Tag Archives: Narcissism – One Woman’s True Story of Marriage to a Narcissist

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
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.

How Are Your Boundaries Holding Up?

Narcissism 101
Narcissism 101 (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

One of the great things that this blog is forcing me to do is to think through the “relationship” that I had with my narcissist, and as a result, to think through other prominent relationships that I’ve had in my life, as well. It’s useful to take a hard look back, to see what I’ve done and not done, to see when I behaved and misbehaved, to see what I learned and didn’t learn. The saying that hindsight may be 20/20 but that it’s also only for assholes, is wrong, I believe. Otherwise, as with any history, if we don’t learn from it we’re doomed to repeat it. Okay. So I’m finished now with the d’Arty-Cross cliché review. Nevertheless, it’s important to every now and then do some looking back, as long as it’s not obsessive or overly critical and as long as the intent is to apply whatever you get out of this exercise only to yourself – don’t do any narcissistic projection! So today, I’m going to leave off  the defining that I’ve been doing and share with you one of my behaviours, a behaviour that I was only barely aware of, that lead to my involvement with a narcissist. It was only through looking back that I really got what it was that I was doing, or should I say, not doing.

I had trouble with setting boundaries. Not that I was crossing other people’s boundaries, no; certainly not any more often than most people, and it usually happened inadvertently. I had trouble stopping people from crossing mine, especially the people I love. So yes, this boundary thing wasn’t just confined to my interactions with narcissists, it was a character trait, a way of being with those whom I love/loved. I am referring to it in the past tense, but I shouldn’t do that because it’s still very much in existence; it’s just that I now have it on a leash.

Boundaries. We think we know what that word means; I thought I knew what that word means. But if there’s one thing that I learned from my narcissist, it’s that I had very poor personal, mental and emotional boundaries and was utterly clueless that I had an issue with them. I was a “yes” person of the highest order. “Yessir!” unquestioningly, and unquestioning; that was me. I thought it was my function in life to run around after everyone else’s needs, to fix, to be on call for whatever had to be done, even if it made me feel undervalued, angry, disrespected or just plain pissed off. I didn’t know how to say “no” and felt that even if I tried, I wouldn’t be heard.

Now, this makes me sound like some sort of doormat or puppet, but really, I wasn’t. I was a respected professional person with a great deal of responsibility who had absolutely no trouble with saying no at work. But love relationships? That was an entirely different story.

My upbringing conditioned me to say yes to pretty much anything I was asked. Both my parents were WWII veterans and their sense that they were providing a much better life for me and my siblings caused them to think that I sort of “owed” them by behaving well, which meant that I had to do as I was told or asked. It sounds like I am blaming them for this but that’s not how I feel. I believe in taking adult responsibility for my behaviour; in the end the problem’s genesis didn’t matter because I still had to deal with it anyway.

My parents were products of their generation and believed what they were doing was best. To them, my siblings and I were raised in the lap of luxury and had nothing to complain about. However, they were setting me up to be rather non-thinking where my personal boundaries were concerned and when this was followed by a marriage to an older man who expected the same, I started to see myself as a lesser person who needed to take my direction from others. I see now that he was occasionally very disrespectful, but over time I had begun to buy into his treatment of me.

Eventually, I became afraid (see my post “Is There a Narcissist in Your Life?”) of making my own decisions about interpersonal boundaries. It seemed like everyone else knew better than me and I began to rely heavily on the mental and emotional judgments of others with respect to how I should behave.  For a long time, I did not recognize this issue and went blithely on taking my emotional and mental boundary cues from others. It became a habit that was character-defining. Eventually, it also became a gap that my narcissist was able to easily recognize and exploit.

As always, the narcissist starts with baby steps. He began by asking me to pick up small items for him – he was working for weeks at a time in an isolated area – “on [his] dime,” as he always said. A pair of gloves, a book, some specialty shampoo. However, once I had given him these items, he just wouldn’t reimburse me. I chose not to see the issue. I chose to think well of him and to trust him. I was in love with him. But he had already crossed a boundary – a minor one, yes, but a boundary nevertheless.

