Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t


Society and people need rules. The requirement for regulation looms large in everyone’s life. Pay your taxes, don’t park in that place, don’t drop litter, say please and thank you and so on. From laws to rules to codes of conduct, through to convention to procedures to etiquette we are bound up in rules wherever we go and whatever we do. People grumble and complain about them but ultimately they prefer the world to have these rules. People like to know where they stand. You know what you can and cannot do. You may not agree with it, but you at least have some certainty. Those that found themselves in the horror of concentration camps complained that there was never any certainty to the day. You could be subjected to punishment for walking too slowly one day and too fast the next. It was random and awful, yet such a system is horrendously effective at undermining someone’s will and paradoxically causing them to try harder in order to avoid a sanction.
Our behaviour is much the same. There is no rhyme or logic to it. Last week I said I liked sugar in my tea and this week I do not. I deny that I said I liked sugar in my tea and moreover this triviality causes me to erupt in rage when you put sugar in my drink this week. You are confused and anxious by this random control that I exert over you. It is all intentional. Do not make the mistake of thinking that we cannot recall what we said or did the previous day, that we are somehow blind to our previous likes and dislikes as if affected by some form of amnesia. This disorientating tactic is deliberate. You may as well ascribe outcomes to the numbers two through to twelve and roll two dice. That gives you just as good a chance of determining how I will behave. One week I sleep with the bedroom window open, the next it must be closed. Yesterday I want silence in the kitchen in the morning, today I want the radio on. Each day you are put on parade and then awaiting the inevitable criticism as I will find some fault in order to control you, demean you and provoke a reaction. I am like an insane regimental sergeant major who deems the buttons on your uniform to not shine enough despite the hours you spent polishing each one. Like his parade ground bark, I will unleash my haphazard criticism of you with a barrage of abuse, raising my voice and making you wince with each syllable. We understand the effect of repeatedly being shouted at and it causes you to submit to our demands Invariably I will see what you are doing and pick the opposite as being what I want. I am a natural contrarian. All of this is done to maintain your heightened sense of anxiety, forcing you to second guess and thus become conditioned to our will. Periodically we will approve of what you have done and your sense of relief is so overwhelming you receive a natural high. This in turn causes you to want to repeat it and therefore each and every day you are walking on those eggshells as you try to please us and avoid our erratic and groundless rage. There is no system you can depend on, no method of working out what is safe to do and what should be avoided, yet still you will try. As ever, you want to make matters right and keep the peace.

18 thoughts on “Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

  1. NP says:

    HG Tudor,.. I am undergoing this at the moment…only it’s not with a partner but in the neighbourhood when I live. I am being mobbed. Nothing I do is ever right…

    Everybody knows each other in this small town and unfortunately it seems crossed a Narc (don’t know how, still trying to figure it out) and now I am the enemy of the state.

    I’ve endured it for 2 and 1/2 years nw, thought it would let up, but nope…still going on, it’s actually getting worse.

    Everybody shifting around and rooting for ways to start drama with me.

    If they cannot, then it will be demeaning criticisms on anything and everything I do in the small town I live in. If I take a walk, buy a tomato, wear a red dress, wear a blue dress, wear my hair down, plait my hair…got to church, not go to church….nothing is out of bounds.

    It’s exhausting.

    Guess it’s time to move back to the city…where I can live in anonymity amongst large groups of people who mind their own business.

    It hilarious… strangers who do not know me at all…people I have never interacted with in my life…, people deliberately talking loudly so you can hear what’s being said about you, how you’ve gained weight, how you finances are this and that…

    I wish it wouldn’t get to me, but it’s almost everyone in the town and it’s everyday when I pass by doing my errands and minding my business. Can’t even go to some stores.

    There’s no escaping it unless I lock myself in my house…

    It’s sad, but it’s happened to me to many a time now, come to think of it. First it was at amy former workplace…I was mobbed,. It left me so raw with pain and PTSD, and constantly in the ER with an autoimmune disease.

