The story of a relationship with a narcissist: I Am Not Special by Hope

I am not special.

When I was a child, the message from my parents was clear: Take care of yourself. We don’t want to do it. You are not special. And so I became an adult very early in life, full of determination to be self-sufficient and self-determined.

At forty-five, a disordered person took an interest in me. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, at the least. Diagnosed, I believe. Malignant narcissist? Sociopath? Possibly. She admitted that she had no conscience, was sadistic, and had a penchant for the chase. Either way, the terms are blurry and it doesn’t really matter.

We will meet the disordered. That’s unavoidable. Estimates of those without conscience and empathy range from 1 in 100 (Checkley) to 1 in 25 (Stout). And if you get close to one, you will suffer. These are relationships of inevitable harm.

This morning, I woke up with an analogy on my mind. Call it the story of my thrall. Analogies are good for the soul. They quiet the confusion. We call it cognitive dissonance, but it’s really all just a terrible and awesome mind storm.

When I met Jane, I had been in the driver’s seat of my figurative car since I was a young girl. That can happen when parents require a child to take care of herself. For the most part, I drove pretty well. But I was tired of being in the driver’s seat. I was tired of making my own choices, and having to make decisions- where to go, what to do, who to be, how to be. I didn’t know this before I met Jane. I could not have verbalized it then. I could not have said out loud to myself “I’m tired of driving the car”. But, in hindsight, I was.

And Jane came along. She may have well said these exact words to me, many of them she did: ‘I’m here now. I understand you. I’m just like you. I’m perfect for you. I’m special, and you’re special too. I know what’s best for you. I know what you need. I can give you what you need. Just stick with me, and I will show you. I’m your answer. I can drive the car for you’.

And because I was tired of driving the car, I said yes.

I took the passenger seat. And for an all-too-brief second in time, I felt bliss. Actual bliss. I felt special. Do you know how being a passenger in a car feels different than driving it? You can put your head back. You can close your eyes. You can relax. You can let your mind wander. You can even look at the scenery.

But in reality, I had allowed a very messed up person to take the driver’s seat. And it wasn’t blissful, and I couldn’t relax, and my mind didn’t wander and the scenery was not pretty. As I sat in the passenger seat, what did I really feel? Sexual frustration. Jealousy. Resentment. Fear. Anger. And at the end, hatred. That was my scenery.

She’s gone now. And for some time, I’ve been sitting in the passenger seat, the car pulled over on the side of the road, shell-shocked with my eyes seemingly permanently frozen on the dashboard. I don’t want to get back in the driver’s seat. I don’t. I’m afraid. I’m afraid life won’t feel the same again. I’m afraid I won’t feel the same again. I’m afraid I will never be special again. And here’s the thing. I won’t.

Accepting our experience with the disordered is largely about finding the courage to face the truth. We must be willing to choose truth over illusion. The person you loved, whether it be a lover or a friend or a mother, is not who she pretended to be.

The disordered present themselves as special with lovely masks custom-designed for you. They so dearly want to be special. They really are not special, but we believe them. We buy into their grandiosity, and we feel reflected glory. It goes like this: She’s so special. And since she’s picked me, that means I’m special too. And she doesn’t like many people and maybe people don’t like her, but that makes us and me even more special. Reflected glory.

And then shit happens and we learn they are disordered, and they are not the special people they pretended to be. And we feel angry and cheated, and duped. And in this aftermath when they’ve been unmasked, they become larger than life yet again, just in a different way. They become monsters. They’re even special in their monsterness. Except they’re not.

There are so many of them out there, and they all do the same thing: Very simply put, they’re engaged in a lifelong game called Self Esteem at the Expense of Others. They are not monsters, just human beings with a very fucked up sense of self. That’s nothing special, nothing extraordinary, not really.

And lest we think this does not cost them in real suffering, let’s remember this: The disordered are the loneliest people on the planet. Without the capacity for empathy, they are unable to connect, making them unable to attach. It’s a permanent solitude, an eternal loneliness.

For a brief moment, we are the special thing that promises change, the answer to their gnawing emptiness. You see, the mask is not all contrived. It’s not entirely a work of artifice. For a short while, the disordered are as in thrall to us, as we are to them. But their initial adoration of us, their initial ecstatic hope for us can last only briefly, because we cannot give them what they need: a capacity for empathy.

