Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where Is The Justice?

It is not often that I am specifically asked my opinion by readers of my blog, so I am deeply honored when one does so. I have one such Faithful Reader who has asked my opinion on a subject that is particularly difficult for her. After reading this post, my Dear Reader (I will call her Faithful, as she refers to herself) asked:

I have meant to write you as I would like to ask you when possible if you could please write a post about something I have been struggling lately with, I would love your perspective on it as you and your blog have been the main thing giving me any hope of recovery.

The thing I have been struggling so much with is "Justice" do we children or spouses of ACONs ever get justice for what was done to us by the Ns????? Does the karma bus ever stop on their street? Either from the religious perspective or not there is any hopes of justice being made????

DH and I have suffered horrors at the hands of his NParents, vicious stalking for three years that included PI searching for us, restraining order, lawyer fees, court hearings, let down by law enforcement and the courts, constant moves and fear for our lives, financial loss to the point of poverty, isolation, loss of friends, loss of professional goals and career, character assassination, identity theft, I been struggling with depression and PTSD because of all this and cant even afford counseling, our marriage is deeply wounded and as I speak I don't know if we will make it, while all this is going on NMIL/ NFIL and the rest of the N on DH NFOO keep their status in their communities living a lavish lifestyle with everyone thinking they are this wonderful people who love to do charity and help others while their ungrateful son and daughter in law refuse to have anything to do with them! One book wouldn't be enough to write everything this sick people have done to us and where is justice?????? How can I get any sense of peace or closure???? Will the karma bus/God/justice ever catch up with them???? How we spouses and ACON find justice in the all that we go though? There's justice at all? I would love to hear your take on this.


Faithful, the questions you posed have proven to be one of the most difficult topics I've written about to date. I have been pondering your questions, and my answer to them, for weeks now. I wanted to give as thorough and thought-out a response as I could muster, while still doing justice to the questions you have asked. But before I begin my analysis, I want to first disclose a few things: I know exactly where you are coming from. In fact, I think I've asked the the same sort of rhetorical question, "Where is the justice?" here on my blog before. I feel an intense need to tell you that I don't have all the answers, and that the suggestions I will offer you here are nothing more than my opinions. In some cases, I know I won't have answers that are any more tangible than your own. I will offer them anyway, in the hopes that you (and others out there who may be asking the same questions) may have at least a little peace-of-mind.

But before I can discuss the ever-elusive answer to the question about whether or not our narcissists will ever experience justice for the wrongs they have committed, I'd like to first take a look at the meaning behind the word "justice." According to Dictionary.com, the meaning of the word "justice" is as follows:

1. The quality of being just; righteousness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. Rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. The moral principle determining just conduct.
4. Conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. The administering of deserved punishment or reward.
a. the principle of fairness that like cases should be treated alike
b. a particular distribution of benefits and burdens fairly in accordance with a particular conception of what are to count as like cases
c. the principle that punishment should be proportionate to the offense
...is rendering to every one that which is his due. It has been distinguished from equity in this respect, that while justice means merely the doing what positive law demands, equity means the doing of what is fair and right in every separate case.

Etymology:

mid-12c., "the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment," from O.Fr. justise, from L. justitia "righteousness, equity," from justus "upright, just" (see just (adj.)). The O.Fr. word had widespread senses, including "uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge." The word began to be used in English c.1200 as a title for a judicial officer. Meaning "the administration of law" is from c.1300.


I think it is really important at this point to discuss what we mean when we're talking about the concept of "justice." Unfortunately, it is a difficult concept to easily define because, though there is a universal understanding of what the word means, it seems to be subject to discrepancy in what it signifies for us as individuals. For the sake of clarity, let's assume that the kind of "justice" we are talking about is one that pertains to the following two definitions:

1) Conformity to [the moral principle determining just conduct] as manifested in [the principle of fairness that like cases should be treated alike].
2) The administering of deserved punishment or reward.

What does the first point really mean, in layman's terms? There is this notion that all human beings are deserving of fair and equal treatment. We expect that our fellow humans will treat us kindly and with respect. The sense of indignity we feel when someone has been cruel to us is a result of the idea that we all have the right to be seen as equals; with valid thoughts and feelings of our own. In essence, we are supposed to conform to the principle which states that there should be as much dignity in treating others kindly as there is in being treated kindly by others. The way I see it, regardless of where we come from or the dysfunctions we face, we all have an innate duty to be virtuous insofar as how we conduct ourselves. We have a duty to ourselves and we have a duty to others. In the words of Immanuel Kant from his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."

In essence, what we're talking about is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Or, according to Wikipedia, "This concept describes a "reciprocal" or "two-way" relationship between one's self and others that involves both sides equally and in a mutual fashion. This concept can be studied from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, etc. [In] psychologically it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also "an I" or "self." Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group.) Religion is an integral part of the history of this concept." The idea of reciprocity has been around for thousands of years, it is not new.

