The Lying and Deception Spectrum
The lying and deception spectrum is vast. It ranges from mere wishful thinking to near delusionality. And most narcissists fall within the spectrum somewhere. Moreover, grandiose narcissists are notorious for their flagrant disregard of genuine truth. Traditional explanations for this have finally shown their weaknesses. By and large, narcissists aren’t oblivious or in a true psychological state of denial. And they don’t lie primarily because the truth would crush their fragile sense of self. Rather, they lie out of defiance – a stubborn refusal to be subordinate to anyone or anything.
The Grandiose: Legends In Their Own Minds
Grandiose narcissists are a special kind. (See also: pp. in Character Disturbance.) One famous researcher called them “legends in their own minds.” After interviewing thousands, he came to a startling conclusion. For some disturbed characters “thinking makes it so.” In other words, reality or truth is what they say it is. For them, there is no reality other than the one they surmise. Perhaps that’s one reason they tend to do so much mental filtering. (See: Obstinate Denial and Mental Filtering.) You might challenge their view, but they’ll have nothing of it. They see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. Nothing and no one will change their view of things. In fact, the put all their energy into persuading others to see things their way. That’s part of inducing the gaslighting effect. (See also: pp. in In Sheep’s Clothing.)
At some point, the lying (including lying to oneself) of a grandiose narcissist can border on true delusionality. That’s the extreme end of the lying and deception spectrum. Now, we’re not talking about delusionality inflicted on a person by a brain that’s gone biochemically out of control. Rather, we’re talking about what can happen when a person stubbornly refuses to reckon with reality because it would mean changing who they are and how they prefer to operate in the world. And we’re not talking about genuine psychological denial, either. We’re talking about lying to yourself so often and so egregiously that you’re beginning to believe your own fictions. I find it heartbreaking that so many therapists fail to appreciate these distinctions.
Standing Your Ground and Keeping Your Sanity
The secret to dealing with covert-aggressors and manipulators is in how you respond to their tactics. Recognize the tactics, for sure. But don’t be swayed by them. Regard them for what they truly are: attempts to make you doubt your instincts and to capitulate. But when someone’s done something clearly harmful, the ways they attempt to justify it are irrelevant. Most of us instinctively know that. But under the pressure of tactics, we sometimes fail to stand our ground. And that’s because the more ardently a person pushes their view, the more we might tend to doubt. Eventually, you can begin to doubt your own sense of reality, if not your very sanity. (See also: Gaslighting Victims Question Their Sanity.) Trusting your gut is key to personal empowerment.
Hope for the New Year
I’ll be taking some time off, but will return to posting the week of Jan 7. I pray the coming year is one of greater awareness for all and less character dysfunction. I plan to keep doing my part. And you can catch my well-wishes and other thoughts on the lying and deception spectrum on this week’s Character Matters.
I also hope and pray that all consider and recommend Essentials for the Journey. It’s my most substantive work to date, carrying my deepest hope for the conversion of hearts.
53 thoughts on “The Lying and Deception Spectrum”
This is an interesting topic for me. I have a few people in my life who lie. The mentally ill, he lies constantly, and I have to decipher what to believe. The coworker, who lies to cover up inadequacies, and the X, whom I have very minimal contact with, who lied to cover up and to harm. Now that I am writing this, seems most of the lies are to cover up the truths about themselves. For some reason, they want me to think a certain way about them.
Why would they care what I think? I’ll admit, I do have high standards of integrity and honesty. That does not make me “judgey”.
Anyway, I’m sick of it. Listening to lies is a waste of time and energy.
It seems to me the narcissist is usually trying to manage their image of how they want others to perceive them, and that could include lying if need be, or “stretching” the truth. I am trying to determine this with someone, but its hard because its not an extreme. I feel like I can’t avoid them so I better figure out how to deal with them, who to stay away from , who to guard myself around them.
Narcissism is easier to see when its at the extreme end of the spectrum. For those who fall somewhere in-between it can be difficult to distinguish. I often wonder where is the line drawn between a manipulative person who manipulates to get their way and true narcissism.
I think only the X is a narc, malignant at that, according to the definitions. He’s an extreme case.
The others, I would not label as narc. The one is definitely trying to manage image. It’s annoying. Soon, though, I won’t have to deal with it on a daily basis.
kat – when you can’t avoid them how to deal with them – let me know if you figure it out. I used to confront and argue at the ridiculousness that was coming out of her mouth, but now I’m learning to control my urge to speak up and just have a blank stare and hope the conversation ends.
Lucy, the best I have been able to do is to not give out information about myself, not show that whatever they are trying to poke at me about bothers me and to get away as soon as possible. I learned in alanon that I can’t control another person, I only have control over what I do. I have found confronting doesn’t change the behavior and possible just keeps it going, or they know they are getting to you and they will use that information. I never had to work with a narc, that would be very difficult.
