In many ways we all have a relationship with a Narcissist. That Narcissist is known as Society.
For the past few decades Society has become increasingly Narcissistic. Image has become more important than anything else. We are judged as members of Society on how we look, not just in terms of physical attractiveness and fashion sense, but also our finances, our homes, our profession, our education and our social circle and status. Our identity depends on those things, not on who we are underneath the external image. Having has become worth more than being.
When you meet someone new they don’t take the time to get to know you as a being, they look at you as a have or have not. They do this because they do not relate to themselves as a being, but as a has or has not, both want more. They do not have time to waste, the pace of life is frantic, and they need to decide who you are, your image in society, as quickly as possible. They need to determine if knowing you is an asset and a good investment or not. Are you useful to them. They determine this mostly based on your image markers, the status labels you’re wearing which point to your pedigree. If they ask you personal questions, those questions usually are about other aspects of your image which help them to determine if they can associate with you or not. Favourite film, band, social media, art. If your answers inform them that you are better than them or at least on a par with them, then you become a potential accessory, a status label in the form of a person, to their image. If your answers inform them that you are inferior to them in some way, they dump you because you might make them look bad.
Think I’m exaggerating? Look at the rate at which people Follow and Unfollow, Friend and Unfriend others on social media. Social media is incredibly Narcissistic. We can create a profile and make ourselves whoever we want to be. No one will know who we really are. We won’t let them get that close to us, and they won’t even bother to try. There are apps that can help optimise who you follow and friend, and don’t follow and friend, and unfollow and unfriend, and who to completely block, so that you don’t have to make the effort because you’re too busy for that. Busy creating your image. Because you are going to be judged on that image and on those lists. You are also going to be judged by the difference in numbers in those lists. Your popularity or unpopularity shows others whether you are someone worth knowing or not. They don’t have time to get to know you, they are as busy as you are creating who they are for others to judge, so if others ‘Like’ you then they do too. Hopefully you will ‘Like’ them too, and that way those who ‘Like’ you will ‘Like’ them too. And so on.
In a Narcissistic society, it is the Narcissists who prosper. They are at home in this environment. The world makes sense to them, they embrace it and it embraces them. Those who are not Narcissists swirl around in the muddy waters of confusion, trying to make sense out of nonsense, trying to pretend they get it and are okay with it, wondering why they don’t and can’t. There must be something wrong with them, better hide it and keep quiet about it. There are also Narcissists who are not Narcissists at all, but who are pretending they are to fit in and belong, and hopefully prosper. To survive and thrive in a Narcissistic Society, you have to join in. Be one of them. Buy the popular mask of our times and wear it.
It’s not difficult to create an image, pick one, acquire the labels, play the part. There are lots of How To resources available to instruct you on how to be who others like and admire, how to make yourself into someone else, someone better than you are now. Who you are now is not quite good enough, but you should accept yourself as you are, self-acceptance is important and there are plenty of How To resources for learning to do that too, but first you have to admit that by not accepting yourself as you are makes you unacceptable. A typical Narcissistic contradiction which appears logical but is completely confusing.
Once you’ve created an image, you have to keep it going, make it consistent so that it is believable. Maintaining and improving the image requires more effort, and can sometimes be exhausting, it’s a 24/7 job which feels like it is a 48/8 job hence so much coffee drinking.
One of the things that our Narcissistic society has created is a deep sense of aloneness in each individual. When you are being judged by your image, your image becomes a prison for the being who lives behind it. Other people like happy people. Successful and happy people. Beautiful, successful and happy people. Other people like beautiful, successful, happy people because no one feels truly beautiful, successful or happy, and they hope that by being with someone who projects that image convincingly it will somehow rub off on them.
Holding hands with that sense of being alone inside is the feeling of never quite being good enough. Just when you think you’ve got the formula right, have the perfect image and are playing by the rules, the rules change and the finish line moves a bit further away. The old version of perfect has been found to have flaws, but don’t worry, there is a new improved version of perfect to live up to. Just don’t question it, or the fact that the new version of perfect is the exact opposite of the old version of perfect and used to be considered extremely imperfect.
This divide between the outer image and the inner being creates a disconnect from others. The more we have ways to connect, the more separate we feel. Somehow the more connections we make, the more alone we feel. There must be something wrong with us. We have everything, but we feel as though we are nothing. Perhaps if we had more, we would finally be something.
