I might be showing my age here when I reference the original Wizard of Oz. but for those who do remember this movie or possibly still watch it when it comes around, I am sure you are familiar with the Wicked Witch who torments Dorothy for nearly the entire movie. The witch is a prominent character and repeatedly interferes with Dorothy’s yellow brick road journey especially when things seem to be going well for her and Toto. Despite her magic spells and potions the Wicked Witch runs into obstacles that prevent her from pulling Dorothy into her control and getting what she needs the most.- the ruby slippers. Those ruby slippers would bring great powers to the owner and she wasn’t about to share that power with this menacing little twit from Kansas. Once frustrated enough the Wicked Witch simply had her loyal band of Flying Monkeys to disperse to do her dirty work. Sounds like a lady with her own set of rules and standards… maybe even a little…. narcissistic?
If you have become aware that you are an Adult Child of a Narcissist ( ACON ), or have one for a sibling, a boss, an X spouse or a neighbor or a friend, you understand the crazy-making behaviors others can use to rob you of your own common sense. If you have tried to address the crazy-making behaviors meant to manipulate or control you, you most likely ran into a little resistance. Merely asking that someone to change their behavior can be enough to aggravate them. Asking is perceived as a wounding, a real cut to the quick. Doing so makes you the bad guy whose only intent is to wound them or take them down. In some cases when brave enough to point out the obvious craziness you put yourself in the position of the Truth Teller– pointing out what has been taboo to talk about. In a toxic family that’s a very precarious place to be as it is the segue to becoming the family scapegoat.
The scapegoat is the person who gets blamed for all the ills and misfortunes of the family as a means to distract everyone from looking at the dysfunctions within the family. As it is, once you admit to yourself there is a problem, you either have to deny it exists, blame it on someone else or fix it. The former are a lot easier to do than the latter, and for a dysfunctional family, the only one that needs fixing is the bad guy or the truth-teller. You may remember Dorothy reminding the Wicked Witch that she was a wicked, wicked person for what she did to her sister. Never tell that to a narcissist unless you want to experience some sleepless nights. (Or end up locked in the dungeon as Dorothy did.)
Like the witch in the Wizard of Oz, toxic people collect a supply of loyal followers. They buy loyalty and indebtedness with favors, money or gifts of time and talent. And, everyone who has received these gifts may or may not understand that all the goodies will stop if they switch loyalties. Or worse, they might find themselves future scapegoats with the boney finger pointed at them. Like in the children’s book ,The Emperor Has No Clothes, no one is going to point out the obvious wrong for fear of getting punished.
Eventually someone in the family begins to grow emotionally and to change. This person begins to see behaviors that have been explained away by others as, “Oh, that’s just Dad.”, “Don’t let him bother you, that’s just Bob.” When you begin to say to yourself, “That might be the way Dad or Bob has acted but there is something wrong with that behavior” you become a threat to a family that thrives on not looking at what is really going on within its borders. Toxic families don’t want to notice the elephant in the room that the truth-teller is pointing out. Like the Wicked Witch, when the person with the power feels they are loosing power despite using all the tricks in their arsenal, they have to bring in the help of their loyal followers to do the dirty work of getting you to comply with their demands; no matter how irrational those demands are. Enter the Flying Monkeys.
It isn’t uncommon for participants in my classes to point out that their soon to be X spouse is a narcissist because he or she has been selfish and non-involved with other family members. But, if we are honest with ourselves we know we can all be a bit narcissistic at times. In fact, every time we insist something be the way we think it should be we are walking that line. But, a true narcissist is much more than self-serving. They can be charismatic and seductive yet turn on you on a dime if you upset them. They live by their own set of rules and they expect you to fall in line and obey them, and when you don’t the chaos begins. They are true emotional manipulators – emotional pyromaniacs starting emotional fires when the truth about the current dysfunction gets to close to the surface.
If you believe that you have a narcissist in your life, most likely you have tried everything you could think of to rationalize with them, and get them to understand – to stop the verbal abuse they only use on you when no one else is around. You may have tried to block them on Facebook or cut them out of your life only to have them return to offer the olive branch of peace and then WHAM, they set you up and you get pulled in one more time. You may have hired lawyers to protect yourself from threats they make or lies they try to pass as truths. But at some point you need to find the courage to just let go and go on with your life without them. A very wise woman recently shared some wisdom with me that she had learned through the Course on Miracles. I quote her here. ” If it isn’t about love, then it is about fear.” Short, simple but so true. If someone you know is acting in a way that makes you fearful that is not love –even if this individual calls themselves your husband, wife, partner, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or grandparent. And if you continue to live in a state of fear you are at risk of losing sight of who you are and acting out in ways that are not characteristic of you. Then voila! You have become the crazy, out of control person the narcissist has been trying to set you up to appear as.
This person also shared an Alonon quote worth posting, “Detachment isn’t about a wall, but a bond of mutual respect.” Even though you most likely will not get mutual respect from a Narcissist when you decide to detach, you can a least have enough self-respect to finally say goodbye from a loving position. There are many postings on this situation that speak volumes beyond what I can say in a couple of hundred words. If this is an issue in your life then here is a good place to stop by for more information and ideas on how to break contact.