December 15, 2011

Invalidation: "You are NOT funny!"

Last night, a cyberfriend sent an email saying my “riotous sense of humor” was the highlight of my blog.

Yesterday, my nephew was rolling on the floor, arms crossed over tummy, grinning wide enough to swallow his ears, “You are soooooo funny, Tatie!”

A few days ago, I said something off-the-wall—bordering-on-bizarre to my daughter and she said, “Mom! You are so funny! I love you!” Last week, my son was ‘messaging’ back and forth with me as we often do since we’re each online a lot. “Yer so funny, Mom!” he said. “I <3 U!”

You know, it’s been a long time since I lived with a man who pronounced innumerable times, "You are NOT funny!" while giving me the patriarchal look of doom, forefinger poking my nose, his short legs coiled for escape. He didn't say, “You are NOT funny, I hate you!” But perhaps he didn't dare be so honest with me or himself.

The reason for this post is not to announce my new career as a stand-up comedienne because truth be known, I’m a dutiful and focused woman. Rather boring. Which may be why my random jokes evoke spontaneous gales of laughter. It’s the stark contrast. Why people laugh at my jokes is not the point of my post, either.

The reason I’m writing about my intermittently reinforcing humor is because I almost believed my x-husband more than myself when he insisted, “You are NOT funny!” He told me this so many times that I doubted my own perceptions. Someone would say to me, “You are hilarious!” and I’d reply, “No, I’m not.” Which is really funny when you think about it: me invalidating someone else’s reality because the God of Humor had invalidated mine.

Sometimes, when I was snarkily funny my x-husbaNd would say, “You are NOT funny! You THINK you are funny, but you’re NOT!” And if he were particularly sensitive that day, he’d slowly whisper between clenched teeth, “You are NOT funny and you’d better wipe that smirk off your face or I”ll do it for you!”

Those are the moments I cherish…when two hearts come together as one.

“NOBODY thinks you are funny but yourself,” he’d say. “You THINK you are funny but you know what? YOU ARE NOT FUNNY!”

After a particularly light-hearted dinner party when guests were hugging good-bye, he’d say, “People weren’t laughing at your jokes. They were laughing at YOU! You know why?” (He has my attention now) “Because you are NOT funny! You THINK you're funny but you’re NOT!”

There’s enough evidence to make a case for GASLIGHTING if he were intentionally manipulating reality and consciously denying my experience. Some people think narcissists are completely aware of their invalidating ways. I’m not convinced this is true for the majority of narcissists. I believe my X was reacting to feeling criticized. Which I was doing, o yea---albeit in a “funny” way, which works pretty well with normal people having an ‘off’ day. Not so well with narcissists. Joke with angry narcissists at your own risk. 

Or he may have felt slighted because I didn't know about Rule Number One for dinner parties: Don’t get more laughs than the narcissist. Because he will, if he is a narcissist, even the ‘score’ by denying you the pleasure of feeling good about yourself. When your confidence hits the floor, his rises.

It just struck me yesterday that after having spent most of my life being told I was not what I was, and that I was what I was not, I’m finally accepting my peculiar sense of humor as an essential part of my charm. Love me or leave me, I’ll be digging through the shitpile looking for knock-knock jokes which lift my spirits more than ponies ever could.

When my kids share stories about their childhood, they focus on the funny things that happened of which there were more than enough to lighten the dark lord’s intensity. They reminisce about the times my jokes cleared the smoke, fire and brimstone choking the life out of our family. I figure my son and daughter will be telling lots of stories over the holidays because now my nephew can join in their fun.

Maybe my jokes were funny because of our situation back then? It was peculiar to be sure: the tense air shattered by a freckle-faced mother’s wicked sense of humor. What I do know is that my kids love me today just like they did when they were six and I painted their faces with decorator icing they refused to wash off. And then they got a skin rash bad enough to call the doctor. 

“YOU SEE? Your mother is NOT funny!” their father said. “She thinks she’s funny, but she’s NOT!”

Don’t let the narcissist erode your sense of self. Trust your own judgments. Believe your own experience. Take it from me: the family that laughs together, stays together. We three, my daughter, my son, and I, plus my nephew and sister and other sister and her kids and their spouses and her husband and my parents will all be seated around the Christmas table, telling stories and validating the fact that we are just as funny as we think we are. 

Hugs all,

Kreger writes: "It's hard to tell the difference between a conscious lie and an unconscious one. A man says, "It is like we both walk into the same movie theater. I thought that we entered into see the same movie. We sit together. We enter and leave at the same time. But afterwards, I learned that what she saw was entirely different from me, even though we sat and watched the same movie. Her version is no where even close to mine." ~Why some narcissists and borderlines can't seem to tell the truth


  1. Oh CZ.....I've been there: the threat of physical your face, or barely beneath the surface.

    However, what I wanted to say is yes, your sense of humor is part of your charm, but it's also (and to me a more important aspect) part of your incredible ability to 'connect' with readers on a very personal and uplifting level. I find your writing full of a delightful human touch: you don't hold yourself above readers, you touch them both in heart and mind. As another writer, I have come to understand how rare that actually is. And you never whine. You state what is and what happened and we, your readers, can feel the results for ourselves...because of that fundamental connection you have made from the first.

    It's called EMPATHY!!!!!

    I want my own readers to come to your blog because you make it all 'plain'...concerning these horrible issues of narcissism. And you do it with humor, humility but also wisdom that shows from particular experience. You have paid your dues.

    I'll check my blogroll, but I definitely want readers who come to my blog to go get the wonderful experience of reading yours.

    Lady Nyo

  2. I love your sense of humour -- I always come away from reading something you wrote and think... wow -- she is so brilliant, and funny to boot!

