“This opera,” said Wagnerian soprana Debra Voigt, “requires the audience to suspend belief.” I’d never really given much thought to the phrase “suspend belief” before. Ms. Voigt meant that, if you want to enjoy Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, you must accept what Mozart is telling you, even though the truth and evidence of your own eyes and ears would make any normal person say, “Um, excuse me, how can she not know that he’s her fiancé in a really cheesy disguise.”
Suspend Belief. Doesn’t that perfectly describe people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder relate to truth!?!
What Am I Bid?
I lost my innocence about truth a couple of weeks ago. Sure, I know narcissists play fast-and-loose with the truth and live in a “reality” of their own creation, but maybe my belief was suspended about just how flippantly they treat truth. It took an email from someone I had kinda-sorta trusted to make the scales fall from my eyes.
After ten months of saying how poorly her mother cared for her, how much abuse her mother allowed her to bear, how she was treated like a slave, yada, yada, yada, the email said, and I quote:
My mother did a hell of a job raising us.
But I thought you said your Mom….
And then there was that time she…
Didn’t she exploit….
What about when she…
Didn’t she let your step-father….
That’s when it hit me: Narcissists don’t handle Truth the way normal people do. We take Truth for Gospel whereas they have a fluid la-de-da relationship to truth. It pains me to even use the word “truth” in that sentence.
Do they know the truth in their heart-of-hearts? Yes, I think so.
Do they care about truth? Not in the slightest.
Whatever benefits them the most at the moment is now true…for now.
They change and discard their version of truth faster than they change their knickers (which is also, incidentally, the problems with that wonderful cliché, “Own your truth.” It implies that truth is whatever you want it to be.)
I imagine their truth under the auctioneer’s gavel….
Truth going once…going twice…gone to the Highest Bidder.
Like Banksy’s Girl With a Balloon, as soon as the gavel falls, truth is shredded.
Truth. Webster’s 1913 Dictionary. n. 1.
You and I and Daniel Webster relate to Truth entirely differently. We bow before it. We do not bend it to our will.
We define it as, well, truth! Even Daniel Webster struggled to define truth without using the word truth in the definition of truth (which, as we all remember from our vocabulary classes, is Rule #1 in defining a word. You mustn’t define it by itself.)
Truth. Webster’s 1913 Dictionary. n. 1. The quality or being true; as: – (a) Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been; or shall be.
It’s Reality. Tangible. Can’t be changed because it’s, y’know, true.
We live like it’s real because it is real. We base our lives on it.
This event actually happened, in this exact way, on this day.
So-and-so said such-and-such. Verbatim.
We responded and said this-and-that. Verbatim.
They did so-forth-and-so-on.
We did X, Y, and Z.
Set in stone. Concrete. That’s the way it is. THE END.
Occasionally, we discover more details hitherto unknown. That may change truth…but only because we injected more truth. It’s now more true than ever before.
It’s hard to twist my mind enough to understand how narcissists think about truth. (It’s even harder to use the word “truth” in that sentence.)
Maybe it’s like how the Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch depicted how he solved crimes in his Mind Palace. He stands still as virtual CG data swirls around his head while he selects some data, discards other data and arranges it all.
Sherlock, obviously, always arrived at the truth. Narcissists may…but they select and arrange the facts in the way that flatters them the most, lines their pocketbook the most and/or makes them appear to be the poor, poor victim the most. Any inconvenient facts that reflect rather badly on themselves are discarded out of hand.
Amazing…In More Ways Than One
Here’s another classic example. A few months ago, a young couple briefly split up. During his two or three days of separation, the temporarily ex-husband revealed all kinds of horrifying details about his wife — her infidelities, neglect of her children, alcoholism, iron-fisted control, greed, etc. while erasing hundreds of photos of her from his phone.
Three days later, he went back to her and posted this on social media with their wedding pictures:
I don’t do this very often, but I need to recognize…
My Wife…for being the most amazing wonderful person ever…
But you said she f***ed…
Are we talking about the same woman!?!
Oh, it gets better. He then blamed their breakup on everyone else.
You…had this magnificent plan
to split us apart
in anyway you could think of.
Well, it didn’t work.
You can’t have a relationships with people like this…whomever they’re pretending to be at the moment. You can’t build a life with them when life itself is constantly changing its details (according to them.)
I’m in the process of unlearning all the so-called “facts” the aforementioned people claimed to be true. I don’t trust them nor anything they said anymore. Fool me once…!
In 1945, Gene Tierney starred in a psychological thriller called Leave Her To Heaven. It’s about a woman who plays so fast and loose with truth, that she’s able to kill willy-nilly and get away scot-free. The title of the film comes from Hamlet. That’s all you can do with narcissists: Leave Them To Heaven. It just sounds so much nicer than “Go No Contact.”
I conclude with a tortured rework of one of the most famous paragraphs C. S. Lewis ever wrote from his book Mere Christianity.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Truth:
‘I’m ready to accept Truth as a possibility,
but I don’t accept it as Fact.’
That is the one thing we must not say…
You must make your choice. Either Truth was, and is, True: or else it is False.
You can shut Truth up for a fool, you can spit at Truth and kill Truth as a demon; or you can fall at Truth’s feet.
But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about Truth being fluid.
Truth has not left that open to us. Truth did not intend to.