And I’m Pleased to Introduce … Narcissistic Instability!

He’s a fence-sitter. He’s a waffler. He’s a flip-flopper. He’s inconsistent. He’s unstable. I’ll never forget the day that I realized that. The day that I stopped making excuses and stopped trying to soften the impact that his behaviour was having when I used euphemistic descriptors. It was an important turning point because I began to see what, exactly, I was dealing with instead of trying to minimize, rationalize and cope. I didn’t know it then, but that was when I started to get my life back.

The narcissist is a curious mixture of nothing. My former narcissist projects a charming act that hides an abyss – its only contents are things that he manufactures. He’s completely stuck there, as frozen as an amber bug. The most startling and contradictory thing about him, however, was that he occasionally had glimpses of insight into himself – there were very brief moments of self-awareness. One of these moments especially stands out.

Long before I met him, Harry had launched a lawsuit for defamation, depression and loss of professional earnings against two women: one was a former colleague and quite clearly a narcissist herself while the other one was a former girlfriend who had suffered some brain injury after a car crash.

Mary, the former colleague, took a dislike to Harry after a professional disagreement and proceeded to try to have Harry’s license as an engineer revoked. In the meantime, Harry broke up with his girlfriend, Danielle, as a result of the ongoing issues with her mental health. To make a very long, very soapy story short, Mary and Danielle eventually became friends and colluded to have Harry charged for stalking and threatening their lives; he was ultimately arrested but the charges were dropped five days later because of a lack of evidence. Harry then started his lawsuit.

This lawsuit took ten years to come to its conclusion because Harry changed lawyers a couple of times and during its course Harry also continued an on-again, off-again relationship with Danielle which the trial judge noted in his reasons for judgement. The judge sided with Harry and concluded that he was the subject of a false, hate-fuelled, vengeful plot. However, it’s also clear that the judge to some extent saw the situation as being the product of Harry’s own behaviour and that there was also an attempt on Harry’s part to make the situation appear worse than it actually was. As a result, the monetary settlement that Harry received was only a token and was quickly consumed by his legal costs.

It’s true that Harry was wronged. There is no question of it, either legally or morally. However, the personality defects that define the narcissist lead him or her to having some very odd reactions to things, especially conflict.  For instance, neither I, nor most people I know, would continue to have a relationship with a mentally ill person against whom they have an ongoing, bitter and protracted lawsuit that’s designed to relieve her of any money that she might have because of the damage that she’s done. It became obvious to me that during the course of  his relationship with Danielle, he flopped around like a mop and never did come to any firm conclusions or positions about his feelings for her.  His issue was that as a very beautiful, well-dressed woman – and she was, undeniably – she made the perfect trophy. She was able to present well for short periods of time and he could bask in the reflected, surface glory as he squired her around. This was irresistible to him, and he continued to take advantage of her mental shortcomings so that he could wring as much from her as possible.

Behind the scenes, however, he harboured a pathological, misogynistic dislike. Remember, Harry has profound issues with women and is also a homosexual who hates himself for it. This is a cauldron of discord; instability would be a natural result. What to do? How to be? He’s all about display and artifice and charm but at the same time reacts with an instinctive hatred toward women that he tries to bury but that unexpectedly leaks out.

This situation is incredibly difficult for anyone to deal with, but for someone who is mentally handicapped, it’s impossible. In my opinion Danielle was also taken advantage of by the other narcissist in her life, Mary. This is reflected in the judge’s ruling who verbally chastised Danielle’s behaviour as reprehensible but did not otherwise punish her in any way. The token monetary amount was adjudicated against Mary alone.

Then there were Harry’s interactions with Mary. Two narcissists having a row. Lovely. The lying, the misrepresentation and the one-upmanship was spectacular. I admire the trial judge’s fortitude in picking his way through this mess, if also feeling rather miffed that a couple of narcissists could manage to clog up the court system for so long with this dreck.

The upshot, as I’ve already indicated, is that while Harry won, he also lost. He claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed earnings because of the damage the two women inflicted on his reputation. However, the judge noted that Harry’s career as an engineer had historically been spotty and punctuated by periods of unemployment and poor relationships with superiors, employers and colleagues. He had always earned much less than the average and already had a questionable professional reputation. Without directly saying so, the judge intimated that Harry was exaggerating and that he was also taking advantage of the situation in order to score a significant cash infusion; Mary was a very wealthy woman with significant financial resources.

Narcissus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember well the question Harry asked me after I had read the judgement for the first time and we had discussed it: “I’m partly to blame for this, aren’t I?” I agreed that he was; that he could have let the whole thing go after the police determined that there had been no basis for the charges, that he could have avoided the financial hardship and depression that came with the lawsuit.

It was only months later, when I was in the process of divorcing him, that I realized that he liked all this drama; he loved legal scrambling and being on the financial brink and using those situations to claim depression and heartache and victimhood. He craved the instability of this situation because it’s what he’s comfortable with. He could wallow in it and get lots of attention from it. For him, instability is stability.

