A question was posed to me in the comments on the last post that I'll do my best to answer in this blog post.

I was wondering Anna, if you could possibly discuss how you have moved on in respect to the effects of Narcissism. How do you find yourself relating to other people's bad behaviour, even if it isn't based in Narcissism?

I am only asking because four years on from leaving a religious group run by a narcissist, and fifteen months on from cutting off my mother and sisters, I seem to be battling more than ever with issues relating to dealing with other people.

I find I have absolutely no tolerance for BS from others, especially those professing to be christians, who then treat me with disrespect. Then, I feel guilty that I haven't given them a second chance. I have spent hours trying to explain that putting up with offensive behaviour from others isn't 'love', its passive-aggression (in a lot of cases). I just get these zombified looks, and I feel like a complete heel because I am not the 'nice' christian who just puts out, and keeps putting out like everyone else.

I am just wondering if like one poster, I am being haunted by the original evil, or whether this is just a by-product of adjusting to the 'real world'.

Any thoughts on recovery, and adjusting to 'normal' life after a narcissist would be appreciated.

I've had to ponder at length how to address your question. There are several reasons for my having difficulty knowing what to say or where to start. Likely this is because you asked a very broad question at the first, but then you did narrow your question somewhat so I will only attempt to answer the more narrowly focused aspect of your question. Actually, you asked multiple questions. So I've had to decide to try to answer what seems to be the main thrust of your concern.

One of the real challenges in trying to address your question is that interpersonal relationships are idiosyncratic. Without knowing your personality I'm not sure how you interact with others. Every person you deal with is different so each interaction has many potential outcomes depending on the chemistry of your personality with theirs. I hope you understand the limitations I have in adequately addressing the questions you've asked.

The only common ingredient in each of your interactions is you...so we'll just have to start there.

I'll focus on a couple things you said:

Then, I feel guilty that I haven't given them a second chance.

I just get these zombified looks, and I feel like a complete heel because I am not the 'nice' christian who just puts out, and keeps putting out like everyone else.

If you can be made to feel "like a complete heel" because of the looks of those you're talking to it leads me to think that you are not yet entirely secure in the positions you hold. Your residual guilt for not giving someone a second chance also gives me this impression. Or you may be too invested in gaining the good opinions of those you are talking to. Neither observation is a denigration of you. There is nothing wrong with wanting the good opinions of fellow Christians nor is there any fault for being made to feel insecure about one's opinions when those opinions aren't accepted by others. You can't be human and not experience these feelings, reactions, needs.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a zero tolerance policy toward B.S. I hope you don't try to change that. Perhaps you might need to change how you respond to that B.S. in order to move more smoothly through eel-infested waters.

You'll know when you are very settled and secure in the positions you hold when you can state them, let the chips fall where they may, and the negative reactions of others roll off of you. Until then you can decide on a more circumspect approach. There is no dishonor in being circumspect.

You asked how I deal with bad behavior that may or may not be narcissistic. Here's my general approach to others.

I reserve my opinions especially when dealing with acquaintances. (Most church relationships really don't move beyond the acquaintance stage.) I hold most of my opinions to myself until it is appropriate to the context of the conversation to express my opinion and only if there is some evidence of receptivity. This is why my relationships with my parents and sister are a complete non-factor with others. People don't need to know...I don't talk about it. I operate off the assumption that most people most of the time don't have the 'equipment' to understand the decisions I've made, so I don't talk about it. If it does come up with someone whose business it is not I only have to say, "I'd prefer not to talk about it." People will rarely challenge a statement like that. If they do, walk away! Because I don't need others approval for my decisions about my family I don't seek others opinions on it. I don't open myself up to their judgments which would be ill-informed judgments at the very best because they would lack about 20 truck loads of information. I don't have the time or interest to fill them in on what they'd need to know...and most times neither do they!

