex was more like Carrie, and turned into who she is because of abuse, abandonment, and cruel mistreatment from other people. Somehow, she got to the point at which she turned into someone who is directed by her destructive rages. Anyone who upsets her, threatens her, or doesn’t follow her orders has to be figuratively destroyed.
Anyway… I suspect Bill will have a lot to talk about with his Jungian analyst tonight. But I know he felt better after talking to his daughter, and realizing that, yes– they’ve all been standing on the edge of the chasm, unable to cross, and looking over at the illusion of everybody else, standing with Ex. If they’d only thought to trust each other enough to talk amongst themselves… The healing could have started a long time ago. But I understand now why they couldn’t, and didn’t. They were too focused on keeping the wheel spinning. They were too convinced that if the wheel stopped spinning, disaster would strike. That’s how it works in the narcissist’s world. Somehow, they manage to trick people into thinking that there will be hell to pay if they aren’t satisfied.
Here’s another very personal post from yours truly. It’s not for people who don’t want to read deep thoughts. I’m sharing this, because I know there are a lot of people out there who are struggling in narcissistic relationships. I hope this offers some insight to those who are hurting.
This morning, Bill brought up some imagery he’s often used when he talks about his relationship with his narcissistic ex wife. He said that he imagined his ex wife on one side of a chasm with everyone else he loved– his kids, his ex stepson, extended family members, church people, and even his parents. And he was on the other side of the chasm, standing there all alone and miserable. Ex encouraged him to come over the chasm to join his loved ones. He could do that by changing into whatever her image of the perfect man was. Only if he did that, would he ever be able to join his loved ones on the other side of the chasm. But she was happy for him to keep trying to reach that goal, and she would always encourage him to try, even though it was an impossible feat.
After some wasted time spent trying to cross the divide, Bill finally wisely understood that if he’d ever actually crossed the chasm, he would cease to be who he is. Who he is, is not a bad person. Ex had made some unreasonable demands that he dance to her tune. She wanted him to seek counseling from an LDS bishop for his “hatred of women” (which doesn’t now, and never has existed). He refused to do it. In retrospect, he was wise not to agree to counseling with the bishop, since LDS bishops are not usually trained counselors. They’re unpaid laypeople who have professional jobs. He could have wound up spilling his guts to an accountant. Besides, he’s neither a pervert, nor a misogynist. Having been his wife for almost 19 years, I can attest to that fact.
Ex subsequently demanded a divorce, while the family was visiting Bill’s father and stepmother. The timing of her demand was surely done on purpose. She probably figured that asking for a divorce at the home of Bill’s dad and stepmother would make Bill think twice about agreeing to the split. She may have been thinking that he would acquiesce and do her bidding in order to save their marriage for eternity. I’m sure it was driven home that they were not on neutral territory when she made her demand. She later said that she’d been wanting to drive Bill to “rock bottom”, and show him what he was going to be giving up. I think Ex probably needs to work on her threats. A marriage to someone who deliberately sabotages their partners, attempts to shame and humiliate them in front of others, and tells bald faced lies about their characters is not exactly a prize worth anything.
The fact that the divorce stunt was carried out at Easter has always struck me as weirdly symbolic and prophetic. It was as if Bill finally got the opportunity to resurrect his life before it was too late. But then, Bill did something Ex never thought he’d do.
When Ex presented Bill with divorce papers, fully expecting him to cave and agree to her demands, he took her completely by surprise and agreed to divorce, instead. Ex was devastated, because she’d only meant to regain control of Bill. Bill was making responsible adult decisions like going back into the Army and doing work he was qualified for, and would be well paid to do, instead of working in crappy factory shift jobs. Ex knew the Army would, once again, trump her decisions about where they should live, and when Bill would be working. She didn’t want to surrender to that lifestyle again, because she wanted to be in control of everything. To regain control, Ex took some desperate and regrettable measures that ended up backfiring, as many of her harebrained schemes do in the long run.
