The title of this piece was inspired by a line in a chapter in Robert Greene’s – The 48 Laws of Power. It is a very interesting book, one which I enjoyed reading. I did not read this book because I was a wannabe Bond villain hoping to learn how to take over the world. I read it, along with many other books on power, because I have a fascination with the dynamics of power.
I am not the least bit interested in controlling others, my aim lies in the opposite direction. I grew up in a highly controlling and manipulative environment and it inspired within me a burning passion for freedom. Not just freedom for myself, although at first that was all I was focused upon, but also freedom for others. I wanted people to feel free around me, to be themselves, express whatever they wanted to express… to basically be able to do what I also wanted to do. Just be and enjoy discovering what being was all about.
I realised in my search for personal freedom that to be free you have to give to others that which you desire. They do not necessarily return the gift, but that is not the reason for giving it. In giving freedom freely, you free yourself. So you give to others to give to yourself.
If you want to be in a relationship of any kind which supports personal freedom, then you must support the personal freedom of the other person. If you don’t want to be controlled or manipulated, then you must not control and manipulate.
Which is easier said than done.
Even if you are someone who does not want power over others, people have a tendency to hand their power over to you before they even know you and whether it is a good idea to give you such a thing. And before you know it you’re holding someone’s heart or life in your hands and you’re not sure what to do with it because you never asked for it, or even accepted it, they just threw it at you and you caught it by reflex. Now what? You try to give it back, but they don’t want it, it was a gift and now they’re upset because you’re returning it. And suddenly you find they have power over you, your heart, your life, because they’ve given you something you can’t give back.
Sometimes the less a person knows you, the more likely they are to give you power over them, the more they get to know you, the more likely they are to try and have power over you. It’s an odd dynamic, but humans are odd.
So learning how the dynamics of power work helps to rebalance the power in relationships. When someone is trying to give you power over them and their life, you use the classic power games and flip them around to reverse the flow of power and give back to the other what they are trying to give to you. Basically you are rejecting their gift of power, but at the same time trying to show them that what they want to give to you is something of value to them and they should keep it and value it.
Blame is one of those power gifts. And if you have a relationship with a Narcissist, you’ll get to know this powerful gift very well.
If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, you will experience all of the above except for the freedom bit. They demand infinite freedom for themselves, but you belong to them. They give you power over them from the moment they see you, and everything they do after that is an attempt to get power over you, get their power back, and take yours too. They are power junkies.
One of the things which struck me the most after reading the book was that were a person to take every piece of advice in it they would end up being very confused, perhaps more so than before they read it as many of the chapters contradict other ones. One minute he tells you to stand out from the crowd and the next minute he’s telling you to use the crowd as camouflage.
Giving contradictory information is a law of power. At least it is in the handbook of power that Narcissists use. Keep your opponent confused and you hold the winning hand in the game of manipulation.
If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, there is one thing which you must remember, they will always view you as an opponent even if they tell you otherwise. And they will tell you otherwise. You will be their ‘special’ friend, their only ally, their knight in shining armor, their saviour or something equally heroic. You will be placed on a pedestal, idealised and worshipped… for a while. But at some point they will see you as an enemy disguised as a friend. The switch may be sudden. Or at least it seems that way.
Stay in the relationship for long enough and you will find yourself, your role in their life, swinging from extremes. One minute you’re their best friend in the entire universe and the next minute you are their worst enemy. One minute they adore you, the next they hate your guts. One minute you’re the cure for all their ailments, an angel sent to heal their wounds, and the next you’re a virus trying to kill them, the evil cause of all their pain and suffering. One minute you’re the only other human being on earth, the next minute you cease to exist.
These swings from minute to minute can actually occur in minutes, but more often they span a longer time, though not always that much longer. It can happen in a matter of hours. You go out to dinner and a movie. Dinner is full of charm, smiles, laughter and wonderful feelings of being on top of the world. Somewhere between the restaurant and the cinema a crack opens up in the pavement and you fall down into hell.
Chances are the Narcissist decided they didn’t want to see the movie, but they can’t tell you that as it would damage their self image, in their eyes and thus in yours and in the eyes of all those to whom they will relate this story. So instead they have to make a scene, one which will make you the reason why the night ends where it does in a bad way. You ruined a lovely evening. Hope you’re happy with yourself. They can’t be around such a toxic friend. Now they can go and do what they wanted to do instead of seeing the movie, and changing their plans is perfectly justified because it’s your fault. They can also ditch you, because they were bored of being with you, and that too is your fault, you made them do it.
When they tell their other friends, their audience and witnesses to their existence, about this incident, and they will with added drama, you will be the baddie and they will be the goodie. Their self image remains intact, and is in fact now even more saintly and perfect as, yet again, they triumphed over adversity. Having to put up with you, your moods, your behaviour, is something only a saint with superhuman superpowers could do.
