Tag Archives: narcissist

Mourning the Loss of a Narcissist

There are many types of losses, most of which are natural and normal, even if they hurt like hell. Most of us will experience the loss of parents and grandparents, the loss of a relationship or two, the loss of a friendship. Some losses are much worse than others; the loss of a child, for instance.

Even under the best of circumstances, loss carries a huge emotional load, but when you’re dealing with the loss of a narcissist, there are whole other dimensions to consider.

It’s not just the actual physical loss: the loss of the person, the loss of that relationship, the loss of that duo-dom.

It’s the loss of much of yourself.

You’re stuck in mud, your feet becoming larger and larger as the mud adheres to your shoes and tries to hold you tightly.

You’re not just hurting from the loss of the relationship, you’re hurting from the loss of yourself: your self-confidence, your judgement, your logic.

Breakups are painful, but when the breakup involves a narcissist, there is so much more to navigate. Narcissists are litigious and aggressive, so a good lawyer (read expensive) might be required. In my case, the ex-N became threatening and I had to go to the police. I had to change my door locks, install an alarm system and hire a security company.

In the meantime, he was hammering away with every type of hoover he could think of.

At the time I didn’t know that that behaviour had a name and I didn’t know about no contact. I just wanted to get his stuff out of my house.

The simple fact is that you might not even realise until much later what you have been involved with, and until that becomes clear, the mud will stick to your shoes in a big way.

When I got my ex-N out of my life, I wasn’t very knowledgeable about narcissism, but I knew that he had to go and I had to get help.

I was fortunate on several levels: there were no children, I had financial stability (my ex-N put a huge dent in that but I was essentially okay), and I had a good supplementary heath plan and could afford counselling.

The counselling portion of my quest to reclaim my life was very important because I wasn’t just mourning the loss of a relationship; I had to come to terms with the underlying reasons for my involvement with the narcissist.

That was hard – very hard. It required me to look at myself in ways that were uncomfortable and difficult.

I had to get to know myself better. And getting to know myself was paramount because it is my best defense against further involvement with another N.

In the meantime, my sense of self, my judgement and confidence were all on life support and I had no trust in them at all.

I had to rebuild, and the structure that came out is nothing that I expected. I like it though. It’s a good structure, even if it’s not pretty.

Most of all, I had to let myself grieve: I had to recognise the guilt and stupidity I felt about myself, forgive myself for that part of my humanity, and allow myself some relief from the self-criticism.

With help, I let myself off the hook and began to learn what I need to learn from this experience.

What are your thoughts about mourning?

Donald Trump and the Cult of Narcissism

The US election campaign is winding down and there’s not much left to do except the counting. There’s been an absolute, batshit-crazy amount of talk, writing, crying, and gnashing of teeth over it. And with good cause.

For multitudinous reasons, the country that I live next to and admire is poised to possibly elect as its president one of the least qualified people they could possibly find anywhere. An orange-tinted, intellectually challenged, morally bankrupt, emotionally unstable pussy-grabber.

Yes. Pussy-grabber. It’s not my term. I borrowed it off Bill Maher, but it is lovely, isn’t it?

I’m dismayed at the depth and degree of racism, prejudice and outright anger that Trump’s presidential bid has uncovered. Seriously, it makes me cringe. And it seems that the people who follow him can’t be dissuaded by any degree of outrageous behaviour on his part. He tells whopping great lies. His idea of foreign policy is to build a wall. He makes really inappropriate sexual comments about his own daughters. He has demonstrated what borders on hatred, or at the very least, a profound contempt for women, the handicapped, blacks, Hispanics and anyone else who’s not a white male, except for Muslims of course. He has called for Clinton to be “locked up.” Some of his followers are even shouting for her to be “executed.” He has associated with white supremacists. He loves Putin. He steals. He cheats.

More than once, I have found myself speechless at his inane pomposity, sanctimony and juvenile belief in his own superiority.

A number of moons ago, no one believed that Trump would get very far. He was seen as a hard-right, narcissistic fruit loop who couldn’t find his own ass with both hands and a map. He was incapable of leading a trip to the toilet.