First, Ex tried to convince Bill that he was a bad person with misogynistic tendencies. I think she knew damned well it wasn’t the truth. The truth is, Bill is kind and generous to a fault. He doesn’t have an abusive bone in his body. Ex, on the other hand, is very abusive. So she just projected herself onto Bill– yet another illusion. Maybe she should have been named Doug Henning! Like all narcissists, she’s a master at creating smoke and mirrors that confuse her targets and distorts their perceptions so that they see things inaccurately.
When Ex suggested that Bill was an abuser, it horrified him. Bill worked hard to prove to her that he wasn’t that person, even though they both knew he’s not abusive. I suspect that Ex was both repulsed and turned on by the way Bill reacted to the idea that he was a monster and his subsequent desperation to prove to her otherwise. I’m sure one part of her wished he would have taken a stand. But the other part of her probably realized that he’d let her change the narrative, and this could be a powerful point of control for her. When he didn’t settle down and give up the idea of going back into the Army, Ex got more desperate. That was when she decided to haul in the big guns and throw out the “D” word– knowing full well that Bill’s parents’ divorce had been very painful for him. She figured he would do anything to avoid a divorce from her and be separated from his children.
Ex never actually meant to end their marriage. At least not at that point. She just wanted to be in control again, and maybe somehow get Bill to change his mind about being in the Army. Or maybe she just wanted to punish and humiliate him for taking back some control over his own life. How dare he?! Either way, if she managed to convince Bill that he was “sick”, damaged, and abusive, and that she was the only woman who would accept him, he would stay with her and never let anyone or anything supersede her authority, including the Army.
This “divorce” stunt, which was supposed to make Bill desperate to appease Ex, had instead forced her into a situation that caused a severe narcissistic injury. She couldn’t backpedal when he said “yes” to her divorce proposal, because that would make the narcissistic injury and subsequent humiliation even worse. So she was forced to ride with Bill on the drive to the notary she’d lined up on Easter morning. It was not the outcome she’d ever expected or wanted. She thought she knew him, but there was still a part of him that he’d kept for himself. I think that’s the part of the situation that upset her the most. All this time, she thought she owned him, not realizing that there was still a little part of him that she didn’t know. I’m sure it enraged her that he’d done the unexpected.
Of course, being a narcissist, Ex only thought she knew Bill. Narcissists never take the time to really get to know anyone. They think they’re special and gifted, so why would they take the time to get to know someone’s heart? The reality is, she really only knew Bill on a superficial level. But she was convinced she had him pegged, and she was certain she knew how he was going to react in that situation. She thought that asking for a divorce while they visited family would pressure Bill into agreeing with her that he’s a monster and a pervert. It turns out Bill has much more self-respect and dignity than she ever realized. She didn’t know, and it was painfully obvious… and in the end, she lost big time.
I’ve heard Bill tell the story about feeling like he was standing alone at a chasm many times. This morning, something new occurred to me. I started thinking about all of the other people in Ex’s life. I have never met Ex in person, but I’ve talked to many people who have known her. She uniformly leaves a lot of angry, confused, and hurt people in her wake. I’ve done enough research about narcissists, and experienced enough of their shit myself, that it dawned on me that Bill must not have been the only one who felt alone and isolated from loved ones.
I suddenly realized that most of those people probably felt the same way Bill did, standing alone on the edge of the chasm, staring longingly at all of their loved ones beckoning them to come over the chasm to join the narcissist’s team. That means that the reality of the situation was, Ex was the one who was alone at the chasm.
Bill was never alone. He was standing there with all of the other people who were being pressured to dance to Ex’s tune and were never quite “good enough” to hang out in the fantasy world. But all of those people had, like Bill, been carefully trained not to ever talk to anyone about how they were feeling. They all had tunnel vision, and were completely unaware that she had a slew of people gazing across the chasm at her fantasy world.
