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abusers, narcissists, alcoholics, sociopaths and word salad arguments

© photo by Lise Winne

Word salad has different meanings, depending on the psychiatric illness or disorder of the person using word salad.

Most people associate "word salad" with dementia or schizophrenia. In people with these disorders it appears as words, phrases and sentences which can appear to be random, confused or unintelligible. In other words, in this case, the listener cannot extract meaning from them. Some alcoholics can also fall under this category, though when they are sober they become intelligible again.

Eventually the term began to be used by reporters for politicians who were trying to dodge, divert and deflect questions. The term began to be used for narcissists and sociopaths too, particularly in court.
The term "word salad arguments" graduated to being used in clinical situations as well.

Word salad in abusive homes (typically run by parents with Cluster B personality disorders, of which narcissism and sociopathy are two of the major ones) indicates a conversation of not only dodging, diverting, distracting and deflecting, but also of blaming and shifting focus away from themselves (and all culpability). Narcissists and sociopaths are known for arguing with others about how perfect they are, where as their accusers are often smeared and/or slandered. In some instances it is also re-framing stories and experiences so that the altered versions make the personality disordered parent look good/better than others.

The term also began to be used for the more functional intelligible alcoholics who were trying to keep the conversation away from their drinking.

For alcoholics, word salad can be used to shift conversations away from why they drink, how they act and react while under the influence of alcohol, health problems that are exacerbated from drinking, indeed it can be anything. Some alcoholics have been known to lose their morality, ethics, health, their major relationships, ability to work, ability to remember things clearly, former cognitive abilities and even the ability to be rational.

Most alcoholics "protect" the subject of their drinking because it is part of the addiction process. In order to be enslaved by an addiction, the slave must protect the seemingly benevolent master who is making the alcoholic feel good. "Feeling good" is exchanged for dependence. If the slave withdraws from the master, there are consequences (DTs, realizations of how he has treated others, looking at the state of his life which often deteriorates, the state of his health which also often deteriorates, and so on).  Word salad is just another way that some alcoholics explain away culpability for their actions.

For instance: say that the alcoholic drinks more than he usually does and gets in a fight at a local bar, and he beats someone up. The police are called and the alcoholic is taken to a jail cell for the night. When he wakes up, he wonders why he is in jail. He doesn't remember the bar fight and he thinks he has been "set up" by someone with an agenda to hurt him or make him culpable of a crime. So dodging culpability might sound like word salad: full of excuses, events that he swears are "the real truth", diverting the conversation to other topics, and dodging any responsibility for wounding someone else, denying "black outs" (amnesia) that many alcoholics experience, which takes focus away from "the drinking problem."

For narcissists, their main focus is on narcissistic supply (on-going attention and flattery, and a need for absolute power and control over people), and like an addict, they will do anything to get it. They also don't have empathy, so they use people in their lives, and get bored, and dump people, even their own children. They even expect their own spouses and children to idealize and aggrandize them. Many narcissists are self indulgent and don't care about the feelings of others around them, and they can be retaliatory if they are not getting what they demand, so they hurt just about everyone in their lives in their quest for endless amounts of narcissistic supply. Extramarital affairs, lying, stealing, hurting others, a haughty lecturing arrogant demeanor, acting and self indulgence can become their lifestyle to the detriment of all of the people closest to them. They can feel a lot more comfortable with strangers than with people who know them well because strangers are innocent to what they are about, and don't know what their agenda is (i.e. it is to get supply through love bombing or mirroring).

When it comes to word salad, they deflect and try to dodge any culpability. If you persist in making them culpable, many of them will "punish you", or somehow make a project of you with smear campaigns and outright lies, including trying to make you appear to be insane (this can, again, include their own children and spouse). They insist that everything that goes wrong around them or makes them feel bad about themselves is everyone else's fault -- they like to pretend they are victims, while the real victims, the people closest to them, who have been coldly cast aside or emotionally eviscerated and trampled on, are called the abusers. It is the extremely rare narcissist who will apologize for anything. If they do apologize, they are often "up against a wall" of societal shame, so the apology is not genuine or voluntary; it is to save face, period.

