The Narcissistic Family's Dynamic
The Communal Narcissist
Group Narcissistic Abuse Explained
The Narcisst's Prayer
That didn't happen.
And if it did, it wasn't that bad.
And if it was, that's not a big deal.
And if it is, that's not my fault.
And if it was, I didn't mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.
The Narcissist's Prayer (by Dayna Craig) Beautifully illustrates the inner workings of the narcissistic mind. Denial, gaslighting, minimizing poor behavior, blameshifting, and shamed-umping all feature in this simple verse, all hallmarks of covert emotional abuse. To a narcissist, the 'truth' is not seen as a finite, fixed entity but as being malleable - whatever the narcissist says it is, at the time they say it. The truth is simply whatever serves the narcissist at that particular time.
Let’s take a closer look:
“That didn’t happen.”
Here we have denial mixed in with history rewriting - both classic narcissistic behaviors. If you’ve been in a narcissistic relationship, you will recognize this instantly. Narcissists need to feel good about themselves. This is an essential part of personality disorder. They have a desperate need to feel special or perfect to distract themselves from their core wound - which is an underlying feeling of worthlessness. They can’t accept the blame for bad behavior, as it would challenge the image they need to project to the world, so they simply deny it.
“And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.”
Minimization is another tactic that is hardwired into the miswired narcissistic brain as a result of how they reacted to their upbringing. Here they diminish the topic concerned to make it seem unimportant. And to a narcissist, if it doesn’t serve them, it is unimportant. Narcissists will minimize all manner of things, from their own bad behavior to another’s achievements, to an ill person’s symptoms, to someone else’s problems. Narcissists are intrinsically controlling - they have to control their image and how others see them, and they have to control others in order to escape from the reality of their own fragile egos. Here they are trying to control how others see external situations.
“And if it was, that’s not a big deal.”
Of course, this is also minimization again, but here I want to mention the idea of ‘ gaslighting. ’ Gaslighting is a specific narcissistic behavior in which the narcissist denies another person’s reality by making them think that they perceive something incorrectly. ‘You are thinking about it all wrong’ is a common narcissistic refrain in one form or another. If this happens enough times, eventually, the victim stops trusting themselves and starts to rely upon the narcissist in their lives as the ‘voice of reason’ or as the barometer of what is good or right. I knew of a narcissist whose gaslighting was so severe that he would tell his wife that he was drinking tea when actually he was drinking coffee, which she had watched him make. Although she knew somewhere in her heart of hearts that this wasn’t right, she found herself questioning everything she thought she knew. This keeps the victim exactly where the narcissist wants them to be - trapped in their metaphorical cage where they can be manipulated and used to give attention, adoration, drama or conflict to the narcissist whenever they need it - the oxygen that keeps the narcissist feeling whole and alive.
“And if it is, that's not my fault.”
Another easily recognizable narcissistic behavior to anyone in a narcissistic relationship - here we are looking at the phenomenon of “ blameshifting.” Narcissists cannot take the blame for anything at all, again, because in doing so they have to admit to themselves that they are not perfect and special, as they have to be in their own minds. Even just letting in the tiniest bit of accountability, through the smallest chink in their armor of superiority, will cause the entire false persona that they project to the outside world to come crashing own, leaving them exposed, ashamed and vulnerable. All narcissists play the victim when they need to. Nothing can ever be their fault - it is always someone or something else’s fault, and they are just the helpless and hapless victim of circumstance.
“And if it was, I didn't mean it”
Again, accountability issues come to the fore here. Narcissists do not apologize and mean it. Not ever. An apology will only come if it benefits them in some way - apologies are transactional, as everything is to a narcissist. Narcissists cannot be seen to be the bad guy, and they cannot bear shame. That feeling of burning shame, the humiliation of it that healthy people learn to take on, unpleasant though it is, is simply not something a narcissist can allow themselves to feel. To them, shame feel like an existential crisis. It must be batted off at all times, usually on to another.
“And if I did, you deserved it.”
Here we have both projection and blame-shifting. This transferring of your feelings onto another person so that you do not have to feel them yourself is called ‘projection’, and narcissists are masters of it. If a narcissist incorrectly accuses you of feeling something or doing something or being a certain way, it is likely that they are projecting onto you, and it is they who are actually feeling that feeling, doing that action, or being that way. In this line of the verse, the narcissist is projecting their shame onto you. They are blaming you for what they did so they do not have to bear the shame, and their shining false external image can remain intact and whole. The narcissist often uses illogical arguments to persuade you that something is your fault, or that you have got it all wrong but delivered with such convincing fanfare that you find yourself fooled. They will often change the direction of their arguments so quickly that you are left utterly confused.
The incidence of narcissism is said to be on the increase, and cultural narcissism is embedded in society. Those with a high prevalence of narcissistic traits flourish in today's climate, where prosperity, success, grandiosity, and entitlement are largely seen as positive attributes. Consider the world of politics, which is rife with narcissism, and consider the far-reaching implications of this. Sadly the profound negative effects on society and those at an individual level can be stigmatized and are often swept under the carpet.
Figures vary, with some studies indicating that up to 6% of the population qualify for the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The chances are that even if you do not directly know a narcissist, you know someone who does and, most likely, has suffered to some degree at a narcissist's hands.
NPD is known to occur as a result of environmental factors. In other words, narcissists breed narcissists due to the way they bring up their children, and the abused become the abusers.
I believe it falls upon all of us to break these generational chains by raising awareness of narcissistic abuse and de-stigmatizing the experiences of those who have been affected by it. The unique challenges to healing faced by those who have been through the trauma of narcissistic abuse need to be understood by as many people as possible, as does the fact that mere time, on its own, does not heal these wounds.
by Supriya McKenna • 04 Aug, 2021 •
Not all Domestic Abuse or Coercive Control is Narcissistic Abuse, but some is