The System which Works for You

One of the activities I engaged in most often as a child, which carried on through my teens into adulthood, and still occupies my time, is that of – trying to figure out what others would do in my position.

The thinking behind this action was that others did everything the right way and I did everything the wrong way, thus if I could figure out what they would do before I did something then I might be able to do something the right way and avoid the usual path I took of doing it wrong…

doing something the wrong way came with a whole host of issues which inflicted pain of varying degrees.

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But trying to not do things the wrong way could also be painful.

As a child this created a lot of grief for me in the form of panic, anxiety, nervousness, stress, and the lashings of self-doubt. I could never relax and just do what came naturally…

A portion of my overwhelming shyness was due to believing that I was intrinsically flawed, skewed to do things wrong. The less I did the better it was for everyone else as my wrongs hurt them more than they hurt me. The hurt I experienced was a trifle compared to the hurt they experienced.

Things which hurt them included – my speaking when I wasn’t supposed to speak, my not speaking when I was supposed to speak, my not smiling when this was what was expected, my smiling when this was inappropriate, my moving when I should be still, my not moving when I should move, my presence when my absence was preferable, my absence when my presence was required…

I know those sound like small, insignificant things, but small insignificant things tend to accumulate gradually into a big heavy significant thing which is permanently crushing you.

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Even when I studied someone else carefully to see how they did something, I might still do it wrong…

but what about those times when I did get it right?

They’re hard to remember due to being drowned out by the plethora of times I didn’t get it right, the credit for the right usually went elsewhere and when I was given credit it came with a stern reminder of how wrong I could have gone, how wrong I had gone in the past, however that’s also what sometimes made them stand out…

like a modified (modified to only see you) eye of Sauron, watching me across a wasteland of all my wrongs, keeping a hard beady visual on all my actions, making a list, checking it twice, of all my bad deeds, scolding me with its gaze… no, wait, that’s my mother I’m thinking of…

but getting things right was in some ways more stressful than always getting things wrong because it meant that I could if I tried hard enough (squeezing myself like a contortionist into a shape I was never meant to fit into) get things right.

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It took me forever to realise that some of those things I got wrong I did not get wrong at all, they were made wrong by those who told me they were wrong, those authorities of right and wrong, because those people needed to always be right and… the easiest way to always be right is to find someone else to be in the wrong.

You don’t actually need to ever be in the right if you keep your attention fixed on finding wrongs in others. If anyone ever questions you, criticises you – you just point your finger at something the questioner is doing wrong (them questioning you is a wrong, and with a bit of drama you can make them feel awful for having done such a thing to you) and that will distract them, undermine their position, cause self-doubt and leave their confidence limp and limping.

I used to watch my parents do that to people all the time. Whenever someone came at my parents from a strong position, ready to boldly defy them and call them out on something they had done which was not right…

a small part of me hoped that this time… but then again if they had won against my parents, I’d end up paying for it…

but I’d end up paying for the challenge anyway because even when narcissists win against a challenge they’re still pissed off and have to work that out of their system – which means those closest to them get pins stuck into them like a voodoo doll.

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If you’re new to the whole relationship with a narcissist experience and are trying to figure out why you recently got punched in the gut, stabbed through the heart, had your head blown off, etc, by the narcissist when you know you did absolutely nothing to incur their wrath…

(unlike those other times when in the aftermath you could locate a possible tenuous reason why their tantrum could have been your fault… they might have even been considerate enough to blame you for something which bore a resemblance to something you may have briefly done, or they might have been generous enough to point out to you what your crime was – such as you looked too content when they were in malcontent mode, you weren’t quick enough to apologise when they needed someone to be sorry, you forgot that sneezing sets their teeth on edge and your cold is an insult to them, you didn’t ‘Like’ their post on social media, someone preferred you to them, you exist)…

then you may have been a stand-in for someone else. If someone else annoyed, hurt, or otherwise bothered your narcissist and they couldn’t take their fury out on the actual culprit, or they did do that but it wasn’t enough to get things out of their system… then they will seek out others with whom to continue the argument until they feel better. They often have a particular other, a special someone, they know they can rely on to be the lightning rod to their explosive storm.

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It took me even longer to realise that many of my wrongs weren’t mine, they were someone else’s…

if my mother was pissed at my father (which was most of the time, except for those moments when she was idolising him) then she sought me ought to be pissed at him through me as I was his child and therefore his proxy, his representative… since I looked a lot like him (which made his claims that I wasn’t his a bit shallow, but those claims needled my mother so he kept them up) it was easy for her to transfer his crimes against her onto me…

if my father was pissed at my mother (which was all of the time without exception) he usually just took it out on her, she was a better target for him than I was because she was easier to upset in a manner that got him what he was after, but since she used me to get at him he would also take his rage out on me, and my being her daughter was a crime for which I was definitely guilty.