I looked at Bill and blurted out, “She had you fooled. You weren’t standing alone on the chasm. She was. She was the one staring longingly at all of the people on the other side, wanting to join them. But instead of trusting people, being genuinely loving and caring, and making them want to join her because she’s truly a good person, she used lies, threats, manipulation, and devaluation to isolate her victims and make them think they’re alone.”
I am willing to bet that if Bill asked some of Ex’s other victims if they ever felt like they were standing alone at a chasm, more than one of them would say they did. If at least one other person felt like Bill did, that means he wasn’t alone. There were others there with him.
The narcissist is very good at convincing people that he or she is the “good one”, who has everyone’s approval. The victims are “bad” and standing alone at the chasm, desperate to make it to the party. But the reality is, it’s not the victims who are alone. Narcissists usually have many victims, and they make every single one of them feel like they’re alone. The truth is, it’s the narcissist who’s alone, and desperately trying to connect. They create a fantasy mirage that looks appealing to their confused and traumatized victims, who are made to feel like they have to cross the chasm. But crossing is impossible.
Narcissists are never actually satisfied, and always keep their prey at an arm’s length. They’re always keeping their victims fighting to be acceptable, and narcissists have ways of making their victims think they’re worthy of the battle. But the reality is, no matter what the victims do, they’re never quite good enough to join the narcissist’s party on the other side of the fissure. They can’t ever be good enough, because they can’t be the narcissist’s equal.
A narcissist who accepts a victim as having finally done enough to appease them can no longer be in control. Losing control is DEATH to the narcissist, so they’ll always move the goalposts. You will never be good enough for them, and if you don’t wise up and end the relationship, you will die trying to appease them. Or you will lose yourself and become a shell of who you were meant to be. You CAN’T cross the chasm. You can only keep chasing the dream, which is just an illusion… a mirage.
The narcissist makes crossing that chasm seem so attractive. It may even look like it’s easy. All anyone has to do is make the narcissist happy and do what they want. Then they can join the party and be happy with the narcissist, who will finally stop being so mean, critical, and dictatorial. But that will never happen. There’s too much value in the narcissist keeping people wanting what they can’t have. So that chasm will forever remain uncrossed… but it’s really just a mirage, anyway, and probably about as enjoyable as Mormon Heaven is.
The sad thing is, narcissists have a knack for zeroing in on a person’s deepest insecurities and exploiting them for their own gain. They’re masters at triangulating their victims, using other people to present false narratives that make them think they are damaged and at risk of being alone. At the same time, like any garden variety abuser, narcissists isolate their victims, discouraging them from comparing notes while encouraging them to take sides and keep secrets. And so, the victims think they’re alone. But they’re not alone… and they can’t ever get across the chasm. So there’s no use trying. Instead of fighting for something you can never have, it’s better to find (or build) a bridge and get over it.
So ends today’s sermon. Go forth and enjoy your Sunday!
Living in Germany for seven years has taken me out of the loop regarding certain American cultural mores. Like, for instance, Halloween etiquette. Germans are catching on to Halloween, but by and large, it’s not really a thing here. I do remember years past, when Bill and I were living in the United States. We would carve a jack o’ lantern (poorly) and wait for kids in cute costumes to ring the bell and yell “trick or treat!”. When we lived on Fort Belvoir, we would get dozens of kids on Halloween! But now, if we buy candy for Halloween, we mostly end up eating it ourselves.
Anyway, a friend of mine has three sons that she worked very hard for… When I say she “worked hard”, I mean it took a lot of effort for her to get, and stay, pregnant. She finally had a son and twin boys, and she’s really into raising them. We became friends at a time when I was also hoping to become a mother. I didn’t work as hard at it as she did, though.
One of my friends’ children has autism. I don’t know how high on the spectrum the lad is, but I do see his mom posting a lot about autism and the causes associated with it. Yesterday, she posted this image.
