July 24, 2009

Moral Anchors

"Neurotics are people who are very sensitive, have well-developed consciences, and experience relatively high levels of anxiety. In the sixties, we used to say these folks were “hung-up” (i.e. worried too much about life). In days past, some of these folks were so neurotic that they literally made themselves sick with worry. Most of the traditional theories of psychology came from studying such individuals. Neurotics are still with us, but very few are so overly conscientious that they make themselves sick. Rather, they’re the backbone of society because they care enough to try and make everything work." ~Dr. George Simon 

(also linked here: WebofNarcissism.com)

Dr. Simon's article reiterated what many of us have written: we served as moral anchors in the narcissist's struggle determining right-from-wrong. I have admitted to having a hyper-active conscience but perhaps it's more accurate to say 'Neurotic.' It took a couple of psychologists pointing out my hyper-responsibility and then a few years in Alanon to get me to see that I am not responsible for ushering in world peace or making sure everyone else's life is peaceful, harmonious and happy. I gotta say it's been a lifelong struggle to get myself out of the trap many eldest children fall into when they're taught to take care of younger siblings.

One thing Dr. Simon writes rings very true to me: once a neurotic person's dysfunctional behavior is pointed out, they can connect the dots themselves because they are generally introspective. Slowly over time, I've gotten much better about distinguishing my proper responsibility for myself from an 'enabling' responsibility for others.

I like to live a peaceful life and I dislike confrontation. That makes me an easy mark for someone who is quick to observe me backing down rather than engaging in disputes. Guess I'm one of those pleasers, which is okay to admit on a blog like this. If other people are pleasers, too, we can have a great time pleasing each other as long as each person's intent is mutual harmony, not power over & control. When an argument goes on and on and on, we might do exactly what Dr. Simon suggests and Give In, just to restore the peace. But each time we don't stand up for ourselves, our self-esteem decreases and the narcissist's grandiosity increases because he-or-she maintains an illusion of superiority over the 'defeated'. Compromise is not an option with a narcissist.

Overtime, it's easy to see why 'neurotic' people feel helpless to change their circumstances.

One thing I'm beginning to understand is that we WILL have to stand up for our principles and values at some point. It might as well be earlier than later! The earlier we risk losing a relationship, the less damage we'll suffer as a result. So this is what I tell myself and maybe it will help other people, too: Be yourself and let other people decide if they want to have a relationship with you or not. That's fair. It's taken a long time to Get That, but hopefully, this truth is sinking into my hard head.
"We served as moral anchors in the narcissist's struggle determining right from wrong."
I'd like to elaborate on my statement. I did not mean to infer that narcissists are unaware of what's right or wrong, because they aren't. They are far more aware of pro-social behaviors (pro-social is the word Dr. Simon uses in his articles), than most of us realize. We make a false assumption if we believe narcissists erringly hurt other people because they didn't know any better. Or that they chose 'badly' because they were impulsive and didn't consider the consequences.

Narcissists are aware of consequences when they choose to serve themselves FIRST, usually at other people's expense.

Narcissists depend on moral anchors to keep the relationship boat floating. We make excuses for their behavior (they didn't really mean it!); we immerse ourselves in helping them (they know not what they do); we feel sympathy for their tears, (falsely assuming tears are expressions of remorse); we guide and teach and counsel and preach in the belief they will eventually learn how to create the relationships they profess to desire. (Poor little Narcissist! I can help him!)

Moral anchors know how to build safe relationships and we falsely assume everyone wants a reciprocally satisfying and mutually responsible connection. Not so. In order to create a SAFE relationship, everyone has to 'give a little' and subordinate selfish desires. That means sometimes We Don't Get What We Want, but it's okay---because we trust other people are making similar sacrifices.

Even if a narcissist expresses sorrow when negative consequences impact them, they are not remorseful for the pain their choices caused other people. They are sad about being held accountable. Mistaking tears for remorse is where many of us make a serious mistake: the narcissist's tears are not about the harm they caused. Their tears are about self-pity for getting caught.

We set ourselves up for frustration if we assume our guidance will eventually teach the narcissist what he-or-she needs to know about building a trustworthy and safe relationship. I am wondering if their inability to empathize deeply with other people shortcuts the narcissist's remorse process because the only pain they feel is for themselves? And insult of insults, they expect you to feel sorry for the pain THEY feel, too.