Those are good tips and insight. I’ll try to make those become a habit.
That’s what I do too for the most part, Kat. If it’s an important relationship, family, new relationship, work, depending on the lie or situation, I will use benign confrontation. I can’t always do it well or at all, especially if I’m stressed or triggered (which if they’re a narc, they know exactly what buttons to push to get there).
Sometimes, the person will engage calmly and admit it or at least show remorse. It helps me to understand which relationships or people who can and want to be respectful and honest.
Also, when the person realizes you will confront and push back, I’ve found they watch themselves more as they know you will say something or they just avoid you b/c you’re not an easy target. It’s the hardcore ones that just double down and gaslight that are the ones to grey rock and not waste your energy or time on in my experience.
We can’t control anyone but ourselves. We can sometimes influence if the person is open, but being aggressive will not facilitate the process, they will just dig in. Many folks just aren’t open as they don’t care about how their behavior/choices affect you.
I’m learning. I got lied to today yet again, the same ongoing lie, and my first thought was confrontation and two word came out of my mouth, and I stopped myself. I just didn’t go there and let it drop.
What I sometimes do in that case is, pause, say “hmmm”, pause again, and then say “interesting” and walk away.
Healing, I would be interested to know what reaction you get with that. Its noncombative but still acknowledges the behavior.
It varies, but the reaction also gives a clue about them. Often, they look surprised, sometimes confused. But they usually do behave better.
Also found it helpful when someone is being critical (not in the helpful sort of way). Either way, it puts them in the position to choose to think about what just happened, if they are inclined. It’s also, as you say, non combative.
I’ll have to remember that, also for the critical comment that is really not appropriate.
Happy New Year!
Am determined to make it a great one!
Happy New Year to you!
I believe there is another form of deception that some of these characters like narcissists use frequently that goes hand-in-hand with lying, but with an interesting twist – the target being duped by the lie doesn’t even have to believe the lie itself, but only has to buy into the narrative that the narcissist actually believes it.
This is the manipulation of what the victim thinks the narc/disturbed character believes, through the use of lying.
I call this “Slying”, so-named because it’s a very sly trick and goes beyond even simply just lying, because it has a double-layer that can easily go undetected unless you are aware of what they are doing.
And why would this be important to the narc, and what is to gain from it?
I think that this tactic goes hand in hand with their other frequently used device which is “impression management”. I have real-life examples in a little self-help book that I wrote, available at most online book retailers. (In case you’re interested, it’s “Take Back (Control Of) Your Life.”)
That’s interesting, and am sure it happens. People some frequently comment to me that this person actually believes what he’s saying. I don’t think they do, they’re just lying repeatedly thinking if they say it enough I’ll believe it too. But what you’re saying takes it even one step further.
I think I read here that one sign of a lie could be when the person over explains. I know of one person who does this repeatedly. It’s so annoying and obvious.
Having coworkers who are character disturbed is difficult to deal with, since you keep having contact with them. It’s much easier when it’s someone who you can rid of your life.
Yes so many people get fooled into thinking that the narcissist/disturbed character believes their own lies. Saying it repeatedly is them trying to brainwash you into believing the lie, or at least fool you that they believe it (Slying). But you’re right it’s so obvious. And I used to have a “Friend” like that as well, super annoying. They’re gone now, out of my life. Couldn’t be happier.
My ex did this after we separated (After he decided to end the marriage) tried to convince me he had always been open and honest by repeating it and all the while not giving the lawyer what was asked for.
I had massive anxiety as a result of him deciding to end our marriage. When I went to the GP she said he was gaslighting me as he blamed it all on me and took no responsibility himself. He wouldn’t work on it I had to do that. I totally understand the slying. The thing is now I’m kicking myself for not seeing it earlier, and my brain doesn’t want to think that he did that, especially as we are both Christians.
You don’t understand it till it happens, and till you research or have counseling from one who understands.
Thing is, there are so many ways of manipulating a person, so many different character disordered personality types, it’s difficult to catch it right at the beginning.
That’s totally understandable that you felt/feel that way. Their behavior creates cognitive dissonance. It’s very distressing.
They hide who they really are.
Hope you can let go of being hard on yourself for not knowing what he was doing, who he really was. It’s his shame, not yours. So glad you’re free of him!
A big one I have dealt with that sounds like a version of this, is the person pretending she doesn’t understand. She gets to keep doing what’s she doing while you spend your energy trying to get her to understand. Slick and really cruel.
Exactly right! You get it. I’ve seen that happen so many times as well. Feigning ignorance; another slick device.
My daughter sent an email asking if I’m open to starting a conversation.
I swear as soon as I get firm in my resolve that it’s just hopeless, she’s just too destructive. She makes contact. She treats me like gum on the bottom of her shoe, beneath her – until she wants something, then she’ll either demand or manipulate. When strangers are present, then she pretends to adore me.