Their essential problem is on the inside. Only their own empathy could relieve them. Only their own empathy could enable them to connect- but they don’t have it, and never will. It’s too late for them; the age for developing empathy has come and gone. Shiny new thing, answer to my emptiness, disappointment…shiny new thing, answer to my emptiness, disappointment…shiny new thing, answer to my emptiness, disappointment. It’s heartbreaking. The disordered do not get off scot-free. Neither do we. In this exchange of energy, this temporary mutual thrall, this momentary leaving of the selves, there are no winners.

Our fundamental task in life is to develop a healthy relationship with our selves, a solid sense of self. It’s not always easy. Some of us succeed; some of us do not.

But there’s another piece of recovery that’s often overlooked. You have to be willing to get in the driver’s seat again. And even though it’s scary and uncomfortable and feels foreign now, because you’ve been so dutifully trained to ignore your self in favor of someone else’s self, you have to become self-driven again.

And again, you must choose truth over illusion. No one can develop a healthy sense of self for you. No one can tell you who to be and how to be, and have it lead you anywhere good. If you martyr yourself for someone else’s self-esteem because you are burning and yearning to be special, you will suffer. If you attempt to live off of another person’s grandiosity because the reflection seems so magical and special, you will suffer.

Remember, accepting our experience with the disordered is largely about finding the courage to face the truth.

By experiencing Jane, I’ve learned something very important about life. It’s this: The bulk of human misery comes from one thing- the need to be special.

T.S. Elliot wrote,

‘Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them…or they do not see it, or they justify it…because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves’.

We all want to think so well of our selves. We want to be viewed as special, and told we’re special, and treated as special, and we behave accordingly. But here’s some truth for you, and it might be a bitter pill to swallow.

You’re not. I’m not.

There are 7 billion+ people on this planet. And hopefully, if humanity doesn’t screw it up, there will be billions and billions more. None of us is special, but life is. Whether you believe in a God or you believe in evolution or both, it is damn remarkable that we exist. If there’s a God who so intelligently designed the human body and spirit, that’s extraordinary! Or if it’s evolution with all its catastrophic stops and starts that brought us to now, that’s extraordinary! Whatever your philosophy, the existence of life is what’s remarkable.

So, avoid the need to be special. And avoid the need to assign specialness to someone else.

Be you, exactly as you are. Just be you, ordinary you. That’s no small feat. That’s something you can be proud of until your dying day. And when it comes to this being you, this living of your self, always choose truth over illusion. Just be you, in all your ordinariness, in the only special thing going, Life.

The question is: Do you have the courage to be ordinary? Do I?

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58 thoughts on “The story of a relationship with a narcissist: I Am Not Special by Hope

    1. Thank you very much 🙂 I think what Hope wrote is a beautiful insight into the ordinary, and how it might just be the every day kind of special which we need to embrace a bit more.

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  1. This post is so touching. Has anyone ever commented that sometimes it’s hard to see who is the natcissist in the relationship? What if you both are, but in different ways?? 💜

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    1. Thank you very much 🙂

      I also loved what Hope wrote, and I was glad she allowed me to share her story. I think she captured many aspects of the conundrum of a relationship with a narcissist.

      Yes, people often mention the confusion of figuring who the narcissist is, and if there is an actual narcissist at all, or if perhaps everyone involved is a narcissist or thinks others are. It’s a complexity which is common and very much a part of having a relationship with a narcissist.

      Being in a relationship with a narcissist can bring out the narcissist in someone who isn’t a narcissist.

      And two narcissists may end up in relationships together. If they do, one may be an overt narcissist while the other one is a covert narcissist.

      I wrote this a while back trying to capture the who is the narcissist puzzle – https://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/is-john-a-narcissist-or-is-john-the-victim-of-a-narcissist/

      The line between narcissist and non-narcissist can be blurred, as narcissism is a natural and normal, can be healthy, and is a phase of development for all humans – some people get stuck there and it can become a disorder.