Sociopaths also use word salad, except they do it differently than narcissists. Narcissists dodge and weave to keep their social standing high, or intact (which means they try to keep a lot of the abusive, back-stabbing, under-handed stuff they do a secret, and terrorize victims who are not willing to let their immoral unethical behaviors go or who are a threat to the false image they are trying to present in their social circles). Sociopaths, who are usually socially awkward, if charming, use the guilt-trip as their deflection tool.

For instance, say that you caught them at an immoral act. They will immediately switch the conversation to how much you owe them. If you are their child, the guilt trip will be for that ice-cream they gave you when you were seven, and that twenty dollar fee they gave you to buy a costume for the school play, or that 150 dollar contribution to your college education. Sociopaths are cheap, but they don't forget about a single cent, and all gifts to them are IOUs. So they will hammer away at you about how evil you are, about how ungrateful you are, about how stupid you are, about how you don't measure up to anyone else they know, and how you owe them the world because of those small gifts. If you are their spouse, they will talk about how they purchased a nice house (even if tiny or falling down), how they took you on vacations (even if rarely), how they found you a doctor when you were sick (even if they waited until you were in dire shape). Gratitude is everything to sociopaths, and if you are deemed to be ungrateful, the punishments arise.

They threaten and they are sadistic in order to get that IOU, which really boils down to them thinking you owe them slavery, whether it is sexual slavery, child servant-type slavery, being a total sycophant in a marriage, etc. In other words, they feel a lot more entitled than narcissists.

I have mentioned before in this post that just about all child molesters and child sex abusers are sociopaths and malignant narcissists, but not all sociopaths and malignant narcissists are child molesters and child sex abusers. The IOUs in these cases can simply be the sociopath's feelings of entitlement to have sex with a minor. If they can avoid gift-giving, sex is obtained through threats leveraged at the child. Or if it is a family member, the child might be given some extra privileges or little gifts like candy, and the IOU would be a sexual demand. If the child is a scapegoat, the sexual abuse often is inappropriately dealt with by the parent as it was in this case because the child is in a permanent state of punishment and not cared for.

Having to supply sex to an adult when you are seven or eight, or even twelve, is deeply traumatic to a child (and I can't emphasize that enough). It does cause serious PTSD. It is especially traumatic because the child is under threat to keep it a secret. So any convenient IOU is used for even the most minor, brief kindnesses or relief from abuse.

Sociopaths almost never apologize or change. They often sit on death row telling everyone that their victims are to blame.      

For the rest of the post, I am focusing on giving examples of narcissists and their particular brand of word salad:

A 15 year old teenage girl finds out her mother is having an affair on her father: 

First of all, I'd like to say that a lot of narcissists indulge in extra-marital affairs. In a way they are sex addicts (they do it for narcissistic supply). The narcissists who use sex are generally referred to as somatic narcissists.

The overt narcissists have extra-marital affairs openly, and sometimes even to punish their spouse, or to make their spouse feel uneasy and insecure in the relationship. The message is: "I'm so awesome! Look at how many beautiful people want to screw me! You are in competition with THEM, so you can be NOTHING to me in no time flat, unless you do absolutely EVERYTHING I want, or else!"

The covert narcissists have extra-marital affairs "covertly", in secrecy, and they lie and dodge to keep their spouse from knowing about it. So the covert feels some shame about what they are doing, and how many people they are screwing, but all narcissists put their needs and wants first before all family members. They feel they need the narcissistic supply the sexual partners give them, but they prefer to get it covertly, so that they can look like an upstanding citizen (i.e. not like a whore). So they get their sex on the side by pretending to go out to a meeting, or a parent-teacher conference, or swimming at the gym, anything that is deemed suburban-acceptable. Anything non-threatening and common is used as an excuse to get out of the house and into the arms of their lovers.

The following story is more about a covert narcissist:

Angela, the teenager, is walking on a very quiet side street in her downtown and sees her mother in the doorway of a deserted store with their neighbor, Mr. Rick Reinaldo (made up name). Her mother is kissing him passionately; there are long embraces and when they part ways, she squeezes his hand and it appears that she says, "I'll miss you." Then Mr. Reinaldo pulls her back for another long embrace and kiss, and her mother gets on her tippy toes and presses her groin into his, until they finally part ways again.