She says she wants a chance to apologize. She’s had a million chances to apologize. She hasn’t felt the need or if she did, they were general and hollow.
My guess is she needs something, even if it’s a chance to say we’re in contact. Face saving\utility. Hate that I feel/think this way, but too much damage was done With zero remorse.
I don’t like her anymore. I certainly don’t trust her.
Feedback/support would be very much appreciated. Feel very unsettled.
Healing you wrote,
“I don’t like her anymore. I certainly don’t trust her.”
In my situation I’ve felt at peace since being estranged from our son but I only felt angst paired with sleepless nights when we weren’t. We haven’t spoken in five years and if he reached out to us I would go right back to feeling anxious. I have learned to trust my gut. With so much time under our belt I’ve been able to disremember (my word) the hurt and anger but I will never forget who he really is.
Healing, I hope you can find peace.
I could have written much the same thing. She mentioned five years since we’ve seen one another. But for me, I haven’t forgotten the anger or the hurt. I have flashbacks. And like you said, now that I have accepted who she really is, I haven’t forgotten.
She has changed the way she relates to me, but she’s always been good at that. The ends justifies the means is her motto. Very machevellian, so no way to know.
Funny thing is, I was feeling peaceful. I think they sense that and can’t have it.
Thank you for your support, it means so much.
It’s unsettling even the thought of having a conversation. If you do, and she wants something from you , then you’ll know.
Will an apology, the words of an apology mean anything to you?
It’s the actions and changes that are meaningful.
I don’t believe that people’s true character changes. As my counselor once said about my x, “he’ll behave, but I don’t think he’ll change.” That has always stuck with me.
If you ever feel the need to contact her, it could be on your terms instead of hers.
Just the thought of her asking to have a conversation is disturbing.
This is a tough one. It’s like even no contact, they’re never really gone.
That’s true. But it likely won’t be obvious and she may play the long game. My guess is she just want to make sure the hook is still in/be able to say we have a relationship.
I think if it’s sincere, possibly. She has been changing her behavior, but as you say, they can behave, but it’s not likely they’ll change. She told me years ago that she knows she’s an “@$$ hole.
On the other hand. She has been seeking therapy. She’s young enough (33) to recognize that her behavior is not only destructive to me, but self-destructive. I’m not the only one she treats this way. I do wonder if the consequence of not having me (and likely others) in her life has had an effect. Not seeing\speaking to someone regularly make it very hard to guage. And of course, they can always fake it.
I’ve been thinking back and realized that the good moments with her were getting less and less over time and the scary/hurtful ones were increasing. When she moved away, it increased exponentially.
What really concerns me is she was aware it was harming me and did not care. Is she pretending to care now for a self-serving purpose?
She wants things on her terms. It’s been an ongoing battle. It’s exhausting. I pushed back the last time and offered different terms. She didn’t like them because she didn’t have the control.
I have considered having the conversation and just listening to her, firmly pushing back if she starts behaving poorly/ending the conversation. Not giving her latitude/power/control she does not deserve. I think she’s aware that I’m pretty much done at this point.
Honestly, I think that’t the way they want it, they want to be firmly in your head.
Thank you, Lucy. It’s so helpful to have support from folks who really get it.
I have considered having the conversation and just listening to her, firmly pushing back if she starts behaving poorly/ending the conversation. Not giving her latitude/power/control she does not deserve. I think she’s aware that I’m pretty much done at this point.
You have a good handle on the situation and know all those tactics and red flags and alarms.
What the heck does she want from you? Why does someone mistreat, but want to keep it going? Does it bring them joy? The joy of power? what is it? Could it be a personality trait that enjoys seeing others hurt?
I’m sorry this is happening to you. You know, some people are just mean and evil and heartless. It’s hard for us to accept that, but we know it’s true.
I have trouble with my daughter as well. We do communicate, but I don’t always believe her because I know she lies, lies to cover things up. once you know a person is a liar then everything comes into question.
Right now, she’s my source of angst. We get along most of the time but then I see that distorted side of her and it’s very unsettling.
If it weren’t for the relationship with my grandson, I’d have much less communication with her.
The million dollar questions! I’ve spent many years wondering that myself. Her dad is the same way. Sadistic, selfish, cruel, uncaring, manipulative, controlling, punishing, entitled, charming. Yet, they get angry and act like the victim when I have a problem with it! That requires more punishment. How dare I!
Is that the joy of power and control? The joy of harming and feeling powerful and in control? Feeling superior?
Thank you, me too. It’s agony. I know I need to end the madness. I believe she’s playing on my emotions (my love, my hope) and playing me for a fool.
It’s complicated when it’s your child, isn’t it? You want a different sort of relationship, but when they lie to you, you can’t. You never really know where you stand and what’s true. It is unsettling. Think it’s getting better over time or can you tell?