I think I had dimly heard of the teal candy bucket for kids with food allergies. I don’t think I ever knew anything about the blue buckets for people with autism. Either way, if someone comes to my house trick or treating, of course I’m going to give them candy. I can’t imagine why someone would give a person a hard time on a night that’s supposed to be about fun. I don’t even care if it’s an adult who’s got their hand out, looking for a sweet. Who cares? I also would never fat shame someone on Halloween– I do remember a few years ago, some woman getting in the news because she handed out fat shaming letters to fat kids on Halloween instead of giving them candy. That sucks!
But again, it’s been a long time since I last was expected to pass out any candy on October 31, and many of the places we’ve lived in the States haven’t been conducive to trick or treaters, anyway. In Georgia and North Carolina, we lived way out in the boonies and didn’t have many neighbors, and we never got Halloween visitors. So this is an issue I probably would have stayed ignorant to, if not for my online friend with a child who has autism.
I probably took more interest in the above post because I also recently got into it with a woman who is mutually friended to a lady I met on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. The woman who argued with me, took offense because I disagree with banning the word “retard”. I don’t think people should be using that word as an insult, but to ban it outright is a bridge too far, in my view. It has other meanings besides the insulting one.
In the course of that argument about why she thinks the word “retard” should be forbidden, the woman told me that one of my comments was “stupid”. I took that as hugely hypocritical and ended up blocking her, because she was being offensive and wasting my time. It seems to me that if a person doesn’t want to be insulted, they shouldn’t be insulting to others. But again, she said she has autism, and maybe people with autism lack the ability to practice what they preach. I honestly don’t know. I am ignorant on that topic.
I will totally admit that I don’t know much about autism. I probably would have known more if Bill had been able to raise his older daughter, who is reportedly on the spectrum. But the fact remains, I don’t know too much about this phenomenon… only that when I was growing up, we didn’t hear about it nearly as much as we do now. I’m sure it existed, and there were probably many undiagnosed people who had it and were trying to function in a world made for neurotypical people. Things seem to have been a lot more black and white when I was a kid.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone feels like all of the people in the world should automatically change their way of thinking and doing things. Many people seem to be loudly and aggressively demanding that change. Not surprisingly, they’re being met with resistance by people who don’t like to be told what to do. I’m not saying the change isn’t necessary. It often is. But expecting everyone and everything to change on a dime is unrealistic and unfair. Aside from that, people are going to occasionally fuck up and say or do something insensitive. That’s life.
I appreciate the people who feel the need to be educators and activists on the autism issue. I don’t mind being clued in on things I don’t know about. But I am a little bit confused about some things. First off– do people want special treatment or consideration because they have a certain disability? Or do they want to be treated like everyone else is treated? It seems to me that if they want to be treated like everyone else is treated, it’s not realistic to also expect special treatment.
If someone wants to be treated like everyone else is treated, autism or other issues must be irrelevant. Declaring a need for certain considerations means that a person isn’t like everyone else is. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of respect. It simply means that the person has special needs that need to be accommodated and, in fact, they aren’t like everyone else is. What’s wrong with that, as long the differences are handled with kindness, discretion, and sensitivity?
Secondly, do people want complete privacy? Or do they want special consideration because they have a certain condition? If they want privacy, how can they expect special consideration for a medical problem? If I don’t know anything about someone’s health challenges, how can I know what their needs are? How can I address them?
Take, for instance, the exchange I had last week with the woman who argued with me over disagreeing that the word “retard” should be banned. When she responded, she immediately qualified her first statement by saying, “I have autism.”
I thought to myself, “So?” So you have autism. Does that mean I don’t get to have an opinion about this? Like I said, I don’t know much about autism, but I do know that having it doesn’t mean a person has a poor intellect. Should I have felt sorry for her for having autism? Does it give her license to speak to me in any way she pleases? Or should I treat her the way I would treat anyone who aggressively attacks my opinions?
The woman who argued with me clearly was articulate enough. Do people routinely call her “retarded”? If so, that’s definitely wrong. But she’s obviously not someone with a slow intellect anyway. Based on what little I could tell about her, she should have been capable of understanding my point without attacking me and calling me “stupid”. We should have been able to have a calm discussion without her laying into me aggressively and sarcastically. Or is that not possible with a person who has autism? I honestly don’t know. If being unable to be respectful is a feature of autism, I hope someone will tell me. But even if it is a feature, how would I even know that a random person has autism if they don’t tell me? And if I don’t know, how can I give them special consideration?
