|Posted on June 27, 2015 at 4:30 PM|
By: Jacqueline Hart
Do you suspect you are, or have been, in a relationship with a narcissist? Have you felt like the behavior of a loved one, co-worker or close friend drains you on a regular basis or leaves you feeling like you're the crazy one? Have you felt like:
two people live in your partner's body; Prince Charming and a guy with an explosive even abusive, temper
your parent/s sabotage instead of support you
your friend wears a target, attracting life altering events that have you exhausted coming to her/his aid
your co-worker acts like your friend when its the two of you, and your adversary in front of the boss
your mentor shuts you down instead of encouraging your growth
your therapist laughs at you, not with you, or discounts you or your feelings inappropriately.
I have been in relationships with all of the above. I know, its ridiculous. A clown car of crazy followed me into this life and I swear every time I thought I was rid of them all, out popped another! I have learned, like many people with a primary caregiver in early childhood with personality disorder, I am equipped with a beacon that attracts narcissists to me like Fan Girls to a Winchester! (I'm a Dean girl, myself!)
I was hard-wired to cater to the needs of the narcissist at the expense of my identity, dignity, sanity, financial stability and emotional and physical safety.
I am blessed beyond belief to have had these teachers in my life because I was forced to literally, own my shit, live my truth and shine my light, or die from the despair of an unfulfilled life. A narcissist will drain you, to feed their ego, and when you need them or need them to own up to and change an abusive behavior, they will either disappear or punish you (sometimes both). They will often blame you, for ending the relationship, or for forcing them to, without ever acknowledging their part.
As I did my own work around my side of this enigma in my relationships, I often had to check in and ask myself if I was sure it was them and not me. What if I was paranoid or a narcissist, projecting? Many of the books about how to build healthy boundaries with the narcissist you can't escape, counseled writing a list of all the offenses the narcissistic loved one had committed. The books directed the reader to re-read the list whenever denial and self blame started to creep in. I did that. I hated that list. Therapeutic to write it and burn it. Sick to pull it out and read it every time I questioned the diagnosis I gave to a loved one, especially when I wasn't qualified to give the diagnosis to begin with.
A friend of mine who was qualified, with a Masters in Psychology, gave me this little gem: "The common thread that runs through personality disorders of all types, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD, is the person in question has no insight, into themselves." They cannot admit their mistakes and will not, when confronted with the wreckage their behavior is causing or the proof of lies they have told, look inside and do a simple inventory of their own motives and actions. The process of self inventory most of us take for granted looks like this:
Someone brings to our attention something we have done or said that hurt them or caused them harm
We look within and assess if we were in the wrong or thoughtless and decide if we have in fact, caused harm
We may put ourselves in the other person shoes and ask if we were on the receiving end of this behavior, would we feel wronged (more commonly known as empathizing)
We determine if we were in fact behaving inappropriately
We may look at why or how we behaved this way
We go to the person and do what we can to make it right
Moving forward this behavior and/or it's cause is something we are more aware of and we take steps not to repeat the mistake and cause more harm
*** Our motive for change is to be a more thoughtful person, to grow and mature and to not cause harm unintentionally****
A psychic gave me a description I like even better: "The path to their (the narcissist's) heart is just missing." I like this one better because it inspires genuine compassion in my own heart, which helps me to forgive. The path to my own heart is sometimes torn up, other times its lit like a christmas tree and either way I can find it effortlessly. I cannot imagine an existence without my heart guiding me and I don't want to. It feels like torture, and no one deserves to live that way.
A narcissist is not capable of the process of self inventory, mentioned above. They desire to manipulate the response they need from you to meet their physical, emotional or ego needs. Personal growth does not interest them, but some will go to great lengths to make it appear like it does.
Sometimes, if we call them out, no matter how lovingly, about their cheating, lying, condescending remarks, anger or manipulation of our time, we have just committed an act of betrayal they will never let go or stop punishing us for. They will defend whatever they have done, by convincing us they only did it because of something we did to them, even if we have done nothing wrong. They are also likely to use what we did as their excuse for hurting us, even though they have never brought, the often imagined or exaggerated, offense to our attention before.
They might also choose to fake insightful. They use this tactic if there is something to be gained for them by ensuring our continued loyalty, like: affection, money, or just getting us to turn a blind eye so they can screw us over again. They can and often will put on an oscar worthy performance of remorse. I believe their fear and pain is real. They are all terrified to be abandoned.
