Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Subtlety of Narcissistic Style and the Codependents Role- Scapegoating

Michele Happe MA
March 24, 2014

In this article I wan't to be clear that I am not talking about the Narcissist per se.  I am talking about a style of relating with others that is similar to a technique that the Narcissist uses.

Scapegoating has its roots in the need to be right (or to not be wrong).  It arises when the person who is in error tries to cover up the error by making it seem that the other is wrong.  It can be as elemental as making an excuse for our error to justify it, to subtlety blaming the other for the error.  It is best to use an example.

A husband tells his wife that he has been invited to dinner with friends who are leaving town.  The wife picks up on the word he not we and says..."so I am not invited to this dinner?".  He covers by saying of course you are.  When the day of the dinner comes he texts his wife while at work saying, "I am going to dinner with so and so and will be back late tonight."  She confronts him through text and says "so I am not invited."  He says, "of course you are".  She says, "you just told me that you would be home late".  He says, "don't you remember our conversation last week?"  She says, "either you are lying about me being invited or you just forgot".  He finally admits that he forgot and then makes a joke about it implying her extreme sensitivity."  She decided not to go and he was shocked and surprised.

Even though this is a very subtle exchange I am sure that many of you who are reading this are fuming because you have been through much the same kind of interaction.  Scapegoating is always subtle.  Think of the movie "Gaslight" and if you haven't seen it make a point of it.  I like the Urban Dictionary's definition:


A form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity. The classic example of gaslighting is to switch something around on someone that you know they're sure to notice, but then deny knowing anything about it, and to explain that they "must be imagining things" when they challenge these changes."...

It takes someone with a very strong sense of self to not take on and feel hurt or enraged by this kind of subtle attack.  It is important to remember that the person who perpetrates the scapegoat is trying to save his own face by sacrificing the well being of his partner.  This indicates a very low sense of self worth on the part of the scapegoater unless he is a pernicious narcissist who enjoys watching others squirm.  In most cases the scapegoater is very uncomfortable with making an error.  The fact that he sacrifices his partners well being IS a subtle kind of evil, but it is evil none the less.  Again here is the Urban Dictionary version of the definition of evil:


A deterministic philosophy used to justify selfish extremes and deny responsibility for personal actions, even if they bring harm to others. Those who are evil almost always rationalize their actions and often despise the terms "good" and "evil" because it is much easier to deny moral absolutes than it is to acknowledge them."...

So what to do about this?  First for the scapegoater, it is time to do some work on your self image.  All humans make mistakes and it does not make them any less.  It is better just to admit the mistake with compassion and move on.  This can take lots of practice with many fits and starts and a supportive other can be invaluable to making this change.

For the other:  DON'T TAKE THIS PERSONALLY!  This is not at all about you.  It is about your partner who is less than fully realized.  Work on your own sense of self so you can know that although very annoying, it in no way affects who YOU are...

And if the perpetrator is a narcissist?  Walk away from this relationship because by definition, the narcissist can never admit his or her part in any kind of wrong so nothing will change.

I welcome your comments...

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