Narcissism and Smearing
I have a friend who had been happily married for 25 years to her second husband. They have three lovely, grown-up kids and although she has taken early retirement she used to have a fairly high-powered job as an accountant. Recently over coffee she told me about one aspect of her life I had no idea about, and as she talked I realised she had been stalked and smeared by a Narcissist who had threatened her job, her reputation and even her family.
Jenny is English, and was involved with The Quakers. She used to attend meetings on Sundays and whilst there met a young man called Ewan. Quakers are not dogmatic, but central to the religion is a sense of ethics and a desire to help those less fortunate than themselves. Jenny used to offer lifts home to Ewan because he was unemployed and didn’t have a car.
Years late, jenny had remarried and was living in another part of the country with her young family and had developed a national reputation in her field, when a letter from Ewan came out of the blue. It had a strange tone and sounded over familiar. She replied briefly to him detailing that she had remarried and was happy with her new life. This is when the trouble started.
Ewan wrote back, not just to her but involved her elderly parents, the minister at her church demanding that Jenny return to her original marriage because it was for life and could not be dissolved. These views were uncharacteristic of Quakers. Jenny tried to reason with Ewan and this made him more irate. He wrote to all of her professional contacts from her charity work and professional bodies claiming that Jenny had both a criminal record and had been sectioned under the mental health act. He even managed to fake documents.
She had to be interviewed by her professional standards representative and in other parts of her professional life, talk about aspects of her life which she considered private and in the past since some of the letters he sent had slurs of a sexual nature. The whole campaign lasted a year and was extremely painful.
Jenny told me that he has reappeared in her life occasionally over the last 20 years but there are so many people he has slurred that the police now take matters more seriously and they are quick to act to prevent his behaviour escalating.
Jenny’s case is not an isolated one. Narcissists tend to react badly to those they consider have slighted them, so why does this happen?
Why do Narcissist slur people?
Most often the cause is that you move on and leave them or want to leave them and that is purely about control. Narcissists want to dictate the rules in a relationship and decide when to leave and be the one to leave. If you try to take control that is unacceptable. In Jenny’s case it was a refusal to be controlled by the narcissist’s view of the world.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a cluster B disorder. There are 4 disorders in this category and all are characterised by wildly exaggerated emotional responses, histrionic tendencies and a complete disregard for others to the point of being dangerous.
Often, they can’t see the wrong they are doing because of a complete failure to identify with the position of the other, but even when they do, they don’t care. They have a sense of superiority that their view of the world is right. Indeed Julie told me that her latest communication from Ewan included and offer from him to become a wise uncle to her 20 year old son given that her son hadn’t had appropriate role models!
Social media too tends to offer an enhanced facility to provide a reactive commentary to negative thoughts and feelings. In this aspect Twitter seems to offer an almost irresistible opportunity for slurring people in 149 characters or fewer.
What can you do in response to being slurred by a Narcissist?
Being slurred by a narcissist is emotionally draining and painful. Nothing can take away that instant pain. It’s like a bee sting. It is hard to ignore but doing the right thing can make the pain go way quicker:
1. Don’t react without consideration
You will be keenly aware of every minutia of the slur perpetrated against you. If you run around trying to clear up the mess, you are playing into their hands. For example, if they have labelled you as neurotic and controlling, endless emotional calls to friends refuting his/her allegations will play into their hands. Wait, pause and when someone to come to you then you can be calm and considered and you will respond better.
2. Be normal
This is particularly important if it is a slur following a romantic relationship break up. Go out with your friends, build a new life, make sure you have plenty to say about topics of interest to your peer group. Most of all never talk about him. Your friends are smart, they will notice you by what you do rather than what he says you do. If he is the creature you know him to be he won’t be able to stop talking about you in a dim light. Let them figure it out!
3. Operate high standards of integrity
This is one for hindsight, but learn from it. Make sure in everything you do that you have a high standard in all of your dealings with people. Don’t talk about them behind their back, don’t spread rumours because these are the snippets the narc will use as against you to put a wedge between you and your friends. A good rule of thumb is never say anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say to their face.
4. Keep notes or copies of all communications
This is particularly important if it is in work. If it is an email, bcc it to another person to home to yourself. Once again don’t respond on the hoof. Familiarise yourself with policies including harassment and grievance.
5. The legal route
Your ability to take legal action will depend upon the context. If the narcissist is stalking you, then there are clear laws in most domains about this and you should be able to get help here. If you are in danger or in a relationship where you are being abused psychologically then there is the possibility of involving the police. However, the legal route may entail costs to you and may provoke the narc more. Make sure you have discussed these options before you commit yourself to action.
Jenny suffered slurs by a narcissist. She said at the time it felt acutely painful, but her advice is to understand why the narcissist is doing what they are and then not to feed their narcissistic supply by playing into their plan. Good luck!