From the NPD Glossary: As long as you feel you are obligated to JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain) or you do it to forestall a narcissistic blow up, you are succumbing to emotional blackmail and passively allowing your N to dictate your choices for you.
This can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around. Conditioned since early childhood to be obedient and answerable to our NParents and never allowed to individuate in adolescence, many of us enter adulthood believing that we are still answerable to those parents, and will be for as long as they live.
This, in case you didn’t know, is not normal. The teen years is the time that children are supposed to be learning how to be independent adults. A normally developing teen who has normal parents will have the stability and security of the parental home but, in increasing amounts over time, be allowed to make more and more personal, life-influencing decisions. They begin learning to take care of themselves, they begin trying on adult responsibilities, and their parents begin relinquishing control.
In a household dominated by a narcissistic parent, however, the exact opposite is the case. The Scapegoat Child is not allowed to individuate because that way lies independence, something the NP does not want because it threatens the NP’s control over the child, control that is necessary for the security of the NP’s NSupply.
What is insidious here is that our NParents have taken something that was initially something that benefitted and protected and taught us and they have twisted it into something to benefit themselves, not their children. In a household with normal parents, children learn necessary life-skills through learning to persuade others (justify), to win others to their point of view logically (argue), to stick up for themselves and others (defend) and to make their positions or decisions clear to others (explain). These are all valuable abilities in the larger world where you job—even your safety—may depend on these skills. Unfortunately, for the children of narcissists, these skills are not learned in an atmosphere in which they can develop into useful talents.
For their own safety, it is important for children to be answerable to their parents. If a child does something disobedient or dangerous, a rational, loving parent will require an explanation or justification of the deed before deciding if a punishment is required and what kind of punishment will be invoked. A rational, loving parent will allow a child to discuss (argue) issues with him, even if he doesn’t give in: argumentation is a valuable life skill and adults are often called upon to make rational arguments to support their positions. A rational, loving parent will call upon a child to defend his or her ideas or notions, an essential part of learning critical thinking. A narcissist parent, on the other hand, will require a child to defend him/herself. Unlike the rational, loving parent who elicits their child’s opinions and who guides their thinking, the narcissistic parent will demand that the child agree with the parent, forcing the child to justify, argue, defend and explain himself, perhaps his very existence.
Rational, loving parents allow—even help—their children to individuate and gain independence. As their children grow and mature into young adults, the reins of parental power are loosened and the child grows from a subordinate to a peer in which his/her opinions, while perhaps not agreed with, are respected. The narcissistic parent, however, is unwilling to make that transition from superior to peer and seeks to keep their children subordinate forever.
In a normal household, children will grow into adults whose parents love them no less than when they were dependent babies, but who respect their autonomy as independent adults. In a narcissistic household, however, no matter what the children accomplish in their lives, they are forever expected to be subordinate to the authority and wishes of their NParent.
Growing up with an NParent, learning to justify, argue, defend and explain are not stepping stones to independent and critical thinking, they are the life preservers of the embattled subordinate. They are the means by which a person might be able to talk his way out of an Nrage. They are a means to placate the beast, to save one’s own skin. They are not useful, positive life skills that can be used to advance oneself, they are the result of having been put on the defensive by a narcissistic onslaught.
Enough years of this and JADE become habituated. First we anticipate the NRage and we offer up our justifications in advance, hoping to forestall the rage. Eventually we simply adopt these behaviours, putting ourselves on the defensive before anyone else even has a chance to, and then reacting to that defensive posture with JADE. We may even perceive attacks from others where there are none, becoming defensive when there is nothing to defend against. And when we habituate this behaviour, we don’t even see it anymore.
This all came about because your N refused to relinquish his/her emotional control of you as you grew up. The appropriate role of demanding that you be able to explain yourself and your actions ended when you became an adult, but they refused to give it up. And you, habituated to being on the defensive and believing that you were still answerable to your N, did nothing to end it.
But the truth is, you aren’t really answerable to anyone but yourself and duly constituted authority. You are not answerable to your Ns and, believe it or not, they are way, waaay out of line to pretend that you are. They have absolutely no right because once you become an adult you are no longer accountable to them. You can stop justifying yourself and your choices, you do not have to argue with them, they have no right to try to put you on the defensive and you owe them no explanations, no matter what they try to tell you!
This may be hard to grasp and it may even sound like victim-blaming, but past the age of your majority, you have a choice in the matter and if you are over 18 years of age and your N are abusing you or attempting to hold you accountable to them, you are permitting them to abuse you. Yes, there are consequences for standing up to their abuse—and that is exactly why it is a choice: you are choosing to submit to the abuse rather than stand up to them and take the consequences.
Is this okay? Actually it is, as long as you are doing it consciously and for a reason. When it is by conscious choice, that is a very different situation. When you have considered your situation and weighed the trade offs, when you know you are choosing to put up with their shit because it is worth it for the benefits you are deriving, then it is ok because you are in control of it. You know you can leave if it gets too much, you know the reason you tolerate it, you know the benefits you are getting outweigh the crap you are dealing with. You have control of your life and you have chosen this, it is not being forced upon you. It is a battle you have chosen and you can un-choose at any time.
If you don’t owe them JADE, do you owe them anything? What about respect? It has long been my opinion that you owe everybody respect, right up to the moment they earn your disrespect. Many people seem to think others should earn their respect, but if you really think about that, it quickly emerges as a very narcissistic frame of mind. Who, after all, believes the entire world needs to earn their respect except a narcissist? But if you give respect to everyone, you can selectively cease to respect those who have earned your disrespect through their own actions.
So what do you owe your NPs? A better question would be “What do you owe yourself?” Because that is where everything has to start. Nobody lives your life but you and that means nobody but you has the right to make choices about how it will be lived. Do you like being in a situation in which others think they have the right to demand you justify your every choice, option, decision? Suppose your mean-spirited Aunt Maude calls and wants you to come to tea on Saturday and, based on experience, you know it is going to be weak tea, stale biscuits, and nasty, rude gossip about everybody she knows. Do you want to go? When you respond do you say “No, I can’t, I don’t have transportation that day…” thereby justifying your refusal? And if she offers to pay an Uber driver to pick you up and bring you back home, do you argue with her, perhaps give another excuse? And when that doesn’t work, do you feel backed into a corner, defensive, fighting to find a way to get out of it without just saying “No, thanks for the invitation but I must decline.” Can you even say that without feeling like you must explain why you must decline? You have been trained to JADE by your Ns but that training was for their benefit, not yours, so you can stop now. You owe yourself honest, authentic communication with others, explanations only when you feel they are appropriate…like when my friend called me to join her for dinner at a restaurant and I had already eaten. “I’d love to come, but I’ve already eaten.” We ended up meeting for dessert.
What you owe yourself comes first. In a conflict between what you owe someone else and what you owe yourself, you must come first. Nobody has the right to demand that you justify, argue, defend or explain yourself, no matter what they may believe. Only you have the right to decide if any of those things are appropriate to the situation and if you decide it is, then it nobody’s decision but yours to decide what and how much you say.