That’s understandable. Glad you have a good relationship with your grandson and that he has you as a solid base of love, support and modeling.
I’m being punished again right now. I call her out on her lies. Her go-to is “Blocking you. I don’t need this negativity.” So when situations don’t add up, I’m on alert that she’s lying, that or back on the drugs. And if I bring up that, oh how dare it. Then she acts hateful towards me, as her punishment. Frankly, I could go months without speaking to her and be fine with it, if it weren’t for my grandson. She has made some progress, but like your situation, she’s seen the behaviors from her father, and mimics it, full well knowing what harm it does to her. She uses those tactics she’s learned. She lies to him as well. He takes care of the grandson a lot for her because of her working schedule, and he’s with GS more than she is. So she lies to both parents. What a shitshow. But then she makes strides. So it’s back and forth. But I’m thinking her character is ruined. She’s an adult. Seriously, if it weren’t for GS, we’d barely have a relationship.
I think you have strong enough convictions and backbone and knowledge that your daughter cannot fool you anymore or take you down. She can try, but will fail. It sounds like you’re at that point that I am, that there is not a strong emotional connection because of all the distortion and damage. That we can turn our backs on them again when they try to abuse us.
If they were a “friend”, they’d be history a long time ago. It’s harder with family.
Must be very frustrating. She lies to you, you call her out, and you’re being negative and she doesn’t need it! Like you do!
From Dr. Simon: “Others may “invite you to appraise yourself negatively based on their opinions of you, but you have the power to “ accept or “reject” those invitations.”
Try to avoid responsibility by blaming you, making it about you. Deflection/ diversion/ punishment. Hoping you’ll stop calling them out and move on.
They are adults and aware of what they’re doing. Makes it really hard because you can’t have that connection, they abuse that connection, that desire to have a connection, then it’s gone.
Is she still living with you?
Hopefully she doesn’t withhold your GS from you- when she doesn’t need you to babysit him anymore. I’ve heard that is a common tactic for control/punishment.
Hopefully. My concern is that she is an excellent gaslighter, and she combines tactics. Also, I have post traumatic stress and sometimes just shut down or freeze and can’t respond effectively. She knows this and I think she takes full advantage to push it. Writing is much better for me because I can take breaks when I get triggered and it’s easier for me to detach.
I’m coming to recognize that the strides were likely just she learned a better way to manipulate me.
Try to avoid responsibility by blaming you, making it about you. Deflection/ diversion/ punishment. Hoping you’ll stop calling them out and move on.
That is right on point.
I’ve told her numerous times, “don’t gaslight me, that I know all the tactics, I’ve studied them for years, remember, I was married to your father. You won’t get anything over on me.”
No, she’s not living with me. She did straighten herself up, had loads of counseling, has gotten back custody of her son, and they have an apartment. I help her out financially when need be, and she does pay me back when she can. She’s come a long way, but still, has that dark side. She is studying narcissim to understand her dad, so she must be seeing herself too. She said it was so hurtful when she reckoned with herself that her dad is a narc. It hurt her. But she uses those tactics!
She has threatened to withhold him, and I’ve called her bluff, and she retreats back and lets me see him. She knows how good I am to him and how much he loves being with me. He’s 8 now.
I’ve begun taking notes again when I feel something is suspicious.
when her story changes, I’ll just flat out say Don’t Gaslight Me! I know what was said.
Sorry about the PTSD. Being chronically subjected to all this nonsense does have an effect. Maybe you should wait longer till you give her yet another chance to converse.
Through all this, we lose trust. Even if it’s true, it’s hard to fully believe it and are on guard. So it’s hard to even enjoy the good things.
It breaks my heart GS has to see all this crazy. He appears fine, but I’m sure it’s affecting him. I try to get him as much as I can, the X has him a lot, so I feel ok that he’s not just with my daughter all the time. I take him most Saturdays and spend the day together, doing fun activities, adventures, or just hanging around, in peace.
It’s so exhausting. Sounds like you are very strong and not letting pull one over on you. Good for you and for her. Calling her bluff – take away the stick- awesome!
Their not trustworthy. Spent years trying to trust untrustworthy people. Makes no sense.
The notes are so helpful in maintaining your sanity and calling them out.
Thanks. It can be debilitating at times and I can’t let her take advantage of it. Also considering keeping the communication through email instead or just saying no as it seems that no matter what it is all just a manipulation. Taking my time to decide what’s in my best interest.
Really sorry about your GS. It’s hard to watch the damage done to someone so innocent and vulnerable. They absorb stuff like sponges. It’s wonderful that he has you. I’m sure it really helps.
Are there some phrases or responses that are good standards to calmly, firmly, put the attention back on their behavior and their responsibility for their behavior? Especially when they are playing on your compassion/sympathy?