Later, I was buying for him, on request, items that were much more pricey – tools, expensive clothes, a camera. After a while, he stopped working and then moved in with me. He asked me to pay a sizable debt of his and I did.

He flew to Toronto to deal with a legal issue and wound up stuck in the airport with no money and with no way for me to transfer any money. I flew there, money in hand, to rescue him.

He had an accident in his vehicle and started driving mine. Then the collection of photo-radar tickets started appearing – thousands of dollars of them. He wouldn’t stop speeding but kept using my vehicle anyway. He mistreated the vehicle and its condition started to deteriorate.

I still wouldn’t acknowledge the issue and continued to rationalize and minimize it and shortly after, we got married. We honeymooned in Hawaii because that’s where he wanted to go. I paid for it. Then the spending got really out of control. I was completely supporting the household, paying the mortgage, the taxes and the insurance while trying to keep up with the mounting pile of bills that he was generating.

He wouldn’t get a job or even look for one and preferred to do “projects” around the house which mainly consisted of him taking something apart and not putting it back together or only partially completing it. As usual, he had to spend a lot of money on the proper tools for these projects, with me footing the bill.

He is a car hobbyist of sorts and also started spending money on all kinds of parts and pieces for it, many of which had to be shipped in, in one instance from as far away as Australia. Again, I paid.

My stress levels began to go through the roof. I am not wealthy by any means and I began to really worry about how significant our debt was becoming. I’m sure you can see where the lack of boundaries had gotten me. I finally was forced into calling a halt, at which point he returned to work. Not to help out with the household expenses or the debt, not a chance. It was so that he could continue to finance the luxury items that he wanted to purchase for himself.

I now understand how people get themselves into these abusive relationships and in my opinion, it begins because  there’s a lack of boundaries. Anyone with a strong sense of  herself is going to heed the warning signs – and believe me, they are always there – of narcissistic abuse (or any other kind of abuse, for that matter) and will tell that narcissist to take a hike.

But I was a fixer, a rescuer, a yes-person. I believed that if I loved him enough, if I was unconditional enough, everything would be fine. Look at the financial crap I put up with, and that was only part of it! I literally invested everything I had into him and was arrogant enough to believe that with me, he would find happiness. It was difficult to give up on him, to finally get him out of my life, because that meant that I was giving up on what I thought I knew about myself, that I was giving up on the dream, that I had to admit that I had been taken.

And that was scary. It was humiliating and I was afraid. Almost afraid enough to stay in it. But not quite.  Thank-you, good friends.

So, those of you out there who have been raised to be good little yes-people, beware. This particularly applies to women because we are  raised that way more so than men but this can also apply to men. If it feels like you’re being taken advantage of, and especially  if you feel angry or upset at what you are asked to do, listen to yourself and examine what it is you’re feeling. That’s your warning system kicking in. You may save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache.

What to Do If Married to a Narcissist

Narcissism
Narcissism (Photo credit: overLinedesign)

A little while ago, I had these words show up in my search engine terms.  Whoever you are, this post is for you. I know what you’re going through and how bad it can be. But I also know that there’s relief to be had, that you can get your life back, and that you deserve to have your life back, no matter how guilty and responsible you’re feeling right now or how much you think you are at fault.

First of all, realize that your narcissist cannot be helped. Although some work has been done with them, it  is extremely slow – it takes years before any progress is noticeable, and even then, it will be minor. Really, narcissists are incurable. No amount of love, caring or understanding on your part will help them. Your narcissist will never love or respect you in return. They have absolutely no interest in that and they do not believe that anything is wrong with them.

Secondly, get support. Find a counsellor, a friend, a family member, someone you can trust and who will stand by you, listen to you and unconditionally help you through this. Tell this person what has been happening in your marriage. You are going to need this support because you are going to have to get this narcissist out of your life, especially if you have children. Narcissists can do a lot of damage to children. If you’re feeling unhinged because of your exposure, imagine what it can do to them.