I think everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and basic respect. That means giving people the benefit of the doubt if they disagree. Just because someone doesn’t share your views, that doesn’t necessarily always mean they’re a bad person or even in need of “education”. They might just have a different perspective, and maybe it’s one you’ve never even considered. Also, opinions aren’t facts. Everyone has a right to their opinions, but they should not be presented as facts.
My favorite color happens to be blue. When I was a child, I probably would have loved to have had a blue pumpkin as my candy bucket. And my mom, who wasn’t up on all the childhood trends, even in the early 1980s, probably would have bought it for me out of sheer ignorance. I would expect that if I went door to door looking for candy on Halloween night, the people in my neighborhood wouldn’t have given me any shit about having a blue pumpkin, but not having autism or some other disorder. It would not have been their business.
The comments on the original post about the blue pumpkin got pretty heated. I noticed some people were lauding the post, but others took huge issue with it. Things got pretty wild. Have a look.
Like I said, I don’t know much about autism. My guess, based on the above comments and my recent interaction with someone claiming to be autistic, is that people with autism are very sensitive about some things. I can see that none of the people commenting above have any issues with their intellects. They are all writing coherently and correctly. But they’ve all aggressively dog piled on this woman who disagreed with them, albeit in a rude and profane way, and are now engaging in some of the behavior that they were initially denouncing. I’ve seen similar behavior in other online discussions, particularly in military circles. I find this kind of behavior disturbing, and I highly doubt much came of this discussion, other than some raised adrenaline.
It seems to me that being kinder and less antagonistic would net better results than being accusatory and insulting… Yes, the first poster was wrong to say the post was “full of shit”, and she was wrong to write “only an idiot”. But then the mob descends upon her, questioning her parenting skills, saying she’s a poor example to her child, and making sweeping assessments of a perfect stranger’s character. It seems very hypocritical to me. What would have happened if most of them had responded in a calm, kind, and understanding manner, rather than resorting to lecturing, shaming, and insults of their own? But again, maybe this is a part of autism that I don’t know anything about. People with autism get to be shaming, but other people have to be “respectful” toward them.
In any case… I think the original poster, who’s been threatened with “banning”, should bow out of that group and find one that is less hostile. It doesn’t appear that she’s very welcome there, which is a shame. Maybe she DOES need to be educated. At the same time, the folks in the autism group are certainly right to try to educate people, but there’s a way to do so that won’t be alienating. Other people have the right to their opinions, too. And it’s hard to get anywhere in a discussion when it devolves into namecalling and insults. There’s no reason in the world why people in that group should have said such personally insulting things to a total stranger, even if the original poster did initially come off as rude and offensive.
And if people don’t want to be “outed” for having autism, perhaps they shouldn’t be using it as a pass for being so hostile and insulting to other people. I get wanting to be respected. Everybody wants that. But just because a person has autism or some other issue, that doesn’t give them the right to expect special consideration and engage in hypocrisy, particularly in an online interaction. I’ve found that people often mirror back to you what you put into the world. Besides that, everyone has challenges and difficulties. I don’t have autism, but people have been mean to me, too. I try not to let it get me down for too long.
That being said… anyone who knocks on my door on Halloween is welcome to candy, regardless of their age, weight, costume, or whether or not they say “trick or treat”. Because I don’t need any more presents for my ass.
This morning, I read a headline in the Daily Press, the newspaper that serves the Tidewater area of Virginia, the place where I was born and raised. The headline was about Virginia’s gubernatorial race. This year, Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, will step down as governor, and someone else will take his place. The newspaper was reporting on how the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, “dodged” a question about vaccination, which drew criticism from Democrats.