      This is an excellent exploration of the many side of narcissism – http://www.energeticsinstitute.com.au/page/narcissism.html

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. That’s really informative. When you say it’s part of development… is this something a person usuallu grows out of by adulthood, for example? Or is it experienced at different points of life? I ask because if a narcisisist has a longing to be special, could this happen after a life changing event as an adult? Often you hear the narcissist is this way due to circumstances or events experienced during childhoid. But seems likely that this could also occur for an adult who has experienced trauma which has triggered that need to feel special?
        *feeling very philosophical this evening* Thank you 🙂

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        1. Thank you 🙂

          Narcissism in its natural and normal form is healthy for us, and is a part of our life for life. It’s that part of us which enjoys and appreciates being unique, one of a kind (even if we have an identical twin), who wants to be special – it’s perfectly okay to need to feel special. Each of us is special in our own individual way. Healthy narcissism gives us the ability to pay attention to our individual specialness, our talents, what makes us individual, different, and to think we’re great, and to give us the urge to make something of ourselves – in other words it is the push to evolve.

          In a healthy scenario this helps to shape us, and as we move from the narcissistic phase of development into the subsequent phases of development – which include realising that others are special, unique, individuals too – we learn that even though we are special, we have to nurture it, learn, develop and work at it. That the world is populated with other people who are all special too and so our specialness doesn’t make us better than them or worse, it’s just different.

          Narcissist get stuck and then get twisted because they’re like a tree growing in an enclosed space. Their need to feel special is not the same as the usual need which all humans have to feel special. Their need makes demands, feels entitled to preferential treatment, sees them as part of an elite that others have to kowtow to – that’s the grandiose part of NPD.

          So if a narcissist takes a selfie and posts it online, they expect everyone to admire it, they want to be envied, they want everyone to acknowledge how unique and special they are, and their magical thinking may expect their selfie to be ‘discovered’ by Vogue and end up on its cover because they feel that’s what should happen. They’re like the Kardashians – or more to the point the Kardashians are living many a narcissist’s dream.

          If a non-narcissist takes a selfie and posts it online, they’d like to be admired perhaps, probably would not like being envied, it would be cool to be viewed by others as unique and special, and they may fantasise about being ‘discovered’, but the fantasy is recognised as being a fantasy. If they really want to be on the cover of Vogue, they know that kind of thing requires a lot of work.

          Most of us just want those we know to appreciate us as being special to them. Sometimes we’d like the world to see us as special, but we know that takes time, work, talent, and also some luck where opportunities are concerned.

          Narcissist expect the world to see them as special, and are never satisfied no matter how many people think they’re special – because the narcissist deep down doesn’t have a clue who they are and therefore doesn’t really know what is special about them.

          You’re right, sometimes things remain dormant and get triggered by an experience. This can be a positive push suddenly in life. It can also be otherwise. Some people don’t figure things out until later in life – many people only discover what is their special talent when they’re older or when something has triggered it.

          What are you thinking of in particular?

          ps. It’s 4am as I’m replying so I hope this makes sense 😉

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          1. Thank you for your reply. So much insight! I’ve only come to understand the term properly in the last few months and find the concept of a narcissist quite intriguing. It seems to me that there are scales of narcissism? While reading up on it with a particular person in mind, it struck me while reading various checklists and scenarios of typical narcissist tendencies, that some were common every day tendencies I’ve seen in other people and also in myself. That’s why I think sometimes it’s hard to know. For example, does the narcissist know that they are the narcissist?
            Is it possible to live life feeling constantly wronged without realising you are in fact being a narcisisist? Can the narcissist ever be cured?

            I’m not sure of the answers to this which is why the debate is so interesting. I think I know a few people who display the tendencies but are indeed good people. Unfortunately, they do not realise (I don’t think) that they display these tendencies. I know that trauma has been experienced by them at different stages in life also. This makes them react to situations in a way that is focused only on how they feel. Like you said, this makes it extremely hard to connect with them on some levels… but in other ways some do show empathy for others and do care for others. It’s quite a puzzle really. Thanks again for your reply 🙂

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            1. Thank you 🙂

              Yes, it is a fascinating issue to explore, and there is a lot of awareness and insight to be gained from the journey of exploration. Being curious about it, asking questions, seeking answers… is all part of the adventure of learning.