If you can, take your time and plan how you will get this person out of your life and your home – the narcissist should leave, not you. Ask your support person to help you through this planning phase. Be sure to keep your planning secret. I’m sure you’re well aware of the rage that could erupt if your narcissist finds out what you’re doing. In the meantime, do whatever fawning or flattery you have to do to keep your narcissist calm and unaware. Lie if you have to. Get everything that you need in place – paperwork on cars, homes, bank accounts. If necessary, organize care for your children. Find a lawyer. Notify the police and have them on stand-by. And then, in the company of your support person, tell your narcissist that he or she has to immediately leave, and don’t look back.

Whatever you do, stick by the idea of getting your life back. Don’t let the narcissist’s bag of tricks dissuade you from your decision. Because that’s all it is – a bag of tricks. If you fall for it, a week later you will be right back where you started. This plan might sound harsh and almost narcissistic itself, but sometimes we have to do unpleasant things to save ourselves and our children. Remember that you’re entitled to and deserve a life that’s free of narcissistic craziness, and so do they. There’s no reasoning with a narcissist. There’s no living with a narcissist. Unless you want to accept that your life is a part of the narcissistic cesspool, and that that is what your life will be, you have no other choice but to leave.

If you’re not ready to leave yet, find a counsellor or other support person who will listen to you. Read as much as you can. There are good sources here on WordPress – try planetjan, I’m Going Slightly Mad, kimberlyharding-soulhealingart.com, In Bad Company, Scott Williams. There are many, many other sources available. You will find one that works for you.

Good luck! And remember, you are not alone.

Here There Be Dragons

English: Picture of myself, I am a narcissist....

When the ancient cartographers ran out of knowledge about a landmass they were mapping, they often labelled the area with “here there be dragons.” It was a scary unknown with who-knew-what kind of weird critters, maybe barking spiders the size of lawnmowers. It was best for them to say the worst and hope for the best, similar to what many doctors still have to do now. If the worst happens, they’ve covered their butts. If it doesn’t, then everyone is usually happy and relieved and they forget about that “worst” scenario. Or, give it a little time, and it might be thought of as foolish or silly, as we do today when we think of Antarctica as possible dragon country. Makes some sense, I suppose; they would need all that fire-breathing wrath to stay warm.

This isn’t the case with narcissists, however. They are dragons. Real live fire-breathing flying reptiles with very bad dispositions. They unpredictably swoop in, lay waste to everything in sight, and then swoop out again. And when one finds oneself in a so-called love relationship with a narcissist, well, there’s nothing there except trouble and heartbreak, baby. There’s no possibility of a real life version of  Shrek or a romantic version of How to Train Your Dragon. It’s cute when it’s on-screen, but there’s no connection to reality at all – they’re  cartoons, remember? – even if you’re out there hanging on by one fingernail and hoping that your narcissist is going  to suddenly start to love and respect you in return.

Unfortunately, most narcissists are also misogynists. My apologies to all the men out there. I don’t mean to be offensive, but it is a fact that 72% of narcissists are male, and of that number, 91% are also haters of women. (I also have to acknowledge that there is some shifting of these numbers depending on the source and there are also growing numbers of female narcissists, particularly among the under 30 age group – the numbers I’m using here are an average.) For the most part, the research says that these men were likely abused or neglected by their mothers or other significant female figures in their lives, but my experience tells me that there is at least one other issue going on as well and that this issue results in a form of misogyny that is quite layered.

Once we were married, it over time became evident to me that my former narcissist husband is a latent homosexual. (Please be aware that it is NOT my intent to suggest that narcissism is any more prevalent among the gay population than it is in the general population.) He may have acknowledged his homosexuality to himself at some point in his life, but even if he did, he then stuffed it so far away that to him, it became a nothing. Obviously, ignoring one’s sexual orientation is going to be a serious problem for even the most otherwise well-balanced individual, but coupled with the personality issues associated with narcissism and you have an explosive combination – an extremely unstable, volatile, love/hate relationship with half of the population that manifests itself in immature and adolescent acting out, temper tantrums, jealousy and envy.

