We all know we can’t change other people—just ourselves. But for those of us who have chosen No Contact as a way of dealing with our narcissistic parents, that knowledge can be difficult to embrace because we expect those NPs to respect our wishes and not contact us.
If we think about it logically, that is not a particularly realistic expectation, is it? I mean, if they can’t be bothered to fix the things we have told them time and again are alienating us, why would we think they would respect our wishes for having no further contact with them? The very core of narcissism is to be self-serving, so it is pretty inevitable that our narcissists will, regardless of any apparent agreement on their parts, do exactly as they please.
This drives many of us nuts. Some of us get outraged, others of us hurt, still others feel bewildered and demoralized by the continued calls, cards, uninvited drop-ins, and flying monkey visitations. We have made our wishes known, why won’t they cooperate and just leave us alone?
Because they are narcissists, that’s why.
So how do we handle this? We are NC—let’s not break it just because they haven’t chosen to go NC with us. Don’t forget, we are the ones who chose to go No Contact—they didn’t. And just as we are not bound by their demands on our behaviour, they are not bound by our demands on theirs. Yes, it would be nice if they could be respectful and accede to our wishes, but these are narcissists we are talking about, remember? Respect for anyone or anything that doesn’t advantage them is just not their forte.
So why go NC if they aren’t going to respect it?
Because going NC means that you are not in contact with them. It means you will no longer rise to the bait, no longer engage, no longer to respond to their messages, provocations, or manipulations. NC is for you, it is your declaration of independence, autonomy, and sovereignty. It is you cutting the puppet strings, even if they do not agree, accept or respect your act of separation. NC is for you, it is about you, and it is controlled by you: you do not need their consent, permission or even their compliance. You do it because it is necessary for your well-being.
Imagine you have strings attached to your wrists, ankles and knees and every time your mother tugged on one of those strings, a part of you moved in response. Now, imagine you have a sharp pair of scissors and you cut each string cleanly in half…now what happens when she tugs on one of the strings in her hand? Well, provided you have completely severed the string, nothing can happen, can it? You can see the string dangling, you can see it bounce around futilely as she yanks and jerks on it, but nothing happens as long as it remains detached from you, right?
And guess what? She cannot reattach the string without your assistance! It is absolutely impossible for her to reattach any of those strings unless you help her—you are in full control of this!
You can be guaranteed that she will keep trying. She will come up with a multitude of ways to try to reconnect with you. She will not respect your NC until and unless she comes to the conclusion that she is wasting her time, that nothing she does gets a response out of you and, without response, there is no NSupply.
Think of it as junkmail or spam…
When you open your mailbox at home, what do you find? I remember coming home from work and pulling out a dozen or more pieces of mail almost every day. I would come into the house, put down my handbag and quickly riffle through them, sorting the junkmail directly into the trash and putting the rest of the mail into two piles: real mail and “not sure what this is.” Then I would pick up the “not sure” pile and open each envelope and, if it was more junkmail, sort it right into the trash.
Did I get upset at the junkmail? No. I had long since learned that junkmail will happen, that there was nothing I could do to stop it, but I did not have to respond to it. I accepted that cleaning junkmail out of my mailbox was inevitable and I had no control over whether or not some company was going to send it to me. But I had the ultimate control because I was the one who decided what I was going to look at. So let them waste their time and their money sending me shit I don’t want—when it arrives, it goes straight into the bin. No angst, no second-guessing, no regrets because I know just exactly what is in those envelopes: solicitations for me to give up something I want to keep (my money) in exchange for something I don’t want (their crap).
I handle phone solicitations the same way. If they are clear in the first few words that it is a sales call, I hang up the phone. If they are not immediately clear about the purpose of the call, I interrupt and say “Is this a sales call?” If they don’t answer the question, I ask one more time. If they respond “Yes,” I say “I am not interested. Have a nice day,” and hang up the phone. If they don’t answer my question the second time, I hang up the phone. You see, it is my phone and my time and I get to choose how to use them and with whom. These callers are intruders—I did not invite them to call me—and by remaining silent and listening to their spiel I give them permission to continue talking and sucking up my time, even when I do not want to be listening to them. But I have the option of taking control of the situation and I do that by hanging up the phone, taking my time back to spend it on what I want instead of wasting it listening to a stranger trying to pick my pocket from over the phone.
Contact from your Ns and their flying monkeys is no different!!
Seriously! Mail from your Ns, phone calls from flying monkeys—they are the junkmail and telemarketing calls of the hoovering narcissist and you handle them the same way I handle junkmail and telemarketers: dump the mail in the bin and hang up on the sales calls. Just like a telemarketer cannot sell you a timeshare condo in the Gobi unless you listen to her long enough to get sucked in, so you cannot be sucked into a conversation with your long-lost cousin about your poor NM and how distraught she is over your exit from her life. Just as the junkmail solicitation cannot suck you in to buying a set of 200 pieces of the latest in cutlery technology if you don’t open the envelope, so can you avoid being sucked into their drama—or hurt by their sophistry—if you dump their mail (and email), unopened, unread, unseen, straight into the bin.
You are in control of this and I know it feels alien and you perhaps don’t know exactly what to do, but the truth is, you completely yanked control away from your N the minute you went NC and the only way s/he can get it back is if you return it.
NC is for you, not for them. It doesn’t matter if they cooperate or not because this is not about them, it is about you. You are in control of it, you get to decide what you will put up with and what you will not (but remember, the more you put up with, the more they will throw at you).
So, if they won’t cooperate with your NC, start thinking of their attempts at communication like junkmail, spam, and telemarketing calls. You are under no obligation to respond…you aren’t even obligated to be especially polite. Imagine calling someone you haven’t spoken to in years and trying to tell her how she needs to talk to her mother—is that rude and presumptuous? You bet it is—so what makes you think you need to use your best manners in dealing with someone who has the temerity to call you and waste your time with that kind of disrespectful twaddle? Cousin Lou in Bumfuck, Arkanbama, who you haven’t seen or heard from since great-grandma’s funeral when you were in the tenth grade, calls you out of the blue to tell you how upset your mother is over your silence and admonishes you that the Bible says to honour your mother—exactly how is this her business? And why be reluctant to tell her that? “I appreciate your concern, Lou, but this is my business and I will handle it as I see fit. Thank you for calling.” click.
You do not need them to cooperate for NC to work. You need you to set your boundaries and then honour and respect them. You need you to resist their blandishments, your misplaced, toxic guilt, and second-guessing. The only thing you need to make NC work is a commitment from yourself to yourself to find ways to make it work instead of reasons why it won’t or can’t. Every time they find a creative way to get through to you—sending mail to your office in an envelope with a typed label and fake return address or getting an auntie to send an email or leaving a voice mail on your office phone—discard whatever it was and try to find a way to block that access.
Commit to finding ways to making it work, work on making it work, and don’t give them access to those tattered pieces of string dangling from your wrists and ankles. They can’t reattach them without you giving them access.