Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world with flawed people. Many of those flawed people are very dysfunctional & they refuse to change. There is no escaping them, so we all need to find ways to cope with them.
One way I have found to deal with such people is by accepting these people where they are. Please don’t think I am saying people have the right to treat you any way they want & you should accept it. That isn’t what I mean at all. I mean recognizing that some people are comfortable operating in their own dysfunction & that is their right. You have every right to protect yourself from such people, of course. You have the right to have & enforce healthy boundaries. You also have the right to distance from such people to protect yourself.
Here is an example from my life of what I’m talking about.
For quite some time, my mother went through a phase of often telling me how good a mother she was. She regaled me with stories of how she took such good care of me. The stories were strange to say the least. While there was some truth in many of them, she twisted some facts around to make herself look good. Other times, she denied any wrong doing towards me at all.
When she first began to do this, I felt like she was invalidating the pain she caused me yet again. First, by doing the things she did that caused the pain, then later by acting as if such things never happened or spinning the stories around to make herself look good. And, to add insult to injury, she clearly wanted me to validate her delusions.
Naturally, I was incredibly hurt & angry when this happened. I literally could feel my blood pressure rise when she would start telling her tales, or if not then, when she wanted me to agree to her stories. In time, I realized something though. This was how she coped.
I realized that my mother felt badly for doing abusive things to me. Not like a normal person would though. She didn’t feel badly for causing pain. Instead, her actions were so embarrassing to her that she simply couldn’t bear the thought of anyone knowing what she had done. That is why she started to reinvent the past. She worked very hard to convince herself, others & even me that she didn’t do the horrible things she did or the events didn’t happen that way I remembered. She spun facts around in some way to make her look good. The fact it hurt me didn’t seem to cross her mind. Often when she said or did things to hurt me, she looked pleased with herself, but that didn’t happen with her stories. I think she was simply so focused on helping herself feel better, how it affected me simply didn’t occur to her.
When these things happened, I prayed & God showed me what I told you just now. This was how my mother coped. Many people do this exact same thing, narcissist or not. It is incredibly dysfunctional for sure, but it also is a person’s right to live as functionally or dysfunctionally as they want to do. Naturally I wanted better for her than this for my sake as well as hers, but there was nothing I could do to make my mother operate in a healthier way. This was her choice & even her right to behave this way.
When I realized that, it helped me to accept my mother’s behavior for what it was. Dysfunctional but also her right. I kept that in mind when she started sharing her stories, & I was no longer so negatively affected by them.
I also realized that just because she wants to drag me into this behavior doesn’t mean I have to be a part of it. While it’s true people have the right to behave badly, that doesn’t mean you have to participate in it. I never validated my mother’s stories like she wanted me to. Instead, I changed the subject or ended the phone call. You too have the right to protect yourself from the awful behavior of other people.
Accepting people where they are while not encouraging their dysfunctional behavior can make coping with them so much easier!