My ex broke up with me 17 times before I stopped counting. I have realized, the break ups were pre-emptive strikes, when he feared I might be ready to leave him. Better to leave me, than to be left. I would respond by surrendering my power to him and humiliate myself to get our relationship back. I would justify by saying, "I'll just do this one more time, then he will stop." Sounds eerily like any other form of abuse, right? When I finally stopped hiding from the truth of the abuse in our relationship, and he inevitably threatened to leave again, I held the door open for him as he left, rather than surrender to his need for me to grovel. I'll admit, not taking the blame for not chasing after him after all of those years and allowing the relationship, and him, to just go, was like the emotional version of kicking heroin. I knew he was bad for me but I wanted my fix, the honeymoon period promised when I have been adequately punished (for what crime, I have no idea) and he decides to "forgive me" and come back. (Often he was forgiving me for pushing him to calling me names, hitting me, emotional affairs he had, etc..)I also became aware, I was terrified of his anger and retaliation for not participating in his game. It was easier to go back than it was to walk through the fear.
But my spiritual beliefs don't leave room for the victim experience to continue once I become aware I'm being abused. So I had to ask myself, "Why? Where is the lesson? What did I sign up for here and what am I supposed to be seeing about me?
When I learned NPD only affects about 2.3% of the population, I thought it highly unlikely, statistically speaking, to have so many in my life by accident. What was I being taught, I asked myself? What am I getting from this that keeps me going back for more of the same abuse? What is my pay-off?
When a narcissist is doing charming, they kill it! Everyone loves (insert any narcissist here) and I'm no where near as adored and popular as they are. On the surface it was sensible to conclude I was the problem. I wanted to be seen and to be loved. They appear to see us like no one else because they study us, learn our fears, desires and needs and seem to really care about us. Then they take everything they know and use it against us, in ways that will hurt to the core of any of our un-healed emotional wounds. If the fear is, " I am not strong enough," they will pump us up until we feel like Wonder-Woman or Superman and then berate us with a sick lecture about our weakness. If the fear is, "I am not physically attractive enough," they will compliment our looks for a period of time and then say things to make us feel they find us repulsive. In a nutshell, when they discover a place where we feel insecure, they promote security and dependance upon them for this sense of security, then take it away.
What I finally accepted is these relationships were holding up a mirror and showing me where I lacked self-love. A healthy sense of self is kryptonite to narcissists. Not only do they leave us alone, we begin to spot them from a mile away. I learned I was not cursed by these relationships, I was blessed by a universe that would not allow me to marinate in wounds from my past. When the pain of the present is too much to bear, most of us become willing to do the healing work necessary to survive. The result is usually far better than mere survival. Its re-discovering the self buried within we left behind. It's celebrating our power, our ability to give and receive love and to release the need for approval the narcissist was filling. When we don't need other people's approval, narcissists are powerless to get in our heads and hearts.
I found it was just as important for me to forgive them all. Part of that process is going within and owning my pay-off from the abuse. Another part is not being afraid to see their pain. We (the not afflicted with NPD) can heal, anytime we want to and walk away from abusive relationships with narcissists. They usually cannot, or choose not to. They are stuck with the suffering. We are free to go. So who's really the victim?
If, by some miracle, they start to realize their own behavior, they will for the first time have to start seeing the damage they have caused in their lives was their doing, which is difficult, sometimes impossible, for them to accept. Most of us get uncomfortable with this for a time, then start to realize how empowering it is to own and release negative behaviors. But blaming for narcissists is their reality. I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be to suddenly realize it really isn't anyone else's fault you hurt your kids, wife, family and/or friends. Most of us know we cause our experience in this life with our choices. A narcissist really doesn't get that. It's always someone else's fault to them.
For me the path to healing meant to speak my truth to the narcissists in my life, without allowing them to convince me otherwise. If they did not approve, so be it. My truth just is and I don't have to change it to please anyone. I also needed to get honest about what is and is not okay with me. If they chose to continue to cross boundaries I had to let them go or adopt behaviors to protect me from them. It sounded this ridiculous:
"I don't think it's conducive to a healthy marriage for you to call me a c*!t because I want to spend time with you and it is cheating to send nude pictures of yourself to people you meet on the internet, behind my back."
"I am hurt because you said you have cancer and you don't."
"It is not okay to call your business partner, "Baby."
"It is not appropriate for you to send Christmas cards to my daughter that call her a bitch and you will need to stop contacting all of my children."
For the most part, it isn't necessary to confront the behavior of the narcissist any more than it takes for us to prove to ourselves that they truly are suffering from "not having a path to their heart." It is simply necessary to do what is best for us and get out of condoning, excusing, mirroring or tolerating the behavior, by getting out of the relationship whenever possible. If we can't, mindfulness will save the day. We stay in our truth, behave in a way that is authentic to us and we don't let them pull us into their perceptions and drama, no matter what.
When we value ourselves first, love ourselves first, we vigilantly protect our personal power. By not giving our power to the narcissist, our suffering, our abuse, ends. We are free to accept and receive love in a healthy way that never requires us to dim our light, or appear to dumb down and hide our strength. We can celebrate living free from the imagined hold they had on us. This is the effect the healing of the wounds the narcissist leaves behind has on us. We can be grateful they came into our lives and inspired us to own our strength.
We can forgive.