The Funny Side of Narcissists

Jesperhus by Tomasz SienickiJesperhus by Tomasz Sienicki

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Did you ever hear the story about a certain princess who couldn’t sleep because of a tiny pea placed under a mountain of mattresses?

Absurd, isn’t it?

A fantasy tale which is most entertaining, especially when you’re a child with a fertile imagination where beans grow into magical plants.

As a child you might believe such a thing was possible, and perhaps when you couldn’t sleep at night, tossing and turning, you might check under your mattress (as long as there isn’t a monster hiding under there) to see if a tiny pea was placed there by someone testing to see if you were perhaps a real princess.

Once you grow up and out of such ludicrous notions, you might look back on those days when you believed in such things with affectionate laughter… or disdain. Much of how we view what we believed as children depends on the type of adult we become. The type of adult we become depends quite a bit on the sort of experiences we had as a child, particularly during that phase known as growing pains.

Growing pains us when our magical kingdoms turn a little less magical year by year. The kingdom of adulthood can seem very bleak after having lived in those places our imagination richly created for us, where we were anything but ordinary, and could do many amazing things just by thinking it into being.

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Most of us grow up and out of that way of thinking. It’s part of becoming an adult.

Some of us never grow up and out of it. Only the exterior casing becomes that of an adult, but the mind stays firmly stuck in childhood, in the land of make believe, without knowing that it has done so.

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annex-blyth-ann-mr-peabody-and-the-mermaidAnn Blyth – still from Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid

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Do you remember as a child, when you’d do something new (new for you) you’d announce it to the world expecting a fanfare for it?

“Look, everyone, I’ve just peeled a banana! Yay me!!!”

If your parents were the kind who celebrated your first steps, your first words, your first… everything, then they would probably pull out a camera and photograph your first time peeling a banana while congratulating you on another first achievement. That photo would take pride of place in the album of all your momentous moments, which could then be pulled out and shown to all and sundry. That moment recalled and relived in illustrated anecdotes for the rest of your life… at some point that would begin to be embarrassing, yet there would still be a bit of pride about it, a sense of achievement, of being loved and having your life celebrated. Those moments were special, and in some ways always will be… because you are special. We all are in our own way.

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As a child our perspective is different from the one we grow into as we get older. Each year our world gets bigger and includes more people in it. We become aware of more… and as we do so, our perspective on ourselves changes. We realise that although the first time we peeled a banana was a huge event for us, it’s actually a rather ordinary event in the lives of others. Many people peel bananas every day.

Gradually we adjust to the fact that when we do something which we consider momentous, worth celebrating, it’s a personal achievement and is really only special to us because we’ve done something and learned something new. We may tell other people about it, share our enthusiasm, but we don’t expect a fanfare. Maybe a pat on the back or some acknowledgement, but… we can give that to ourselves if no one else does. After all they may not realise how important the moment was for us, as for them it might be ordinary.

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The other day I figured out how to record sounds with my phone. I gave myself a little woo hoot! by replaying the sound I’d just recorded which was two owls woo hooting… then I accidentally erased the file. So I gave myself a ruh roh!

I was pleased with myself, and did share my achievement with a friend, but I didn’t expect a fanfare, especially as I am aware that when it comes to using the apps on a phone I am way behind many people. But just because many are ahead of me, doesn’t make my moment any less valuable to me. We live and learn at our own pace, and we can respect that… in ourselves and in others.

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When I come across someone else celebrating a momentous moment, it always makes me smile. Those moments are great. It’s a bit like being back in our magic kingdom. But we’re not there to stay, just a fun visit which we’re happy to have and share with those who would like to participate in our enthusiasm, our joie de vivre. It can be fleeting so enjoy it while it’s happening, however absurd it may seem. Let loose and do a little jig.

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Sometimes I come across a different kind of someone, the kind who is still stuck in childhood, stuck forever in their magic kingdom, and who still expects a fanfare from a large audience for every little thing they do.

The most ordinary event will be made to appear extraordinary, and they are extraordinary because of it. Super special! No one else has ever done this before, no one else has ever thought of this before, and no one else will ever be able to do anything like this!

They are the emperor going out in his new clothes. Trumpets are playing announcing the great and momentous moment, a crowd has gathered to see what they can see, eyes hoping to be filled with wonder…

And as long as the moment really is as extraordinary as the emperor thinks it is, all will be well, they’ll get the accolades, admiration and adulation they expect.

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But what if the moment is exactly as it was in The Emperor’s New Clothes?

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the_emperor__s_new_clothes_by_angelarizza-d5fc1wp-1The Emperor’s New Clothes by Angela Rizza

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This different kind of person, known as narcissists to the rest of us, will not take kindly at all if when they peel a banana for the first time, then announce it in grandiose style to their audience – they will probably not call it ‘peeling a banana’ but the ‘unveiling of an exotic and rare fruit’ as they are the first person to ever do this and therefore it needs an appropriate description – they don’t get the sort of fanfare they expect for it.

If we, their audience and subjects, react in any way which is not the way they want, need and expect us to…

If we say ‘Oh, you peeled a banana… well done… we peeled one just this morning as usual to have for breakfast… everyone peels bananas.’

Rather than ‘OMG!!! What did you just do!?! That’s amazing!!!’

Then the chances are that we’ll be dealing with a very cranky princess who hasn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep because of a pea.

‘It’s just a pea…’ we may say, with our adult minds and perspective. Years of living in the bleak kingdom of adulthood has tempered us… if all that’s keeping you awake at night is a pea under your mattress, then just remove the damned pea or sleep on the floor, FFS! You don’t have to wake everyone else up just because you can’t sleep!

But that is exactly what a princess does. No one is allowed to sleep if the princess can’t. And a princess doesn’t do things like solve her own problems, she has subjects to do that for her.

AND… it isn’t JUST a pea. It is a very special pea because it is her pea, and she is very special. No ordinary pea would keep her awake!

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Narcissists are really very funny, absurdly so, when you can take a step back from all the drama, which can be hard to do… yet worth giving it a go, and look at them as Hans Christian Andersen did.

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They are a character in a tale, a fictitious being in a land of make believe, they and their land is very real to them. They are stuck there, unable to escape the pages of the book, relying on us to read it, and keeping reading it, over and over again, until we brainwash ourselves into believing in them and their land, so they can exist, larger than life… because life is ordinary and boring but they are extraordinary and fascinating.

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That’s why we find them attractive, charming, alluring, hard to resist…

they view everything through child-coloured spectacles,

big, bold, vivid, magical…

they view themselves that way, because that’s the way they are in their world,

and they view us that way too… even when we go from being their hero to being their villain… for a while, sometimes a long while, and sometimes a short while.

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They remind us of being a child and what it was like, they stir our own land of make believe which we loved when we were children, and if we haven’t been there in a while, if we’ve been living too long in the bleak kingdom of adulthood, then their invitation to live in their magic kingdom where we can be a king or a queen… rather tempting, isn’t it?

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But we can never go back, we crossed the point of no return when we decided to grow up and out of being a child, and although we can visit that time… we see it differently, from the perspective of an adult, which is why, after a while, the land of make believe of a narcissist loses its charm, and the dream turns into a nightmare… we now know that all fairytales have a sinister side, a side which the adults in our lives when we were children often hid from us, they wanted us to enjoy make believe as long as we could, as long as we were children…

one day we’d find out for ourselves,

when we grew up.

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If we grew up.

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What happens to the characters in a fairytales when we close the book?

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