Abuse, Narcissism

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Yes, I hummed the song when I wrote that title. I know you did when you read it.  🙂

Not long after I left my home with my children to go to my parents house I discovered a website. Actually I cannot remember if I discovered it or my friends who helped me escape or my family but we were all researching feverishly for answers and information. It was then that we discovered the website Cryingoutforjustice.com.

(In fact, I would like to put a shout out for this article:  “Thursday Thought: Why Did So Many People Side With Him?” found at this link here: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2017/01/26/thursday-thought-why-did-so-many-people-side-with-him/)

This is an invaluable website on abuse, especially in the world of christendom. I cannot stress how helpful it is. You will find answers, information, and resources. This is where I discovered a particularly helpful video resource. It is a series of lectures given by Dr. Diane Langberg to seminary students about narcissistic pastors. (Yes, pastors are people too and can be narcissists. I can think of some very public ones that have been prominently on display in the last few years.)

While Dr. Langberg’s entire lecture was most insightful, there is one particular portion that stood out to me. It was about the narcissist’s manipulation of words and their meaning. She cite’s a scene from Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass…

‘You’re holding it upside down!’ Alice interrupted.

‘To be sure I was!’ Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. ‘I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents —’

‘Certainly,’ said Alice.

‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

This is where RESPECT comes in. This was a word I heard a lot. I mean A LOT. My former husband overused this word, frequently telling me I did not respect him.

Before we can move forward we have to know two things: the meaning of the word and what it meant when he used it. First the definition. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary respect is currently defined as follows:

a:  high or special regard :esteem

b:  the quality or state of being esteemed

Based on this modern definition of the word, I think we can conclude that respect indicates holding in high regard,  to admire, value,  or think highly of. Now in order to figure out what he meant when he used the word we would have to look at the context. Because he used it so frequently it varied, but I can sum it up in just a few applications. For him, respect meant:

Think what I think.

Often having my own opinion on a matter meant I did not respect him. This is not assumption. He said so himself. One variation of this I heard frequently was: “why can’t you just respect me for once and agree with me?” He equated respect to holding to the same views as him. Not content to agree to disagree, volition was mutiny.

Let me have my way (or do what I say).

When I did not give in, he was not getting what he wanted therefore I did not respect him. This of course was not every time. No one can get away with this perpetually, but it was used often enough to make the cut. It basically came down to this. If I ask/tell you to do something and you do not do it, you do not respect me.

Technically, I do believe that he was using the word respect as defined above correctly, in that he wanted to be held in high regard, esteemed, and valued. The problem was in the application. I have found this to be a difficult post to write and have done countless revisions because respect is a relative concept. So without making any absolute statements about what respect is, I believe we can get a better understanding in this situation by discussing what it is not. Respect is not fulfilling all the wishes or desires of another person. Becoming a person’s personal genie is not showing them respect.

Like all things with a narcissistic abuser, this can be tricky. Their lies are always mixed in with a bit of truth which is in part what makes them so successful. What I see clearly now was not always this obvious.

Respect can be shown through fulfilling the wishes of another person. Take for instance the child/parent relationship. When a parent tells a child to make their bed and the child does not comply, disrespect for the parent’s authority is inferred. You can also respect the wishes of another person by doing what they ask of you. So it is not such a far stretch for the narcissist to convince their victims that respect is a matter of giving in and doing what they want. Once this is accepted, the opposite is only a step away. To not give them what they want is to not respect.

Respect is due me (or you owe me respect).

“You haven’t given me any respect.” “You owe me respect.” “You have not shown me any respect.”

These are in parenthesis because these are verbatim. I wrote them in a journal when I talked on the phone with him while I was still with my family. I also had these words repeated to me like they were my own personal mantra. The respect that I “owed” him was drilled in my head over and over again. Demanded. Yet this was not a two way street. It was more like a river with a one way flow that emptied into a bottomless pit for a reservoir.

So why was word this important in my situation? Because it was one of the locks on my cage. I believed I needed to respect my husband, but I did not believe that respect looked like his representation of the word. I fought against this constantly, but I did not always win. Over time I gave up piece by piece the logic that fought this and slowly succumbed to his mastery of the word respect.

A lie mixed with truth and given as a plausible explanation and you begin to normalize the abnormal.  They deflect your protests with twisted logic and a most effective tactic called gaslighting (more on that later). What others would say “No way!” to you begin to think that the narcissist might be right. Before you know it, you are confused, doubting yourself and then reluctantly falling in line and marching to the beat of the their drum.

You can look back and try to figure out how it ever happened but I am not sure there is much value in that. It would be like trying to work your way backwards to the start of a labyrinth in which the walls were continually moving.

Instead it is important to identify the lies you may be currently believing and the twisted logic used to make you fall in line. As I have said many times, once you are under the narcissist’s spell, getting out is not so easy. You need help. You need someone who can see through it and will speak plainly to you.

If you don’t have such a person in your life, read, research, and read some more. As you begin to identify with the examples, you can apply this information to your own situation. I have to be honest though, without having people to point this out to me over and over and over again, I know I would not be where I am today.

I hope that my examples can help you identify where you too may be falling for lies that are controlling you and taking your humanity away from you.

Becky
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1 Comment

  • Reply Helen February 4, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    It is easy to respect a respectable man. It is impossible to respect a disrespectful man.

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