Angela, of course is stunned, and she hates that Mr. Reinaldo lives in her neighborhood and is now going to be a constant threat to the security and sanctity of her family.

When Angela gets home she looks at her mother and feels disgust. She cannot bear to even look at her, so takes off to her room where she cries until supper. She obviously feels that her world is falling apart, that her mother isn't what she thought she was, that her mother probably doesn't care about her father if she would put the family and marriage at risk.

So Angela is, understandably, going through some trauma about the situation, as most kids do in these situations.

At the dinner table she can barely look at her mother. She also doesn't feel like eating (not eating is also a sign of trauma). Her father looks intently at Angela and notices that her eyes are all red and swollen. He reaches out to touch her, and asks her what is wrong. But he doesn't get an answer. The more he comforts her, the more inconsolable she seems to be.

So he looks at his wife, Helen, and asks her what is wrong.

"How should I know? You know how she is! Sensitive about everything! She'd be sensitive about a pea under ten mattresses!" -- this is typical of narcs, to see one of their children as "too sensitive."

"Hell I am! I caught you, Mom!"

"What the Hell are you talking about?! I made you your dinner you ungrateful little twerp! If you caught me making dinner, then yes, I do that!" Helen says. Narcs try to get the conversation moving in a different direction, even though they know what "getting caught" means.

"Mom, I caught you kissing Mr. Reinaldo."

Helen looks at her husband who looks shocked, walks up and whispers, "She's fifteen. She doesn't know anything yet. There is nothing going on. I'll talk to her about what neighbors are about."

So Helen takes Angela to her room and they sit on a bed together.

Helen begins to lecture Angela:

"Now Angela, sometimes neighbors greet each other and they are a little more friendly than other people out in the world. Now, you know Cathy and Bianca Reinaldo, nice kids, wouldn't you say?"

"Mom, I saw you kissing him! On the street!"

"Kissing a neighbor in a greeting is a lot of what neighbors do. You have to understand that this is a very close neighborhood where we have barbecues over at each other's houses. It is friendly here. You remember when you and Cathy Reinaldo found that little kitten? Wasn't that kitten cute? And we adopted him. But I'm sorry he ran off, Angela --"

"But, Mom, that wasn't a little peck of a kiss like neighbors give. I'm not stupid! You were deep kissing!"

Helen laughs. "Well, I don't blame you for having a vivid imagination!" (note this is gaslighting, which usually takes place in word salad arguments too). "You know, when you were young, you had all kinds of imaginative friends. You remember your teddy bears all had names and distinct personalities? That was such a wonderful time of your life! You should always remember those times! And now your imagination is making you into a formidable talent. I'd love to hear you write more songs and --" (note the diversions and dodging and buttering up -- this is all part of word salad).

"Mom, I don't have a vivid imagination! You were kissing him in that doorway of that store on Regent Street!"

"But you do have a vivid imagination! I see you as a brilliant songwriter, singing on stages, singing about songs that are all about love! It's no wonder you see love in everything! It's what you want! But you are too young to have a husband now. But some day you will --"

"Stop it, Mom! I'm not talking about my career or a husband when I grow up! Just stop it!"

Helen looks shocked. Her eyes dart around madly as if she is thinking about what to say. Then she comes up with it: "Well, I was just trying to get you into a better frame of mind! You need that, don't you? A little more happiness in your life? You don't need to worry about me!"

"Mom, I wasn't worried about you!"

"Yes, you were! You were worried, and you are soooo young, and you don't understand adults yet. Perhaps you were reading into it that you thought I loved Mr. Reinaldo, so you saw deep kissing when it wasn't ANYTHING; it's like worrying about a thunderstorm when you are in bed and cozy. That thunderstorm can't do anything to you, but you worry and fret about it when it is happening. And then you get all of us up in the middle of the night because you can't sleep because you think the gods are all thrashing about in the sky because your mind is that imaginative and good. Worrying will make you read way too much into situations. It happens, so I forgive you ..."