How times change.

Now he’s a hard-right, psychopathic fruit loop who still can’t find his own ass with both hands and a map.

He’s amped himself up.

And so have the rest of us. Some people are now starting to refer to him as another Hitler. Is that going too far?

Is he a narcissist? A psychopath? Someone who is just exploiting those characteristics in order to get elected? But then, wouldn’t that make him a narcissist/psychopath anyway?

Donald Trump, anyone? (Photo courtesy of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary.)
Donald Trump, anyone? (Photo courtesy of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary.)

Should those terms even be bandied about? The terms narcissist, narcissism, narcissist, psychopath and psychopathic have been very popularly, very loosely used over the last few years. Have they started to lose their impact, their importance, through overuse?

Is this one of those times when those words really do apply to someone and people are ignoring them because vocabulary fatigue has set in?

I’m feeling some caution here. I’m not a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist, but I’m convinced that I was married to a narcissist. I started writing publicly about that experience, right here, in this blog. So, from one point of view, the one that says that I am not equipped to do any diagnosing, I really shouldn’t have done that.

I follow others who also write about narcissism and its effects. They are insightful, smart, knowledgable and experienced. And me, I’m writing about it right now. Am I just part of a sort of weird cult that thinks and writes obsessively about narcissism? A cult that will eventually disappear, the idea and popularity of writing about narcissism having burned itself out?

Yet …

On the other hand, I’m an intelligent, well-read person who can figure things out. And I know that I was married to a narcissist, especially now that I have some distance from that experience. I know that it’s important to write about it, to read about it, to reflect on the importance it has had in my life. I know about narcissism.

Various professional psychiatric organisations in the US have warned their members not to weigh in on Trump by giving some sort of diagnosis. And that’s how it should be, otherwise there could be a great deal of abuse.

But … I know they can’t comment, that to do that would fly in the face of every ethical precept.

But. But, but, but.

This man is dangerous.  And a lot of people aren’t getting that.

I believe that at the very least, Trump probably has narcissistic personality disorder. He strongly reminds me of my ex-narcissist. So yes, I’ve just done a pseudo-diagnosis and hung another label on him. Sometimes, you just have to use a label and call him what he is. A pussy-grabber?

But all joking aside, I believe that as a result of his NPD, he’s not fit to be president of a row-boat society, let alone a country that has a huge military and a large nuclear arsenal.

If he wins, he will be so blithely unaware that he will be open to manipulation from other world leaders and from his own government. His judgement – about anything – will be unreliable and suspect. He will be unpredictable. He will be uncaring and exploitative. He will be vindictive and petty. Once there, he won’t really want the actual job. For him, this is only a trophy. And it’s one he will want to keep for life.

Is there a sort of “narcissism fatigue”? Perhaps. Are some of us too preoccupied with this personality issue and therefore stealing some of its thunder, so to speak? Maybe.

Could this be part of the reason why people aren’t taking Trump’s obvious drawbacks as seriously as they should?

Or is it more important to people to do a protest vote than to think about its consequences?

Many people might say that all Trump is doing is saying what he thinks, and that that’s no different from what I’m doing. Hummm.

What I do know is that years of reading, writing and thinking about narcissism tells me that a Trump government will be an absolute mess, and maybe worse.

I hope that I’m worried about nothing. But then, that’s only the beginning, isn’t it? Because really, the reasons for Trump’s popularity need some serious sorting.

What do you think?

 

For J

This is for my beloved sister J, who passed away on December 26 after a short struggle with cancer. I love you, J.

 

You have always been kind and tough and thoughtful and practical.

And you learned early how to deal with the family’s narcissists. Before it was popular, you knew a kind of no contact and lived it. Your own kind.

Distance did it. Physical distance. Mental distance.

I, much younger, didn’t really know you.

Not until much later. Not until now, really.

And then, we faced another narcissist. This time, together. Looked at our heritage.

But you handled that, too. Adroitly, as you always have. Even as you grew smaller and smaller and your world grew smaller and smaller.