    I decided to resign and then I worked from home, and that’s how I moved to a small town, just to keep my finances in order and forget the nasty experience I had in my workplace in the city.

    But then, it seems there’s no escaping it.

    I am being mobbed again…

    I am tired of being an empath, or whatever it is that just makes people think it’s okay to cut me down. Being a very tall person doesn’t help at all.

    It almost seems as if they can see me from a kilometer away, with neon signs begging them to take a swipe at me…

    Coming to think of it…it’s happened many times before, even in other neighbourhoods I lived…and all of them were small towns, or suburbs where everybody sort knew each other.

    It’s even happened in church….


    I hate it…

    I have to look for ways to stop this, coz even if I move, whats to stop my new neighbours from zooming in for the kill….

    1. Windstorm2 says:

      This may sound very trivial, but have you ever tried not making eye contact or narc-like emotionless stares when you meet people and/or laughing when you hear snide comments about yourself? Always has worked for me.

      1. NP says:

        Well, Windstorm, I guess you are correct. I may have to start practicing new tricks to survive this storm… thank you for this insight.

    2. JenniferJ says:

      This is a very traumatic and sad situation and I feel for you. I’m so sorry you are going through this. It resonates with me because I have been in similar situations at work and in social groups and I understand how it consumes your thoughts and robs you of a normal and happy life.
      For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is any quick fix or easy solution. Everyone is different, so the way to overcome these situations will be different too. In my case, I found that a lot of self-reflection and self-care was needed. When I really began to question my own emotions and what was driving my actions, I started to focus less on other people’s behaviour and more on my own. I studied things like self-compassion, mindfulness, boundaries, and blogs like this one. Then I actively started to question, understand and “own” my own emotions and beliefs.
      Narcs and their flying monkeys, like the ones in your town who are giving you a hard time, are really just small-minded cowards when you scratch the surface. They seem to be able to sniff out an empath and enjoy watching them suffer to give themselves a false sense of power. Don’t give them that power. Somehow, you have to steel yourself into ignoring them, keep doing what you want to do and strive to enjoy your life and block them out of your mind as much as you can.
      To do this, you need to slowly develop a thick skin and rise above all of their bullying tactics and keep on going regardless of their behaviour. It’s difficult to do this and sometimes you won’t have the energy to do it, but don’t give up. Give yourself small goals to achieve, like plan to go to church and sing your favourite hymn; go for a walk to the shops and buy yourself a small treat; go to the cinema and enjoy wearing your favourite perfume, etc. Keep persevering and savour all the things that make you appreciate life while taking less and less notice of what other people do. Hopefully, doing these things will get easier over time.
      Eventually, the narcs and flying monkeys will see that their bullying doesn’t work on you and you don’t care what they do. If they see that you are happy living your life the way you want to while ignoring them, they will hopefully stop focusing on you.
      Be mindful of the people in your town who are not bullies and who are courteous and respectful to you. Smile, say hello and be cheerful and mutually respectful to them. Hopefully, over time, you will develop a different mindset and your view of things will brighten.
      I wish you all the best and sincerely hope things improve for you.

  2. BlueOcean says:

    On Point. It is such a relief to read the posts of this site that all articulate and with such great precision all the facets of what one has been going through. One of the big challenges as a victim is that very few actually understands what is the matter because of the psychic nature of the abuse. Everyone understands physical pain, harm and abuse. But psychological pain, harm and abuse is hugely underrated and overlooked. Thank you so much for this site and you bringing true order and understanding into the chaos. At least, then there is acknowledgement here in this forum.

  3. thepianist20 says:

    HG, I have some questions,,

    I have maintained NC with the narc in my life for 5 months now. So, now my questions are-

    1. Does me going NC on him bothering him right now?
    2. If so, what is he plotting if he’s a Greater Narc?
    3. If he plans to come back by other means, will the hoover that he throws be a strong hoover?
    4. Can the narc in my life ever love?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      1. It depends on whether he remains in the golden period with an IPPS. If he is, not it does not. If you escaped him and he issued an IGH, no contact would have infuriated him and forced him elsewhere to find a new IPPS and then it is as per my first sentence. If the IPPS is in devaluation and he is trying to hoover you, your NC will be bothering him.
      2. That is too expansive an answer to address appropriately here.
      3. Depends on his fuel matrix and what school he is.
      4. No.