In “Peekaboo, I see Me” I wrote about the fact that at some point early in their lives, most narcissists have had the ability to feel empathy turned off. The narcissist I was married to demonstrated a classic case of this. I have independent evidence to confirm that his mother eventually became a severe alcoholic who barely functioned and who may have committed suicide (I have been unable to establish the veracity of this part), that his father was distant and uninvolved, and that a younger bother died at his father’s workplace while playing unsupervised around dangerous machinery.

In the meantime, “Harry” says that he faced a social reaction from some of his peer group – they ostracized him at the insistence of their parents because of the instability of his home life. I say “some” of his peer group because it seems from much of what Harry has told me that he also had friends; maybe, however, he fixated on those who decided that they didn’t want to or couldn’t socialize with him, and maybe I will never know the truth of this portion of his life; the differing accounts are obvious.

Nevertheless, Harry’s youth was difficult and tragic and it’s easy to see why he turned off his ability to feel for others – there was just too much hurt, anger and pain; it was a lot safer to distance himself, to grow a protective armour that would deflect anything else that might damage him, and to re-invent himself and his background. While ignoring the fact that his father was at least indirectly responsible for his brother’s death, Harry re-invented him as a sort of Superman who had tried to cure all of his family’s woes while battling an evil, violent, alcoholic spouse.  For any independent, objective person, it’s clear that both parents had severe issues and were equally responsible for what happened to their sons. For Harry, however, it was black and white – Dad good, Mom bad. For the narcissist, nuance doesn’t really exist.

Into this mix comes the question of his sexual orientation. Not to say that it’s easy now, but back in the 70s it was a much more difficult proposition to deal with. Harry has tried to model himself on his version of his father as a manly hero-saint; homosexuality is completely verboten to him. Even now, with his father long since dead and with the much greater acceptance that we have today, he would find it impossible – Harry is completely invested in his invention and in any event, is incapable of self-examination. He has dedicated himself to being straight, just as he has dedicated himself to his hatred and fear of women.

However, there is an obvious inherent conflict in this position: to be “straight” he has to demonstrate a love of women, particularly to get what he really wants from them, which is to re-create the mother/son bond. Confused yet? It is confusing, and completely illogical, but that is the narcissist.

So, the narcissist goes into the charm offensive and wins the woman. He has specifically chosen this woman because she is a mark, a target and a trophy, but  also because she has demonstrated an ability to take care of him – she has money, resources, energy, a job.  He tries to enact that classic scenario of reproducing the same set of circumstances and hoping for a different outcome, namely that this relationship will somehow heal how he feels about his mother.

Was Oedipus a narcissist? Maybe.

In the meantime, he has to try to maintain the fiction that he’s a real partner who is sexually interested, when for him, the woman is a huge turn-off because of the very certainty that she’s a woman, to say nothing of the fact that he has visualized her as a sort of mother-figure, and this results in resentment and a personally directed resurfacing of his intense hatred for women. Make no wonder he can’t stand himself.

To get out of the bedroom and to dump responsibility at her door, he then starts to invent reasons why she is sexually undesirable, ranging all the way from inexperience and lack of technique to too much experience and too much technique. While she tries to think this over and figure out what went wrong and where the person she first knew has gone, he continues to dish out his hatred for women in calculated and strategic amounts that are designed to keep her off-balance; no sooner has she commenced re-building then the dragon swoops in with a fresh assault. The next thing she knows, there’s no chance to re-build, there’s only a quick moment to find cover, any cover that will provide temporary relief.

He has to empty himself of the hate he feels for her because she’s a woman, because of his envy and jealousy of her normal life, because he hates himself for hating her. He blows up, he rants and raves, he threatens, he spews vitriol. It’s one rage dump after another. And unless she gets him out of her life, that is what her life will be.

