Strategies of Engagement

by Christopher Lovejoy on September 14, 2020

I wonder why anyone would mistreat me for no apparent reason, at least no reason apparent to me
and, I entertain those who treat me well for reasons that I can readily and easily determine as valid

You feel a flash of dread in reaction to being mistreated and mistrusted for no apparent reason. This vital flash is followed by a feeling that nothing you say or do can make any difference to the outcome of the interaction; you simply cannot shake the feeling that you will always be mistreated and mistrusted, not for anything you’ve said or done, but for who you appear to be.

The most fundamental challenge facing this world at this time, and perhaps at any time in its history, can be summed up in one sentence: “no matter what I say or do, someone somewhere will find reason to judge, not only my words and deeds, but the very depths of my being . . .”

The Couple and the Donkey

A woman and her husband are traveling with their donkey.

On the first day, the couple passed through town, both riding on the donkey’s back, and they heard people whispering: “What a mean couple, putting all that weight on the donkey.”

On the second day, they passed through another town, the man on the donkey, the wife walking beside, and they heard whispers: “What a cruel man, forcing his wife to walk while he rides the donkey.”

On the third day, they passed through another town, the man walking, the wife on the donkey, and the people were given to whispers: “What a careless man, letting his wife ride alone on the donkey.”

On the fourth day, they passed through another town, both walking beside the donkey, and heard incredulous whispers: “What a stupid couple, why do they walk when they can just ride the donkey?”

On the fifth day, they pass through yet another town, carrying the donkey to put an end to the whispers, but alas, the whispers are intense: “this couple is ridiculous; why not just ride the donkey?”

Why not indeed.

In this classic tale, the whispers are telling: shame, shame, shame. Shame on you, and shame on me for not saying shame on you. The antidotes are simple enough, though not easy to apply: “judge not (the person), lest ye be judged” and “judge (the act), and be prepared to be judged.”

The lust to judge is everywhere apparent, one that I find most worthy and deserving of intense scrutiny. The scrutiny, however, does cut both ways: if I place judgment under a microscope, I had better be prepared to observe, even examine, with due care, my own lust to judge.

How I Deal with My Lust to Judge

The best way that I’ve learned to deal with “my lust to judge” is to treat it as “a lust to judge.” Note the subtle switch in wording. This vital switch gives me more than a little psychological leeway from which to observe and, if necessary, catch, hold, and sublimate the lust to judge itself.

The lust to judge packs a lot of punch. Not only does it feel “good,” it also holds many presumptions (nine of them, in fact) that can feed and fuel (1) narcissistic rage; (2) narcissistic abuse; and (3) a chronic, insatiable need for narcissistic supply (that feed and fuel the presumptions).

narcissistic (adj.): having an excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance

Here, the term “narcissistic” is defined traditionally and rather superficially. One person’s excess might be another person’s deficit. When such interest in self-image fosters genuine love, trust, and care without obsessive, compulsive indulgence, how could it possibly be bad or wrong?

When we care and dare enough to take a close look at the presumptions made when a lust to judge is indulged, we come to an innerstanding that “narcissistic” embodies so much more. What are the presumptions? To feel the impact, I invite you to put yourself in the shoes of a narcissist:

When I indulge my lust to judge, judge, judge, just know that . . .

1) you need to be told what to do

2) your worth to me depends on you being ready, willing, and able to conform to my dictates

3) you exist to do my bidding: what have you done for me lately? what are you going to do for me next?

4) in my world, you will never rise higher than second place

5) if I appear, or am made to appear, bad or wrong or poor, it’s your fault

6) when I rage, it’s your duty to change your tune or your ways so that it subsides

7) what you perceive or feel or desire or interpret is irrelevant if it does not fit my view

8) when others think highly of you, just know that you’re not deserving, or deserving enough

9) my creed is plain for all to see, and you will follow it, lest I turn your life into a living hell:

it didn’t happen, or if it did,
it didn’t happen the way you say it did,
and even if it did, it wasn’t that bad,
and even if it was, it’s not a big deal,
and even if it is, it wasn’t my fault
and even if it was, I didn’t mean it
and even if I did, you deserved it

Note: handle this information with care; the dark rulers of this world, including those who appear human, who pull strings in the shadows, fear exposure more than anything; without exception, any serious attempt to expose will be met with all manner of attack on your person.

Malignant narcissists, overt or covert, grandiose or vulnerable, are driven by demons, and by demonic intent; possessive, obsessive dark force entities are not human: the intensity of their dark rages and abuses is not human; the chronic lust for narcissistic supply is not human.

We all do ourselves a grave disservice when we hide behind dismissals and denials.

In point of fact, we are all now paying the price for these dismissals and denials.

