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The Malignant Optimism of the Abused

I often come across sad examples of the powers of self-delusion that the narcissist provokes in his victims. It is what I call “malignant optimism”. People refuse to believe that some questions are unsolvable, some diseases incurable, some disasters inevitable. They see a sign of hope in every fluctuation. They read meaning and patterns into every random occurrence, utterance, or slip. They are deceived by their own pressing need to believe in the ultimate victory of good over evil, health over sickness, order over disorder. Life appears otherwise so meaningless, so unjust and so arbitrary…

So, they impose upon it a design, progress, aims, and paths. This is magical thinking.

“If only he tried hard enough”, “If he only really wanted to heal”, “If only we found the right therapy”, “If only his defences were down”, “There MUST be something good and worthy under the hideous facade”, “NO ONE can be that evil and destructive”, “He must have meant it differently” “God, or a higher being, or the spirit, or the soul is the solution and the answer to our prayers”.

The Pollyanna defences of the abused are aimed against the emerging and horrible understanding that humans are specks of dust in a totally indifferent universe, the playthings of evil and sadistic forces, of which the narcissist is one – as well as against the unbearable realization that their pain means nothing to anyone but themselves. Nothing whatsoever. It has all been in vain.

The narcissist holds such thinking in barely undisguised contempt. To him, it is a sign of weakness, the scent of prey, a gaping vulnerability. He uses and abuses this human need for order, good, and meaning – as he uses and abuses all other human needs. Gullibility, selective blindness, malignant optimism – these are the weapons of the beast. And the abused are hard at work to provide it with its arsenal.

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