When we have a dis-ease, we search for a cure. A magic potion which will make everything better. That magic potion often takes the form of love. If we could find love, be loved, then we would feel good about ourselves. Love will fill the void, the inner emptiness. Love will make us feel beautiful, successful and happy. Love will validate our existence, acknowledge us and make us feel self-worth. Love will connect us to the world around us.
The problem is that our concept of what love is has been fed to us by a Narcissistic society. It is an ideal. It is a story of two people meeting, connecting instantly and very deeply on every level of their being and living happily ever after.
Ideals are one dimensional. Reality is multidimensional. So yet again we are caught in a Narcissistic contradiction. Confusion ensues. We are told to have a dream, pursue it and make it real, but when a dream becomes real, reality often turns the dream into a nightmare. It is no longer beautiful because it has elements of ugliness, it is no longer successful because it has aspects of failure, and it is no longer happy because it has sadness within it. It’s not perfect, we feel slightly cheated and foolish, betrayed by someone, maybe ourselves, we don’t like feeling that way, it hurts, so we discard it. Discard the problem, and hopefully the pain will go with it. But the pain stays, so we search for a fix, a cure, a balm. A wand to make everything better, better than better.
There is an episode of Sex and the City, a show which is an excellent guide to Narcissism in Society and Narcissistic love, where Carrie Bradshaw falls out of love with a man because the engagement ring he bought her wasn’t the one she wanted. Her problem was that he should have known which ring to buy her, and the fact that he didn’t know and didn’t bother to find out, that he gave her a ring which meant something to him instead of giving her what she wanted, meant that he didn’t know her well enough for her to believe that he loved her. Her concept of love was about having, not about being. The ideal love crumbled over the shape of a diamond. Of course the writers of the show made excuses for her erratic, Narcissistic behaviour, and justified it as being the right thing to do. And she is just a fictional character… but how many people’s concept of love and relationship did that show influence?
There are a lot of Narcissists in the world today, and there are a lot of people who have been in a relationship with a Narcissist, who are trying to come to grips with what happened, why it happened and how to avoid having it happen again.
Narcissists are experts at embodying an ideal and making it seem real. For a Narcissist making others fall in love with them is the easiest thing in the world, sometimes too easy. They know how to be the ideal lover you are seeking. As long as you are looking for the ideal man or woman, your chances of falling for a Narcissist are high. If love for you is a cure for the emptiness within, that is exactly what the Narcissist is looking for, so they will be very attracted to you. They want to fill your emptiness with all the parts of themselves they do not want.
Why should you be thankful for having a relationship with a Narcissist? Because it can be a life-changing experience for the positive, once you wade through all the negative. Find the gift in the curse.
Part of the gift lies within the first phase of the relationship. All those wonderful things they tell you about yourself, the things which you long to hear. They are true. Narcissists are very good at spotting the value of another person, and they tell you exactly what you are worth. Remember the good things they told you about yourself and then learn to say those things to yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to say them to you. Learn to be your own lover and love yourself the way you long to be loved. Everything which they said to you and did to you after the wonderful things, after the honeymoon phase of love was over, is just a Narcissist being a Narcissist. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They always end up hating what they admire. And they always end up handing out poison apples once the mirror tells them that they are no longer the fairest of them all because you are.
The other part of the gift lies within the awful part of the relationship. The phase which comes after they know that they’ve got you and own you. When they start to dismantle you, your image, identity and your self-worth. When who you are is trampled on and destroyed, what is left of you? A raw and naked being who has come face to face with who they really are. Many people search for who they are all their lives and never find themselves because who you are is hidden underneath layers and layers of stuff, thought, feelings, memories, dreams,hopes, illusions, hang ups, personality traits and created versions of self. A Narcissist strips those layers away for you.
Once you’ve been stripped raw and naked by a Narcissist, there are two responses from which to choose. 1 – Try to quickly find some clothes and cover your shame and hurt. 2 – Embrace your raw nakedness and be proud of it. The second option will give you the kind of personal and primal power with which no other power can compare.
Your raw nakedness will also frighten Narcissists away because it is the one thing which they can never have or be. They don’t know how to deal with it.
So be thankful for your relationship with a Narcissist, their gift to you is to give you to yourself. They empower you. They not only show you how valuable, gifted and talented you are, they also give you the opportunity to meet your true self and see how powerful you are. It’s up to you what you do with this newfound power and knowledge. The power of choice is yours, always has been, but now you know it.