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Malignant Optimism: The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling. This illustration came from:
Andersen, Hans Christian. Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales. Milo Winter, illustrator. Valdemar Paulsen, translator. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, [c1916] and can be found at SurLaLune
What Was I Thinking?
by Lynn S.
Just what was I thinking in excusing his faults?
Why did I put up with his verbal assaults?
I ignored contradictions, saying "He's just that way."
I honestly thought he would grow up someday.
I first tried acceptance to dissuade all his rants.
If love conquers all, then he, too, had a chance.
If he could believe my intentions were true
Then he'd surely find peace. Why, he'd be like brand new!
To know what I now know would have saved me some strife.
He'll always be frightened of love and of life,
Refusing acceptance of guilt or of blame.
His faults lie with others. It's always the same.
Just what was I thinking in trying to be kind?
What made me persist when no truth I could find?
I trusted that underneath all of his muck
Was a swan in disguise. Now I just see a duck.
YOU DIDN’T CAUSE IT, YOU CAN’T CURE IT, AND YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT--Motto from A.A.
You can do very little to impact the actions of a disordered person or affect the outcome with them. For a target, it's very difficult to get to a place where you believe that in your heart and detach. It's human nature to keep hope alive in the face of adversity and to believe in reciprocity in terms of the emotional investments we have made. Sometimes hope for redemption and recovery is merited and sometimes it turns out to be a waste of time and emotions.
I know one thing is true with a Narcissist. He will do what he will do, no matter what you do or don't do for his own reasons. Because I know that, I made a major shift in my recovery the day I started making my decisions in spite of him, without regard to how he might or might not react. I was still in a position to have to deal with him for some time and I thought for awhile that I had to take his response into account before I acted, that I had to 'manage' the interaction. In the end, I discovered that I couldn't control his reactions anyway.
You can't 'nice' him into behaving in a way he doesn't choose to behave. That is not to say that you should deliberately do things that you know will provoke the Narcissist. N-Rage is not pleasant. However, in my experience, you can't change his course in a positive or a negative way if he has decided on the course. His decision isn't based on empathy, love, or compassion. It's based on what most benefits him more times than not, meaning it's the one which leaves his image in tact and garners the most supply. Any compassion the Narcissist might show along the way is incidental. It's not out of a sense of fairness, not due to any soft spot in his heart, or because it's the right thing. If it doesn't serve him, it isn't going to happen and if it does, it will. He will not be detoured from whatever it is he wants, so ultimately, the only course you can truly change is your own.
Wishing for a better past is futile. Hoping for a different future is natural, but most times unrealistic if you keep doing the same things you've always done. Past performance is a pretty good indicator of future behavior. Acceptance that NPD is a disorder of the personality which is considered fairly intractable and notoriously difficult to treat is an important step toward healing.
It is what it is and what it 'is' isn't full of a lot of room for interpretation in terms of how healthy it is to interact with a person with an empathy deficit. Yes, there is a spectrum of narcissism. Whether it's NPD or a Narcissistic Personality or a Narcissistic Style at work, the real question for me isn't about how severe it is or how much hope there might be. The question is about seeing things realistically, using discernment, and making decisions accordingly in regard to what's good and healthy for me with compassion for myself equal to that which I offer to my loved ones. The other person has to decide the same and if they decide to make changes that benefit their relationships with others, well, that choice is up to them to make and so is the necessary work to make those changes lasting and meaningful.
You will know him or her by their actions over time. If you look carefully at consistent actions, not words or promises; if you listen to your voice of reason instead of the tapes the N has plugged into your brain; if you tap your inner knower and put away the voice of self-doubt; then you know if this person is worth the investment of time, headspace, and heartspace you've been willingly offering them. This decision is yours to make.
There is room for a lot of optimism in this world. Choose carefully where and in whom you invest it.
From: Malignant Optimisim of the Abused by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. http://samvak.tripod.com/journal27.html
"If only he tried hard enough", "If he only really wanted to heal", ...The narcissist holds such thinking in barely undisguised contempt. To him, it is a sign of weakness, the scent of prey, a gaping vulnerability. He uses and abuses this human need for order, good, and meaning - as he uses and abuses all other human needs. Gullibility, selective blindness, malignant optimism - these are the weapons of the beast."
"The best way out is always through."--Robert Frost
Oct/27/2008, 7:20 am
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