What a Shame

Anyone who has been a target of malignant narcissist abuse has a long journey to health, both physically and emotionally. (The two are related.)

For those affected, no reading is complete without understanding the role of toxic shame.  Here’s a definition of what that is:

Toxic Shame is a neurotic, irrational feeling of worthlessness, humiliation, self loathing and paralyzing feeling that has been inflicted onto an individual through repeated, traumatic experiences often, but not always, rooted in childhood.

There is the shame our consciences feel as God intended – the healthy shame – when we engage in things that really are shameful. Mistreatment of others, lying, stealing—you get the picture. This is what prompts us to try to make right our wrongs and keeps us (hopefully) from repeating truly shameful behavior. There’s a remarkable lack of this kind of healthy shame anymore in our culture.

Toxic shame is what is meted out by  emotionally abusive people, both as a tool of manipulation and also as punishment by sociopaths who have NO sense of shame themselves and who are skilled at using others for their own ends.

When this occurs, targets begin to absorb this false thinking into their identity — something that can cripple the target and destroy their ability to recover a true sense of themselves. It is startling to realize how emotionally abusive  people use this tactic so effectively.

Looking at this topic from a Christian standpoint, you can easily see how the enemy of souls uses people like this to kill, steal and destroy. Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren.” Yes, indeed, and he works through his willing tools on this planet to do so.

Those who are close to a narcissist, especially in a family or partner relationship, display their fears, insecurities and weaknesses as we all do with those we trust. What is so evil about how narcs work is that these same insecurities, fears and weaknesses are the source of the toxic shame these narcs  heap on the target once the degrading and discarding points in the relationship begin.

So, for example, if a target has anxiety problems, that will not only be thrown in the face of the target as proof they are inferior or mentally ill or otherwise unhinged, and during the smear campaign phase, if the target manages to leave,  it will be spread abroad as widely as possible as proof of just how deranged and flawed the target is.  Your vulnerability when you trusted that person becomes the place to insert the knife by the narc. They were storing up that information for future use. I heard one target describe the mind of a narc as a “steel trap” that retained useful bits of info that was later used – out of context – as a weapon to try to destroy. That’s how they roll.

The gas-lighting they engage in furthers the belief  in the target’s mind that they must be the one who is crazy. Self-doubt washes over the head of the target like a tidal wave.  The sense of (false) shame becomes the most prominent feature in the life of the target. They must be a tremendously flawed person, they think. Depression and hopelessness follow.

Satan is a liar.  His servants who have been given over to prideful minds serve as powerful tools in the destruction of others.   The target is faced with not only combating the  lies thrown at them, but also facing the cold shoulders of those who willingly enabled the narc in his destruction campaign. It can be a formidable challenge to overcome this.

When fake spirituality  is added to the mix, and the abuse takes place by someone claiming to be a Christian, , the impact  on faith can be huge. The disassociation that targets utilize to survive gets read by them internally as loss of faith and all the guilt that goes with that follows. The ultimate goal of the spiritual power behind malignant narcs is ultimately that. The destruction of a person on every level, most importantly, faith in the Lord. Whatever image they portray to others, malignant narcissists are the embodiment of evil.  Secular counselors will call it a “personality disorder.” Be that as it may, it is spiritual at its core. The enemy of souls stalks the vulnerable and innocent through them. Without understanding the devices of the evil one, it is difficult to recover.

There are some good resources on this subject that are essential reading by those who have experienced this firsthand.

I highly recommend this book, “How to Kill a Narcissist.  Don’t  worry, the title refers to the killing of the lying myths narcissists hand out to targets. It is tremendously helpful in grasping what these abusive liars do. Once unmasked, the power they have wielded over targets using toxic shame becomes less and less.

For Facebook users. Shannon Thomas of Southlake Christian Counseling has been one of the most helpful sources of truth on this subject that I have encountered yet. Linking to her Facebook page will give you a constant stream of truth — all aimed at a hopeful outcome for those affected.

I want to conclude this post with a word of caution. Be very careful about those you see for counseling on these issues.  If a counselor does not have a handle on how these moral monsters work (malignant narcissists), you will not only NOT find help, you will also end up with additional burdens of false guilt that you in no way should carry.