      1. thepianist20 says:

        Thank you HG! That’s all I needed to know

  4. JenniferJ says:

    This post describes my mother. Her criticisms come swift, sharp, and without any real basis, especially when someone in the family is doing something independently or seems happy without her input.. At other times, she will be the epitome of a caring mother who seems to dote on everyone and wants them to feel loved.
    As an adult, I can now see through the behaviour to the real reason it’s happening. A child has no way of knowing or understanding though, and it can provoke anxiety, a constant state of puzzling apprehension and a terrible inner feeling of futility and anger.
    This kind of behaviour by a parent is extremely damaging to the mind and emotional well-being of a child. The child’s state of anxiety can spiral downwards into depression and other mental illnesses. If the adult child becomes aware of what’s really happening later in life, it can take years to overcome. It’s an insidious form of emotional abuse that’s difficult to recognise, let alone prove.

    1. Windstorm2 says:


  5. Chingona says:

    Oh hell yeah!!! I know this trick. It confounded me at first, and then the surprise wore off, until, that is, the dichotomy became expressed via sex. That, too, became mundane by the end, and lost it’s impact. I knew the last time was REALLY the last time as a consequence

  6. Sunniva says:

    This post reminded me of chaos theory. Although we will never know whether you want sugar in your tee, or not. Sleep with the bedroom window open, or not. There will always be that underlying pattern. That constant feedback loop occuring from the narcissist’s need for fuel.
    The most valuable lesson for me from you, is to always force my mind to go to logic. Even though I will never completely understand the mind of a narcissist, the logic will tell me, at some juncture, that this is psychological manipulation. So, no matter what the first (the actual action enforced by the narcissist), the latter will always be some kind of abuse.

  7. BurntKrispyKeen says:

    OK. Okay.

    Understood. Got it.

    Just when I think I have taken a glimpse of what lies beneath, you’re going to ensure that I see something different the next time. (Damn that last empathy comment.)

    But I do see the truth here too.

    Unpredictability is control, and an effective method at that.

    (This took me back to that feeling of sitting in church and just knowing the sermon is directed at me. But then, that would be rather presumptious and even a bit narcissistic of me.) Still, offering stability and attempting to be foreseeable can be quite delightful…. even if just for a change. Just saying.

  8. Tappan Zee says:

    Sucker punched. So true. Hurts.

  9. mb says:

    My life with Nex. Torment for one who gives empathy and unconditional love. When will society understand this is horrible abuse.,thank you HG for describing it so well. It is soul crushing especially combined with all the other devaluations . Illogical to destroy the source of unconditional love to settle for counterfeit ( of negative fuel) , so both N & E are losers in the end. Sad tragic but I’ve had to let go of caring about him. Some feat . He had self fulfilling prophecy he believes everyone will hurt him so he causes it. Arg.

  10. Kimi says:

    Enlightening article HG! I never recognized the high and lows dynamic with my first Narcs, although it was certainly present. I can recognize and still feel the same pattern I experienced with my recent and last Narc. It is the lack of highs and lows in a normal romantic relationship that make it seem boring and unappealing to me now. Time for a perspective shift!

    1. Chingona says:

      Good, I feel better that i’m not the only one who’s been through more than one<3 =D Thanks to HG, I know why. I also have come to see the initial attempt to control by a potential date. Don’t play along in the expected ways: by accepting and asking for more, or, giving up negative fuel!

      1. Kimi says:


        My first Narc was my Dad and all my significant romantic partners have been Narcs. HG blessed me with knowledge too. Now I know better and will choose better in the future!

        So you recognized controlling behavior before engaging with a potential Narc? If so, good for you!

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