She has shifted to using her mental health as an excuse to terrorize and excuse her behavior. Before it was that I ruined her childhood (for putting limits and expectations on her behavior-and dad didn’t. Parental alienation.)
It matters less what words you use, and much more how you express them and the sentiment that comes through. While it’s tempting to display righteous judgment, only love heals. So, if whatever you say conveys a message like: “I see you still struggling to find the strenth and will to stop making excuses and do the work of becoming a better person. I’m willing to support and reinforce every single little effort I see you making in a healthier direction. I just have to dismiss all the rest.”
Thank you so much! I was wrestling with the tone to use. Balancing my righteous judgement/fear she’ll abuse my compassion.
I’ve read through all the posts and I’m left wondering.
If I was unkind, hurtful, uncaring and a host of other negative behaviors so much so that I’ve been cut off from contact. If I was going to therapy and recognizing my ‘wrongs,’ I would be so embarrassed and so ashamed it would be hard for me to contact that person again. If I did contact, it would be very tentative and careful because I wouldn’t wish to cause that person more distress and/or I wouldn’t want to face the rejection my unforgivable behavior rightfully deserves.
So I’m wondering why we continually twist ourselves into knots on what do we do, how do we handle this when our difficult, poor charactered people rear up again. (This all certainly fits with what I’m currently dealing with right now as well.)
I’m guessing, if they really were in a healthy place, we wouldn’t need to make any decisions. If Healings daughter had good intentions, those good intentions would have been clearly stated instead of such an open ended statement that has caused a deluge of anxiety and distress.
I’m thinking a proper response may be ‘no, obviously you are not in the place for a conversation.’ If Healings daughter has something positive to impart she would just say, “I would like to have a conversation about my poor behavior and the harm it’s caused our relationship,” instead of luring Healing into the web like a Spider to a Fly. It seems to me that Healing’s daughter knows just how much hope Healing still harbors for a good relationship.
From my observation, the stage has been set for Healing to be in a one down position. How can a good conversation occur when Healing is feeling so anxious and defensive? How can any apology or fresh start be sincere and believed when Healing’s feeling of peace is feeling so threatened?
And I’ve also noticed that when enough time goes by and I’ve achieved a measure of peace, they pop up again. I’m never sure how they seem to know but the pattern is too consistent to be coincidence.
Upon rereading Healing’s post again, I’m wondering why the email did not contain the apology? It seems to me, if one is going to apologize, one just apologizes. Requiring a concession from a boundary set doesn’t seem like good form or good intentions to me.
I really appreciate your replies and perspective.
That’s what my gut is telling me. My heart is telling me that people can change. There’s a battle going on.
She’s aggressive, possessive, she’s bright, charming and understands human behavior and how to get what she wants. She also thinks I’m beneath her, and should be at her beck and call.
When I decided to limit contact, at first she was openly aggressive and defiant. Demanding my attention (knowing I told her I needed and was taking space to focus on me). Then, when that didn’t work, she said that if I didn’t contact her, she would call my work to “check on me”. She knows I’m a private person and that I would hate that (she acknowledged that in the voicemail!). After some time and the threats had stopped. I reached out to her. She was more respectful for a time. Then, to get me focused on her again and playing the victim, threatened if I didn’t agree to going to therapy with her, she would end the relationship. I called her bluff and said “are you sure that’s what you want to do”. She backed down and said she knows she can’t control me COMPLETELY. Then asked if we could do a check in system. I said yes. She said she didn’t want to get into things, just check in (read, didn’t want me discussing her abuse.)I agreed. Then, she abruptly broke the terms, and started asking about things. She changed the goal posts. I should have called her on it in the moment. I ignored the email. I regret that now. But! A month later she revealed herself. She sent an email saying that she didn’t know what to do. That I hadn’t contacted her and that she was responsible for my health as her daughter. She needed to know I was alright. (I call bs). And that if I didn’t respond, that she’d have someone come and check on me. (Mind you this is the same person that when I needed her would leave (thinking screw you-she told me later.) I ignored that email too. Coercion/extortion?
I sent her an email over a year ago outlining her behavior in a calm, non judgmental way. Matter of fact, telling I support her journey back to health, and offered to share my recollections and insights with her therapist directly, but she’s an adult now, and her treatment of me was unacceptable.
This last email was the first response from her.
I want to see if you are open to starting a conversation with me, without mediation. I have needed to sit with this idea for a while to be sure that I’m ready to do so, and I think that I am, as long as we take it slow and leave opportunities for independent reflection and to take breaks if needed. I want to have a chance to apologize to you and share my heart with you. I love you very much and I think I’ve grown a lot in my understanding of myself in the last five years. I now know how to step away when I am getting overwhelmed, which I think will be extremely helpful in this conversation. As I said in my previous email, I’m happy to stop and start as many times as we need. I would just like to get started if you are open to trying again. Please let me know what you think about this idea.
