When we begin to toy with the idea of going NC (No Contact) with our Ns, the first thing that comes to mind is wondering how to do it.
A good number of us want to write a letter with a litany of the N’s sins both as a justification for going NC and as a last-ditch plea for the N to realize just how much s/he has hurt us. This desire for the N to realize how much damage s/he has inflicted is rooted in an expectation that if the N just understood, s/he would feel remorse, apologize, and then change in such a way that a reconciliation and normal relationship could then ensue.
Few of us are attracted to the idea of writing the terse, legalistic letter that gives no reasons for the decision to go No Contact. We either project our feelings onto our N and feel guilty in advance for hurting them (we would be hurt by such a letter and want to know the reasons so we could fix it) or we want to explain ourselves, justify our decision. And more than a few of us hope our letter and decision to disconnect from our parent(s) will be that magic key that finally opens the door to our N’s heart.
So what happens when we send that letter, full of heartbreak and examples of insensitive cruelties both big and small? Does it work as a way to finally break down our Ns and make them realize that their behaviour has hurt us in the most profound way possible? Does it stir up feelings of remorse and a desire to soothe our hurts and make everything right? Does it spark that protective parent mode that sends them to our sides with sincere apologies and earnest amends and heartfelt promises to do better in the future?
In a word—No.
What you will get back will be more of what you have endured. If your N is the overtly cruel, verbally abusive type, you will get more verbal abuse; if your N is the pathetic martyr, guilt-inducing type, you will get more guilt-tripping. But you will get it in buckets.
You will probably get something back in writing, too…something that denies everything you said or excuses and justifies or rationalizes anything that they couldn’t deny. You will be gaslighted, you will be blamed, you will be discounted, denigrated, and possibly even called a liar. Every point you make in your letter that your N chooses to address will be treated as if you didn’t understand or your perception was intentionally faulty. You will be treated to a display of pathos and/or bombast, your N pathetically hurt by your accusations and/or furious and outraged at your temerity…how dare you accuse your N of doing anything but wanting the very best for you and anything s/he actually did was for your own well-being.
Your N may take a few days or even weeks to respond. This is calculated to make you anxious. When your N finally does respond, don’t be surprised if s/he informs you that a copy of her letter to you has been shared with the rest of the family…and don’t be surprised if yours has not been shared at all—or if it was shared, it was kept under wraps until the N had crafted a rebuttal to every point you thought you made, and that rebuttal was shared with your letter. Most of all, do not be surprised if your letter unleashes a flurry of contacts from family members you have had little contact with in the past, contacts that range from “counselling” you to make up with your mother to outright attacks on your character for treating your mother this way. Expect no sympathy and no support because your N is not going to share with anybody s/he does not expect full support from.
One thing we tend to forget is that, for the most part, these other family members have known your NParent longer than they have known you. Their relationships predate your existence. Their bonds were in place before you were born. They are invested in their relationship with your N, both in terms of family ties and in terms of being right or wrong: if they take you at your word and agree your NP is in the wrong, then they are going to have to re-evaluate their entire relationship with your NP and, if they agree to support you, they are going to have to admit they were wrong about your NP for all these years. Most people are simply not going to do that. Not only do they not want to admit they were wrong the N, depending on who the N is to them, they may have to acknowledge wrongdoing of their own.
You may think, for example, that your grandparents will have your back. They adore you, they indulge you, they have always seemed constant and unconditional in their love. But this NParent you are distancing yourself from…this is their own child! Do you think they will readily and easily believe a lot of negative accusations against their own child? Do you think they will turn against that child on your behalf? Or do you think they will defend their child? What if they perceive your “attack” their child as an attack on their parenting? Then where are you?
Unless your NM has a toxic relationship with her own family, guess who she is going to turn to for support? Do you think the loyalty your grandmother and aunt feel towards you is a stronger the loyalty they feel towards their own daughter and sister? Do you think the fact that she had hurt you and that you are the injured party will make a difference? It won’t because when they feel they are being forced to choose between you and your NM, it is very unlikely they will side with another relative (you) over a first degree relative like their own child or sibling.
