So, are you nodding your head in recognition? Heard this before?
You’re a target of sudden rage – either over something totally unexpected or totally out of proportion to what you would think. And then after they’ve ripped you a new one or two and you’re lying all over the floor in pieces, they look at you and say, “It’s okay…I’m not mad.”
As if they had a right to assault you, as if they were entitled to unload on you and aren’t you relieved, you who are left there bleeding, that they aren’t actually mad at you?
And they feel better. And they’re all nice again as if nothing had happened. And don’t you DARE ask them to acknowledge what they just did to you and make them feel bad again, because they are all that matters.
You are supposed to, EXPECTED to, understand this.
And you know what’s so pathetic? It’s thinking about how I must have sounded as I tried to understand my raging narcissist, as I pleaded with him asking him why he was so angry, or assuring him I didn’t mean this or that or whatever he was raging about at the moment – so bewildered, emotionally on my knees begging him to stop, to understand…because I really thought he didn’t understand, that if he just knew, if he only realized what I really meant or that what he was perceiving wasn’t accurate, he wouldn’t be so angry.
Because after all, he really did love me, you know, and he would never intentionally assault me in this way if he only knew, so he mustn’t know…because he really cared.
But he didn’t care and it wasn’t about facts or a particular issue or anything like that at all. It was about agendas, his agendas. And for whatever reason or whatever direction the wind happened to be blowing, he simply needed to punish. That was the bottom line.
And he could be so calm afterward, because he got the release he wanted. And of course, he wasn’t mad then. He felt better. And true to a Narcissist, this point of reference – him – is all that matters.
The irony of this doesn’t escape me, nor does it escape my daughter. When I was with him and every time afterward, when I witnessed this play out with my daughter, even in minor incidents, whenever he said “I’m not mad” after he just yelled at her, I always said, “Yes, you are. You raised your voice, you spoke angry words.” And then (when I was with him) I’d explain to my daughter what he was upset about and why.
So he didn’t get too mad that I just contradicted him, because I was, after all, speaking on his behalf and he always liked it when he thought I was sticking up for him. But at least, I did have the wherewithal to not participate in denying her reality and experience of it.
Now, I just correct the lie he just told without explaining why he was mad, because 1) I don’t care 2) It was probably stupid and I retired from the “defending stupidity department” 3) He can speak for himself for crying out loud.
But the fact is, I’m just not around him all that much any more, so I have less opportunity to observe this abusive behavior – and it is abuse.
My daughter will; however, relay incidents that happen when she’s alone with him – and I want her to – and I will, again, validate her perception. Together we’ll analyze his behavior, his words and I’ll ask if these things convey an angry response to her or not, and when she says yes, I will tell her that’s how it sounds to me, too.
And I will reinforce the importance of not only paying attention to the visual clues you get, but also to what’s going on inside of her. To pay attention to the emotional responses she’s feeling. Does she feel like she’s being assaulted? Then pay attention to that, and do not let someone automatically redefine your reality for you to suit them.
Clarification is one thing. Sometimes, we are mistaken, BUT we take the whole thing into account. Not just the word of one person. Not just because they say so. It has to measure up to everything else we take in and what we know.
Because it’s NOT okay, to say you’re not mad when you are – especially, when you unload that anger on someone. People who respect one another, tell each other the truth about what they’re feeling and own their actions.
That’s another thing I tell her. I always make sure, in defining an unhealthy situation, to provide her with a healthy example. General lessons are easily transferred to specific ones. I make the general statement, and she draws her inference to her father.
I will say this at least a million times as long as this blog exists. Validation is the key to sanity and empowerment.
You can’t give your child a new parent, but you can give your child an honest perspective on what she is experiencing. You can empower her with knowledge and validation. Next to assuring your child’s physical safety, this will be your single most important job.
It’s okay – he IS mad, and you can tell yourself the truth, even if he can’t.