Trying to reason with a narcissist is like trying to put out a forest fire by pouring gasoline on it. Pointless! And more than pointless, totally counter productive. By responding to their angry accusations you just feed the fire, making them feel more and more self righteous and indignant as you show your lack of respect for them by disagreeing.
A year or so ago, we sat down with 2 mediators and tried to work things out with my mother, after all, she is a widow and as Christians, my husband and I feel a certain obligation to try to care for her. This was not a once off, we had apologised on multiple occasions before that one. The issue that had caused a war lasting over a year was a simple one, we had arrived late to an engagement with her, and that in turn had caused her to feel deeply hurt and angered, no amount of reasoning and explaining would placate her rage.
This meeting with mediators went as expected, us apologising, explaining, but also standing up and saying that while we would love to have her back in our lives, she had to realise that we had our own responsibilities and life to live and could not be expected to drop everything at a moments notice anymore. She was not happy with this, in fact, she was scorned.
As she left with her mediator, she had him hand me a letter that I was to read. I put it away and chose not to read it right away, once I did, I folded it up and put it away in my bag with some other papers I keep with me. Today I pulled it out and looked at it again and was reminded for how she never had any intent to do anything except have her say and try to make me feel bad enough to go back to the old status quo, the one where I was the scapegoat, or the enabler, whichever suited her best at the time.
The letter starts, “As it appears you would rather forget our relationship than admit to treating me badly, I guess there is nothing more to say.” , which is funny really, because there is 2 full typed pages after that with limited spacing, it is also untrue, as we had spent many hours trying to include her in our lives and reason with her as the hundreds of text messages with single word answers in my phone history shows.
The next line goes into blatant guilt mongering “I thought I did the right thing in raising you sooner than allowing you to go to strangers but obviously I was wrong.”. You see, this doesn’t even cause me to bat an eyelash anymore though, I heard this growing up all the time. Any time I did something wrong, or expressed an opinion that my Mother didn’t like, she would remind me of the terrible hardship of raising a child she didn’t plan on raising. I lived my life in fear of being sent to boarding school too, her go to threat when straight out guilt didn’t work for any reason.
“I went without to homeschool you when you were not happy at school”, yes I am sure that the added expense of homeschooling was a trial and I am appreciative of that, but the fact remains that I wasn’t taken out of school solely because I was being bullied and was terribly unhappy there. Mother abused the teachers and principal when they did not agree to give me special treatment that she thought I deserved. It was not about bullying, it was because I was a gifted student and should have been a grade or two above where I was, but the school’s policy was not to move children up grades as it impeded them socially, and I was admittedly socially awkward!
“I also was the one who scrimped and saved to give you the wedding you wanted.”. I paid for my own wedding dress, the hire of the hall and the tables and fixings, I brought the material for the bridesmaids dresses, and gifts for the bridesmaids, and the flowers, the photography. Between my husband and I we paid for everything except for the food, as our mothers insisted on catering. I was the one who had been scrimping and saving, as my Mother had been claiming a government allowance on my behalf that we were not entitled too since I was working. I had to pay back the money, even though I had not received it. And still a sore point was that I did not get the wedding I wanted, everything from my dress, to the flowers, and who my bridesmaids were was decided by my mother, and mother in law. I am happy though, I got the groom! But in my Mother’s mind, she truly believes she scrimped and saved to give me everything I wanted.
The letter goes on to point out that my dearly loved, and recently deceased Father, “never once contributed even a cent of his money” to my happiness. And continues with the statement that she has “bent over backwards to help” me.
It is amazing how conveniently she forgets all the love and hard work that myself, my husband, and my Father have given to her for all these years. In fact, the letter doesn’t even call him “Dad” it calls him by his christian name, showing her lack of care in the most basic of ways.
Two pages of vitriol and guilt, rehashing things that she still has not forgiven me for that happened up to 15 years or more ago, small things that caused huge wounds because I did not agree with her over something. The letter ends with threats and more guilt bombing “In view of the fact that you obviously don’t want to be bothered with me, this is the last time I will ever attempt to communicate with you. If you cannot see what you did to me, so be it, I will not beg for your affection.”. Just wow. Okay.
“I will be selling my property. Once the property is sold, I am moving well away. There will be no forwarding address and you will never have to, or be able to see me or contact me again. You will not be notified when I did. I don’t want crocodile tears and pretense of love that could not be shown when I was alive.” . There is so much I could say about this, and I wrote and wrote and then deleted it all, but what deep manipulation is at work here. She would have felt very self satisfied and proud of herself as she finished the letter on those words.
My mother does not know me at all, for everything she is, I am not. I grew up determined to never manipulate and abuse people, I grew up determined to love people for what they could give, not demanding more than that of them, and most of all, I grew up not caring about possessions or money!
In many ways I am thankful to her for that, her constant telling me that I wouldn’t get certain things in her Will if I didn’t do something or agree with her made me determined to not care about material possessions. Her constant desire for me to be better, prettier, smarter, or more successful lead me to not pursue those things as goals. Her bullying and manipulation hurt me so much that I decided to never be someone who did those things to others.
Most of all I am thankful to her for the letter she wrote me, the one that was meant to break my will and turn me back into the small child who would do anything to appease her, because it instead steeled me. I am thankful that for once I have something I can take out and hold and read in black and white to remind me that my dread and feeling of being hated is not just in my head, the proof that I am not insane when I feel anxious about seeing her and the eggshells I walk on when she is near. I am thankful that she tried to dirty my own self view again like she has all my life, but instead had made me realise that I am worth more than she made me believe. I am grateful for the letter she used to try to hurt me, because it did more good than harm.
One last thought on her final parting paragraph is this, she was the one who showed her true colours, the one who could not bear to leave me to live my life in peace without her in it. I never did respond to her letter, instead pretending to have never read it and talking to her kindly and compassionately while she continued to harbor hateful resentment and nastiness towards me. When she did sell her house she did not make good on her threats to leave and never return, instead she moved into the same area that we attend Christian worship in, and started attending the meetings for worship there, gathering sympathy as a poor neglected widow whose adult child has treated contemptibly. Narcissistic Manipulation 101 – Never let your victim escape.