The only way forward in a conflict or problem, any troubling situation that requires thought, planning and an actual solution, is imagining, reasoning, talking and agreement. Some kind of agreement always has to come before the problem can be solved. The really scary part about human conflict is that it is often not amenable to thought, reasonable discussion or compromise. The more willful party, the one who refuses to agree to anything, will insist it has prevailed, to the harm of everyone involved.
I think of the frequent rages of my father. He couldn’t explain exactly why he was raging at any given time, but anger filled him and he needed to vomit it out regularly.
His temper was fierce and he never really forgave. He spoke and reasoned very well, so that amid his terrible curses he was able to mount an argument that was sometimes hard to overcome. Very hard to overcome, because he was adept at constantly shifting what you were actually talking about while he was angry and afterwards. Try talking something out, or calming somebody, when you can’t even agree what you’re talking about in any given moment.
We had an ongoing philosophical dispute over whether someone can change anything significant about themselves. My position was, if you are in enough pain, and motivated to be in less pain, you can change certain things that lead inevitably to more pain. For example, you can learn how to take a breath and be more patient when you are about to lose your temper. In my mind this is kind of a game changer, if your weakness is a proneness to respond to frustration with anger.
My father’s position, understandably, was that my belief in a human’s ability to change anything fundamental about himself was completely idiotic. No matter how much I may have thought that I changed he would always be able to provoke me until he proved that he was right about my fucking uncontrollably violent temper. Even after I proved to him that he couldn’t make me angry anymore, he dismissed any change in me as delusional, a superficial acting job.
It occurred to me recently, after stumbling on some literature about narcissism, and the narcissist’s need to be in control and be right no matter what the facts or the situation, that my father, speaking as a narcissist, was truly unable to change. The whole ball game for a narcissist is about winning the stark black and white conflict that is life, at any cost, no matter how small the issue causing friction. The world is either white, and everything you do is commendable and perfect, or black, and everything you do is despicable, contemptible, shameful. If those are your only two choices, you’re going to pick perfect and commendable and death to all humiliating naysayers. End of story.
What does that leave for everybody else in the narcissist’s orbit? Basically my way or the highway, asshole, you know the fucking rules of this one way road, you contemptible pile of dreck!
Look at any source of media drama and you will see narcissists, like the richest men in the world, our most powerful and greatest genius citizens, acting like petty children to assert their superiority over all of the losers in the world. Facts don’t matter when you’re a wealthy compulsive liar and there is no penalty for lying and calling everybody else a fucking liar. Would you expect a more humane rule in a world run by entitled narcissists?
Interesting how seeing this now through the eyes of narcissism, which is so prevalent in our world today, makes me finally understand that my father, for all his talents and excellent traits, actually was unable to change. The conviction that people cannot change was a core belief that went into making him what he was, because his wounds made change impossible for him. A tragedy, yes, but also very easy to understand, through the right lens.
To me, the terror of irrationality is that nothing can be agreed upon, nothing can be discussed, nothing can be resolved, no conflict can be peaceably ended, except on the terms of the more willful party. This is because all of the tools that humans have to make peace have been taken off the table in the service of one party insisting on their right to do whatever they need to do to the other party in order to control and prevail over their own helplessness in the face of their unbearable pain. So those who can’t solve their own terrible problems inflict their pain on everybody else, fair enough.
Talk about some fucked up shit, Larry...