              There is masses of information about narcissists and NPD online, it’s a trending hot topic. You’ll find many different views, from professionals who are trying to keep up with the demand for psychological information on a subject which is in the popular collective consciousness, and personal stories shared by those who have been in relationships with narcissists, there are also narcissists who admit to being narcissists (which is considered quite rare) who share their perspective on the issue – the most famous of them is, of course, Sam Vaknin.

              This is an interesting perspective written by a narcissist – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201311/the-lament-lonely-narcissist

              You’ll also find in what you read consensus on many points even within perspectives which differ and may argue with each other.

              So what started you off on your quest to discover more about narcissism?

              The thing which starts us off on our quest to know more influences what we find.

              You will see narcissistic traits in those you know and in yourself, most of this is normal and natural narcissism – it can get a bit out of hand due to life events and things going on, we all have our ups and downs, and our moments of being not that nice, too focused on ourselves and ambitious about what we want to achive, be and stuff like that, but most people who display narcissistic behaviour and traits aren’t narcissists, and don’t have NPD.

              This is an interesting read – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201204/it-s-fine-line-between-narcissism-and-egocentrism

              If what prompted your desire to know more was someone accusing you of being a narcissist, don’t worry about it, it’s a popular accusation these days. It’s a good idea to consider it and self reflect upon it. It’s also a good idea to look at the person who accused you and why they may have done that. As long as you’re willing to take a look at yourself, and maybe see some ugly in the beautiful, then you’re not a narcissist, you’re just human – we’re all a bit of a mess, being human isn’t easy, and relationships are a minefield.

              If you found yourself in a relationship with someone who made you do a search online which led you to narcissist information – keep doing research.

              And yes, there’s a spectrum – a lot of the info online is about the worst case scenario, the extreme of the spectrum. Psychologists who write about it tend to specify that they’re writing about the extreme end of the spectrum.

              This is worth a read – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201404/the-vampire-s-bite-victims-narcissists-speak-out

              You sound a bit like a student of psychology, is this a psychology major study?

              Best wishes on your journey of exploration!

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              1. I was actually a Philosophy student and then a law student! 🙂 It’s a concept I only became familiar with after searching characteristics of someone I knew. As most articles are written from a female perspective, sometimes it was hard to distinguish who was the narcissist and who was the “victim”. The research is fascinating and I find it reassuring to know these aren’t characteristics of an evil person but merely someone who hasn’t fully developed/grown out of that phase of life that ordinary, healthy adults transition from. Thanks for a great post and debate x

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  2. Reblogged this on Emmagc75's Blog and commented:
    This is one of the most difficult parts of breaking free from the narcissistic abuse.
    “Accepting our experience with the disordered is largely about finding the courage to face the truth. We must be willing to choose truth over illusion. The person you loved, whether it be a spouse, lover, friend or a mother, is not who she pretended to be.”

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  3. I just read what you wrote. I never thought of my parents as narcissistic but I like what you have said. I’m 39 years old and have dealt with a lot of failures and it seems your description of children that deal the pain you described hits me between the eyes. I’m very interested in more. I personally over empathize with others around me and if it gets to be too much for me I just quit them. I just feel as if I’ll never be able to live up their expectations. I get confused in life trying to find my way and I end up at a dead end.

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    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      You might find this interesting if you’re still wondering – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-is-2020/201405/narcissistic-parents-psychological-effect-their-children – the picture it paints of being the child of a narcissist is accurate.

      Over empathising can be caused by having to cater to the needs of a narcissistic parent as a child (while having your needs ignored) – you learn to become tuned into how others are feeling, and the volume is turned up too high on their feelings that you need a time out to clear all the noise and find some silence, where maybe you can hear your own feelings and voice.

      It can be very confusing, but bit by bit it clears, as you listen to yourself more and less to others. Takes a while, so be gentle with yourself, and take good care of yourself!

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  4. Brilliant analogy Ursula. My ex portrayed herself as a damsel in distress I spent all my energy trying to fix her, in so she could love me, instead of loving myself. After years of this, I gave her the wheel, once she got ‘better’ so I could finally catch my breath and rest. Only to see her jump out, and smash me into a tree. Thanks for sharing, and some very hard lessons learned.

