Most people who get involved with a malignant narcissist do eventually decide to break away. At some point, they sense that, to survive as a person, they must. This often takes a very long time, but that is no reason to say that they are gluttons for punishment. A glutton for punishment never breaks away. So we must be careful not to judge too quickly. Denial is a powerful thing, and it is instinctive in traumatic situations.
Though I am less prone to denial than most people, I had an unforgettable experience with it many years ago. I was on a flight from Paris to Rome, and the security was much tighter even than it is today. Everything got X-rayed and thoroughly hand searched, including your person. You probably would not believe me if I told you all the things that happened without me allowing myself to know what was going on.
The more reality tried to impose on my consciousness, the more into a haze I went. I was in the boarding line for three hours before I gave in and looked up at the sign that said this flight was ultimately bound for Tel Aviv. My heart landed in the pit of my stomach. The people in that endless line behaved differently than Europeans. After nine days in Paris, it felt good to be among people like this, whom I felt must be mostly Americans. But now, for the first time I let myself see and looked around. Their hushed, almost whispering voices were not speaking English. And every twentieth man was bearded and dressed as an orthodox Jew.
But even that did not bring me out of denial. I kept whistling in the dark, to think this was probably routine and that there was no danger. The loaded plane then baked on the runway for several hours — I lost track of time. I didn't come out of denial until long after the cargo hold had been emptied, all the baggage re-searched by hand, and reloaded. Not once, or twice, but three times.
Denial is a slippery slope, so even that did nothing but accelerate me deeper and deeper into it. That's because every time a thought acknowledging reality managed to form, you quickly repressed it in denial to keep whistling there in the dark. I didn't come out of it until the plane had sat on that runway for so long you thought terrorists were in the cockpit and negotiations were underway. Not till the silent tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife and everybody was about to explode. (You were afraid to move or talk, for fear that everybody would attack you and tear you to pieces with their bare hands, thinking you were a terrorist.) The teenage girl in the seat behind me threw up for sheer fright and was comforted by two old men.
Then a young mother held up her one-or-two-year-old son at arm's length, obviously in some silent gesture that all understood. She made him giggle with delight for us. The center of all that silent attention, he held out his arms to be an airplane for us. To this day, whenever I recall that moment, I utterly break down into sobbing tears.
It changed my life. At the time though this vision just stunned me. Back into my senses. That's because I suddenly realized that people wanted to kill this child for being.
As if stuck by a hot poker or something, I turned around with a little voice in my head angrily asking, "Why? Where are they? Where are the bastards?" It was as though a gigabyte of understanding downloaded all at once. "Humph," I thought, sitting back in my seat, "Figures! They're hiding! Cute! But I'll be damned if I'll be afraid of the people I can see!"
Why did I think that? Because when I came to my senses I noticed someone's invisible finger on my button and snatched back control of my mind. That's why I suddenly could think straight enough to know whom to hate.
I am too ashamed to share what I had been thinking before that, as half-formed thoughts repressed just would not stay down, despite my denial, and kept surfacing to consciousness on me. But I will say that the terror tactics had me fearing those innocent people around me, not the unseen terrorists.
To this day, I am both ashamed and amazed at how backwards terror had made me think. Because they were dangerous to be around, the other passengers were the "dangerous" ones in my mind, not the unseen terrorists. What a toxic thought. Imagine how it made me view them.
And there is a very short step between fear and hatred. One takes it in a heartbeat.
Terror made me want to distance myself as far as possible from every Jew on the planet. And if there had been a terrorist in sight I would have wanted to kiss his feet, trying to suck up by showing him that I hated Jews too.
Yup, I was blaming the victim, viewing the targets of terrorists like Canadians and Europeans view Americans today. Yup, if we saw a bunch of sheep blaming the attacked one while making excuses for the wolf and even being friendly with him, we'd know they're crazy. But terrorized human beings NEVER fail to do just that.
Sure, those stupid sheep think that if they suck up to him, he'll like them and not eat them too. But we know that's too stupid for even a dumb animal to think. Yet, terrorized human beings NEVER fail to think just that.
I liken this crazy, backwards thinking to the true story of some children caught on a railroad trestle bridge when a train came. Observers said that, if they had done the natural thing — if they had run to the nearer end of the bridge, away from the train — they would have reached safety. But like deer in an automobile's headlights, their terror made them all run right into the onrushing train.
Truth is stranger than fiction, eh? That's how backwards terror makes people think, and narcissists use terror tactics.
Terror isn't fright. Terror is a darkened state of mind. Terror is your head buried in the sand. Indeed, the very word terror comes from the Latin word terra, which means "earth" and comes from this ancient figure of speech. Terror is that underground state of mind otherwise known as denial — fear of facing facts. In terror, you're on automatic pilot, acting on thoughts you repress to the level of the subconscious. Therefore, those thoughts can be absolutely absurd without your realizing it.
So, beware denial. It's a dangerous state of mind. A narcissist's shock tactics and terror tactics drive you into it. But don't go there. People in denial don't think straight. They think and do the most inexplicable things because denial compels them 180 degrees in the wrong direction. If I had not been deep in denial I would not even have boarded that plane.
By Kathy Krajco