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, I’m a Narcissist and I Don’t See You

Narcissism
Narcissism (Photo credit: JasonLangheine)

I’ve already discussed how the egocentrism of narcissists leads them to construct lives where they target others who can provide them with attention, constant confirmation of their flattering self-image and who can also act as  garbage receptacles for all the negative thoughts they have about themselves. Last time, I looked at their insatiable need for re-invention, a by-product of the fact that they feel so empty and keep searching for something to fill themselves. Narcissists are essentially empty; they are in the never-ending process of divesting themselves of the negativity they heap upon themselves, but often, they can’t keep up, an over-flow situation arises, and they vomit that chaotic mass of self-hatred all over those closest to them. I refer to this outpouring or vomiting of self-hatred as the rage dump. There is no warning that this will occur, although if you are exposed enough to a narcissistic individual, you may begin to recognize some of their triggers.

Their triggers are things that may seem to have no logic attached to them, although there is usually some sort of connection to their own self-image. For instance, if the narcissist has or has had a weight problem, he or she can explode if encountering others who, in the opinion of the narcissist, has the same problem, although the individuals in question may not really have a problem at all. When the corresponding rage emerges, the narcissist does not care where he or she is, or who might hear. The narcissist I was married to had, years before I met him, overcome an extreme weight problem through gastric-bypass surgery. The self-hatred he carried around for having developed the problem in the first place was never in any way addressed through counselling, and he constantly flew into rages over what he considered to be the gluttonous weaknesses of others, including me. This rage could be anything from a series of rather loud, sarcastic comments delivered in restaurants and intended for total strangers to hear, all the way through to shouting, spitting, boiling condemnations delivered in the most vitriolic and foul language and in any venue, either public or private. It was, in fact, a public explosion of this type that was the catalyst for our final parting of the ways.

He also had a serious issue with people who wear sandals. He frequently trumpeted his opinion that no one wants to see dirty, filthy, calloused feet with thick yellowing toenails. I eventually realized that what he really despised were his own feet, and because he felt that he shouldn’t display them, no one else should display their feet, either. Remember, it’s not possible for someone else to be better than they are.

Their rage can manifest in other ways, as well. Any perceived challenges to their intelligence can spark angry tantrums that are off the chart. I once had the temerity to follow up with further information on some investment advice that my former husband wanted me to follow, and he ripped into me with the ferocity of a hurricane. This rage occurred over the phone, so I was accorded some measure of safety; however, his reaction and the words he used to describe my “behaviour”  were extreme. I had “betrayed” him. I had “abandoned” him. I was “disloyal and treacherous”. Before hanging up, he shouted, “F***k you! F***k you and the horse you rode in on! And f***k Carrie [the person who gave the financial information]! I was left shocked and reeling.

It’s not uncommon for narcissists to feel that they have had the “best” education, that no one has worked harder to succeed than they have, that no one has overcome more obstacles than they have, that because of their great intelligence, they were able to conquer the serious disadvantages of their upbringing that would have stymied a lesser person. They will often convince themselves that this is true and will spend a lot of energy on trying to convince others of it as well, even if there is much evidence to suggest that they are no smarter or have not had to overcome anything more than most of us. Much of this problem derives from the fact that they cannot accept themselves as ordinary, and as part of their constant re-invention, they are compelled to manufacture a past that makes them feel special, noticed and different.  They also believe that these qualities entitle them to weigh in with authority on any topic, whether they know what they are talking about or not. In the case of my former husband, I would have sooner taken financial advice from a chipmunk. At least they know about winter storage. The sad fact is that the complete totality of his knowledge about money is an adolescent ability to spend it, particularly on himself.