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    1. It’s a great post by Hope. She captured the struggle we’re faced with when a relationship with a narcissist forces us to look at ourselves, and how to work with the pain to find healing for ourselves.

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  5. I’ve been out of town at a very demanding conference of the very oh so smart and oh so special” all week and the first thing i’d do when i finally got back to my hotel room was take a bath and catch up on this blog and every comment. So ive waited all week to comment on this post. And it seems fitting that while i read it, am I was in a setting where i am ‘the reluctant driver’ again.

    I was so touched by this post. As a child I longed to be in a different body, belong to a different family, and would often seek refuge in a neighbors home where i could just sit at their kitchen table, while the neighbor washed her dishes and just listened to me as a child – not be burdened with the problems, whims and endless chaos that was my family. I am actually tearing up as i think of that feeling of just wanting to be with ‘a normal mom’ like everyone else had. I paid a big price for that – the anger of my own mother ‘why are you always there’?

    It’s not so much i wanted to be ‘special’ as in shiny, it’s just that i wanted to recognized in some way as being special just because i existed – the same way i love my own child simply because he breathes in and out. I spent my entire life with that emptiness and longing and waiting to be recognized for my essence — not because i possessed unique and extraordinary talents but because i was just worthy of love.

    Now i see myself in the final decades of my life and because of blogs and the internet and the candor of others, I understand what my story in retrospect. And while i am grateful, I am a reluctant, resentful driver now. I dream over and over that i have some disease – probably still sorting out the loss of my sister.

    Even though i’m doing so ‘well’ from the outside, i feel so unprepared for life – like something is missing from the core. I feel as those i have wasted my life and missed out on the types of relationships that those that had proper care, feeding and mirroring have had. I know that this is an illusion believing ‘others’ have these. i know everyone has loneliness and struggles.

    And although I am drive, I’m doing it with fists clenching the wheel and gritted teeth like someone who is always stuck in the nightmare of a lifelong traffic circle. I feel cheated as if others had ‘special information’ meaning parents that were not crazy who simply loved and protected them. And there’s always just this one more thing i have to learn or achieve before i am granted the gift of simple ordinary ‘happiness’.

    When i was younger there was always time for happiness in the future. Now i am fearful i can not find that part within me that recognizes what gives me simple pleasure. It’s as though it’s been removed. I struggle with the myth of therapy and if others can help me find my happy.

    I don’t know if being happy or ‘winning’ as one suggested can be achieved with enough ‘courage and motivation’ as one writer suggested. I know i have done everything i can and right now i am feeling quite alone, quite awful and i’ve been feeling like this for quite a while.

    This has been an extraordinary week of postings in this blog. It’s been my oasis’ in a vast sea of pretentious bullshit this week. This post i’m responding to, all of the posts including the ones on your little town, make me question whether my own life has been constructed not of things i like but of things i felt i ‘should be or achieve’ in order to be worthy of love. And maybe it is time to shed some of those old images. This has really been a tough and confusing time for me and I am so grateful this is here for me.

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    1. Thank you very much 🙂

      I’ve had my fair share of experiencing those kind of environments like the conference you mentioned, they can be draining, as in all the joy is sucked out of living, and the world seems as though it is crowded with people trampling on each other to get a tiny sausage roll from the free food buffet as though such a thing is a trophy of greatness. It can skew perspective and make you wonder many wonderings which can lead to wandering in dark places, some of which are too familiar for comfort.

      Like you, I have my moments, some of which drag on far too long to be called a moment, which haunt me and pounce upon me when I let my guard down or when I am too tired to bother to have my guard up. The past is always there, it influences the present, it shaped it, it adds contrast to it… sometimes it is what we use to let us know that we are ‘winning’ and sometimes it makes us feel as though we are ‘losing’ another battle in a never-ending war. I have more questions than I have answers, those questions and the curiosity they inspire, keep me going through thick and thin… as they always have.