In terms of this first definition, I am sad to say that I do not believe it is a form of justice that narcissists will ever experience. Here's why: The key component that is missing from all narcissist's psyches is empathy. Narcissists do not feel for others, they are only capable of feeling for themselves. They do not view others as having worth or value, they do not perceive "their neighbor" (or children, or siblings, or friends, or in-laws) as also having 'an I' or 'self'" and therefore will never live according to the principles of reciprocity. They do not care about justice, because they live on a one-way street, in a house with a door that only swings one way. They will never treat you with kindness, dignity, and respect because they don't believe that you deserve it. The fact of the matter is, when a person truly believes that the rest of the world is only out there to serve him and fulfill his needs, he will never believe in or even understand the concept of justice.

However, all hope is not lost: Just because THEY don't understand the concept of justice, doesn't mean that it does not still affect them.

And here is where the second definition of justice, as outlined above, comes into effect: The administering of deserved punishment or reward. Here, Faithful, I can say that I believe the narcissists in our lives will experience justice. Though I can not say how that justice will get administered, or by whom the punishment will be served, I do believe that justice is a natural consequence for their actions; just as it is a natural consequence for our actions. Again, just because a narcissist does not believe in consequences, does not mean that they get to escape the natural outcome of their behaviors in life.

In my own personal experience dealing with narcissists, I have found justice in the following:

1. Finding and developing my own self-esteem. This was a crucial key for me in dealing with my own long-term relationship with a narcissist. I believe it is one of the first steps a person must take in order to disengage from an unhealthy relationship and see fully her own value and worth as being completely separate from that of any person who wishes to do her harm. When you realize your own self-worth, it becomes meaningless what ANY person (your significant other, parent, sibling, friend) thinks of you. When you stop allowing others to define who you are, it will no longer matter when they say, "You are worthless." How does this translate in my relationship with NMIL? Having already done the hard work years ago, by defining myself and assigning value to my person without outside interference, it was not hard for me to ignore the value she attempted to assign to me. I am the only person who has that right, no one else. So for me, the very first thing that comes to mind when I am looking for justice is the knowledge that, even if I have allowed my self-esteem to be damaged in the process of dealing with a cruel or manipulative person, it is not gone entirely and can be repaired. The only people who have hurt me in this life are the ones that I have allowed to hurt me. Though I can not control their behaviors, I can certainly control mine: And my self-esteem demands that I be treated with respect and kindness: I deserve nothing less. Faithful? My dear readers? I believe the same of you.

2. Knowing that a narcissist is a narcissist, in part, because their self-esteem has been so damaged (in most cases, I believe, irreparably). What does this mean? It means that you have something they don't: The strength to not allow anyone else to define you; the courage to find your own self-worth and build a strong-hold around it, that even the most persistent and cunning enemy can not crumble; the intellect and willingness to seek the truth, even when it hurts. What are narcissists, when you peel away their outer layer? They are cowards and wimps. They are ignorant and small. They are hopelessly pathetic and unabashedly villainous. The only "friends" they have in their inner-circle are those who share a similar plight: those who are equally weak, selfish, and ignorant. On a personal level, I find this knowledge to be refreshing. In the narcissist's delusional world, you are nothing but a prop, a puppet, or a tool. But in reality, it is they who are the pathetic ones.

3. Beating them at their own game. In terms of NMIL, I have beaten her at her own game. Hers was not a game I invented, or even one that I wanted to play. And yet, I still won. I was not the person who set up our relationship to be a win/lose dichotomy: she was. I was not the person who set up our relationship for inevitable failure: she was. I was not the one who forced her to lose her son and his FOC: she was. I am simply a person who expects that she and her loved ones be treated with kindness and consideration. I am a woman who believes that no one has the right to hurt me, my husband, or my children. She started this game and I finished it, simply by choosing not to participate. On top of that, I have the confidence to know that whatever daggers she throws in our direction will never reach their intended targets, for their is nothing she can do that will hurt us. The same can be said of EFIL and L, and any other narcissists who cross our paths. They have no power over me:

Source: Labyrinth (1986)

Jareth: Sarah, beware. I have been generous up 'til now. I can be very cruel.
Sarah
: Generous? What have you done that's generous?
Jareth
: Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn't that generous?
Sarah: Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great...You have no power over me. 