I later learned that during the lawsuit against Mary and Danielle, he had no less than three other lawsuits (not including a law-suit that had been brought against him) in various stages: a countersuit against a lawyer whom he had refused to pay when Harry disagreed with his handling of Mary and Danielle; a lawsuit against another woman who had broken off her romantic relationship with him, and a lawsuit against a former employer who had fired him. Indeed, there were two other lawsuits that he contemplated but did not pursue; the commonality among all of them was that they were frivolous and unwinnable.

Into this mix was the fact that he had become well-known to the local police long before the arrest that precipitated the suit against Mary and Danielle – he had a long history of warnings and an arrest and conviction for assault. When he realized that he finally had a lawsuit that could go all the way, he must have been in absolute narcissistic heaven.

He can’t stand stability for very long. He’s got to have something boiling in his pot so that he can feel comfortable and so that his attention can be diverted from the boring, stultifying reality of living with an empty self.  Hence the nasty comments that are designed to provoke a fight; the constant changing of opinion and direction, the neverending motion that accomplishes little. He is compelled to generate instability because otherwise, he won’t feel “normal”. The only constant is the inconstant, the only reality is the unreal, the only stability is the unstable.

However, if there’s one thing that causes me to feel any pity for this man at all, it’s the fact that during these very rare, very brief moments, I saw what he could have been. I saw illumination and intelligence. I saw humility and reality. And then it was gone.  The act was back, and it was very sad.

21 thoughts on “And I’m Pleased to Introduce … Narcissistic Instability!”

  1. This is extremely helpful and addresses some of the lingering questions I’ve had. The description of the brief moments of insight – of even what can appear as humility or regret – is what kept me “hooked” for so long in a narcissistic friendship, despite (what I now recognize clearly) as some glaring red flags. It helps me to forgive myself also, for at times feeling so “stupid” as to have remained in that friendship for so long. I think I was always trying to give this person the benefit of the doubt….which ultimately led to getting burned. Thank you for your post.

    1. That whole “feeling stupid” bit is a big one to try to get past. I hate that they are able to make people feel crappy for behaviours that are normally appreciated and valued, not seen as avenues of manipulation. Do forgive yourself – you’re not to blame.

  2. yes! Yes! Yes! Although not as extreme as this example (yet) I thought of my husband’s narcissistic ex-wife. As I have written on my blog, she lost her job recently. Bad enough in and of itself. But, your blog has helped me realize, again, how much she likes the drama surrounding this job loss. Of course, having lost her job, she could have immediately filed for change in child support in the courts. Yet, she has yet to do so, but she has contacted her attorney who has contacted my husband’s attorney. You would not believe (or you probably would, as you understanding narcissism) how convoluted this whole process has gotten. Seriously. Honestly, she is the one holding everything up – she has unemployment income, rental property income, 2 new “businesses” she is trying to begin, private contracts etc. etc. All she needed to do was file early on in the courts and lot of this could have been avoided. But narcissists LOVE drama and she has enjoyed these months of “confusion”. ! thanks for your posting 🙂

    1. If my ex-narcissist is anything to go by, she will try to get as much attention from this situation as possible. So sorry to know that she has to be such a constant in your life and in the lives of your step-children.
      Take care,

  3. There are a lot of people who thrive on instability and drama. In your ex’s case, it sounds like a way to distract himself from the fact that, deep inside, he knows he’s a narcissist and finds as many ways as possible to deflect what he knows is an inevitable truth that will be discovered by others. Oh, and not admitting to himself he’s homosexual doesn’t help, either… 😉

    1. I’ve often thought that he knows what he really is , and in fact, toward the end of our relationship he mentioned “in passing” that he always has to “look out for” himself first. He just can’t bring himself to take a realistic look at himself because he’s too disgusted and terrified by what he might see – he’d rather live with a lie and take out the consequences of that on everyone else. It’s so unfortunate.

      1. Yeah. With all that going for him, I don’t know why it didn’t work out for you — aside from the whole feeling completely miserable and unappreciated thing 😉

  4. Relish your quiet life Lynette,got a lot from this. My Narc was also never one way for any length of time. At first I took it on myself? It must have been my failings….not so,now know he had been like this in every relationship. They are masters at Projection. Interesting take on the Latent Homosexual artifice too. Made me think….thanks!

    1. I was like that too – kept thinking that I was doing/saying the wrong things – until I finally clued in and realized that I was just a human ping pong ball who was being swatted around at his whim and for his entertainment. I haven’t come to any conclusions about this but the latent homosexuality may have been at the genesis of his narcissism and particularly in his case, of his corresponding misogyny. In typical narcissistic form, he envies femininity and then has to devalue it because he can’t “be” it.

      I do relish my quiet life and now have a wonderful partner with whom to share it. Thanks for coming by!

    1. Female narcissists are really not much different from male narcissists – there is a slightly greater chance that they will go into treatment. Sorry to hear that you had that experience, but at least we’re now better able to avoid that type! Thanks for coming by and also for the follow! 🙂

  5. Fascinating read…reminds me of an ex from long ago who was utterly solipsistic…*cold shiver* so glad that one’s done and dusted. Good for you for getting rid of this self obsessed fool: he clearly didn’t deserve you

    1. I also now feel that way about my ex-narcissist – I’m so grateful and glad that I got him out. Daring to think about still having him in my life makes me shudder. Thanks for the follow 🙂

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