The unpredictable nature of these rage dumps can leave the recipients feeling dazed, exhausted, and vulnerable, but it also gets worse. Because most of us look for rational explanations for things, we will be left confused: there is no apparent logical reasoning for the behaviour that we have just witnessed unless we start to take it upon ourselves, a dangerous situation that together with the narcissist’s talent for projection, can lead to a vicious circle of mental abuse. So, what is the reason for these rages? The reason is that they are compensating. They want recognition and respect for being smart, intelligent, an authority, but they are insecure about it. If someone questions something they say, they fear that the questioner might be right, and therefore, the only way to re-establish a sense of superiority is to stomp on and intimidate the source of this discord. As a result of this reaction, the very things they desire – respect and recognition for their abilities – is completely lost to them and the loop begins again. The rage they feel at themselves must be eliminated, directed outward, and at the people who are the most likely to take it and the least likely to deserve it: those who are unfortunate enough to, for the time being, love them.

Peekaboo, I See Me

Portrait: 73/365 "N is for Narcissism"
Portrait: 73/365 “N is for Narcissism” (Photo credit: Twaize)

Last time in “I See Myself, Therefore I am” I discussed how the narcissist generates a sense of self through an often invented mirror image and also through unremitting attention-seeking. They believe themselves to be completely empty or at best shallow and although they are afraid that others might discover this about them, they also believe that everyone else is just like themselves. This metastasizes into one of the worst evils about narcissism: the notion that all others operate in the same way that they do. Although this sounds contradictory, given that they’re worried that others will learn about their emptiness, they cannot abide the fact that most people do have an interior being and are, to some degree or another, concerned about the impact they may have on others. Narcissists just don’t accept this.

This type of projection is poisonous and crazy-making. Because narcissists at some point in their lives were damaged (or perhaps were even born that way) and had their ability to feel empathy turned off,  they all come to the conclusion that everyone else has had the same thing happen and that no one is capable of feeling  for another. The narcissist believes that essentially, we are all walking around lying about our feelings for others; at best we are pretending. Even though they have an inkling that this might not be true, as evidenced by their fear of having their emptiness found out, they behave as if it is true. The result is this then: every relationship they enter into is nothing more than a battle ground where they fight to inflict damage before it can be inflicted on them, where everyone is an enemy to be controlled and defeated, and where no one is to be trusted unless he or she can be absolutely subdued and mastered. All must be viewed with suspicion, because remember, we’re all waiting to do the same to them.

You might be wondering, then, why with this level of projection going on, they might ever enter into a relationship in the first place. Don’t forget that they’re empty and need attention to feel that they actually exist; therefore, they must have someone to provide that for them, so then the search begins. Their method of choice for winning people over is what I call a charm offensive. They can charm the birds right out of the trees. They compliment excessively, especially in areas where you might feel a little weak, they do little things for you, they buy you thoughtful presents; they make you feel valued and appreciated. They will walk over burning coals, hike through deserts or scale glaciers for you. They are charismatic and winning. They will make you feel like you are the only person who matters to them because you are the only person who matters to them. You are a target, a mark, a trophy, and they have a lot invested in you. And once you start to believe them, then, well, then everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world starts to tilt, because then the projection starts.

Very slowly, they begin to point out the things that are wrong with you, and because you have decided to trust them and also because you relate to others with thoughtfulness and empathy, you seriously consider what they have to say even though these negatives may be completely foreign to you. It might start with a suggestion to change your hair colour, or alter the brand of perfume you use. These “suggestions” are initially subtle and insidious but they continue to grow, both in volume and degree of importance. The next thing you know, your best friend whom you have known for 20 years is a pathetic a**hole who makes your life completely miserable. You have no taste in clothes or furniture and completely lack any sense of style. Your new car is a cheap piece of crap. Your new home has all sorts of things wrong with it. You have never worked hard in your life and you chose your career in order to be paid as much as possible for doing as little as possible. Your neighbours are a bunch of yelping harpies. You’re a miserable, fat lazy whiner who does nothing except sleep. You’re a tight fisted cheap skate. You have absolutely no idea what hardships are and would fail if you ever had to face any of them. You achieve your happiness at the expense of everyone around you. You’re a sexual adolescent who is clueless about intimacy. You don’t appreciate me.  You refuse to share. You’re stupid. You’re cruel to me. You’re a vindictive liar. You have no idea how to love anyone except yourself. You’re worthless, useless and a complete waste of skin. It would solve a lot of problems if you didn’t exist.