"Mom, stop with the vivid imagination already! I'm not so naive that I don't know what you did!"

"But that's the thing. You ARE that naive. If you go on like this, just like you do when there is a thunderstorm, you'll get your father all upset, worried and concerned. Don't you think he has enough on his plate with the mortgage and all? With all of his work responsibilities and keeping us all fed and happy? You get him out of bed in the middle of the night all of the time over the slightest rumble. I think you are playing this up to that extent too, and it's all right because you are such a great imaginative songwriter. You might want to try your hand at writing a love song, and I could critique it if you would like. You seem to be focused on love, and I could teach you what it really is about. I'm good at grammar too, and I --"

"Mom, why would you kiss him like that?"

Helen starts slitting her eyes and looking mean. "Mr. Reinaldo? Why were you downtown? Answer me that! You were supposed to be home doing homework! You aren't supposed to be anywhere until you do your homework! And I doubt you finished it if you were in town that early to --"

"Mom, today was 'free-for-all day', not regular classes. I took drama, a swimming lesson and played basketball, and in homeroom we had a big long party and a movie. Don't you remember the note the school sent home?"

"No, I don't. Hmmm, a drama class. That's good, because you ARE dramatic. In fact you are being a drama queen right now. It's always about drama and upsetting people, isn't it? Drama, drama, drama!" (note: this is a favorite phrase among narcissists -- they often accuse people around them of creating drama). "Anyway, I think you are lying. I'm sure you had homework to do. In fact, how about getting all of the facts and figures together for your composition? What happened to that?"

"I didn't have home work. That's the thing about 'free-for-all day'. No homework."

"Well, you still have that composition to prepare for."

"That's not due for a month."

"In fact, I think you still need to be punished. You accused me, and you were downtown snooping around. How dare you! Now I see that your imagination has taken hold of your senses to the point where you look so badly upon your own mother that you think she is a slut! I really can't believe this! After all I have done for you! I made your meal tonight which you were too uppity and ungrateful to eat or thank me for! So, you deserve to be punished!" -- another favorite diverting tactic is the "ungrateful phrase".

"I wasn't snooping. I was --"

"Yes, you were snooping! Now I have had enough of this talk! How dare you think that I was having an affair with Mr. Reinaldo! How dare you think that I was THAT kind of woman! If you are going to invent that kind of mother, there will be consequences! After all I have done for you, for your father and for this family! I really don't want to hear another word out of your mouth about Mr. Reinaldo! Now if you say another word about this to anyone, or get anyone upset about what you think you saw, then we'll add on another week, and another week, and another week of your punishment! Is that what you want?"

"So what is my punishment?"

"You are to come home from school and you are going to go immediately to your room! We'll do this for one week to start ... You are NOT allowed downtown until you can behave yourself!" -- narcs are famous for isolating their "naughty" intelligent children to a room. Isolation as a disciplinary tool does not work very well in normal circumstances, and especially as a way to "hide the evidence" by strong-arming the child.

In this situation, everything is on the child's shoulders to pretend that this a perfect family, with a perfect mother who would NEVER, not EVER, in a million years, have an affair! The punishment of the child who knows the truth or embodies the truth is typically marginalized in narcissistic and sociopathic "punishing families". Word salad and super-imposing an altered experience is part of the lexicon of abuse: gaslightingbullying and erroneous blaming.

One of the problems is that it can build estrangement and distrust between mother and daughter. When the teenager grows into an adult, she will still remember being punished for knowing the truth about her mother (a truth that can't be denied by word salad). Once the child becomes an adult, Helen would feel that she had to make more word salad out of it (narcissists usually pile lies upon lies to excuse themselves): "Well, I didn't want you to be concerned over adult matters. I didn't want to upset you. I didn't think it was appropriate to talk to you about it at that time. I did it for your own good." -- narcs are famous for saying their injustices against you are for "your own good" or "the common good".