As in the clip from the movie shown above, where Sarah makes the revelation that her narcissist only has power over her if she allows it, so I have had to make similar realizations in dealing with the narcissists in my life. And again, once you realize they have no power over you, then the jig is up and they have lost: their world crumbles, they are rendered powerless. It does not matter that the goblins they are surrounded by will continue to worship them. It does not matter that they have used up all of their resources trying to attack and belittle you. It does not matter that they have not and will not change - whether you are in their life or not. What matters is that YOU have defined your own value and have stopped allowing them space inside your head. For me, there is a great sense of justice in knowing that I have what they want: I have happiness, I have DH, I have surrounded myself with truly loving and loyal family and friends. Yes Dear Reader, I have what they want, and what they want, they will never have.

4. They are miserable people. For me, there is also a great sense of justice in the fact that NMIL, EFIL and L, and other narcissists I have had the misfortune of knowing are not really happy people. There is justice in the fact that the closest they come to knowing the same happiness that I have known comes only in the form of seeing others experience it. No amount of money or power will ever help the narcissists achieve what I have achieved. I don't believe that justice will eventually come to the narcissists, because I think they are living it everyday. I don't see justice as being something that sneaks up on us in time, it's something that is always present. In my opinion, they won't have to wait until they are on their death bed to experience the kind of misery I think they deserve - every day is a new opportunity for those people to change the outcome of their own lives, and to become better, more enlightened, more honest people; and every day they choose NOT to, which means that they don't deserve to have my husband in their lives, they don't deserve to have my children in their lives, and they don't deserve to have me in their lives.

Don't be mistaken into believing they are happy and satisfied in their lives simply because they are on the receiving end of so much lavish praise and attention: for there is no true justice in being adored by fools. Don't be mistaken into believing they get everything that they want: for as long as they are in want of you, then they haven't won. Don't be mistaken into believing that they are not miserable in spite of their jubilant facade: for they are empty inside and will never know true happiness. While they are busy pretending that they have it all, you have to allow that it's just another of their lies. The narcissist doesn't have it all and, as long as you are not willing to be their victim, they never will.

7 comments:

  1. Great discussion, Jonsi. What I want to add is my emotional response to what your reader said: "our marriage is deeply wounded and as I speak I don't know if we will make it."

    I'm so sorry to read that this experience with his NFOO has affected your marriage. If there is any justice in the world, let it begin between you. Attend to those wounds - that is work you both can do to strengthen your bond, to return to your home base and address the ways this experience has "infected" your relationship.

    NFOO want to divide and conquer - they want inside the sacred circle of your marriage. They want to drive a wedge. The stalking, the legal fees, the fear, the losses - don't let your marriage be another casualty.

    all the best,
    upsi

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  2. Interesting. I feel like faithful's question is asking if there will be justice in external ways, like will life ever be fair or will assholes ever realize they're assholes? Probably not and I guess that's why you feel angry and upset and despairing. But I guess that's why we have those feelings in the first place.
    I agree with Jonsi that the first kind of justice doesn't come because 'treat people how you want to be treated' depends on the other person having a self, on both of you have a self. Which narcissists don't. So that lovely natural order gets interrupted, the thing that's supposed to grow gets trashed over and over. That lovely assumption we're born with so that we will treat others good and others will treat us good.

    I also agree with Jonsi with the second part that justice doesn't come from outside. It doesn't come from narcissists and it doesn't come from other people either. Justice doesn't happen like someone swooping in and blasting the narcs with lasers or someone swooping in and saving you. And even if that did happen, I don't think you'd feel justified. Justice comes from you standing up for yourself and doing what you think is right. And it doesn't come all at once like a black and white, it comes slowly, in big and small steps.

    Narcissists are psycho. They are evil. And it makes sense that it takes a long time to get out from under them, they are just that evil. Just that blunt force evil. And that's why it's so amazing when you do get out from under it.

    Which is why I feel so glad that I was able to get away from so many of them. I don't really think about my parents this way, but I'm so glad that I got away from the narcissists that are out there in regular life, my peers, not just in my house. I think about my ex-best-friend Steph and I just feel like whew, I'm so glad I was finally able to get away from her because she was such a BIG evil, such a difficult weight, someone I felt like crap next to, and now I'm so glad that I'm NOT her, don't have to be around her, and get to have all the beautiful people I wanted to be with around in my life, just like she'll never have. I get to have what I want now. I'm so glad I'm away from her and that I know that I'm BETTER than her. I'm so glad I'm not her 'cause if I was, I think I would kill myself.

    I don't know if narcissists having power over you is a choice. Most people don't have a choice. It's like being scared of the dark as a little kid or being scared of something small and then growing up to be bigger than it and not scared of it. It'll happen.

