I looked up the word confabulation in the dictionary, and it defined it is a memory disorder affecting a person’s ability to remember facts accurately, without an intent to deceive. Confabulation involves misinterpreted or misrepresented memories, where the confabulator is stating the recollection of events with a distorted or completely false account of what actually occurred.
In general, confabulations tend to be quite commonplace. For instance, in every day conversations people may “embellish” a childhood memory as they reminisce about the past. The purpose for this is usually to make a story “bigger than life,” and this approach often works. There is no great harm in this type of storytelling. The storytellers tend to understand reality and have no ill intent in their misrecollection of the “facts,” and the listeners also have no problem with the storyline.
According to Dr. Sam Vaknin, the self-proclaimed narcissist and expert on narcissism, the rules of confabulation differ for narcissists and for ordinary individuals. He believes that very character of narcissists is a piece of fiction created to arm themselves from hurt and to nurture their strong sense of grandiosity. The narcissists’ delusional self-defense strategies prevent them from seeing the reality of themselves. To a narcissist confabulation is reality.
This tool is very useful for the narcissists’ ability to manipulate others. They not only believe their fabrications, they spend a great amount of time reinventing reality in order to prop up their overinflated egos so as to avoid facing vulnerability. Narcissists are deeply wounded psychically, which has caused them to develop over-compensatory coping strategies, such as the need for grandiosity and entitlement attitudes. Confabulation serves narcissists for these self-protective purposes, usually in order to protect them from living in the truth. In fact, their relationships are damaged because narcissists defend their confabulations at all costs, reinterpreting reality. There is no discussion to be had with narcissists that will dissuade them otherwise.
One way narcissists abuse their partners with confabulation is by recreating a past argument or behavior by describing the entire scenario as if they were blameless victims and you were an abusive villain. This type of confabulation causes their “victims” to experience cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when we experience a psychological conflict as a result of believing or experiencing one thing and being told another; it produces anxiety as a result of holding contradictory or incompatible attitudes and beliefs. Since narcissists actually believe their confabulations, they are very convincing in their rhetoric, causing their victims to question their own thoughts and memories. This is very emotionally distressing.
One of the main ways to cope with narcissistic confabulations is to continually counter the cognitive dissonance when you are around this person. Narcissists will leave you feeling emotionally confused and insecure by their crazy making strategies. You will never be able to convince abusers that they are inaccurate in their recollection because too much is at stake emotionally for them to let down their “guard” of manipulation. There is no point in trying to convince confabulators that their memories are inaccurate, as this will only stir up another, even uglier defense, in addition; a defense far more lethal emotionally for you.
The best way to counter abusive cognitive dissonance is to surround yourself with emotionally healthy people and debrief after every encounter with your abuser. A really good website that helps with the cognitive dissonance is psychopathfree.com. Ultimately, “no contact” is the safest approach for stopping the emotional brainwashing promulgated by abusive confabulators.