The response to "I did it for your own good" word salad arguments with children run the gamut. The children know that they had to "serve time" for what their parent did, that they were blamed for seeing it rather than the parent doing it. So children can have a lot of differing reactions including disgust, lack of respect for the parent who is supposed to have higher moral standards and ethics than the child (a parent with low ethics cannot discipline a child very well). The child may keep quiet and pretend to go along so as not to be targeted for another attack. The child may never trust the parent again, seeing the parent as duplicitous and a cheater. The child may see the parent as immoral and injust (for punishing her own child for "being keeper of the truth", which again effects the parent's ability to teach or discipline the child). The child may have disgust over the gaslighting. The child might display signs of cognitive dissonance. The child may be shocked and grieving over the loss of what she thought her mother was. There may be on-going anger over the injustice. Children who grow up with this kind of parent either keep very quiet (too quiet, even about their motivations and feelings about their parent) or they talk back. No matter what the reaction is, this word salad argument has long lasting effects, far-reaching consequences and can traumatize others far into the future. The additional problem is, word salad arguments tend to be used over, and over, and over again: sometimes narcs literally live on their word salad arguments to the point where they appear to be an empty shell or totally insane.

Most people cannot live with someone who repeatedly uses word salad to explain away their actions, which is why narcs abandon, or are abandoned, at a dizzying rate. Part of feeling narc-entitled to have affairs and lie consistently, is that you break people's hearts, minds and trust in you. You also break their belief in you. You are labeled as unethical.

Word salad is used primarily as a way to keep shame off of the narcissist, and in the process the narcissist puts the shame on to the child's shoulders instead, where it does not belong - this is called blame-shifting and it is absolutely horrific and abusive when used in this context.

But, narcs don't care about damaging their children. Children can be, and are, disposed of (usually through a silent treatment) if they object.

Now, sometimes instead of punishing a child who becomes privy to some kind of unethical truth, a narc parent can also try to turn the daughter into a "best friend", confiding in intimate details of the marriage with her father, confiding in how the new relationship with the lover is fulfilling needs, and asking the daughter for guidance, who to choose and other suggestions (completely inappropriate). But narc mothers do this because they feel it keeps the daughter from being an enemy -- and it does work on teenage girls. So narc parents either become completely enmeshed with a child, or they are rejecting of the child, and more often they go between total enmeshment to total estrangement: "idealize, devalue, discard".

For the sake of keeping this story simple, I am featuring a rejected punished daughter.

The next example features how damaging word salad can be to the whole family:

The father finds out his wife is having an affair, and it has been going on for two years:

Helen covers up the incident with Mr. Reinaldo by telling her husband, Bob, that their daughter, Angela, doesn't know the difference between a friendly neighbor kiss and a passionate kiss, that she is too young.

She goes on to explain to her husband: "Don't worry about it. You know I'd never be with a man like Rick Reinaldo anyway. All of those kids! And that big smelly dog of his! And that swimming pool full of leaves and grime! It's preposterous, but our little girl has quite the imagination -- which she needs to put into songwriting instead of this line of thinking! Ha!" Helen laughs heartily as though it is all a big joke. (Note: narcissists are fairly good at acting, which is why she gets away with the lies).

Sometimes, if you know they are narcs, you can know they are lying if they keep talking endlessly about the situation. The problem is that covert narcs are not so easily detected, so the conclusion that they are a narc usually comes way after you have been pretty substantially hurt by them. But just in case, narcs will go on and on and on with cover-ups: "If something ever happened to you, Bob, God forbid, Rick Reinaldo would be the last person I would even consider in my bed. I'd be up to my eyeballs in kids fussy fights, and having two kids of our own is enough for me! You know I don't like kids that much even if I've grown to love ours. No, there is no one but you for me, babe. You and I against the world!" With hugs and kisses ... So, Rick Reinaldo would keep coming up in this way, over and over again. He might even be the butt of the jokes between Bob and Helen. The exception to this rule? A really introverted narc tries to avoid talking about it altogether, or just mumbles things like "How dare you accuse me!"

But this story isn't over yet ...