Should you ever confront them about their telltale mouth, which likes to spin stories of overly dramatic proportions about their life and every little incident which happens to them, then relate them to others to attract attention and sympathy, they will saying something along the lines of – What does it matter what I tell other people about you, they will never meet you. This is Narcissistic logic. They do tend to keep their friends separate from each other, and since they control the world and all the people in it, it never occurs to them that you might meet some of their friends without them being a part of the meeting. Their friends belong to them, just like you do, none of you exist when they are not around, nor do you have social activities which do not include them.
Depending on how long you’ve been in a relationship with a Narcissist, and how many Narcissists you’ve known and know, you may or may not be familiar with this type of scenario. It is very typical of Narcissists, but it is also something which happens in relationships with non-Narcissists. The difference lies within the aftermath. With a non-Narcissist both members of the relationship will probably try to sort things out and make amends, especially if the fight was random and caused by a misunderstanding. Blame will be divided equally, apologies will be shared, and the relationship will move on. With a Narcissist nothing will be sorted out, no moving on will occur, they can now use this against you forever and ever, you will continue to be blamed wholly for it, and your apologies will never be enough. However you can make amends, and keep making them, but they will never get over how much you hurt them and will remind you regularly, every time you hurt them again.
Whether you are familiar with the scenario or not, you will probably be left reeling from the incident, confused, swirling in a whirlpool of emotions, wondering what happened. You will wonder what it was that you did which upset them, even if you know that they started the drama, your logic will be swayed by your feelings. You care about them. Even though you may be very angry, your anger will soften. You want the relationship to continue. You will want to discuss the incident and work things out. This may make things worse, especially if you expect the Narcissist to admit to any fault. This is anathema to them, and they will see you as an enemy, not as a friend who wants to make things better, figure things out, make peace by understanding and sharing responsibility.
To a Narcissist all people are enemies. Opponents. They live in a reality where they are alone against the rest of the world. This is partly why they perceive themselves as being special and superior. They are isolated from human connection even when surrounded by other people, even when others try to connect. Other people are always ‘others’. Even in their most intimate relationships, even if they include you in an ‘us’ versus ‘them’. And they will. Within the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ they will see you as a ‘them’ too.
They yearn desperately for a soul mate with whom to share their isolation, they have so much amazing love to give they just need to find that special someone worthy of such an otherwordly love… Narcissistic love is as grand as they can idealise it to be. But no one is ever good enough to receive it. They are and will always be alone. They are terrified of their solitude but they don’t know how to get out of it, they are stuck there and suck people into their world to keep them company and make them feel less alone, which is one of the reasons why they will slowly isolate you from your other friends and your family. It is deliberate, but not as consciously done as it seems in retrospect when you do a postmortem of the relationship.
Part of the reason Narcissists are so hard to understand is that most of what they do is done subconsciously. Hidden from you, but also hidden from them. It is imperative to their survival that they never see their own behaviour. They are for the most part completely oblivious to it. They are innocent. Others are the culprits, the manipulators, the enemy. Others are the Narcissists. Sure they think they are very clever, know how to manipulate others and are great strategists, they may even claim to have psychic powers which allow them to read people’s minds, and they will brag, usually in a falsely humble manner about how manipulative and controlling they are, but their awareness is superficial. They are very devious, aware of it yet at the same time completely unaware. This paradox is one of many which exist within them, it fuels who they are and how they do what they do.
Confront them and they will never admit a thing. They will deny everything. They believe their own denial and that is how they convince others of their version of events, because they never doubt their version of events. You, on other hand, do doubt your version of events, and that’s how they can convince you that they are right and you are wrong. What you accuse them of being is what you are. What you accuse them of doing is what you did and do. You may wonder if this is true, perhaps… maybe… They will rarely if ever wonder or doubt themselves because if they do their entire world will crumble. So they don’t. They can’t.
If however you were to compliment them for being so manipulative, they’ll admit it and be rather pleased that you noticed their special gift. They only know they are bad when being bad is a good thing, they don’t know it when it is a bad thing, make it a good thing and they will grab it and make it theirs, make it a bad thing and they will throw it back at you, reject it and make you keep it as yours.
So what do you do if you want to, or have to, continue having a relationship with a Narcissist?
Narcissists are creatures of habit. They do the same thing over and over and over again ad nauseum. They appear to change, they often announce loudly that they have changed, but it is superficial and falls away once they get bored of keeping it up, which is usually fairly quickly. They repeat the same behaviour patterns with everyone. Watch them. Observe. Learn their patterns. Don’t try and break their pattern it will cause a massive defensive reaction. Just take a few steps out of it. Detach. It’s not about you, even when they make you feel that it is. It is about them. Everything is about them. They are caught in a trap. You do not need to be in there with them.
Remember you are always their enemy even when you are their ally. This view tells you how much they need you more than you need them. That is your ultimate power over them. Learn to see yourself through their eyes, their real eyes, the ones that see you as an all powerful being. It may change how you see yourself in a way which could alter your life… positively. Perhaps that is why life has given you the opportunity to be in a relationship with a Narcissist. To see how powerful you are.
Think about it, and let me know what you think.