Narcissist parents are… something you, as their child, will never be able to explain to people who don’t have a narcissist for a parent as you will get a ‘but he/she loves you…’ and there’s no way to get across that ‘No, he/she does not love you’… as even you never quite understand that until you do and when you do…

so much of your history begins to make sense, all those puzzle pieces fall into place, but…

you will never be as others who haven’t experienced what you have experienced are,

and their systems which suit them and their experiences, which work for them, will not work for you no matter how hard you try to make it work for you and you work for it.

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After a lifetime of almost always getting it wrong and only occasionally getting it right…

and not really feeling as good as I’m supposed to when I have gotten it rarely right, because that right was made up of a certain percentage of wrongs, of sacrifices, suffering, compromises, losses to gain, of deaths of self, of things it wasn’t meant to be…

and it was fleeting, sometimes so much so that I barely registered it…

but still it was nice to have a moment of right…

to have that to compare with the wrongs…

and show me that the wrongs aren’t always as wrong as I was led to believe that they were…

and the rights weren’t always as right as I was told they were…

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I was thinking about this because…

I was watching a TV series about time travel and the consequences of changing history even only slightly – which is always a theme of time traveling fiction.

In this show (Timeless) one character is an historian whose task it is to try and preserve things as they were so that things can remain as they are in the present…

which kicks up a question – Why? Why try to preserve the past as it was to maintain the present as it is?

What if a change in the past makes everything better in the present?

The main answer to that, of course, is – What if a change in the past makes everything worse in the present!

But that isn’t as much of an issue for this TV show as the fact that a change in the past timeline could wipe you and/or the ones you love out, you and/or they might never exist…

and while we exist the idea of not existing terrifies us, the idea that those we love might suddenly vanish from our lives may scare us even more than our own vanishing…

and for the historian character, the more the past is changed the more her years of studying history as it was to become an expert in the subject… become pointless, useless, fiction… and her status as one who knows what happened changes radically.

This is just a TV show, but sometimes insignificant seeming things can hit us harder than the significant ones because we’re not protecting ourselves against their hits, we’re not in defensive mode, we’re not looking for the threat coming from there and… thus it can touch us in a way that offers revelation and insight into issues we’re hiding (perhaps from ourselves), which are hidden within us.

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They keep coming back to the same argument in the show about choices versus fate… viewing fate and free will as two different systems, but are they? And is it a choice to believe in either free will or fate or does fate dictate what you’ll believe in?

Since the beginning of human time we’ve been creating systems… and fighting those systems… because we think they’re wrong and some other system is right… replacing one system with another…

these systems tend to only work if we work for them (and we don’t always work for them willingly but out of duress or habit or for the sake of conformity, etc),

but which system works for you?

3 comments

  1. Thank you. 🙂

    I ask that question too. I still leap into a negative mode around it – You should be doing that, not this, you idiot! I often have to let that voice go so that I can allow myself to make my share of the mistakes. 😉

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  2. You have again struck a chord – I spent a lot of my life trying to be right, as you point out, intently watching others to see how whatever it was should be done. I was frequently wrong and confused about why. I remember worrying when I was about 10 or 11 that I wouldn’t know what to do when I became an adult. That I would be a monumental screw-up.

    The system that works for me is the “d’Arty-Cross” model. It’s a sort of combination of just being “me” and also working on being a better me. I long ago took to heart the knowledge that I can only work with the DNA that I have. 🙂

    Great post! 🙂 I keep feeling like you lived my childhood, or I lived yours. But that just shows how narcissists the world over operate from the same playbook.

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    • Thank you for sharing 🙂

      I love the d’Arty-Cross system, it comes across as very elegant, dignified, and spirited.

      As I was writing this post, towards the end of it, it occurred to me that what narcissists do is part of the NPD system.

      And children of narcissists develop a system to deal with being children of narcissists. Since narcissists share many similarities in their behaviour, patterns, etc, it makes sense that so would children of narcissists share similarities of behaviour, thought, feeling, experience.

      One of the questions which I used to ponder about my parents was why they did what they did when they could do other things instead just by making a small tweak in their choices. This question became one I would ask of myself too – why am I doing this when I could do that. Part of my system seems to involve a certain amount of dismantling my own system 😉

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