      I recall decades ago, during a period of my life I have pretty much ‘erased’ from my memory banks (I haven’t erased it at all, it’s there but it’s a blur of pain and very little sleep – what sleep I had at that time was more a passing out from not being able to stay awake) thinking on a constant basis – I’m not going to make it through another month of this, and if this is my life then maybe not making it is better than making it. Is that winning or losing, is actually having made it through that version of hell on Earth winning or losing. I have no idea, I just kept going then because I did and someone I arrived here, and that is kind of that. I don’t credit myself with anything other than curiosity to find out what happens next… that curiosity has died a million deaths because what happened next was more of the same, but once in a blue moon… things shift and the same is slightly different. Those small differences of the usual add up over time. What they add up to… requires for us to stick it out to discover it.

      Concepts such as happiness, for me, fall into the same category as other abstractions which rely on our subjective interpretation of them to give them meaning, to make something which may perhaps be unreal real. They are a part of the philosophy of reification – the act of regarding an abstraction as a material thing.

      I’m one of those people who pauses for a long time when someone asks me – Are you happy? My long pauses are usually just for me, for them I usually say ‘Yes’ quickly just to answer their question so they can move onto whatever they were intending to say which prompted them to ask the question. My long pauses are usually due to the fact that I rarely contemplate whether I am happy or not. I used to do that, and found it caused more problems than it solved, so eventually I kicked the habit and decided to approach happiness the way it approaches me. A fleeting experience which comes and goes as it pleases, like a gentle breeze. Enjoy it while it happens, don’t mourn it when it is gone, it’ll come back sooner if you don’t think about it, it’ll stay away if you’re too focused on its absence.

      Besides… the things which make me spontaneously happy, aren’t the things my thinking mind would classify as happiness-inducing things. So better not to think about it or I’d never feel happy at all. Our mind often steals our happiness by trying to control and contain it.

      You mentioned my post about where I live. I hated this place after I moved here – nothing to do with the place itself, everything to do with my state of mind. Like you, I decided to shed light on old images which were influencing how I perceived the now. The internet helped me a lot during that time. I too had and have places online where I went and go as a sanctuary (mostly from myself). A couple of which are very silly and nourishing because of it, because I can be too serious and need to balance myself.

      The toughest times can be the most rewarding, not in a winning or losing manner, a happy or unhappy manner, but in a way which can’t be categorised. They just are. But we have to stick it out to find that out… and usually we only see it much later with hindsight when we have a moment of noticing how far we have come from where we once were. And there is always a certain ambiguity about it… we can choose to change its ambiguity from moment to moment, perspective to perspective, contrasting one thing with another.

      You are a very strong soul… there will be times when that strength is the most positive force in your life, and times when you will wonder if perhaps that very strength is a weakness. Our greatest strengths are strengths because of a weakness… those weakness helped to forge our strength. It’s all intertwined. So unhappiness… is a form of happiness, a part of it as without unhappiness would such a concept as happiness exist?

      Keep going, there is much about yourself to discover, always be curious, you are a treasure hidden inside an enigma inside a puzzle which is asking you to solve it. A mystery… of life and being ❤

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      1. Thank you. I’m not sure if its strength or my mars in scorpio placement or just too stupid to fall down and play possum.

        I do know many times I have gone on simply b/c i was involved with active child raising and I was very conscious that i wanted that cycle of damage to end with me. I did not want to do something selfish to unburden myself at the expense of my child so i stayed breathing. And often sublimated all of my own feelings. But interestingly that was most fulfilling best two decades of my entire life

        We have a lot of word play here in this blog and i wanted to comment that i noticed how vexed i was when the words ‘winning’ and ‘losing or ‘winning to be’ came up – even as gently as they were spun.

        Maybe b/c it suggested to me that we are not ‘okay’ in whatever present state that we are, not just by others but when we hold ourselves up and look at our own standards and are judged by ourselves.

        As if we finally ‘face our own devils’ and arrive at some resting place where we award ourselves the title as having ‘won ‘ over some aspect of our being.

        Particularly that phrase ‘you are the winner if you want it badly enough. It requires only two things’ motivation and courage’ .

        It puts me of when i hear people who are very ill and some how luckily recover and go on to say ‘prayer works or thanks to the power of prayer’ i am well today.

        I always think ‘ what about those who have prayed” and did not recover?. Did they not pray correctly?

        I know every one here has been as courageous and motivated as possible and of late i find myself feeling totally empty and bereft to the very bottom of my soul – anything but being victorious over anything, even my own emotions.