The one who wasn’t “smart.”

The one who always knew but didn’t fuss. Just lived.

I’ve had a good long life, you said.

I wish it was longer.

I wish I didn’t have to say good-bye.

Narcissism’s Emotional Fallout

I’ve noticed from time to time a tendency on some of the narcissism blogs that I read, for people to get a little testy about the things said about narcissism, narcissists and their victims. I have experienced testy commentary a couple of times and in one case, an outright angry response to a comment that I made – an accusation that I didn’t understand narcissism, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I didn’t know what it is like to be a victim.

Initially, I was hurt by the remark. I took it personally.

Reading, writing and thinking about narcissism is an emotional and arduous task. It requires a great deal of work, very difficult work that takes time, effort and sometimes, money.

When I first separated from my ex-narcissist, I went for counselling. I was fortunate on several fronts. First, I had a health care account that allowed me to cover the cost of counselling. Secondly, I had an excellent counsellor. And last, but not least, I had very supportive people in my life.

I moved on. I started a new relationship with a man to whom I am now married. My life is good, better than it has ever been, in fact.

I also started this blog. Initially, it was only about narcissism, but as I recovered and grew,  I moved on to other subjects, too.

I still write about narcissism, obviously. I still read about narcissism. I still think about narcissism. A lot.

I have realized, too, that my recovery is not complete, and that it likely never will be. I am still processing many things about narcissism, and have also come to the realization that my mom was probably also a narcissist. That means that I may be an ACON, or an adult child of a narcissist(s).

This has opened an entire other door for me. One that I didn’t consciously know was there. It was a surprise, but also not a surprise.

I knew that something was wrong, but I thought it was always my fault. I spent a great deal of time trying to “fix” myself.

But what I know now is that I’m mostly okay. I have tendencies to behave in certain ways that I learned when I was a child. I am slowly getting that some of these “behaviours” are actually just reactions.

I am taking the time to slowly process a somewhat difficult childhood that lead to some rather shitty decisions on my part. I’m finally starting to really see that I am in charge now, that my decisions are my own and my responsibility.

My pronounced childhood stutter is almost entirely gone.

I don’t take testy commentary personally any more.

Dealing with and processing narcissism is work. And like any other work, it can be frustrating, boring and tiresome. But this work also demands a great deal of intense emotional investment. It’s draining and exhausting.

So, people who are deeply processing can make comments that come out of an emotional hole. They can sound waspish and bitter, or even ridiculous and idiotic. They may be grief-stricken or preachy. And, they may be making the same comment for the 3,405th time because they still can’t believe it and still have to say it. And that’s okay, too.

Repetition can be the mother of recovery.

And recovery is what many of us are here for, right?

Where Does Narcissism Come from? Part III

Two recent small studies have indicated that narcissists suffer from a lack of grey matter in the cerebral cortex; as one of them (Altered Brain Structure in Pathological Narcissism) says, there are “structural abnormalities in precisely that region of the brain which is involved in the processing and generation of compassion” (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/1306/19101434.htm). The other study, which I found at psychcentral.com>News>Research News indicates a very similar result. In a nutshell, these studies, through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, indicated that the brains of the narcissists studied are underdeveloped in the areas that control empathy, compassion and selflessness.

So, finally, there is scientific evidence that narcissists have a definitive problem with their brains. This is something that I have instinctively believed right from the beginning of my investigation into the causes and effects of narcissism.

It felt to me, and still feels, that to espouse the notion that narcissism is caused by poor parenting from the mother is totally simplistic and completely lacking in a recognition of the complexity of the human brain; it’s reductionist, to say the least. To say the worst, it just seems to be another attempt to arbitrarily throw responsibility for a societal problem onto the shoulders of women, again.

Yes, there are mothers who are responsible for having perpetrated the narcissistic wound in their children. But there are also fathers, other caretakers, and perhaps anyone else who came into contact with the child who later develops Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

However, I’m getting off-track a little here.

I see these two studies as having a couple of serious problems.