I love you always,
Sounds good, right? Maybe sincere too?
Knowing her like I do, what I see is that she wants my focus on her and what she wants. She will ask like it’s a request, but really it’s a demand in disguise. She will do whatever it takes, manipulation, fear, obligation, guilt, shame to get me to capitulate. She’s playing the victim. She wants control/domination. Period. She has told me, as an adult, that the ends justify the means. What’s the ends? To suck me back in for another round of abuse, to get her prop back? I absolutely hate to think this, I want to believe there’s a chance. And like you say, I believe she preying on that hope. She knows the difference between right and wrong. Knows how to act. She gives herself permission to treat me this way
She seriously terrorized and abused me and it was worse when I confronted her. Then she would leave and do her thing like it was no problem. She told me early on that she thought it was my problem. I’m certain that she fully intended to make me the problem/ensure the therapist saw it that way too…to punish me further. Her dad was/is abusive like this and worked to drive us apart. He also creates/exploits crisis to get his way. An opportunist.
Took a couple of days to try and calm the fear and flashbacks and to work on getting my equilibrium back.
Other observations are welcome. I can’t always catch the manipulations.
Thanks again, this site is a sanity saver! The support is greatly appreciated and very much needed.
Found this and I think it helps to understand why it’s so hard to accept. It’s that way by design.
Wow! My first thought is I’m so glad I’m not in your shoes. My shoes are uncomfortable enough!
I have a couple of thoughts regarding this delicate dilemma which I hope are helpful.
My first thought is the email lacks some straightforward clarity and leaves it a bit open to interpretation in the vague way that I’ve learned from Dr. Simon and experience is a red flag. There is nothing in that email that suggests to me she is taking responsibility for being the antagonist of the issues between the two of you. From my observation, she could be trying to mend fences with her difficult, troubled mother. (Victims always apologize, the victim mindset discusses apologies without the actual apology from my observation and experience.)
My second thought is also from Dr. Simon which also matches my experience. Patience is not their strong suit. ‘The want what the want and they want it now.’ I think some of our difficulties are brought on by anxiety; we have been well trained through rages, tantrums and fits to respond quickly. I suggest asking her to wait while you consider her request. I would let things just be for 3 or 4 weeks or longer if you choose. I’ve found, they’ll wait a couple of days, maybe a week or two but anything over 3 weeks in untenable for a controlling person and/or a manipulator. Or, you could also test her sincerity by disagreeing with something she said, like maybe requiring a mediator in order to restart your relationship. Truthfully, sitting down with a therapist might be a healthier start. I’d be wary as she definitely doesn’t seem to want that which I find at odds with sincerity and responsibility.
I would love to hear what Dr. Simon thinks of these suggestions. I’ve recently realized I’ve been down in the muck of negative, toxic, unhealthy behavior for so long I’ve lost perspective of what is healthy. I’m trying to get back to that healthy thinking, healthy behavior in conjunction with such unhealthy behaviors coming my way. I’ve found that all interactions are on their terms, with me on the defense and trying to somehow make sense of what they’re saying or doing like it’s actually rational behavior that I’m treating so very seriously.
I think we often let our pendulum swing wildly from one extreme to the other with either being angry and unforgiving (hopelessness) or moving too quickly into forgiveness and second chances (hopeful). I think this is what Dr. Simon has discussed about relationships in previous posts. That we should take our time to vet someone. I don’t think our family members should be exempt.
I hope my thinking dovetails with yours! Please keep us posted. I’m certainly interested in how it all turns out.
Thank you for the thoughtful response and observations and suggested. They are very helpful.
“From my observation, she could be trying to mend fences with her difficult, troubled mother. (Victims always apologize, the victim mindset discusses apologies without the actual apology from my observation and experience.)”
Pretty sure that was the intention, that pretty much sums up her M.O. and she’s pretty clever and gives herself plausible deniability.
Will do. Calming my Central nervous system before I make any decisions.
The first part of the request for conversation, “without a mediator” sent a red flag. She does not want anyone to help with the conversation, she wants control. And the statement about HER maybe needing to step back when you becomes anxious is another alarm. Not that she is provoking you, but that she is weak when it comes to conversing. That SHE may need breaks from the conversation. It’s already setting up that it will be a problematic conversation.
What have you got to gain from having a conversation? Do you think it can lead to a healthy relationship between you two? Are you willing to work on this relationship throughout your life? I think she’s going to continue to beat down your emotional health and well-being. I seriously doubt she can make the big character changes that it takes to be a decent human being. For some reason, she’s chosen you to be the whipping boy. It’s a really sick relationship.
I’ve seen how low a person can go when they want to hurt, my X did to me. Unconscionable behaviors that are alarming. It’s like they’ve got an evil force living within them.
