Emotional Labour and the Seasonal Narcissist, Part II

NPD narcissists consume a huge amount of emotional labour. And before you know it, you can be down on your knees, completely exhausted, while the narcissist continues to, at the very least, be extremely dissatisfied.

There is no filling them up. They are never full. They are never sated. They are never content.

They simply have periods of digestion. Slowing down, savouring, enjoying … that’s not something with which they’re comfortable.

And yet, they desire the relief that slowing down and savouring can bring. They want it desperately and will chase it far and wide, but don’t know when they have it and are even scared of attaining it.

If they slow down … they might have to really consider themselves. And why bother with doing that? Because there you are, ready and willing to help them avoid their inadequacies and polish their fantasies.

Your love, your work, your labour will save them. At least for now. Until you do something human that screws up their picture of you and they start convincing you that there’s serious stuff wrong with you.

Up until that point, you’ve been pouring your emotional energy into them to shore them up, to give them a sense of self-confidence, to make them happy, to take away their pain, to provide them with everything they think they have been missing. And you’re beginning to feel depleted and exhausted.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because when you start to think that they’re right, that there’s stuff wrong with you and that that’s why they’re detaching, you will bear down even more.

You will expend labour on improving yourself, fixing yourself, correcting yourself. You will forget about your efforts to help them. There’s a terrifying, growing list of stuff you have to attend to, right now, before they walk out the door forever and it will be all your fault. Your emotions are twangling like a poorly strung violin.

All that work. All that labour. And this is what you get?


How did this happen?

Well,  it happened because that’s how a true NPD narcissist is. The second they acquire whatever they have been chasing, they lose interest. And make no mistake, you are a “whatever.” After the chase has been won, you simply become a source of supply. Supplying what? A supply of whatever the narcissist saw as being desirable to take from you.

It could be money. Or status. Or connections. Or a place to live. Or warm fuzzies. Maybe it was all of those. It could be that you provided yourself as a person to control. Or as a person to feel superior to. Or maybe you’re a challenge to be dismantled, in which case you supply him with proof that no one is better than he is. Whatever the combination of holes you were filling for the narcissist … that’s what you were doing. Filling holes.

And filling holes is time consuming, hard labour with little reward; few of us will want to shout, oh, look what I did! A hole to be proud of!

So. The seasonal narcissist. A narcissist behaves according to three operational seasons: idealising, devaluing and discarding.

Oh yes. Narcissists can take apart a seasonal holiday, too. I’ve written about that before, and you can read my scribblings here and here. But to the narcissist, you are also seasonal, and you have a beginning, middle and end.

Is there anything seasonal about the narcissist from a conventional point of view? Yes, there is.

Think Hallowe’en. Think hobgoblin.

Personally, I tend to think dentist, as in that stuff you find in the spit cup they give you. I certainly don’t think Valentine’s Day. If there’s a season out there for the narcissist to manipulate your emotional labour and “prove” to you that you’re anything but special, it’s Valentine’s. In fact, it’s one of their favourite discard days.

Have you had a seasonal experience with a narcissist?

23 thoughts on “Emotional Labour and the Seasonal Narcissist, Part II”

  1. Oh, this is all too familiar. All that work and very little in return… sigh. And of course I was the problem, always. It is absurd to think about it, in retrospect. Oh and to remember all the Valentine’s days and Christmases which he always wrecked for me…. usually by being M.I.A. and showing me that I meant absolutely nothing to him. It hurt worse on those days, for sure.
    Very good descriptions of the narcissists here by you. Really is emotional labor, no wonder we are so exhausted afterwards!

    1. Thank you very much. 🙂

      I only experienced two Christmases with my ex-narcissist and he always hung around – I know now that he had no where else to go – but he made both of them difficult, especially the second one. He also ignored my birthday or our anniversary, etc.

      Yes, in retrospect, I’m always a little amazed at how I let him get away with so much for so long, but when you’re in it, it’s hard to get some objectivity and do some straight thinking. I was lucky in that one of my best friends (who is also a therapist and teaches counselling) told me about her concerns, especially her concerns around my safety. She had interacted with him a lot and felt that his narcissism was bordering on psychopathy. I listened and was amazed at her accuracy when she described his private behaviour and my reactions to it. She was spot on. She completely supported me as I came around to seeing what I needed to see.

      The divorce was extremely difficult, I was a complete mess, and I had to get the police involved, but one of the best things I ever did was to listen to my friend.

  2. Yes! This is very familiar. My ex and I would spend Holidays together and it would always devolve into a “discussion” (lasting hours) about how I needed to “improve” myself so I could some day, by some miracle, finally be worthy of him. The end result is that I now no longer celebrate any Holidays – he ruined it for me. Even now, four years later, I have a lump in my stomach about this day, even though I know my New Guy has something special planned for us.

    1. Oh yes – the dreaded “discussions.” Mine would do that also. Complaint sessions where he wound himself up into a tight little spool. Most people get angry and then it blows over, but the more angry a narcissist becomes, the angrier they get. Their angry feeds more angry.

      I hope you will eventually be able to overcome your aversion to holidays and I also hope that you had a good day yesterday. 🙂

      1. My ex would wind ME up with his “discussions,” saying that he himself felt better since “the air had been cleared,” he’d finally been able to tell me all the things that were wrong with me and he was so very *relieved* to get it off his chest. On more than one occasion these “discussions” lasted into the wee hours and always on nights before a work day for me. I imagine he spent the next day napping and feeling superior. Gaaaahhhhh!