I know a lot of people hope to see Glenn Youngkin beat the Democrat candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. This is because a lot of people from Virginia don’t like Ralph Northam, or Democrats in general. A lot of people don’t like Mr. McAuliffe, either. I come to this conclusion based on comments I’ve read online, but also because I am from Virginia and I still know a lot of people there. Plenty of folks think Democrats are just plain evil. On the flip side, plenty of people also think Republicans are evil.
Even though Virginia’s political leanings have recently shifted from red to blue, there are still many Republicans in Virginia, particularly in the area where I grew up. And, just as they might choose a favorite sports team, people in Virginia have a tendency to choose sides in politics. I suppose it makes things simpler for them. On the other hand, it also makes our society more divided. I’ve noticed that people will often write off people solely based on their political preferences. There’s little thinking or discussion involved.
I didn’t read the article in the Daily Press about the governor’s race. Doing so would have required turning on my VPN, since the Daily Press, like so many other U.S. based newspapers, has made itself unavailable to readers based in Europe. We have a pesky data privacy law over here with which a lot of American papers can’t be bothered to comply.
I did, however, read some of the comments on the Daily Press article. Someone lamented about how anti-vaxxers were selfish and rebellious. Below is a screenshot.
I had to laugh at the guy who called Biden’s administration a “pos” (piece of shit), and wanted to know if the commenter he was responding to would jump off a bridge if Biden asked him to. Did this guy have the same mindset in January 2021, when Trump called on citizens to storm the Capitol? Are most people really like this? Do they really have no ability to think for themselves? I mean, there are some conservative ideas that I can get behind. And there are some liberal ideas that I like. Why does it have to be “either/or”? Why can’t we work together to make policies that suit the majority of people? Are there any moderates left in the world? Or are they all just keeping quiet?
I attempted to tell Bill about the comments I was reading, but he suddenly interrupted me with thoughts of his own. Granted, they were thoughts that were on topic, which was a plus. However, it was pretty clear that he hadn’t really been listening to me. A few seconds after I started speaking, he began formulating a response. In doing so, he missed part of my message.
I was immediately annoyed by the interruption and said so. I love Bill very much, but he has a terrible habit of interrupting me when I’m mid sentence. He also has a tendency of speaking to me when I’m engaged in something else, like reading, watching a video, or playing a game. Consequently, I often have to ask him to repeat himself or “hold that thought” until I’m ready to actively listen to him.
I often feel frustrated, because I can’t finish a thought or I get distracted from something on which I’d been concentrating. I have kind of a short attention span, so when people interrupt me, I tend to forget what I was saying. I also grew up in an environment where people didn’t really care what I thought and happily told me so… and in fact, I was labeled “arrogant” when I did express opinions. So, I’m probably even more sensitive to being interrupted than I might otherwise be.
Bill immediately apologized. He knows he has a tendency to interrupt. It’s a habit that gets reinforced in his job, where people are action oriented. He works with a lot of military folks, and they aren’t big on introspection or “soft skills” like listening instead of speaking. There’s a lot of testosterone and posturing that goes on– guys jockeying for leadership. Bill is probably one of the less alpha guys in his office, but he still has this habit of cutting me off when I speak. He doesn’t mean to be rude when he does it. It’s just something he’s learned to do.
It occurred to me that a lot of information and insight gets lost because people are so busy talking over each other. Successful communication depends as much on receiving messages as sending them. If you’re speaking or formulating a response when someone else is speaking, you’re going to miss some of what they say. And whatever you say in response will probably be poorer for it.
After Bill apologized for interrupting me, I said, “What do you think would happen if you consciously made an effort to listen more?”
Bill thought about it for a moment and said, “I’d probably learn more.” Then he told me that listening more carefully was a concept he’d actually talked about with his Jungian therapist.
Then I said, “I challenge you to make an effort to speak less and listen more today. When you’re at work and someone speaks to you, try to make yourself listen carefully to what they say. Do you think you can do that?”
Bill smiled enthusiastically and said, “I can try.”
