Saturday, March 14, 2015

L'esprit de l'escalier: The Things I Didn't Say


                                         [picture source]

L'esprit de l'escalier or l'esprit d'escalier ("staircase wit") is a French term used in English for the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort too late.

This is a problem for me in daily life, 'staircase wit", I don't get things said in time. Sometimes us Aspies process things a little bit too slow to keep up and it can be a hard feeling, to know they got over you another time and you sat there with your jaw fallen open and didn't say anything. Narcs usually hit by stealth which makes this even more of a possibility for some of us. With age, I learned to be dish it out, as a Christian I actually have to watch this tendency in myself not to blast with full froth at rude service people and the like. Today I have asked myself "Why was I so quiet in the face of the narcs?" There are things I regret not having said. However having been so silenced, and so effectively rendered isolated and alone in the family system, I often have to remind myself, "You did say a lot!" and no one listened!

 There were many times I stood up for myself and may as well been talking to a wall, so while my intellectual mind now knows I could have said anything from cursing them out to hell and back to the most cutting remark on planet earth, it would have not made one wit of difference. Perhaps some of those lost moments haunt me now, in some of ponderings at times that I "lost" the family in not standing up for myself early enough or in the way that worked where my narcissist mother could circle the wagons so effectively.

 Perhaps all ACONs have this feeling of "L'esprit de l'escalier".  We blame ourselves way too much for things beyond our control, thinking the right words, actions, defenses and more would have changed things the way they went, I am realizing how much of it was out of my control. However we need to be careful, with sociopathic narcs, the words really didn't matter, they had no interest in listening and there was no way they were going to. The best words in the world would have mattered not. This blog I suppose is my way of having my "final word".



  1. There are lots of times, after I left the family system, and I couldn't stand up to others and I found the whole prospect really rather confusing. But I was worried about what reaction I would get. But I have to remember my mother was mercurial and dangerous, so even the temptation to stand up to her was not even there. A confrontation with mother was not even something I've seen strangers do much, if ever.

    I learned how to keep the silence, but this has screwed me over in life. I can understand that it is not easy for me to stand up for myself, I probably needed my life more.

    I do get a little overboard at times, its because I feel safe calling our neighbour here a psychopath, who has been getting my husband to spend his wages and time cleaning the roads, while everyone heads off to Florida. I'm not above attacking him though. I've been very verbal about it. But its done he doesn't clean the roads anymore.

    But I agree with you. Anything we could have said or done would have not have done a bit of good. So I think I did the right thing even if it was the only thing.

    1. know there is part of me that thinks if I stand up to someone they are going to jump me and beat the stuffing out of me. This is how they train you to be overly timid to the world. I stand up for myself now but inside I am scared, more then a person should be. Most of my childhood they literally beat me into submission so from early childhood to age 17, I was more busy trying to become part of the wallpaper and avoiding angering them. I knew from times I had stood up, there would be physical repercussions, she would use my father as an enforcer or she would even "get revenge". It's funny that you mention that no one ever disagreed or confronted your mother ever either. I noticed this about mine, there never was any disagreements with her, or tiffs or even someone wanting to banter with her, and that's a red flag right there isn't it? I am glad you stood up to the neighbor. With these narcs and sociopaths, nothing said or done would have changed any of it. This is something I am working on accepting now.