Toxic Traits: Reality Dictation

Reality dictators continually create false narratives which others are expected to accept as reality. Challenge them.

Toxic Traits: Reality Dictation

A character trait central to many toxic behaviours concerns a narcissistic kind of reality distortion.

Some individuals believe they possess the authority to dictate reality, setting their own terms, to the world around them. They are self-appointed reality dictators. Different from someone deluding themselves, reality dictators may not believe the narratives they create: they are designed to serve their interests when imposed on others. It is others that are expected to believe their narratives. Or at least be unable to successfully challenge them.

The dictator believes they determine what people think of as real or not. Facts are made use of, distorted and interpreted, to fit false narratives. Truth is used in a similar fashion: bits of truth are sprinkled into false narratives to give them the flavour of truth. The dictator does not, however, respect facts as a source of truth. Nor do they respect truth. Both are simply tools used to construct realities and convince people into complying with them.

Often the method is simple: falsehoods are stated simply and with conviction and an air of authority, boldly flying in the face of reality as needed. Any refutations are bluntly rejected, and the assertion is re-stated as many times as required until sufficient compliance is achieved. Stating things with conviction and certainty serves an important purpose: it ups the ante to challenge them, making it difficult to do so without implying the dictator is a lier.

False narratives need to be successfully challenged to expose them as false and distinguish them from reality. If they are presented to others and go unchallenged, they become de facto realities. This is crucial, so reality dictators will often freak out at unexpected challenges to their narratives, attacking with extreme prejudice. They will often come out the corner swinging wildly, e.g. with  blunt comments designed to cut the conversation off at its legs and shock the challenger into quick “submission” (apologising, backing off, or softening their challenge). Challengers might be bullied, undermined, gaslit, or if that doesn't work, simply ignored.

The challenger's slate would ideally be “clean” with the dictator, but in the mind of the dictator nobody has a clean slate. Often, they will remind the challenger of some kind of debt they have incurred. Reality dictators usually construct narratives of people they know with common features: them being in debt to them, or having something to hold over them. A predatory reading. When critically examined these “debts” often do not exist. These debt narratives are, basically, false realities created to defend other false realities. If the challenger is a stranger, false realities about that stranger may be made up on the spot based on very scant or flimsy observations that stretch credibility (since no prexisting narratives exist). It is useful for the reality dictator to surround himself with people who never challenge him, and eliminate any that do from his social group.

Bully tactics might be accompanied by an unwillingness to enter into real dialogue, where reason could take hold. Challenges will almost never be responded to in a simple and direct way. More commonly a kind of show will be put on, designed to resemble or sound like rational thought or argument, but usually just attacking straw men.

Reality dictators will never really admit defeat—doing so could unravel their entire social survival strategy. Don’t expect that kind of outcome.

Just challenge.