    I tend to have to remind my daughters and Charles -- I'm so funny -- to which they roll their eyes and say, Of course you are. :)

    Of course I am :)

    Tee hee -- your humour keeps me grounded. And I truly am in awe of how you can find the wittiest way to say something -- the greatest compliment is... Oh my I wish I'd thought to write that! And I say that a lot when I read what you write.

    love it.

    Love your sense of humour.

    love you!

  3. I SO get your sense of humor CZ and am grateful for it. I've always been told that I'm the funny one - by family and colleagues. But when I was involved with a N, he didn't seem to appreciate my sense of humor. I'm not even sure he GOT it, if you know what I mean. Several times I wrote notes and it just went over his head. Then he'd tell me some awful sex-related joke that a "friend" had emailed him and laugh himself silly. Geez, what is wrong with THAT picture? My husband and two sons have laughed ourselves silly over some gut-wrenching issues. Our sense of humor was our saving grace. Amen.

  4. Well, dear friends, thank you each so very much for being here. For your kindness, your encouragement, your validation. Your friendship means so much to me. <3

    I'm not feeling very funny this morning, though. Too many opened boxes still brimming with dusty Christmas decorations waiting to be arranged somewhere in the house. I have six half-finished vignettes in the kitchen, dining, and living room. My ambition hasn't caught up with my arthritis. ha! Unlimited IDEAS, you know---and limited energy to finish them. Getting old is not for the humorless.

    When taking stock of all that's yet to be done before my son arrives for the holidays, I took a few moments to think about the last ten years of my life. Those of us in ‘recovery’ say that at some point, we found meaning in our demeaning...hope in our hopelessness, something good in the bad. What I have discovered is a deeper trust for my ‘true’ self, which I hope each of you has gained, too.

    We 'think' we know who we are and we 'think' we can predict our reactions to terrible, even traumatizing events. We 'think' we know ourselves well. But do you really know who you are before you’re in a crisis?

    In all the turmoil our family has undergone the past decade (this mess started when I was fifty and I’ll be sixty in January), the self-doubt, the self-blame, the self-criticism, one thing is certain: When the False Self shatters, as only the brave can allow, our true character emerges.

    Actually, to tell you the truth, I am much funnier in a crisis than in peace. Isn’t that a lovely thing to know about your character? That you can trust your inner comedienne to arrive exactly when you need her the most?

    Thank you for being here and for laughing through the tears with me.


    1. Hi CZ again. I found this post because of an image search, which I like. I bet you're great company at dinner or wherever. I was always accused of having a warped sense of humour. This tactic amounts to pure jealousy of your popularity.

      I've found that Narcs use ridicule and if the victim fails to see the funny side then it's they who have no sense of humour. Now that's warped to me.

    2. Hi Dave,

      I got an email alert notifying me of your comment, otherwise I might have missed it! Now that you've told me about your 'warped sense of humor', I'll be on the look-out. Thanks for the warning!

      And are right about narcissists ridiculing victims and insisting they laugh at their own abuse!!That is so warped that we see it all the time and consider it normal.

      I do not poke fun at other people's expense. Wait. That's not true. Making fun of narcissists is my favorite pass-time. ha!

      p.s. That does not preclude having empathy for their issues. However, laughing at their issues is protective because it diminishes their power over me!


  5. Oh Crap~! So that is why I tend to laugh during funerals??? Who put the 'fun' in that word....LOL!

    Yep, when you are in a crisis, the real person stands up...or hides. I've done both.

    Merry Christmas, CZ and all here.

    Narcissists don't 'get' humor, or denigrate it in others, because a very important part of their humanity is missing.

    Their wiring is all wrong.

    Lady Nyo...not laughing that she can't zip her pants today....too much stuffing.

  6. Sorry I missed this post earlier. I could have used the laughter. I believe that in some situations you can laugh or cry and I prefer laughing. Your perspective is delightful and your sense of humor awesome. I search for the humor in every situation. I am learning to see the humor in dealing with narcissistic people. The predictability can be very funny. My sister and I sometimes have to restrain ourselves from bursting out laughing at family gatherings. Smile on. :)

  7. Hi Ruth!

    Having a healthy sense of humor (which does not mean laughing when people get hurt), has benefited my nephew. The one who has Aspergers. He has learned to laugh at himself because he hasn't been mocked or ridiculed or made the 'butt of jokes'.

    People can be maliciously cruel or sarcastic and then blame the object of their ridicule for not having a sense of humor. They do or say something that cuts the other person to the quick and then accuse them of not being able to take a joke!

    Being able to laugh at myself has been a real blessing...i used to be much more self-critical 'cuz I grew up in a 'shaming' household. Laughter allowed me to work through the shame that bound me (John Bradshaw was my first teacher...I am so grateful to this man).

    Smile on, indeed! :)


  8. Narcissists EXACTLY know what they are doing. They are born predators. They are hurting people ON PURPOSE. They are psychopaths.

    1. Hi HustlerSam,

      Not all narcissists are psychopaths. Not all narcissists are predators. Narcissists are subject to unconscious defenses, just as we all are.

      It sounds like you've encountered a Malignant Narcissist who consciously and intentionally destroys other people "as needed." But even malignant narcissists are capable of forming relationships and feeling guilty, unlike psychopaths.

      You may be interested in this post about the Narcissistic Continuum. It describes distinctions between "normal narcissists" and "malignant narcissists." You'll have to copy and paste this url into your browser:

      Narcissistic people do a lot of damage in our society and I think that the less malignant forms of narcissism are the most destructive overall. Why? Because these narcissistic behaviors are normalized.


  9. i am so glad to be blessed by the reality of more and more people who are blogging and exposing narcissists for exactly what they are - soul damaging sacks of dung.


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