Posted by: Judy | December 8, 2011

Deer in the headlights…

…not anymore.

What do you do when your N asks you a question?

There was a time, not so long ago, that I would give an automatic answer, and find myself bitterly regretting not thinking things through first. It’s an N trick. Demand quick and immediate answers, so no matter how the target responds, it will be wrong, one way or another.

God sent me a teacher. Met a guy I really liked. (So glad it didn’t go anywhere the way I had hoped.) What I liked about him was that whenever I asked him a question he would stop and think, before answering. I remember deciding that I wanted to be more like that. It wasn’t easy. Ns feed on the anxiety in others. From what I can tell, it makes them feel superior.

It is possible to unlearn the automatic response, but it isn’t easy. Ns are tricky and masters of the bait and switch. The only way to stop the games is to refuse to play. With a lot of work and effort (and trials and errors), I’m learning to make different choices.

The thing with Ns is that they know what buttons to push. They’ve been practicing on you all your life. Yes, they have you figured out. The game changer is that now you’re figuring them out.

I recently had a reminder of how far I’ve come. My mother asked me — in that pleading voice that warns me I’m about to be manipulated — if I’d help her, and she’d pay me for my time. She knows I’m struggling in the income department. The old me would have jumped at the chance to earn money. The healthier me knew that it would cost me a whole lot more than whatever she was willing to pay me.

Taking a breath to reset my thinking, I asked, “What is it you want me to do?”

She needed help finding things are her new computer and moving things from her old computer to her new one.

Wait… What?

To say I was confused was a vast understatement. I’m not a computer guru. Not even remotely. I’ve never claimed to be one, ever. In fact, I’ve always made it clear that I know who my go-to people are when I have trouble. I’m not ashamed to admit, “I don’t know much about computers.” To say she was setting me up to fail or at least be a target of her hysterics would be spot on.

I stared at her. Then stated that I couldn’t help her.

I tried not to laugh. I tried to be sincere. I tried to keep my own mounting anxiety in check as she proceeded to try to wheedle me into agreeing.

For those of you who are wondering why I’m so mean and refusing to help her, here’s the truth: I COULD NOT HELP HER. I know enough about computers to make mine work for me. Mind you, my computer is a glorified word processor, with a side job of keeping me connected to the world, compliments of the internet. Anything beyond that and it’s all gibberish to me.

It’s my sister who’s computer savvy, not me. My mother was treating me as if we were interchangeable. Granted, we share a lot in common, but she has skills I don’t, and I have skills she doesn’t. If you want a document edited, I’m the one you see. But if you want computer help, talk to her, and everyone will be happier.

I wasn’t being mean; I was being honest. I didn’t snap at her, at least not until she started to become weepy as she continued to beg me to help her. My sister happened to be visiting, and the moment she offered to help, the tears evaporated as if they had never been. If I didn’t know what I do about narcissists, I would still be feeling guilty for being so mean, never mind that I wasn’t. What’s more, I probably would have tried to help her, and that would not have been pleasant for anyone.

As it turns out, my sister explained that I really could not help her. Because what mother was looking for didn’t exist. The old computer’s data could not be transfered because it was not compatible with the new computer. So, there I was being pleaded with to do the impossible…

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta ~ Really.


  1. I didn’t know that Mother Teresa made that awesome quote. You describe so well that crazy making behavior. I am still proud of myself for not spitting on the person that said there would be ‘no problem’ with changing computers. It is a computer….therefor there will be problems. He swanned in and “fixed everything” and expects me to straighten out the mess. Insanity and no one believes us. You were awesome.

    • We would have never made it alone. 🙂

  2. bless both of you in a very frustrating situation!

    • Thanks, Janet!

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