I have read many reports of the aftermath of sending that heartfelt NC letter that contained a long list of the narcissist’s hurtful behaviours and words. I have never heard of a favourable reaction. Not once have I heard of a narcissistic mother suddenly finding her heart and feeling it squeezed with pain for her suffering child. What I have heard of…and experienced myself…it receiving a scathing letter in return, full of denial, gaslighting, twisting of the victim’s words, projection, accusations, and outright lies. I have heard of letters full of fauxpologies (“I am sorry you feel that way…”) and verbal attacks, accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the victim, and threats. I have heard of letters accusing the victim of being mentally incompetent, expressing sorrow and concern for the victim’s children (thinly-veiled threats about the victim’s competence to have custody of those children) and outright threats of ruining the victim’s name in the family and community, even in her workplace. I have heard of letters in which the NM pretends a breakdown because of the letter, in which she claims to have become emotionally overwrought and her health negatively affected by the cruelty of the victim’s letter. I have heard of letters in which the NM vows that she will never be shut out and letters in which the NM shuts the victim out. I have heard of virtually anything you can imagine short of promising murder…or making a sincere apology and heartfelt promise to do better.
And it gets even worse. By sending such a letter to your N, you have just handed over a blueprint of how to hurt you. Every example you give, every hurtful word you cite, is another piece of ammunition your N now possesses. S/he knows now that one approach didn’t hurt you but another struck gold. It allows them to fine tune their future assaults for maximum damage.
Why would they want to do that…to create maximum damage? Because their stream of Nsupply is in jeopardy if they don’t have a way to control you. It is about power…their power over you. It has nothing to do with love…their power to control you ensures they will continue to get what they want from you, which is Nsupply in whatever form your Ns want it.
Your letter will give them a lot of Nsupply. First of all, they get to feel hurt or outraged by what you have said. Then they get to share it with all and sundry. If they aren’t sure how your accusations will be received, they will craft the rebuttal first, then send both your letter and their rebuttal so that the recipients can see the error of your ways. They will receive an abundance of sympathy and support, see people outraged on their behalf, hear you disparaged as a cruel and unnatural child. The letter, without any further input, will provide them with plenty of drama, and once shared, the drama multiplies melodramatically. The only thing that sending such a letter absolutely guarantees is that your N will get months…even years…of Nsupply from it and it will not have the result you are after.
Such letters will be viewed as an attack. No amount of logic or proof will change that, no amount of witnesses and even third party documentation will change a mind that is preset against you. You will be accosted with people admonishing you that you should “honour your mother,” or telling you that you will be sorry when she is gone (mine’s been gone 18 years and I am not sorry yet), that you should be the “bigger person” and “take the high road” and “bury the hatchet.” They will try to guilt and shame you into putting yourself right back onto the narcissist’s rack, then walk away, blind and deaf to your cries of pain. Not a one of the people who advocate for your NP have your best interests at heart. Not one.
Writing such a letter than enumerates the N’s sins and identifies your own pain is a good, healthy thing to do. Allowing your N or any of her flying monkeys to see it…not a healthy thing to do. It will merely open up a can of chaos that you won’t be able to close for a long, long time. Keeping a journal and filling it with these letters both purges the toxic feelings from your psyche and provides you a record, written in your own words, for those inevitable times when you start second-guessing yourself. Was it really that bad? Am I blowing this out of proportion? What did she do that was so wrong? Reading those letters will remind you of the reality of being in contact with your N and it does not expose your vulnerabilities to people who will not respect your feelings.
I have been writing this blog for more than three years now and operating the Facebook group, which is very active (more than 200 members), for nine months. Not once, in all this time, in all the comments and correspondence, have I heard of someone getting a good result from sending the honest, heartfelt letter that listed the N’s transgressions. Not one time.
If you write and send such a letter be prepared for a shitstorm of retaliation.