Firstly, there’s no way that the MRI can determine if the damage inflicted was the result of childhood experiential trauma to the tender developing brain or if the child was born with it.  The damage could also be a combination of both brain chemistry and  experience.

Secondly, the studies are both very small. Less than 50 partcipants. What can those small numbers tell us about anything? Well, as for most things in life, researchers have to start somewhere, and so it was that they started with two small groups. There other thing the small numbers tell me is that the researchers had trouble finding narcissists who would participate. In fact, in one of the studies, the participants were incarcerated.

Narcissists, by their very nature, can’t abide any kind of recognition that they might be less than perfect. To participate in a study where you might be confirmed as having a brain development issue – well, that’s just not on their radar.

To me, it’s perfectly understandable why the researchers turned to a, er, captive audience, so to speak. It must be frustrating to try to study a group that refuses to be studied, that in fact refuses to believe there’s anything wrong.

What would happen if, for instance, diabetics refused to be studied? If they refused to acknowledge that their pancreases aren’t functioning properly? I can easily see researchers turning to a prison population to try to get information.

However, I can also see something else, too: the probable, eventual dismissal of any attention to the issue from the society at large. This would be completely normal, really. What to do with a population that refuses to even recognize that there’s a life – threatening health problem?

Conversation on the matter would likely go something like this: Well, we’ve tried everything. If they won’t recognize the problem then there’s nothing we can do. We just have to let them go. It’s too bad when they go into shock, but that’s their own fault, isn’t it? Just wheel them out of the road when that happens. That’s all we can do.

Eventually, the only people who might care about those with diabetes would be those who have some sort of personal connection. Most others would likely just melt away. Research would become a niche area reserved for eccentrics. Really, there would be little reason for most people to remain involved.

Of course, this is not how we feel about diabetics. Behaving that way would be cruel and bordering on psychopathic, even if it were true that diabetics are unable to recognize their own illness.

Why is narcissism an exception, then?  It’s starting to take on the same proportions; it’s beginning to become a very serious, international mental health issue. We are suffering from it personally, economically, and politically. It is widespread and is spreading further. All any of us has to do is Google “narcissism” and look at the results. An awful lot of people have been victims of it: it infects our work lives, our home lives, and every level of government and finance. There are also serious concerns about what’s happening to our children and young adults in this atmosphere of helicopter parents and societal fear of failure.

But it’s not perceived as a problem. Or if it is, it’s someone else’s, or it’s the narcissist’s own. Just wheel them out of the road. Or more correctly, wheel the carnage they cause out of the road.

Yes, these scientists seem to be very alone and out in the weeds with their research, but in my opinion they should be supported and encouraged in every way possible. We need the information. Our world needs this information.

What is your opinion? Should narcissism research receive more support? Should we  begin treating narcissism as a serious mental health issue that society needs to work on?

What Makes Someone Chase a Narcissist?

Right now I’m working on Part III of “Where Does Narcissism Come From” but it’s not ready yet as I’m just now recovering from a nasty bout of flu. So, in the meantime, I’m recycling. Here’s an old post that continues to generate a lot of interest. Have a good weekend. 🙂

In the Net! - Stories of Life and Narcissistic Survival

This post has been prompted by ruleofstupid, who produces one of the best blogs at WordPress, in my humble opinion. If you haven’t dropped by for a visit, you really should. His social commentary, poetry and music are by turns thought-provoking, funny, witty and sad, but never ever boring. I’m really surprised that he hasn’t been Freshly Pressed yet. If you think that’s a message to the powers that be for them to do so, then you’re right. Get going, WordPress!

In any event, RoS commented on my last post that he wanted to read about the other side of this narcissist issue. What makes a perfectly sensible someone chase a narcissist instead of telling them to f**k off? Well, the first simple answer is that the people who are involved in narcissist-chasing don’t realize that that’s what they are doing. The second simple answer is that usually, narcissists are…

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Where Does Narcissism Come From? Part II

From what I experienced with my ex-husband, narcissism, and by that I mean the extreme narcissism that produces narcissistic personality disorder, is a result of a combination of personality and environmental factors.