To me at least, a lust to judge is a big deal. As a practice, the lust to judge, judge, judge is a profound moral failing; as a performance, a lust to judge is a profound moral failure, even before the judgment is rendered, and regardless of whether the judgment itself proves to be sound.

From the heart, many if not most of us already know this deep down.

Like begets like; one can well imagine that any narcissistic indulgence, in view of its potent attractions, will attract more of the same, which will pull innocents even deeper into the soulless pit of narcissistic hellfire. The kingdom of heaven is within, but then, so is the kingdom of hell.

In my experience, reacting to narcissistic abuse is an exercise in futility, not only because of the flying monkeys that surround the abuser, but because a fiery reaction does little more than bring one down to a level of character and conduct that makes one no better than the abuser.

I prefer that my judgments be fair and efficacious, that they bring questionable, objectionable behavior and conduct to light, without shaming anyone in the process. I prefer that they be heard and taken seriously, whenever wherever possible. In short, I prefer that they be sound.

efficacious (adj.): producing, or capable of producing, a desired effect; having produced the desired effect; having power adequate to the task of meeting the purpose intended; effectual in function or operation; synonymous with effective, e.g., my judgment proved to be efficacious

A fair judgment is one that strives to be free of bias and deception.

A sound judgment, complete and thorough, requires discernment.

Discernment is the ability to gain insights and make sound judgments; in the case of judgment, discernment can be psychological, moral, or aesthetic; within judgment, discernment involves going past mere perception and making nuanced judgments about properties or qualities.

Discernment is not so much about knowing right from wrong as it is knowing right from almost right.

One way to sublimate the lust to judge, psychoanalytically speaking, is to seek, find, and hold what is known as “the moral high ground,” which means going to the top of the proverbial hill and upholding the presumption of a universally recognized standard of decency or justice.

sublimate (v.):

divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity

Here I say “presumption” because, in my experience, it is difficult if not impossible to uphold a universal standard of decency or justice. The Couple and the Donkey illustrate just how hard it can be to uphold such a standard under the influence of whispers. Haters are gonna hate.

Those getting eaten alive by the worm of envy are gonna envy.

In the final analysis, no matter the word or deed, someone somewhere is gonna find reason to judge and make it personal, but, do I trust myself enough and can I care about myself enough to recover any apparent loss of dignity or integrity if as when I take the judgment personally?

In the face of a crumbling world, where inhabitants are losing trust and care, do I allow myself to fail so completely and utterly that I no longer have any standing in this world? Or do I sit, stand, walk, and recline forever ready and willing to stay the course through thick and thin?

I can see a time coming when these questions will be top of mind for almost everyone.

Beware: Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

The worm at the core of trust and care is malignant narcissism, which can appear in one of two ways: (1) active aggression, by way of grandiose (overt) narcissism, or (2) passive aggression, by way of vulnerable (covert) narcissism; both require different strategies of engagement.

The more malignant the narcissism (no matter the type) and aggression (no matter the type), the more strategic will the engagement need to be to meet the malignancy at least half way; the more strategic the engagement, the more attention required to prepare and enact strategy.

malignant (adj.): disposed towards deliberately causing harm, suffering, or distress; feeling or showing ill will or hatred; examples: this person seems to have a malignant character; the narcissism in this person is covertly malignant; the relational aggression of this group is obviously malignant

It pays to remember: “I attract what I attend. The more focused and sustained my attention, in terms of frequency, intensity, and duration, the stronger and more lasting the attraction, whether attention is positive or negative; if it’s negative, I remain at risk of becoming negative.”

In the face of relational aggression (active or passive) infused with malignant narcissism (overt or covert), a conundrum arises for innocent subjects: “can I neutralize any mistreatment against my person long enough to arrive at a sound judgment and still feel empathetic?”

Let’s explore and examine this question more deeply.

I Am You < > We Are One

Imagine a world where everyone takes everyone else’s best interests to heart, where a capacity to step into the shoes of another, to adopt and assume another point of view, to see and feel what another sees and feels in mind, body, and spirit is rather easy, if not par for the course.

However, it was inevitable that someone somewhere, sooner or later, got lazy and stupid. When push came to shove, resistance, both active and passive, arose, which in turn bred ill will; sound judgments met with ever greater resistance to smooth relations and see things through.

Not everyone, owing to laziness and stupidity, ignorance and ineptitude, amorality and ingratitude, was ready, willing, and able to accept fine judgment, no matter how sound. In reaction, judgments became harsh and biased; mistrust and mistreatment became a matter of course.