I’d take plenty of time before agreeing to converse again, and it would be on your terms, not hers. Do what you have to to protect yourself.
The thing is, we are decent human beings, and we so want to have the love and give it a chance, but to get burned time and time again, we have got to be in protection mode.
Thank you. Excellent questions, observations, and hard truths.
“What have you got to gain from having a conversation? Do you think it can lead to a healthy relationship between you two? Are you willing to work on this relationship throughout your life? I think she’s going to continue to beat down your emotional health and well-being. I seriously doubt she can make the big character changes that it takes to be a decent human being. For some reason, she’s chosen you to be the whipping boy. It’s a really sick relationship.
I’ve seen how low a person can go when they want to hurt, my X did to me. Unconscionable behaviors that are alarming. It’s like they’ve got an evil force living within them.”
I believe that too. You’ve experienced it and really get it. Facing and accepting that reality (still, apparently!) Surprised how difficult it is to stop trying despite seeing what she’s doing. That is about me and my work that still needs to be done.
“I’d take plenty of time before agreeing to converse again, and it would be on your terms, not hers. Do what you have to to protect yourself.
The thing is, we are decent human beings, and we so want to have the love and give it a chance, but to get burned time and time again, we have got to be in protection mode.”
Excellent advice and what I’m going to do. She fights hard and instead of trying to help her improve her character, I need to protect me.
I think she has stated things in that email making her appear to be the hurt, sensitive one, which is BS.
Thank you so much Charlie and Lucy.
Feeling overwhelmed right now, but wanted to make a clarification. She wanted us to see a therapist together and I didn’t because this is what she does. Plays the hurt victim. She actively sets up situations to make me look like the antagonist, or worse unstable. She lies easily and plays the dutiful daughter that is the victim. If I knew the therapist or mediator was someone like Dr. Simon, I’d agree in a heartbeat. But I’ve been to enough therapists to know that she’d easily con them and I would be devastated, and she would be reinforced/validated in her cruelty.
Wonder what Dr Simon would have to say.
So sorry you’re feeling overwhelmed and any part I played in adding to your troubles.
Our history with disturbed characters is a long, winding, complicated circuitous route filled with ups and downs, anxiety, vulnerability, strength, resilience and empowerment. We get ourselves in a good spot and then they’re back and we have to work to get into a good mindset again. It’s a real struggle.
But you have her figured out. I hope you can take some comfort in whether or not Lucy and I understand all the context, we see her too through her email to you. And, yes, trauma from therapists happens and is common so your caution is more than warranted.
You got this! You know her, you’ve done the work, the study, the learning., you have the knowledge. You’ve got the empowerment now. You can wobble a bit from time to time but I can see you will never allow yourself to be in the same position you were with her. You will never allow her to harm, manipulate, and control you again. You got this! Follow your gut and you’re going to be just fine getting through this latest challenge.
“Our history with disturbed characters is a long, winding, complicated circuitous route filled with ups and downs, anxiety, vulnerability, strength, resilience and empowerment. We get ourselves in a good spot and then they’re back and we have to work to get into a good mindset again. It’s a real struggle.”
So true. And, unfortunately, the damage is cumulative. So recovery is a little more challenging each round, and our vulnerability increases, despite our awareness of their tactics. The fog lasts longer.
Thank you! That’s very supportive and affirming!
We certainly work hard to understand what we’re dealing with and how to best protect ourselves. I think it’s knowing when to throw in the towel, when you are out of your depth in dealing with them. I’m discovering that I’ve likely set myself up for failure by continuing to engage and try to help her. It’s soul crushing and depleting and seems to only to help her refine her tactics.
Hugs and gratitude!
I’ve thought about you a lot these past days. I’m also sorry if I added additional stress to you.
We have suffered through situations that have given us so much over the top stress, over and over again. I know what you mean when you say that you are overwhelmed. To this day still, if someone asks me about the divorce, my X, I preface any comments with the fact that I can only speak about it for a few minutes then have to stop, that it creates so much anxiety and sick feelings within me that I cannot speak on it. Maybe I have PTSD. Maybe you and others do as well. We have these symptoms, yet throw ourselves into these situations again. If we’d been physically assaulted would we go back for more? Maybe. The lies we and manipulation we tend to get sucked into can keep us in situations that are unhealthy to us. Emotional abuse does feel like a physical assault upon our entire being.
I went four years without speaking to my X. I now have a very limited relationship with him in dealings with our family. I keep my guard up. My heart is closed. There are barriers up that he’ll never penetrate. With my daughter, the barriers are up and my heart is not open. I’m very guarded. I’ve been treated badly and don’t forget it. So although I do have a relationship with her, it is a carefully guarded one. Don’t know if that will ever change. I’m sure you can relate to that. You do have a good grip on the entire situation, and can shut down a conversation when it starts becoming malicious. You know all the signs. You are very atuned to her.