I am a very careful listener. I avoid talking about myself and try to steer conversations toward talking about the person I'm conversing with. This allows me space. I don't end up telling them too much about me before I know if they can be trusted. Most people are more than happy to talk about themselves, their interests, their opinions...so this tact often oils the gears of conversation without me having to spill my guts. This allows me to find areas of common thinking or to find out whether or not this person is someone to avoid in the future.

I can be happy to have a relationship with someone based on areas of common interest. We don't have to see eye to eye on everything. If we enjoy each others company in a specific context...that is good enough. All people don't have to be all things for me. People often have different friends with whom they do different things. One friend we may enjoy watching a particular genre of movies with. Another friend may enjoy certain types of books in common. Yet another friend may be a hiking or exercise buddy. It is important to recognize that it is okay to have compartmentalized friendships with people. We can enjoy a person for who they are and not expect them to be all things to us this way. This can reduce interpersonal friction and broaden our friendship base. Of course, if you have seen evidence that a person has some serious character issues then having a friendship on any basis would be ill-advised.

If I had to sum up how I interact with just about everyone I would say, "reserved, polite, cautious" at least until I get to know them well enough. But my problem in relating to you how I deal with other people is that this is how my personality is naturally bent. I don't know your personality. I don't know if my approach to others is something that could work for you. So maybe I should bring up what I see in the Gospels regarding Christ's approach because His example can be followed regardless of our particular personality.

He showed that he knew his listeners very well. He didn't share certain truths if he gauged that the people he was talking with were not going to be receptive. John 16:12, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." Or he shared truth in parables which the receptive would be able to understand and the unreceptive could ignore and carry on. Story form (parables) is a very effective teaching method. Stories stick in peoples minds longer. Attaching life lessons to the natural world or everyday life also helps evoke the lesson taught every time the natural process or object is observed. It is a way of teaching without getting in peoples faces. The lesson slips in along with the story imagery sometimes in spite of the listener's limitations of comprehension or receptivity. Parables were a more oblique way of teaching truth that Christ often used. It increased the chances that the less receptive would accept the truth presented. But because of its non-confrontational presentation it allowed the very unreceptive to dismiss the truth without feeling like they had to rise up and smack down the truth-teller. Some people are good at drawing analogies which in many ways resembles a parable. If you have that gift...use it.

When Christ was approached by the cagey scribes and Pharisees he didn't hand them his words freely. He held himself in reserve. He noted their ill intent and often would not answer them as they were trying to force him to. This was a very non-confrontational approach to people who were trying to force a confrontation.

He would confront open hypocrisy openly and without reservation and without apology for making the hypocrites squirm. He didn't confront hypocrisy because he hated the hypocrites. He did it because of his love for the people whose lives were being compromised by the hypocrites. He saw more clearly than anyone could how the hypocrites drove people away from God and imperiled their salvation. Christ hates anything that destroys people. So should we. Open hypocrisy and lies need to be openly confronted.

Otherwise, Christ was not confrontational. The people who sought him out were the ones he shared truth with. He used the imagery of standing at the door and knocking. He isn't pushy. He waits for the invitation. So should we. He looked for openings, for signs of receptiveness. It is a good lesson in how to relate to others.

You asked: How do you find yourself relating to other people's bad behaviour, even if it isn't based in Narcissism?

I'm like vapor. I deal with the moment with as little friction as I can and then I vanish. There's a lot to be said for making yourself scarce when certain people come around. Christ did it too. He would simply slip into the crowd and disappear when the malevolence of the leaders would start to transform into murderous intent. It is just the implementation of 'no contact'. I practice that with my parents and sister. I practice that with the badly behaved. Play it cool...and escape when it is possible to do so. This is how I implement my 'no tolerance' policy for B.S.

I'm gone.

