Don’t waste your time trying to win an argument with a narcissist because you never will. Not only are they always right, but you are always wrong.
My father once challenged me to explain my mother to any shrink in less than one hundred hours. That poor lady (now deceased) visited many psychiatrists, took lithium and Valium throughout my childhood and never divulged her diagnoses. (She went to the grave denying that she’d ever been diagnosed with any mental condition.)
The therapists I’ve spent hundreds of hours explaining my mother to over the years agree that she was bi-polar. One believes that my mother had borderline personality disorder. At one point, she was hearing voices. At another one, she was cutting up her own clothing with a razor blade and then blaming me (age 10) for the shredded garments.
I digress. At any rate, my mother certainly had severe mental illness. Her mental illness has taken center stage in my memories of her. However, the strongest underpinning of her personality was extreme narcissism.
My life experience hours spent arguing and trying to reason with my mother would easily number into the thousands. You could not argue with her because you could not even begin to get her on the same page to begin the argument.
Here’s a stunning example of what it was like to try to argue with my mother. Towards the end of her life, we took a family vacation to Maine. (She stayed in one room and I stayed in another room with my three children and a friend whose sole job it was to run interference when my mother became impossible, which was several times a day.)
Not surprisingly, one day during our vacation, my mother upset my teenage daughter with a stunning display of lack of boundaries combined with manipulation and aggressive coercion. She wanted my daughter to pay attention to her (the dying, overbearing grandmother) instead of spending time with kids her own age at the beach.
I managed to drag my mother away from my daughter and into my hotel room. Exasperated and ready to scream at this woman- my poor, belligerent, combatant, mentally and physically ill mother- I managed to calm myself down and sat her at the table in the hotel kitchenette and poured us each a cold drink.
I decided that once and for all, I would get this straight with my mother. She was dying and time was short. If she wanted a better relationship with her only granddaughter, then she would have to listen to reason.
I picked up a paper plate off the table and sketched a diagram representing personal boundaries in order to illustrate how my mother’s behavior and speech were offensive to my daughter. My mother watched me draw the diagram but as soon as I began to explain what I was drawing, she grabbed another paper plate and began drawing her own diagram.
“Here.” She shoved her diagram under my nose, cutting off my explanation about appropriate personal boundaries between overbearing, controlling grandmothers and teenage granddaughters who want to be left alone.
I looked, amazed. Her diagram had absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. It was a diagram of her personal finances, which were quite dire, given her manic spending modes and her unemployment due to illness.
She had heard absolutely nothing of what I’d said. She had no interest or no intention of listening to me, being reasoned with, or forced to understand why she needed to allow her granddaughter to act like a normal teenager.
Staring at me intently with her beady little eyes, she began to explain, (copying my mannerisms,) her finances. “This is not related.” I said and tried to steer the conversation back to boundaries and why she was such a pain in the ass and her granddaughter couldn’t stand her and how her actions were only driving her away even more.
She kept staring at me and kept repeating her finances. I believe that her intent was to make me feel sorry for her because she had so little income. I guess that was her intention. I’ll never know now. But I realized then that there was absolutely no way that she would ever listen to me or admit wrong, even if it meant changing the entire subject into something unrelated and even nonsensical. She was behaving as if she believed her behavior, drawing her diagram on the plate, to be reasonable, because it was what I had done. She was taking my own tactic and turning the tables on me, proving that she could play my game.
From there on, she seized the narrative in a long torrent of how badly we all treated her. I didn’t take the bait and went out to gather up my kids. It was time for dinner. I continued to ignore her.
Enraged, she left the next day and didn’t speak to me for several months afterwards, until hospitalized towards the end of her illness.
Looking back at the paper plate ‘argument’ on that day, from my mother’s point of view, she (the narcissist), was not getting what she wanted and deserved (constant attention from her granddaughter.) She was unable to hear or acknowledge that she had driven her granddaughter away after years of her aggressive, controlling behavior because she (the narcissist) was never wrong. If she behaved in a certain way towards her granddaughter, then her granddaughter must have deserved it for not treating the narcissist in the way that she deserved.
Despite the many years of growing up with and dealing with my mother and her impossible behavior, the paper plate incident was epiphanal in my understanding of what it was like inside her head. She was absolutely incapable of being wrong. We were the problem because we werent’ treating her properly. For me to step in and try to discuss her behavior with her rationally was simply more familial mistreatment of the narcissist. Her inability to take responsiblity for her actions, or the consequences of them, indicates a strongly wired narcissistic personality base, regardless of other mental illness issues.
- The Narcissicist’s Seduction: A Card Trick (phoenixsphere.wordpress.com)
- Get the Cluster B People Out of Your Life! (Psychopaths, Narcissists, Sociopaths…) (phoenixsphere.wordpress.com)
- Evil or narcissistic psychopathy? [Ulla Sarja] (ecademy.com)