You may get to the point where you can have a conversation with her and not come out feeling beat up. I’ve found myself detached. It’s self preservation.
I wish you the best, whatever you decide. You aren’t her victim. You’re in control.
I definitely have PTSD. It’s been getting a lot better but I’m still triggered fairly regularly with society being what it is.
For example, my newly adopted epileptic dog, had cluster seizures yesterday (3 grand mal seizures within 30 minutes.) So we had to go to the doggie ER. I was manipulated, gaslighted, guilted and shamed. I’m quite certain the ER vet notes will state, Owner refused seizure watch, Owner refused MRI, Owner refused neurology consult. What’s the reality? I refused seizure watch because the ER doc said the cluster seizures were over and further treatment was unnecessary. I refused the MRI because I don’t think he has a cancerous tumor or the other extremely rare neurological diseases they tried scaring me with. He only has neurological deficits before, during and after the seizures then he’s back to normal. I refused the neuro consult because I’m not paying an extra $459 for a consult yesterday through the ER when I have an appointment scheduled within 2 weeks.
(Their response? Well, if you really think it’s ok to wait that long with a severely epileptic Frenchie who could easily overheat and die or have brain damage then I guess you can wait. UGH! My response, well Stitch has had severe epilepsy for the past 8 months of which he’s currently resided with me for only 2 of those 8 so I’m assuming, if he hasn’t overheated and died yet or had irreversible brain damage, two weeks won’t make much difference.) Ugh, ugh, ugh!!
I did make them give Stitch an injection to ensure we didn’t have more seizures. I pointed out to the Doc, why would he need to be on overnight seizure watch if you’re saying he’s done seizing and you don’t think he needs a rescue dose now? They gave him a rescue dose there and sent one home with me so ‘I won’ if you get my meaning but it was really, really predatory and I’m triggered.
(On the plus side, my vet validated my decisions and apologized for not being available. He’s setting me up so I won’t have to go to the ER again for cluster seizures.)
So even though I handled the situation well, even though I stayed calm, poked logical holes in their manipulative tactics and even though my vet validated me, I still felt helpless and triggered. So nightmares, jerking awake, high startle response and a feeling of being excessively alert has followed me since yesterday. I’m so much better now than I was when I would scrub and scrub and scrub because I felt so filthy and vile after dealing with a similar situation particularly if it involved my ex.
I’m not sure if any of us can come out of the extreme stress of manipulation, lies, gaslighting and not have some elements of PTSD.
So sweet, Lucy. Thank you.
“To this day still, if someone asks me about the divorce, my X, I preface any comments with the fact that I can only speak about it for a few minutes then have to stop, that it creates so much anxiety and sick feelings within me that I cannot speak on it. Maybe I have PTSD”
It wouldn’t surprise me, Lucy. The over the top stress you mentioned, as well all of the abusive tactics, including gaslighting takes such a huge toll not just on the mind, but the body as well. The body registers all of it. It takes less and less stress to push you off balance. We become less resilient if we cannot find a way to process what’s happening/ happened, and protect ourselves. Focus on deep breathing helps me calm the nervous system.
I was diagnosed with PTSD years ago and have learned how to lessen the symptoms somewhat. But like you, sometimes it’s too much. I tend to isolate more now because the world it just too much, so many folks spot the vulnerability and try to prey on it. It’s disgusting.
“The lies we and manipulation we tend to get sucked into can keep us in situations that are unhealthy to us. Emotional abuse does feel like a physical assault upon our entire being.”
So true. Getting away from folks like that when possible and do our best to detach when we can’t. The harm is worse I think than most of us recognize at the time.
“You do have a good grip on the entire situation, and can shut down a conversation when it starts becoming malicious. You know all the signs. You are very atuned to her.” Maybe too atuned!
“You may get to the point where you can have a conversation with her and not come out feeling beat up. I’ve found myself detached. It’s self preservation.
I wish you the best, whatever you decide. You aren’t her victim. You’re in control.”
Thank you! I’m exhausted. I deserve way better and recognizing that no amount of my trying to help her to recognize that and internalize that is likely to work. Life is too short and precious to try and get someone to see and treat another person as a human being instead of their punching bag/subject. She seems pretty invested in it.
Hi Charle and Lucy,
You are wonderful! ❤️ Your support is so helpful. You have no idea how much. You had nothing to do with my feelings of overwhelm. It’s my situation. Grieving and working on getting back to center, sorting through the fog. Feel unprepared for dealing with her effectively. But am determined to face it.
I’m so glad we’ve been helpful! The support we receive and the educated perspectives is why I keep returning to the site. Where else could we find a support system that is so relatable to our bizarre experiences. ❤️ and Hugs!