One day, Bob is in the house alone and he gets a call from Rick Reinaldo's wife, Sharon. Sharon tells Bob that Helen and Rick are having an affair, that she's had enough and is moving out with the kids. Bob is shocked at the news, and asked how she found out and Sharon replies: "They have been having an affair for two years. I caught them in bed together at our house two years ago. Caroline was in a school play, so I took all the kids and we went. Rick stayed home because he had a stomach ache. While we were at the play, Bianca got sick, just throwing up buckets of vomit. We had to leave. So, anyway, we get home, and Helen and Rick are in the shower together, naked, laughing away, and he was telling her how good she was. It made me sick. I chased Helen out, but it just kept going on and on and on, at the office, in their cars, during so-called meetings. He made all of the usual excuses and I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but no more. I'm just not living a lie any more. And I'm moving out. This is not good for the kids and they are my main concern. I know that Bianca took it out pretty hard on Angela one day for breaking up our family. I told Bianca not to blame it on Angela, that Angela has nothing to do with what Helen did, but you might want to talk to Angela so that she really understands this."

"So, Angela knows this?" he asks incredulously.

Sharon continues: "I thought maybe Angela would have told you by now, but Angela tells me that Helen is punishing her for being aware of the affair. One reason I'm telling you all of this is concern for Angela."

"I see. I'm in such total shock! I mean Helen has sworn up and down that she finds Rick unattractive, that she would never have an affair with him, that I was the only man for her. I feel like I've been knifed in the back, so I'll have to catch my breath about all of this."

"Bob, I'm so sorry I dropped this bombshell on you, but I figured you would find out sooner or later, and as you know, I'm concerned for the welfare of children, and I really think that Angela's falling grades, her estrangement from a lot of her friends, and what has happened between her and Bianca is too much for her to bear, along with keeping the awful secret of Helen's and Rick's affair to herself. It's not right for that child to live that way."

"No, I agree, it isn't."

When Helen comes home, she and Bob have it out. "What proof do you have? You know how Sharon is! She's jealous of us! She'd love to ruin our marriage! She'd like to have what we have! She's got a husband who is fat, and I've got one who is slender! We have a nice clean swimming pool, and she's got one full of leaves! I mean, how long does it take to rake out a few leaves? And they certainly have the money to hire someone to rake the leaves out for them. But, no! She takes it out on me! I have offered her my rake, and all of my expertise, and that is why I sometimes go over there, trying to get her some help. Let her have her messy yard, her falling down house, her grimy swimming pool. And the other problem is they have too many trees around their swimming pool!" -- you can see how the conversation derailed into typical word salad about a swimming pool instead of about the very dire situation they are in.

When Bob keeps trying to bring the conversation back to Helen's affair with Rick, it keeps getting derailed over and over again until Helen becomes incensed. She tells Bob that she has had enough of the accusations, and distrust, and finding fault. How dare he think she'd be having an affair with someone like Rick Reinaldo. In fact, she threatens that if he continues with this line of talk, she will take the kids away from him and make his life as miserable as he is making her life miserable with all of the accusations.

So, there are several ways these kinds of situations play out:

1. Bob gives in: gives his wife the benefit of the doubt -- the less likely outcome, especially since Sharon has raised his suspicions.

2. Bob doesn't want his kids taken away from him, especially if the mother is duplicitous: it would put the kids at risk. So he needs to have his wits about him and think things through.

3. Bob doesn't believe a word of what his wife says and files for divorce.

If he's a "regular guy", with an ability to keep a cool head, he is going to choose option #2. He is going to call a lawyer and get some idea of the possibilities of what the law can do for him. He might also hire a private detective.

So, he hires a private detective, and the detective finds Helen and Rick in all kinds of compromising situations: taking out a motel room together under an alias, having sex in a car, spending PTA night in another town dancing.

Then he tells her that he is filing for divorce because of infidelity.

At first Helen tries to deny it, saying that it wasn't what it seems (gaslighting). But this time the diverting and dodging isn't working. Bob keeps talking about divorce while she goes on and on and on about how she was forced to have sex with Rick, that there was coercion, control and blackmail involved.

Then Bob finally blows up at her. "I have had enough of the excuses and the lies, Helen! Look at you! You're disgusting!"

"Well, just for that, I'm going to take the kids away from you! And guess what? I'll get them! Because they always give custody to the mother!"

