They say that discovering Narcissistic Personality Disorder in your family is akin to losing a loved one. We go through the five stages of the grieving process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — sometimes over and over again. But it’s the first stage, denial, that I revisit most frequently. I’ll bet you do too.
How could they do this to me? They said they loved me? Do they not recognize their true motives? They were my nearest and dearest, yet they hurt me the most! How could they? How could they? HOW COULD THEY!?!
The din of denial is deafening. “Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel” goes my mind on this depressing mental merry-go-round. It never stops. There’s no “exit” clearly marked in orange neon.
The Smoking Black Box
It’s at times like these, I refer to my “Timeline of Abuse.” I call it a timeline, but it’s actually a spreadsheet. It’s like the smoking black box investigators uncover in a heap of wreckage.
This particular spreadsheet has over four hundred entries. Unkind, insensitive or downright cruel things that were said. Weird things that were done, but I was brainwashed into brushing under under the rug. All the ways normalcy was denied, emotions invalidated and freedoms forbidden.
Each entry is tagged with a summary, full detail, the year and the category. Why such anal attention to detail?
When denial engulfs me and I’m tempted to think the narcissistic abuse was simply a colossal misunderstanding on my part, I open my spreadsheet, refresh my Pivot Tables and there it is, in black-and-white, proving to me again that “all was not well in the Kingdom.”
But even the spreadsheet can’t entirely quash denial. When family is a cult and the abuse is predominantly intellectual, spiritual and emotional, denial runs rampant. Love-bombing makes it even more confusing. Brainwashing diverts the eye.
What I now call narcissistic abuse was all done for my good because I was bad and needed the narcissistic abuse to make me a better person, right!?
We all have a “normalcy bias.” According to Wikipedia, “The normalcy bias, or normality bias, is a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects.”
In the case of NPD and its related abuse, our normalcy bias is retroactive. In the past, we underestimated our family’s narcissism and the gravity, scope and damage inflicted by narcissistic abuse. Perhaps, like me, you denied that it was occurring at all and blamed yourself for everything.
IMHO, this normalcy bias is the crux of denial.
Fallacy of Composition
In case of denial, we are committing a logical fallacy called fallacy of composition. According to Wikipeida, “The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.”
Here’s how the “logic” (false logic) behind denial goes:
I’m a fairly normal, ordinary person.
I identify closely with my family-of-origin.
If I (the part) am normal, they (the whole) must be normal too.
How could a normal person (me),
possibly come from a narcissistic family!?
Therefore, they must not be narcissists.
They must be normal people who inadvertently
behave in narcissistic ways.
It must all be just a colossal misunderstanding!
It’s A Choice
Luckily, that logic is wrong. We are nice, normal people that somehow survived narcissistic families without becoming narcissistic ourselves. We clung to our honesty, our truth in the midst of all the brainwashing, the tongue-lashing, the invalidation.Even if we couldn’t put our finger on it at the time, we knew something wasn’t right in our families.
And that’s also why I still believe that narcissism is a choice. If we were raised on a narcissistic home, we jolly well could have become narcissists ourselves. But we chose not to. We chose not to believe that everyone was out to get us. We chose not to hurt others. We chose not to manipulate with our tears and lie with our tongues.
Yes, it is possible to survive narcissistic abuse without becoming a narcissist. Congratulations! You made it! Now it’s time to kick denial in the ass!
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