Harry, my ex-narcissist, seems to me to have been born with a personality – in other words, the basic personality that was the result of his genetic inheritance – that left him unable to cope with much in the way of emotional upheaval. As a child, he was was probably much more emotional and sensitive than most people.

That was in the 1940s. And being an “emotional” boy would not have been an accepted trait during that time. He likely would have been castigated for any displays of emotion. “Boys don’t cry.” “Act like a man.” “Toughen up.” And so on.

Then, from what I’ve been able to piece together, the perfect confluence of long-term emotional upheaval began: his mother developed a drinking problem and was sent away by Harry’s father to get treatment. She was gone for a long period of time, possibly more than a year. Then, Harry’s father, distant to begin with, exposed Harry to a sort of uninvolved neglect. It could also be that at about this time, Harry became nascently aware that he’s gay – he was around ten.

As a result of these nurturing deficiencies, Harry became locked into childhood behaviour. He developed a love/hate relationship with women. He was in awe of his distant father. As he became older, he enacted repeatedly the wounding that he suffered from his parents, spreading it to others like a plague, hoping, on a subconscious level, to eliminate it from his life, or worse yet, dropping it on others so that they could feel the same way that he does. After all, it isn’t “fair” for others to feel better than he does.

Because he was a child when this occurred, with a child’s sense of understanding and logic, the narcissistic wounding was perceived through a child’s eyes. A childlike reaction resulted: in particular, narcissists react to criticism in very childlike ways. They are hypersensitive to any kind of perceived negativity that might be directed at them. One cliche certainly applies to narcissists and criticism: they can dish it out but they can’t take it. Eventually, the original wounding is forgotten and buried, and the narcissist can no longer make any kind of connection between event and  behaviour, if a connection had ever consciously been made in the first place.

Although Harry is a grown man physically, he relates to the world through the brain of a sensitive child who was damaged beyond repair. He has developed coping mechanisms and armour to protect himself from further injury. He has objectified others so that they can’t hurt him; since others are to be viewed with mistrust and suspicion, they become tools. Despite this, he is aware that others function better than he does, so he frequently copies them, masquerading what he interprets as “normal” behaviour. The fact that others seem to function better than him also causes frustration and rage. He thinks, “I’m doing what they’re doing. I’m saying what they’re saying. And I still can’t get it right.” He has completely lost himself in a confused morass of borrowed behaviours, opinions and habits, looking for the right fit, as if buying a new suit.

The sensitive child still lives within him, so there is a further impetus to over-react to criticism, or, he might perceive as criticism an action or comment that is completely innocuous. His bewilderment has continued to grow as he sees others handling criticism in a much healthier way, even as he sees them as objects of suspicion.

He doesn’t understand others or himself. He doesn’t understand life. He just emulates it. And he’s built such a ferocious, defensive fortress for himself, and has such mistrust of others, that he’s never going to admit that anything is wrong, let alone allow someone to help him.

He has wound up with no self of his own. He doesn’t know what he thinks or believes about anything. He might say that he believes or thinks this or that, but it’s only temporary. He will change his mind ten seconds later.

He is constantly on the hunt for some sort of satisfaction, idealizing, devaluing and discarding as he goes. He tries to soothe himself with the acquisition of things and money and people.

He doesn’t know love. He doesn’t know comfort. He doesn’t know empathy. He’s completely empty except for that infected, weeping wound and the fear and anger that it generates.

And the worst part is that he has come to the conclusion that everyone else operates in the same way. We’re all like him – without scruples, without principles, without truth.

There are times when I feel very sorry for Harry. He didn’t have the best childhood. He grew up during a time when it was expected that men be “tough.” A younger brother died in a tragic accident. He went on to face other life difficulties.

But then I stop to remember that there are many, many people who have it much, much worse than Harry, but who treat others with genuine courtesy and respect.

Is Harry, and are narcissists in general, more to be pitied than blamed? In many ways, they don’t know what they’re doing. Or should they be held to account, even if they don’t fully understand what that means? What do you think?

In my next installment on narcissism, I plan to look at the emerging theory that narcissism is the result of abnormal brain structure.