The most conscientious of leaders began to share guidelines for behavior and conduct:

1) live fully in the moment; be here now
2) take care to focus on one thing at a time
3) do not rush into having or doing anything
4) always finish one task before starting another
5) make time for leisure and do so at a leisurely pace
6) act with humility with no expectation of return
7) create ample time to complete regular tasks
8) take good care of mind, body, and spirit
9) always think before you act and be slow to act
10) treat others the way you wish to be treated

“All well and good,” said we the people, “but the temptation to indulge urge, impulse, or lust was simply too strong to bypass, ignore, dismiss, avoid, or suppress; no one had any wish to be left behind, and so we had little or no time to cultivate and sublimate urge, impulse, or lust!”

The guidelines were soon forgotten. Trust and care fell by the wayside. A growing narcissism consumed “We the People.” Relational aggression found its foothold; mistrust and mistreatment became endemic to culture and civilization both. Strategies of engagement were required.

Strategy 1: Prepare, Beware

The most strategic of all strategies is the strategy of “prepare, beware.”

Review the material above. Let it activate and stimulate further study. Make it a practice to be a witness to how you feel in the midst of activity so that you can pay attention to how you feel when you relate. Remind yourself that any perception of vice points to a corresponding virtue.

A deepening hatred of humanity has an obvious flipside: a deepening love of humanity.

Cultivate a sensitivity to slight or threat; learn the difference between deplore, detest, despise, and disdain. Whenever you’re confronted by malignancy, pose the question: “how can I neutralize this mistreatment long enough to arrive at a sound judgment and still feel empathetic?”

Where competition breeds judgment, cooperation breeds discernment; both are learned by experience and example. Discernment becomes a casualty of judgment when competition swallows cooperation. Prepare, beware: malignancy is a confession of competition on steroids.

A surfeit of malignant, intolerant, high conflict personalities, both on the political left and the political right, can and will seriously undermine trust and care, the basis of civilized conduct and discourse. Ignored, avoided, and denied long enough, they can and will destroy us all.

Strategy 2: No Contact

The next most strategic of all strategies is the strategy of No Contact.

No Contact is an avoidance strategy designed to minimize or neutralize engagement with a potential adversary that can easily do you harm over the long term. In other words, know your enemy before you engage, if for no other reason than to preserve the strength of your own resources.

start by giving others the benefit of the doubt
but be alert to the signs of a toxic interaction

Here are 7 clues to a toxic interaction:

1) the victim card is played (e.g., barely audible words with eyes averted)
2) envy or jealousy seems easily aroused for no apparent reason
3) you receive a compliment that seems or sounds like an insult, or vice versa
4) you get a defensive reaction to an innocuous comment or question
5) you are made to feel guilty or ashamed for making a suggestion
6) an attempt is made to control you through seduction or intimidation
7) you feel inexplicably flustered or exhausted after the interaction

This list is by no means exhaustive, and so I invite you to add to this list as you see fit.

Remember: No Contact is always an option ~ sometimes the best and only option.

Strategy 3: Silence is Golden

If “silence is violence,” then how can silence be golden? If “silence is consent without protest,” then how can silence be the perfect scorn? This is where discernment comes into play. Where trust and care are concerned, every one of these interpretations is valid. Context is everything.

I know that my connection to Source consciousness is paramount. I also know that there is no better way to stay connected than to find myself in stillness, or better yet, silence. Silence is golden for no other reason than that it opens me up to the source of my wisdom and guidance.

Anyone with a spark of conscience, however, can barely countenance malignant behavior or conduct being visited upon themselves. In the face of such, silence is violence born of cowardice and denial; a line is crossed when sin and sinner are fused and condemned without a fair trial.

Terror is not a valid form of protest ~ never has been, never will be.

Unfortunately, because malignancy is so insidious and widespread, hidden mostly in the shadows, human beings are finding they must choose their battles carefully in a global war of attrition that many if not most do not even know they are fighting, which begs the question . . .

In raising a shield of silence as the perfect scorn, might this silence also be consent without protest?

Many More Strategies

I confess, I have barely scratched the surface of strategies, which might explain why this world is such a mess. Content on YouTube dedicated to putting narcissistic abuse in its place is growing by leaps and bounds, and the guidance on this issue is surprisingly good and fair and wise.

Quick recommendation: if you don’t have to deal with it, don’t go looking for it. Trust me on this one. But sooner or latter (probably sooner), more and more of us will likely be drawn into dealing with it, whether we like it or not. The silver lining is that it will force us to grow up.


you cannot protect anyone from bad behavior,
but you can refuse to make a contribution to it;
your celestial presence is required at this time

no one ever treats you badly because you’re bad;
they do it because of an issue in need of resolution;
do not ever think such bad behavior is your fault

hold your ground and keep your wits about you;
change nothing: stay alive and alert to your truth;
and never forget these words: this too shall pass

~ yours

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