That’s one thing I like about Bill. He has a really good attitude about most things. He’s slow to take offense and quick to take correction.
I truly am curious about what would happen if people listened more and spoke less. This is a habit so many of us have– myself included. We’re so busy wanting to be heard ourselves that we don’t let others have their say. And then we get offended when they don’t want to listen to us when we want to speak.
It’s not just a problem in conversations, either. It also happens when we read. Here’s an example.
A few days ago, someone in our local pet group posted a comment about heartworm preventative in Germany and asked a question about where to find heartworm treatment for her new dog, who had recently come to Germany from Romania. German vet clinics aren’t like U.S. vets. A lot of the clinics in Germany are just offices, rather than hospitals, where veterinarians can board sick animals. Heartworm treatment generally requires hospitalization. The vet where she took her dog could only test for the infestation; they could not offer treatment, because they don’t have hospital facilities.
I was the first person to respond to the poster. In my first comment to her, I explained that heartworm preventative isn’t widely prescribed in Germany because heartworms aren’t that prevalent here. I wrote that German vets usually only give prescriptions to people if they’re taking their dog to a warmer country. Vets here don’t prescribe heartworm preventative as a matter of course, the way American vets do. More discussion ensued, and we established that she’d need to find a vet with a hospital.
Another commenter came along and tagged me in a comment, “correcting” me for what I’d written about heartworm preventative medication. She wrote that German vets will prescribe preventative if someone is going to a warmer country.
My response was, “Right. I mentioned that.”
I’m sure my response came off as a bit “curt” and “bitchy”, but it always annoys me when someone doesn’t read carefully and then tries to correct another person. If she’d spent more than a few seconds reading more carefully what I’d actually written, she wouldn’t have felt the need to make the point about warmer countries that she’d mistakenly thought I’d missed. Those few seconds spent more attentively reading/listening, could have spared her the few seconds she’d spent “correcting” me, and the few seconds I spent letting her know that the correction wasn’t necessary. It also would have spared us both some irritation.
Why do people do this? I think it’s mainly because of egotism. We want to look smart, accomplished, and helpful. People want to be heard– but they don’t always want to listen. I think Americans, in particular, don’t want to take the time to listen before they respond. They’re always rushing to prepare for things, even though a minute spent listening could spare them five or ten minutes down the road. Time is money, we’re told, so we rush to say something, do something, take action– but so often, if we’d just cooled our jets and shut our mouths, we could have spared ourselves needless grief, time, and money.
Plenty of other commenters came along after I commented on that thread about heartworm treatment in Germany. Many of the people who commented never bothered to read what had already been written. It seems they all assumed they knew better than everyone else who had responded. I ended up turning off notifications for that post. Hopefully, the lady found a vet to help her dog.
This issue of how we don’t listen well came into my head a couple of days ago, when I stumbled across a televised interview of one of the women who wrote Not Without My Sister. The show was aired in Ireland, and proved that some interviewers are terrible listeners.
Notice how the interviewer often doesn’t really let her guest finish her sentences. Part of this may be because of time constraints. Part of it may be because the interviewer is trained to ask questions. But I wonder how much she can be hearing if she’s so busy forming responses and new questions as her guest is trying to answer. As a viewer, it was annoying to watch this interview, because I couldn’t hear all of what the guest was saying.
The above interview isn’t as bad as some, though. I can’t stand watching shows like The View, because there’s a whole group of women talking over each other. It’s hard to get a clear message rather than just noise. I wonder what the point of the show is, if no one can get a word in edgewise, and no one is actually listening to the person who speaks.
Anyway… I hope Bill will remember what we talked about this morning and give my proposal to talk less and listen more a try. I wonder how much more efficient and productive people could be if they’d just stop and listen for a moment. How much information will they get that is not distorted? How much time will be saved because someone didn’t have to repeat themselves? The possibilities are endless.
We really should all listen to each other more. I include myself in that suggestion. I’m going to give it a try. I hope some of you will be inspired to try it, too.
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