Do you see the projection? This is what they think of themselves. They swim in a vast cistern of jealousy-inspired hatred – hatred for themselves and hatred for all those people out there who seem to be better than they are, so they set out to prove that no one is superior to them, and they tear apart anyone with whom they become involved. Apart from stealing whatever they can from you, that is their raison d’être. The upshot is that unless you extricate yourself from this downward spiral, you wind up in a completely isolated deathtrap of a relationship with only a dim awareness of the fact that once upon a time, you had a perfectly good life.

For part three of this very lengthy definition, I am going to quote Gertrude Stein, who famously said, “There’s no there there.” She wasn’t referring to narcissists at the time, but as a succinct description of what they are, or perhaps I should say what they aren’t, truer words were never spoken.

Is There a Narcissist in Your Life?

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...
Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I’ve considered this blog for a while now. Thinking about it – mulling it over, noodling. And then I realized that the very reason that I’ve been holding back on starting it is the reason why I wanted to start writing it in the first place: fear.

We live with fear all the time. Fear of being alone. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of being dumped. Fear of being wrong. Extreme cases of fear get their own category; we call them phobias. Agoraphobia: fear of leaving safety. Acrophobia: fear of heights. Arachnophobia: fear of spiders, not to be confused with Arachibutyrophobia, which is a fear of having peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth. We even have a name for a fear of the northern lights: auroraphobia. And by the way, not all words describing phobias begin with the letter “A” although there does seem to be a lot of them.

Then there are all the famous pronouncements about fear that we are supposed to soak up during childhood so that as adults we aren’t stopped by fear (I have a lot to say about being stopped by fear; I’ll come to it later if you’re willing to wait): The only thing we have to fear is fear itself (Franklin D. Roosevelt). Fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind (Dale Carnegie). He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat (Napoleon Bonaparte). Pretty ironic, considering what happened to him. Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world (Ralph Waldo Emerson). We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than reality (Seneca). Good stuff, really, but the fact is that fear is often maligned.

It’s a biological imperative that’s designed to keep us safe so that we can procreate and ensure the survival of the species. If we don’t fear things, we will fall off cliffs after being bitten by spiders because we were fearless enough to leave our safe abodes so that we could watch the northern lights in the middle of an otherwise very dark night. And the worse part is that we won’t be able to cry out for help because we will have peanut butter stuck to the roofs of our mouths. Why then, does fear get such a bad rap?

Almost universally, we see the conquering of fear as heroic, romantic, swashbuckling. It seems that if we don’t dump our fears, that we’re somehow wanting, somehow less than human; we’re anemic, watery cutouts who don’t deserve to be trusted. We will fall apart at the most inopportune time and become needy of rescue ourselves.

We judge others based on how well we perceive them to be handling fear and we are unreasonably proud of ourselves when we feel that we have overcome fear. However, it can be liberating, freeing in a way that allows us to really live, to be able to leave our houses knowing that there might be cliffs and spiders out there and that the northern lights are a marvel, not a menace.

The fact is that we need fear, but we can’t let it get the better of us – we have to use our judgement about it, but that’s where it gets tricky. That’s where uncertainty and hesitancy creep in, causing us to second-guess, to look for answers, for direction. If that weren’t the case, then we wouldn’t have a huge industry selling self-help materials. Therapists of all stripes would disappear. Life management courses would tank. The idea of asking a friend or elder for advice would become quaint.

We would all know what to do, all the time. And I’m glad that I don’t, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone on the journey that I did when I married a narcissist. I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it and about what I learned about myself and about fear and about how it has helped me to find happiness and contentment in my life.

So if you would like, join me and I’ll tell you all about it.