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  3. I've also experienced the behavior Faithful describes and then some. I endured this crap for years. Yes, by all means tend to your relationship with your DH-this is your primary relationship. Your ability to weather these storms together will result in a tighter relationship yet-believe it or not.
    But this I DO want you to know: The end of this story has NOT been written. You have every "right" (so to speak) to live your lives as you see fit. In the end that's all that's gonna matter. Really.
    TW

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  4. I have been reading your blog for a while now and really enjoy it. I too am a daughter in law to a wonderful man who has been put through hell by a NMIL. In his case, a NSIL who is my NMIL's right hand woman has cause severe emotional distress to us. I can't even begin to type us the lengths that this emptionally immature, controlling, down right mean people have gone too. I am happy to say that my marriage is now stronger then ever but we had to go through alot to get there. I think our DH's could be twins. My Inlaws took my husband's easy going nature as a means to walk all over him. They treated him horribly and reacted with shock and disdain when he dared to say the word "No."
    Anyway, I too have thought about justice. When will kharma catch up to them? They have caused us such pain, sleepless nights, stress, panic attacks and tears. They have tainted what should have been happy life milestones for us-yet they seem to get off painfree. When will it catch up to them?
    But life is not a race. It may or may not catch up to them, but even thinking about that keeps me stuck. The more we detach, the less pain they cause us, and the more I could care less about kharma finding its way to them. My happiness is not determined by them, and their happiness or sadness is not determined by me. I know they are miserable. If they were happy they would not work so hard to be controlling, mean, and manipulative when its comes to me. They have to try to twist things and lie to get people to be on their side. They are fake because no one would want to be around the real them. They determine their self worth from crushing other's happiness. That is downright miserable.
    Being free is being happy, and being happy is not caring about what kind of justice befalls the Narcs in our (no longer in!!) our lives.

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    1. Just another DIL - To me, you're much more than "just another DIL." You're a kindred spirit. You sound so much like me, it's astounding. (Maybe WE'RE twins!)

      I'm sorry to hear about the hardships you and your husband are facing because of his FOO - I know exactly how you feel. Your contribution here made my eyes open wide...I feel as though I could have written the same thing! Thank you so much for sharing, there is a great sense of validation in knowing we are not alone.

      I am happy to hear that you and your husband are making it, in spite of all that his FOO have attempted. In this battle against people who wish to harm us, I believe that knowledge really is power. Keep searching, keep loving, keep fighting!

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  5. I have thought about commenting on your blog so many times. It's been so helpful to read about how you have dealt with the cruel treatment of your ILs with composure. I started reading your DH's blog and plan to share it with my DH. So much of his story and yours is similar to mine and my DH. I just wanted to share with you one story.
    When I was first dating my DH he had a "best friend" that he had forever. This "best friend" liked to use my DH to build his own ego. One day the friend got dumped and had no gf, while my DH and I were happily getting serious. He could not stand it! He worked hard to split us up. One night the best friend cornered me to tell me how dumb my DH was and how he would never get a good job, etc. I was shocked and of course defended my DH! Anyway, I told my DH the story and it did not phase him. He told me "He is right. I am dumb." It broke my heart. But he was brought up being put down and so sought out friendships which were negative and not true friendships at all. I think people who are raised by NARCS, often (without realizing it) seek out what is familiar to them in friendships as well. And BTW, without encouragement from his FOO or his "best friend" my DH graduated college and has a wonderful job.
    Anyway, I have realized so much of the reason my Inlaws put down my husband and I is because our lives are so different from them. They need us to live out their type of lifestyle to validate their poor choices. Every time we succeed by choosing a different path, they take it as a personal hit on their choice. They will forever, deep down, by weak people who have to overcompensate for their crappy lifechoices and personal flaws. It's a shame they don't have the will power to change because a NARC will never see a flaw long enough to take the time to work on that flaw.
    I think the justice is that we are happy with the lives we are living!

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    1. Wow - Your story about your DH's "best friend," and his reaction to being put down by him sounds SO FAMILIAR! My husband responded in much the same way - even when faced with his friends' awful betrayals and nastiness, he was often willing to accept being treated that way (and seemed to think he deserved nothing better). His "best friends" have treated him horribly and have proven that not only are they not friends, they aren't even good people.

      Unfortunately, I CAN believe that there are people out there like your DH's "best friend" who would badmouth him behind his back (like that was going to win him any brownie points with you) to the woman he loves. Disgusting.

      By all means, share my blog with your DH. I hope it can help shed some light on things for him and maybe show him that you guys aren't alone. I'm always open to hearing from my readers and if you ever want to start up a dialog (or if you want to share something but don't feel comfortable doing it on my public blog) you can always email me! (Jonsi.131(at)gmail.com)

      I have to agree with you, too - At the end of the day, my happiness is justice enough for me. It's not that I revel in other people's unhappiness, it's more that I know that they didn't have the power to disrupt mine.

      Your DH sounds so much like mine - No doubt he's sensitive, loving, and considerate. I'm happy for your happiness!

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