When I'm dealing with a B.S.er I know I'm not dealing with someone who wants a reality check...so I don't waste my breath on them. I don't feel the need to persuade them, cajole them, reform them. Nothing. I feel the need to get away and I follow through on it. I don't want to risk unnecessary injury to myself so I avoid confrontation when possible. If confrontation becomes necessary I'm certainly up to the challenge...but most times it is not only unnecessary it would be unproductive. For most situations, less is more.

As I've already mentioned, Christ spoke in parables to the multitudes; he spoke directly and in unveiled language to those who loved him and shared a close bond with him. That is really a wise approach to use. Most are not ready to hear all that you know about evil people (i.e. narcissism). You need to learn to be okay with that. Keep you ears and eyes open for the people who may need and want to hear what you know. No 'pearls before swine'. Save your best and most hard-earned good sense for those who are honest in heart and who demonstrate they themselves possess common sense.

Before I close this I want to go back to your comment about feeling guilty about not giving someone a 'second chance'. I want to point out the inherent premise of the 'second chance' idea that you may not see.

Why are you obligated to give someone access to you and your life simply for the asking?

Inherent in your sense of obligation to give someone you distrust or dislike a 'second chance' is that you believe they are entitled to be in your life simply for the asking. Here's my thought. No one is entitled to have a relationship with me. I get to choose who I let in. I don't have to justify my choices to anyone. They don't get an automatic pass into my life simply because of what church they belong to or simply because they are in any particular proximity to me. You have the right to determine on what basis people can have a relationship with you. YOU GET TO CHOOSE and you don't have to justify your choice to them or anyone. If you get the sense that someone is a B.S.er you have the complete right to decide they won't get a second chance to B.S. you.

Our lives are finite. This means our time, energy, resources, etc. are all finite. This means we must make careful decisions on how to spend ourselves. If you don't have the time, interest or energy to invest in B.S.ers then where is the fault in that? You have a husband and children who deserve your first and best self. If you start granting access to draining, unkind, selfish, or otherwise bent people you're going to have a lot less to give to those whom you are obligated to serve...i.e. your nearest and dearest. No one is entitled to a second chance. You get to decide whether or not to grant a second chance on a case by case basis.

If you are forced to associate (like going to church) with someone you've decided to not have a friendship with...just be polite when you have to interact and then disengage quickly. I can smile and greet people whom I don't want to spend any particular length of time with. It is even easier to be polite if I managed to disengage from them without any overt confrontation in the past. My method of easing out of a situation and then making myself scarce helps with any future contact I may have to have with the person. They don't concretely know my thoughts about them; they don't really know why I'm not around them much. So future contacts are just superficial, polite and brief without having to walk around big baggage like some direct argument or confrontation.

You wondered if you are being haunted by the original evil or just learning to adjust to the 'normal' world. I would imagine the answer is yes and yes. My experience has taught me that anchoring myself in solid truth (reality) has enabled me to overcome many of the effects of "the original evil". Evil is an absence of truth. Evil is a form of nothingness; evil is an absence of being. This is why you always find evil existing parasitically. It must leach life and form from attaching to something real and substantive. Truth is life. Lies are deadly. Evil traffics in lies hence evil kills. And because evil exists as a parasite there are always some truths amongst the lies. You have to learn to sort it out. If you can unlearn the lies and base your thinking and, by extension, your life on truth then you will overcome "the original evil". Remember that evil attaches itself to good. If you are a good person you will have to deal with evil trying to attach to you from time to time. Guard your goodness from such who would try to use it to cloak their evil.

There are many who claim there is no universal truth and therefore would find my paragraph immediately above to be laughable. Obviously, I don't subscribe to post-modernist views of truth being whatever you make it to be. My near to half a century of life has given me much time for observation. The verdict is in: the less a person believes in an objective moral structure the more unbalanced their minds are. Yeah, I said it. The more unhinged they are from reality and the more likely they are to veer off into some really scary places.

Remember, reality is synonymous with truth. I make no apology for believing in objective truth because, in the end, truth (reality) always wins.

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