Maybe one way to discern the difference someone's ability to change is whether or not they repeat the same behavior? Think about what happens when you hurt someone's feelings or wound a valued relationship. What happens? We learn to avoid the excruciating pain we feel when people tell us we've hurt them because we not only feel our pain, we feel theirs, too. Then, we CHANGE our behavior. We learn what to do and what not to do if our goal is maintaining healthy relationships that are mutually satisfying and fulfilling. Our error is in assuming everyone seeks reciprocally responsible relationships.

Narcissists have been studying people from the time they first recognized manipulable human emotions. They know right from wrong (pro-social versus anti-social behavior) but consider themselves entitled to do whatever they please whenever they choose to be pleased.

Do they care about their negative impact on others?? Only if it precludes them from getting what they want.



Dr. George Simon, Counselling Resource


  1. Thanks CZBZ,

    That was excellent. You always bring something fresh and new for me to digest. It helps to affirm my reality from the mess that I was in.

    I always believed myself to be a good, kind, loving, moral, etc. person, but that got so messed up in the marriage. My goodness seemed to be hated eventually.

    I am pretty much back to being that person that I valued, but of course, am forever changed.


  2. Thanks and how much I too can relate, call me “neurotic” for it be true. But allow me to dream for a dream can become reality if only for me.


    By: James Phillips

    I wish to love
    not to hate

    I wish for peace
    Not for war

    I wish to give
    not to take

    I wish for personal power
    not for power over

    I wish for partnership
    not for ownership

    I wish to grow with you
    not apart from you

    I wish for all of you
    not just some of you

    I wish for creation
    not for it’s destruction

    Call me a dreamer if you will
    But I hope you will join me someday

    Then we become more then one
    Until the dreamers dream no more

    The dreams can be no more instead becomes
    Reality for all to know and behold

  3. Well, CZBZ, I am still reading. My eyes have since adjusted. Shocking I must say. Your words research, descriptions and comparisons thoroughly described the narcissist and what I unfortunately became involved with. Fortunately, I only lost 2+ years, not a lifetime. I know many others have suffered egregiously at the hands of the man I came to know, and believed was my "soulmate", perfect in every way. The signs were there all along unfortunately and apparently I too am a "neurotic"; with a highly functioning conscience and willingness to keep peace. Several times the "tears" got me. The entire experience has made me physically ill, stole my ability to form trusting relationships, cost me financially etc. The ultimate realization of what, (because I believe N's are not just inhumane, but inhuman), I was really dealing with, is a sickening one. My belief in God and my writing is helping immensely, but I know, from the depths of my soul, that this person, this high functioning, top executive, with a face like a boyscout, surrounded by his minions and enablers, is destroying homes, hearts and lives as I write and dusting himself afterwards as if "we", mere mortals, do not exist. As my Auntie says, "the devil never comes in with an ugly face". The one thing that finally shone much light on this situation for me initially was the book, The People of the Lie, by M. Scott Peck. True evil does exist, and I cannot see therapy or medication helping the narcissist. Yes, the time to get over an N takes much longer, (my divorce took much less as did my father's death), because we are not dealing with a human. It is impossible to wrap your head around the lies, behaviors, cruelty and callous abuse of an N. They are not of this world.
    I love your blog and I think you are my heroine. Thank you for validating my beliefs and for providing solace and explanation to those suffering a pain that cannot be simply described, since it cannot be understood by a human with a conscience.
    All the best.

  4. Dear summersaid,

    People underestimate the damage narcissists do in every community, workplace or marriage bed we find them in. I often tell people who ask about my divorce that it's too simplistic to say he changed his mind and wanted another woman. the truth that so many folks ignore is that he hurt FAR more people than me. In all truth, he hurt me far less than the damage done to his children.

    It's odd how people dismiss the children as if they don't care that Dad decided to Authenticate himself with his soulmate. It's such an insult to children and I don't care if those kids are babies, ten years old or Thirty. It raises my hackles. (Wish I knew what hackes were though...ha!)

    I am sorry for your experience, summer...it's always difficult for people when the narcissistic relationship ends. We can get over the 'reality' bit fairly fast. It's the "illusions" prolonging grief.

    All the best to you, too. I look forward to reading more about your experience and your thoughts.


  5. Oh it is the illusions we cling to, isn't it? Like plaiting fog. Becomes a matter of wondering what's real. Thank you, both.

    1. You are welcome...thank you for being here.



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