"Damn you, Helen, all you can think of is threatening me after being caught in lies that have been running out of your mouth for two years!? Two years, Helen!"

"You know why I had an affair? Because of how you are reacting right now! Because you have no control over yourself, your temper! You are the one who is disgusting! Look at you! As if screaming at the top of your lungs, and accusing me is attractive!" Note: narcs like to switch it so that your reactions to their immoral behavior are causing them to be liars, cheaters, abusers, bait-and-switchers -- this is also classic blame-shifting that narcs are famous for.

But Bob is onto this tactic and ignores her. He knows that he rarely has a temper, and he feels his temper is justified in this situation, so Helen's words go in one ear and out the other, as the saying goes.

When that isn't working, Helen's word salad switches to talking about how "Everyone has affairs. It's not a big deal. It's just sex. Affairs are as old as the human race."

But Bob doesn't listen to that either.

So she cries, and acts desperate, to appeal to his sympathy. He is taken in by that somewhat because he's an empath. They start counseling. But after several sessions where she seems, on the surface to be contrite, it is clear that Helen is using the sessions to talk about how inadequate Bob is as a sex partner, as a husband, as a father, and if he had just done certain things, she would have remained faithful.

So Bob works really hard for Helen. In fact, if she has a complaint, he resolves her complaint. The problem is, the more work he does for her, the more she complains about him, even to her own children -- typical. So, he wears himself out for her, while at the same time not trusting her entirely. Eventually, she starts going to an awful lot of meetings in the evening again, so he hires the private detective again.

One note here before continuing the story: couples therapy does not work in these situations. If anything, this is closer to a domestic abuse issue (betrayal trauma).

So to continue:

She gets caught again having sex with Rick Reinaldo.

This time the divorce is on.

She escalates by criticizing him even more than when they were in therapy, and starts to lob insults at him as well: ugly, slob, lazy. She tells him she never loved him anyway, that he was half the man Rick was, that he was like a sniveling little puppy dog with a tiny penis, that he could never satisfy her in a million years, that he was a "downright dweeb". Now the relationship has turned outright abusive. In fact, as the divorce is underway, she flaunts Rick in Bob's face, and even tries to bring Rick into the marital home to upset Bob. But Bob responds by calling the police and the police tell Rick that he is not to go into the house, or he will be arrested.

By this time, the whole neighborhood knows, and Helen explains in more word salad to the neighbors that Bob was having an affair for two years, and that she had had enough, and that Rick had helped her to see the light and protect her from Bob (who she explained to neighbors was torturing her in "that house"):

"In fact, he tortured me so much, that I tried to get Rick in the house to protect me from Bob's rages and beatings, but the police wouldn't let him be there. I understand why the police did that, but really! They need to have laws to protect the women and children in these situations!  We are so relieved about the divorce, and I can't wait another day until the papers are signed so that Bob leaves, gets out of the neighborhood and we can leave him behind! Rick will be such a great stepfather to the kids! Just look at how great he is with his own kids! Ever since that awful Sharon moved out, the swimming pool is finally clean; there aren't toys all over the yard; he's finally just able to focus on the kids and not on all of her problems and excuses about why she can't keep the place clean! My God, she was in that house for all of these years, and she has no job, and she had the messiest lawn of all of us! I hope we stay in the neighborhood to bring stability to our kid's lives. The kids need some nice grounding after what Bob did to them!" In the meantime Rick nods in agreement to all of these altered stories.

Yes, narcs are attracted to other cheaters, who can be other narcs or other cluster B personality disordered people.

All of the smear campaigns to make themselves look like victims and to socially isolate the real victim, Bob, is typical elementary 101 narc behavior. The word salad in this instance is used to make Bob appear as a perpetrator and make Helen and Rick appear as victims. This word salad can go on for years, and does. Sometimes narcs are so focused on punishing their exes, that they will keep trying to figure out a way to punish by proxy, and the endless smear campaign and isolating the ex from common friends becomes the easiest way to do it. From looking at forums, it is obvious that a lot of narcs even try to slander their exes with the exes parents! In fact, no one is off limits!

