Pointing Fingers at our Blind Spots

The sort of person who is drawn to reading this blog is the sort of person willing to undergo ruthless self-examination: narcissists need not apply. I’ve written about narcissism many times before, but this is a group that cuts so wide a swath and wreaks havoc on so many lives, that it’s valuable to examine what strategies and expectations we might employ on those occasions when they come into view.

Often times, when it comes to narcissists, we don’t always recognize them right off the bat. All too often they are charming and bright, drawing us in and making us smile, unsuspecting of what lies just beneath or the sort of toll getting close to them may inflict. Their ability to deceive us (let alone themselves) is astonishing. So, today’s post is dedicated to formulating a plan when dealing with such types, devising a new way to think about them and the role they play in our lives. I know a lot about narcissists. I’ve had a lot of experience with them and bear the scars to prove it.

So, when you reflect upon this topic, who springs to mind for you?

I was speaking with a friend about their recent divorce when they said, “I just don’t get it. They (their ex) have so much insight into other people’s behavior, they’re so smart, but they refuse to consider their role in all of this. After all these years, they blame me for everything. How can someone so bright be so dishonest?”

This is a question I’ve thought about over the years and have developed a theory that, though incomplete, goes a long way to helping me cope with situations involving narcissism. While not everyone comes into this life attuned to observation and insight, there is a sub-sect of hugely bright narcissists who can accurately identify what’s going on with others while simultaneously having no awareness of their own agendas and faults. These types are particularly effective at striking us with devastating force, pointing out our weaknesses or failures, but have a brick wall constructed in their minds when it comes to acknowledging the role they play. It’s as if we are speaking two entirely different languages, despite using the same vocabulary.

As re-booters, we are earnestly trying to be honest with ourselves, striving to find a mature, compassionate, and effective solution to whatever the problem is. But when interacting with people such as these, it is nearly impossible to find a resolution because the only way they will allow peace is for us to roll over and play dead, accepting their terms 100%. Anything less would require them to acknowledge at least partial responsibility for the matter and these types will not go there. Ever.

Any of this sound familiar?

What a terrible position in which to find ourselves. In my case, I had to end things between us—there would be no peaceful resolution because I was not about to give up everything (I had already sacrificed so much). But, you may be in a position where you feel that you cannot walk away, entirely. So, instead, you find yourself in an excruciating détente with this whip-smart narcissist who never fails to pull a punch.

What can you do to manage the situation?

The first thing I recommend is to recognize this person for who they are, rather than who you thought or hoped they were. This realization doesn’t happen easily or painlessly, but it’s a critical first step towards figuring out a saner way to live. The second step is to look for patterns in their behavior—that what they do isn’t about you at all, but reflects their overall mindset. In other words, find a way not to take their accusations, malice, or artifice personally. Learning to do this is really hard but once you do so, you will see how powerful a coping skill it is. Their words or actions may be aimed at you but they’re not about you.

Does what I’m saying make sense?

Once you’ve reached this point in your assessment, you need to adjust your expectations as to what interacting with this person will mean going forward. This correction often involves a certain amount of mourning because you must face up to the fact that the relationship (now understood for what it is) will never be the warm, fulfilling exchange you yearned for and thought you had. Gone will be the loving grandmother. Vanished will be the coach who taught you so much. And, most painfully of all, you no longer see your spouse as that life partner who is there to help shoulder the burdens. That person doesn’t exist; their sole concern is themselves—You Don’t Count (except as a satellite to them).

Instead, we must become savvier in our dealings, prepared in advance to anticipate the sort of moves these narcissists may make, teaching ourselves not to get upset when they say or pull the bullshit they inevitably dish out. Further, as reflective re-booters, we are called upon to practice forgiveness and compassion for these people who refuse to see the distress and misery they cause. If we have made the choice to remain involved with these people, it is then incumbent upon us to find a peaceful way of coexisting with them, one where we are not burning up with seething resentment or frustration. If we stay with them—for whatever reason—we need to find a way to do so that promotes as much serenity as possible.

None of this is easy. In fact, it’s really, really hard. It requires us to practice restraint, maturity, and kindness when we don’t always feel like it—especially when it comes to someone who probably doesn’t deserve it. But, it’s precisely at such moments where we have to decide what sort of person we want to be. As flawed as we are, as often as we ourselves fall short of the mark, these challenging people have come into our lives to teach us something—something we need to learn, or we wouldn’t be asking ourselves these questions. We can see in them some of our own weaknesses and we want to do better. These teachers reflect back our blind spots, if we choose to see them.

Blind spot

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