We are told in Scripture to “understand the enemy’s devices” so as not to be outwitted.  (II Corinthians 2:11) Biblical counselors who want to apportion equal blame to those in these horrendous situations further victimize the target.  Malignant narcs who end up in counseling with targets (a rare thing) are skilled at pointing to reactions they have provoked by their extreme lies to prove to the counselor that they are not the problem. Foolish and incompetent counselors, particularly those of the “biblical counseling” variety, fall for this way too often. Snakes in the grass are known to provoke wild reactions with their venomous bites not witnessed by others. When the reaction of the snake bite victim becomes the focus of outrage and concern, the snake and its poison have succeeded. It really is that simple.

A few helpful points in these memes below.

 

 

Needed: Clarity on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

reconciliationThere is probably no teaching so messed up among Christians as the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some subjects may come close , but this one has to be at the top. Rather than clarity and sound counsel, Christians often get mixed messages on the subject from pastors, counselors and articles, making difficult situations worse.

Related to the subject of forgiveness is the issue of reconciling with those who have injured us. Separate issues, but sometimes not treated as such. I will give you just one example of why sorting this out, particularly as Christians who are commanded to forgive others, is so important.

Years ago, a relative in my extended family targeted me for harassment and extreme emotional abuse.  I was barely out of my teen years when he decided specifically that I would make a handy weapon to get back at my father for some long held grievance.  It wasn’t hard to see why I was targeted. With the advantage of age,  I completely get why I was the one, and not one of my siblings. I was sensitive and easily hurt, quick to react and eager to please. I was also too inexperienced and young to know what was really going on behind it all. The extent to which the relative meddled in my private life would shock. He even involved my two little boys.  It went on for eleven years at its worst.

Finally, deciding that the self-created drama and excitement of provoking and harming someone who had never done anything to him was getting old, the perpetrator gave a lukewarm, “Sorry we (he had his wife and son participate as well) got involved.”  Not, “I’m sorry I targeted you in the most vicious fashion possible with  ongoing lies, gossip, slander and meddling. We behaved in an evil fashion and harmed you terribly. I am sorry, will you forgive me?” Just, “Sorry we got involved.”

Young and eager to do the right thing, I reached out, invited the perp and his family to our home, fed them from our table, and tried to let the emotional harm stay behind in the dust. But the story did not end there. It was not long when the trust and attempts at involving these people back in my life were met with further betrayal. This happened several  times in the next few years. Needless hurt once again occurred, trust shattered, emotional pain inflicted. A familiar set of dynamics surfaced,  distracting me from my primary calling as wife and mother and causing old wounds to reopen.

So what had happened?  Hadn’t I rushed to forgive like Jesus? Hadn’t I spent years trying to show that I had put the past in the past and moved on in love?  I recently came upon an article that was tremendously helpful in understanding what had happened in this particular situation.  It also shed a clear and helpful light on other situations I have struggled with as a Christian who wants to live in the light of forgiveness, and, yes, see reconciliation. ( I have seen precious little of the latter in my  life. I can count the time on a couple fingers of  one hand where I have seen real, true healing of relationships. Hatred and pride are the default settings for most professing believers today.)

The excellent article I have linked to below points out something very basic. Letting go of the wrongs that people have done to us is one issue. We are called to do this. We also have to do it or become sick with anger and grudge holding. But reconciliation is something else entirely. THAT is predicated on repentance by the offending party. Real repentance. Not a pragmatic, fake “sorry.” Going back to the so-called apology by the person who targeted me, with the advantage of years gone by, I see now what the problem was. The entire “apology” was a non-apology. The only thing the person was sorry for was that poking me with pins like an insect on a display board was no longer entertaining and had actually screwed up any hope of having family gatherings, something he decided he wanted after all. It served his purposes to say a quick sorry. And I was naive enough to buy it

We must forgive people, but one thing we cannot do is force reconciliation, no matter how much we yearn for it. Those who refuse to see the harm their behavior is doing when confronted with it and instead chose to marinate in the raw sewage  of hate cannot be allowed back into our lives. When those involved claim to be “Christians”, they make an ugly mockery of the Savior they claim to follow. We reward those who mock Jesus when we rush to embrace those who aren’t in the least sorry for what they have done. In fact, many don’t even see that they’ve done anything wrong at all.

Something else happens when we try to force reconciliation.  We bring on ourselves the time- wasting, unprofitable distraction of endless relational drama and emotional chaos. Narcissists, bullies, sociopaths who are in our lives can literally serve as human wrecking balls. They produce false guilt in those who long for reconciliation and healing. Their projection of their sin onto their victims is one of the hallmarks of this kind of person. They are divisive, and they enjoy what destroys a normal person. These people need to be removed from our lives permanently if at all possible. Satan lives in the tumult they create. We are called to peace as believers.

