My father was a raging alcoholic. He would come home drunk and already angry and he would pick fights with his family members. It was terrifying by design and we were defenseless against his attacks because we had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The monster lived inside our home.
So it’s not a big surprise that I ended up in relationships with personality disordered men who periodically raged at me. When you grow up with narcissistic parents you tend to either develop a personality disorder, yourself, or you become codependent. There is rarely any middle ground. I became codependent.
For those of you who haven’t been on the receiving end of rage, let me describe it to you. For ease of writing I will refer to the person raging as “The Monster”. Monsters come in all shapes, sizes and genders and they masquerade around as normal people in public. Monsters prefer victims who live with them and have difficulty escaping and are therefore easier to abuse. The Monster sometimes rears its ugly head when its victim dares to enforce a personal boundary, or in other words, says “No” to the Monster’s bullying. Sometimes the victim doesn’t even need to do anything. Sometimes the Monster just had a bad day, or someone unsafe for the Monster to rage at did something to the Monster, and the Monster needs to let off some Narcissistic Injury steam by raging at someone who is defenseless. Sometimes the victim cracked a proverbial eggshell, provoking the Monster’s wrath. It doesn’t take much for the Monster to fly into a rage.
Once the Monster has been triggered by you, himself or someone else and you are the unlucky target of his rage, it becomes a slippery slope. The Monster screams, throws things, breaks things, punches holes in walls and often physically assaults his victims. And the onslaught doesn’t come to an end until the Monster feels that the victim has been sufficiently stifled or the Monster gets tired.
And while it seems as though the Monster is out of control with anger, that is not the case. Rage is a controlled method by which the Monster uses to control his victims. For instance, my narcissistic ex chose one of my framed photos, from six on a counter top, to send sailing across the room and smashing into a wall. He chose my windshield to punch through, not his own. He chose to push me into walls instead of punching me so I wouldn’t have visible bruises. You get the point.
There are those of you who say, “I wouldn’t put up with that!”
And to that I say, “Well, good for you.” But the reality is, it’s not that easy to escape a Monster. As a child, I had no choice in parents. But as an adult, I did get to choose who I lived with. Unfortunately, I missed a whole lot of red flags in the beginning of the relationship. Narcissists can be very charming in the beginning. And they are also very calculating. I didn’t witness the rages until I had become emotionally and financially enmeshed.
There are those of you who say, “Why didn’t you call the cops and have him arrested?”
Did I mention how Monsters react when you demand a boundary? The problem with having a Monster arrested is that you had better be ready to pack up your worldly belongings during the (maybe) two days that he is in jail because when he gets out he’s REALLY going to be pissed. And if you are a man and your Monster is a woman, you will likely be the person going to jail.
One of the painful lessons I have learned in life is to not be afraid of erecting boundaries for myself. This is truly the only defense against Monsters. If you say “no” to a narcissist and he or she reacts in anger, this is the litmus test you need to end the relationship before becoming enmeshed. Non-disordered people do not fly into fits of rage.
If you are currently in a relationship with someone you believe is a narcissist, borderline or sociopath, tell someone. Stop keeping their abuse of you a secret. Get help from family and friends. See a therapist. Start making an exit strategy. You deserve peace and happiness and you will never find it as long as your home is not safe.
Pam McCoy is an author, writer, and co-host of Crazybusters.