I have always been a perceptive person, able to see any situation from the point of view of others. Growing up, I never understood how I could see my parent’s point of view, but they could never see mine. And the (not so) funny thing is, their point of view was always skewed in their favor. If they were upset, it was my fault. If I was upset, it was my fault. If they were offended, it was my fault. If I was offended, it was my fault. See the pattern?

When I was blamed, which was inevitable, I would take responsibility for my part, and then some. Even when things were not my fault, I could trace the line of reasoning back to how they could potentially find fault with me, and I would even take responsibility for their false perceptions. For example, one time, in a rare act of generosity, my parents took my friend and I to see our favorite band. My bestie and I were understandably excited, and screamed and cheered throughout the show. It was two hours of sheer joy, for which I later paid the price. My parents said nothing on the car ride home, and I knew better than to interrupt the too-familiar heaviness that stifled me from the back seat. The next day, I learned through my mom that my dad was furious with me for “ruining” the concert. They were embarrassed that we were screaming. Never mind an entire amphitheater full of fans were screaming, too. I was out of control, and also, spoiled and ungrateful, because I did not properly thank my father for the tickets.

I felt terrible, for all of us. All too familiar shame rose up and choked me, and once again I was frozen, cut off from finding any sort of solution to appease my impossible to please parents. I was to be punished now. I was grounded, even though I offered an apology which was considered too late to be accepted.

First of all, it was so exceedingly rare that my parents would entertain my interests at all, that the idea that they took me to something that I actually liked was not lost on me. In fact it was the only instance I can remember from my childhood where they indulged me in something that I liked, not that they liked. I wanted them to know how grateful I was, so why couldn’t they see it? I absorbed the blame for not adequately thanking them enough, in a way that they understood. I didn’t understand at the time that a normal parent would be able to infer from my excitement and screaming and the million “thank you’s” that I was grateful. I didn’t understand that they were moving the goalposts. Them not feeling appreciated was not my failure, but theirs. They wanted to be fawned over in a certain way that was both unvoiced and unattainable. I didn’t understand what triangulation was, or passive-aggressive confrontation. That is, I didn’t know the terms. I was all too familiar with the behavior. No matter what the circumstance was, my parents would find a way to make it terrible and then blame me for it.

In later years, I struggled, and continue to struggle, with point of view. I was so conditioned to see and understand their point of view no matter how much cognitive dissonance was distorting it, that it literally made me feel like I was going crazy. Over the years, I learned to step back and look at the situation objectively. Guess what? Even as a kid, my behavior was perfectly rational. My choices were reasonable. My part to play stirring up drama and conflict was minimal.  I just happened to be dealing with a ton of projection and misplaced blame.

Usually, in mediation, the first piece of advice for conflict resolution is to see the other person’s point of view.  In abusive situations, especially dealing with dark triad personalities, this is terrible advice. Someone with a cluster b personality disorder is incapable of seeing other points of view to elicit empathy. If they understand any other perspective at all, it will become fuel for manipulation. Conversely, the entire relationship is formed around maintaining the false projections of the abuser. Victims of this kind of abuse are so well trained to see and empathize with the abuser’s point of view, they often lose sight of what is right and true. When forced to entertain the point of view of an abuser, gaslighting and manipulation is the only result.

It’s still too easy for me to slip into the point of view of my abusers, which almost always results in an instant migraine. I am gradually learning, in spite of bad advice, that the key to recovery is to block out their point of view. I am learning, in addition to viewing the situation from an objective, detached place, to allow my own perceptions to come forward. In learning to honor my own point of view, I am honoring truth.

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