        I did have a good V-day, thanks 🙂

        1. Oh yes. “Always before a work day” – that sounds familiar. His air may have been (temporarily) clear because he sent all his pollution your way. Wow. He was really dumping on you and then sleeping like a baby. I understand.

          I spent a lot of the time that the ex-narcissist and I were together completely sleep deprived. He had no compunction about banging around, all the lights on, bedroom door left wide open, while he made coffee at 3 am. He would invariably either keep me up or wake me up (I have trouble falling asleep again and he knew that) and he was often just going to bed as I was getting up, bleary and tired from a broken night.

          I still get amazed at how these people can be so consistent in their behaviour, all over the world.

          1. They all read from the same script while shouting to the world that they are Unique! Fabulous! Smarter than Everyone! It’s exhausting.

            My ex would play loud music in the next room while I tried to sleep. Really loud. Like Rock Concert Loud. He would then deny it was loud when I asked him to turn it down so I could get some sleep before work the next day. I would then get a mini-lecture about how “selfish” I was and the music would be turned up again in increments. I learned to keep my mouth shut.

            Sleep deprivation is a well-known torture tactic that all types of abusers seem to use instinctively.

  3. Well, my dad (with NPD) used to buy my mom and me chocolates and a card. But, he would drop them off and go back out to one of his mistresses (like Don Draper). Of course, at the time I wasn’t aware. I know that never-ending pit of “give me” though. Nothing I ever did was enough for my mom (also with NPD). I could give to infinity and she would point out what I didn’t do. She is now very ill and has completely transformed. She seems to be making peace with everything as she nears the last year or two of her life (maybe longer, but who can tell). We have worked out our issues and are close now.

    On an unrelated note, in my novel, I based my antagonist on my mother-in-law who also had NPD. Yes, I’m surrounded. LOL Thankfully, my husband doesn’t have NPD, but he does work on his passive-aggressive tendencies. LOL And me, well I got screwed up from it all and got therapy. 😛

    1. I am glad to hear that you have worked things out with your mom. 🙂

      I have read a number of times that the symptoms of narcissism tend to lessen with age, but that’s not my experience. My ex-narcissist was in his fifties when I divorced him and showing no signs (as I see it now) of a lessening of symptoms. My mother was likely also a narcissist and in my opinion was still quite symptomatic before she passed away.

      I think that some people’s symptoms fade while other people’s symptoms don’t. Not everyone is the same. Likewise, I was reading lately (in Psych Central) that narcissism is now thought of as the product of a combination of biological, psychological and social elements. Makes complete sense to me. The idea that people can become narcissists as the result of one parent’s (usually the mother) influence always seemed narrow. People are messy and life is messy and the answers to complex behavioural questions are never simple.

      You are surrounded. 🙂 I got therapy too and found it very helpful.

      1. I think that with any mental disorder, it’s a combination of things. Two people can be raised the same way and have entirely different perspectives of the experience. I think it’s a matter of physiological makeup as well (like you said, biological). One person might end up with OCD where another might become depressed, while another might just have regular issues that just needs some tweaking (therapy). Yes, both my parents have become milder with their symptoms, but my mother-in-law remained a pretty potent narcissist to the day she died at age 84.

  4. Its so interesting what you write about narcs not being able to rest. This is a way of being we also need to learn in recovering because the negative things that are said about you go over and over in your head after the devalue and discard.

    1. I never really saw my ex-narcissist “resting” unless he was asleep. Always physically moving, never comfortable, never able to sit, really. He indulged in lots of “fix and improve” projects that he rarely finished. His specialty was taking things apart and not putting them back together. I had a number of major projects to complete around the house after I got him out of my life.

      We humans always like to dwell on the negative, even if that negative is tiny in comparison to all the good stuff. I think it might be because we’re suspicious of the good stuff – that maybe it’s not real or true. And that, of course, makes the negative stuff be more true … Many of us certainly know how to turn ourselves into mental pretzels so that we can give ourselves a good beating.

  5. Unfortunately there are people who resent being pleasing to others or allowing others to be pleased. That resentment includes valuing anything that is given or allowing the giver to feel any satisfaction.

    Hence they function only as a drain. There are no genuine excuses for this. Any excuses are exaggerated and employed to maintain the imbalance sought by a mean spirited person.

    1. Very true. There are those whose defining characteristic is a resentment of others and they can be terribly draining and exhausting because they require so much work and there’s little or no return.

      Thanks for your visit and for commenting. 🙂

      1. Sadly, whilst one can free a piece of humanity that has been paved over by trauma, one cannot create a an essential part of humanity that has never existed.

        The table is rigged and the only way to stop yet more losses is to except the loss and walk away.

        Good luck to you.

        G. 🙂

  6. I think I’d call these people arseholes, not narcissists. Giving it a psychological name, as in ‘a condition’ is dignifying what is basically being a dickhead. I have a man who can be a dickhead (quite frequently) and he meets many but not all of the NPD criteria – he’s lovely on Valentine’s Day usually for instance. But I don’t think of him as having NPD – he’s just – on occasion – a common or garden arsehole.

  7. Just finished a birthday long weekend, grieving the loss of past celebrations of me, reflecting and writing in the same vein as your post, reminding myself that it’s not my fault, deprogramming from victim blaming.
    Very affirming to run across your similar story, even similar writing style.
    Pleasure to meet you, and thank you for posting.

  8. I knew someone that used to get a girlfriend in the winter and discard her by Spring. Never thought about it until right this second.

    1. That’s amazing – a classic narcissistic move, although that behaviour could also be caused by other issues such as a fear of marriage or something like that.

      Thanks for coming by and commenting. 🙂

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