I know there are those reading this blog who are struggling with this in their lives. The article I referenced by April Kelsey is excellent and gives biblical examples. I would also warn, as a side note,  that some things that comes out of the “biblical counseling” movement need to be taken cautiously. Much of it is simply not biblical at all and strengthens abusers rather than get to the core of these situations that can destroy lives—lives intended to bring glory to God, not Satan.

A quote from Kelsey’s article:

When Joseph’s brothers show up at the palace where Joseph is governor, Joseph doesn’t even reveal to them who he is. Instead, he sets his brother Benjamin up as a thief and threatens to enslave him to see how his brothers react. Only when Judah, the one who sold Joseph into slavery, offers to take Benjamin’s place for the sake of their father does Joseph reveal his identity, extend forgiveness, and invite his brothers to be reconciled (see Genesis 44).

Here is what Joseph didn’t do:

– Joseph didn’t hop the first chariot down to Canaan when he became governor.

– He didn’t show up at his brothers’ house and request a private audience with his abusers.

– He didn’t say, “Forgive me for being angry all these years over my enslavement. It was wrong.”

– He didn’t say, “Despite how you might feel about me now, I want us to have a good relationship.”

Joseph didn’t even allow himself to be alone in the same room with his brothers until he saw that they were fully repentant.

The same scenario plays out in many other Bible stories. Reconciliation is only offered when the offending party demonstrates true repentance.

Those who do not repent are not entitled to reconciliation…

Read the whole article here.

And, I would add, trying to force reconciliation, because you want it so much, will ultimately  end up in failure and further spiritual damage.

 

 

 

 

Malignant Narcissistic Abuse – Understanding the Enemy’s Devices

narcguiltOne of the few redemptive things to come out of personal struggle and tragedy is the ability to help others going through similar situations. In the last six years, since I began posting articles on dealing with toxic interpersonal situations, family or otherwise, (there have been over half a million hits on those posts), I have heard from many, primarily Christians, who are bewildered, confused, and in great emotional pain about their own situations. There is hope that comes with understanding. That’s what this post is about.

You don’t need counseling credentials to write about what you have experienced and what you have gleaned in attempting to understand it. In the last few years, similar writing has been a life-saving thing for me. Through Facebook, I have been in touch with various counseling organizations and groups formed to encourage and help others who are losing their minds trying to deal with people who present themselves to others with such greatness and virtue,  but who are systematically destroying those closest to them. For those who are Christians, the toxic combination of “Christianity” , mixed with a behind-the-scenes reality that is at complete odds with the claims, it is especially damaging, because faith itself comes under attack. Why does God allow this lie to continue? Why does God allow families to be destroyed by those claiming to know Jesus? Why are so many fooled by this fraud and refuse to believe those who are being targeted? It can be soul destroying if you let it.

These memes are part of a collection I have that express with laser-like clarity what narcissistic abuse looks like, both in family systems, and elsewhere.  Damage is done not only by the perpetrator, but by his enablers who surround him and prevent accountability or isolation of the abuser from ever taking place. A malignant narcissist is not just a “difficult person.” They do not just cause “tiffs and disagreements.” They are human relationship destruction machines, empty shells without consciences.  They are skilled at manipulation and lie as easily as they breathe, making their targets appear crazy or unbalanced. They are image specialists, knowing how to preserve a squeaky clean appearance, as their enablers (known as flying monkeys – see Wizard of Oz) do their bidding without ever questioning the situation. These are useful tools, unwitting or otherwise, who help in the destruction of innocent people.

As a side note, I would like to add that no amount of public good done can justify the destruction of those closest to you. Many malignant narcissists in ministry (the self-deprecating kind described by Jack Watts) build their public works on the backs of those in their families. If you create a family, that is already your first calling, to nurture, instruct and love them. As parents, we are not accountable for the well-being of strangers’ children or strangers first. Ignoring this fact results in untold personal destruction from those who are often voiceless and helpless, the ones left by the side of the road in the rush to help strangers.

Christians are told to be aware of the enemy’s (Satan’s) devices – to understand his playbook in the destruction of lives and souls.  Well, here is just a glimpse. (Hit the pause button in the middle if you want more time to read.) There are numerous resources online for more information.  I highly recommend this short, seven-minute video, that will further explain. (Also posted below.)

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