They have even been noted to target their own children for persuasion -- that their other parent is bad (in this case, Bob). This is called parental alienation syndrome, which, because of the damage it does, is illegal in a lot of states now ... if only there was a law for parents who try to punish and slander children who choose the non-narc parent in custody arrangements, perhaps name it child alienation syndrome. Anything that would disarm narcissists from doing vicious smear campaigns against their own children would greatly help to stem the tide of domestic abuse and domestic violence.

Having said that, most children end up wanting to live with the non-narc parent (in this case, Bob). That is because a normal parent offers stability, on-going love, and is someone a child can look up to. Ethics means more to children than "being a golden favored child" in the narc-world of "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do."

You can almost count on narcs reacting vindictively to not being the center of attention in a family, especially an unmasked one (i.e. shown to be unethical and immoral). Word salad is their defense to keeping the false society-security mask in place. Without that mask, they cannot get narcissistic supply very easily.

If laws never change, and no one stands up to the narcs, they will continue to do more and more damage, and it becomes collateral: effecting inlaws who marry into the family, step children and grandchildren -- even if they appear to go off happy into the sunset with their Mr. Reinaldos at the outset. This is one reason why many therapists strongly urge their clients to go "no contact" because it does end up traumatizing and infecting your own children.

You can see that in just one to three word salad arguments, how damaging it can be to everyone in a family. The problem is word salad begins to be a run-away train with ever-more deflections, lies and re-framed stories. And it is not the only weapon used against members of their family. Gaslighting, erroneous blaming, smear campaigns, blame-shifting, discards and ostracism of children and other family members, injustice, constant threats and severe "punishments", scapegoating,  insults, financial abuse, being put into extremely unhealthy roles by the toxic parent, gang-bullying, triangulation, being accused of actions and types of mental processes that are actually projection, continual broken promises and favoritism are also part of the arsenal used in tandem with word salad. Some of this can turn into such "acceptable levels" within a family, that sibling abuse can arise too. How awful, right? Most members of narcissistic families are either dealing with more trauma than most people can ever imagine, or they are bullies themselves. It's easy to see why young children really are not capable of dealing with or defending themselves against all of these weapons that the narcissist uses on their own family members (which is why children from abusive homes end up with chronic PTSD).

The members who live on the outside of these types of families (whether they got there from being scapegoated, smeared, ostracized or volunteered to leave) are often the family members who endured the most abuse from this "weaponry", or who saw the most unethical behavior (i.e. the truth that the narcissist wants to hide). These members are usually the ones who have the most disabling PTSD symptoms too.

The problem with accepting or ignoring word salad arguments and the unethical behavior that often goes with these arguments is: what does it teach children? Does it teach children that if they, the children, constantly fib and use word salad it will be ignored too? This is how abuse passes from one generation to the next: no one is watching the foxes in the henhouse! -- the foxes being blatant abuse. I would put my money on it that 98 percent of abuse and bullying in the world starts in the childhood home, not in schools, not in work places, but with what children see and hear from their own parents, parents who are supposed to be setting limits, teaching morality, teaching justice, and most of all, teaching by example. Some research is being done now that supports my theory. When these kinds of parents blatantly fail at good parenting, they pass the abusive "tricks" and "weapons", like the word salad argument, on to the next generation. I am, in fact, seeing it with my own eyes.

Here is a video by popular life coach, Richard Grannon on "Covert Salad" 
(this has a lot of humor in it, unlike my post ...
any survivor will be able to identify and perhaps laugh at how ridiculous narc word salad can get):

10 Warning Signs of Word Salad --
from the Psychopath Free blog

How to End Circular Conversations  -- A Huffington Post article by Dianna Booher

10 Warning Signs of Word Salad -- from Sanctuary of the Abused website

The Narcissist is a Chameleon and an Empty Void -- a recommended post by Melanie Tonia Evans (not only discusses the narcissist's word salad arguments, but goes into why they practically shape-shift what they say to fit in with the company they keep)

A New York model’s marriage to a sociopath -- by Jen Waite, continued on a New York Post article, by Jane Ridley: My husband’s secret double life

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