        For me, i must be very care of words in my own head and what i do with them. This is not a matter of ‘trying harder’. Because that has been a problem for me all along. I want to be a human ‘being’ not a human ‘doing’. I have always felt i needed to ‘work on some aspect’ to be ‘okay’

        Lastly, you mention a town in your comments where every one is fine except they all need some small tweaking.

        I live in a town just like that.. The worst sin you can commit here is to age naturally, or not be fabulous or uber thin. you don’t even have to participate in any of it to feel that vibration. It’s like a very high pitched dog whistle.

        When i leave here it will be like taking off a very tight shoe and letting my hair down. I can’t wait until i figure out how to achieve that

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        1. The town I mentioned is actually accepting of people as they are, no tweaks needed, just quirks. All quirks, especially if they are eccentric are very welcome. Be who you are, and deal with it. The locals are being themselves, they accept that others (outsiders, visitors, passing traffic) may think they’re weird and don’t mind because it doesn’t matter, what matters is what they think of themselves. Which is one of the things I found difficult to deal with as I was used to environments which were not accepting, which focused their attention on what others think and the narrow margin that thinking had for others and for themselves. Yet here I was in a place which accepted me, as is… and I was forced to face the fact that I didn’t accept myself, but had always relied on others not accepting me to define myself, ergo I could think I accepted myself but the problem was others not accepting me… so I never had to face the fact that perhaps I was the one who didn’t accept myself… or others. Therein lies a challenging rub!

          We sometimes define who we are based on others… trying to change us, force us to conform to who they want us to be for them because they are using us, their version of us, to define themselves. We become a rebel with a cause, and that cause involves rebelling against the perceived oppression of others. Not being who they want us to be, that’s who we are. We build our identity upon not being the identity which others want to give us and make us be for their identity. Take that perceived oppression away… and who are you? If you’re not rebelling against someone else and who they want you to be, who are you? If you’re not taking someone else’s words and using them to define yourself, your thinking, your opinion, based on disagreeing with them… who are you, what do you think… when there is no one to contrast your thought against? It can be disorienting, cause cognitive dissonance, and in our attempt to have what we think is solid ground beneath our feet we may recreate the scenario we hate where it no longer exists just to return to our comfort zone, however uncomfortable it is and has always been.

          Sometimes we create for ourselves a paradox from which we want to escape, but also from which we can’t escape for if we do we lose who we are and how we define ourselves. If our identity needs to for us to constantly be trying to escape a situation and environment which makes us unhappy… we may see unhappiness where it doesn’t exist just to maintain our identity of someone who is surviving unhappy environments and hoping to one day escape from them to find a happy environment. But each happy environment to which we escape seems to become an unhappy environment from which we need to escape to a happier one. Is it bad luck? Is it outside of us, outside of our control… or are we creating this in some twisted manner?

          Self-reflection… is key, but it may require that we let go of some things which we are not willing to let go of because they are precious… even if they hurt us.

          Accepting that I was often the creator of my own nightmares (and still sometimes am) has been very liberating, but also rather upsetting because… how long have I been doing this, making everything harder for myself, making everyone… into who they are not to suit who I thought I was. How long have I been using others to define my identity of who I am… I hate it when people do that with me… damn, I’m a hypocrite! Do I accept that and sort it out or do I continue and pretend it’s not me but others? Because sometimes it is others so…

          Life, being, living… I guess we figure things out as we do that sort of thing, and wing it 🙂

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  6. Hi, it’s Hope here.

    I want to thank you all for reflecting on my story. I’m choosing not to comment on your replies for this reason:

    Recently, I stumbled across an article about narcissism I’m certain I read a year ago. And it was as if I were reading it for the very first time. In this second glance, I read pieces of it and thought “oh my gosh, yes that’s true, I see that now”. And other pieces? I thought “no, that doesn’t feel right to me anymore”.

    In this journey towards my self, I was exactly where I needed to be at that time- and I had absorbed exactly what I needed to absorb to pull me further along the path. So, I want to honor your place in your journey, and your lovely selves, and joyfully leave your interpretations of my words untouched.

    I am grateful for this experience with you. And because I love a beautiful quote, I’ll leave you with my most favorite words on gratitude:

    Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
    Thích Nhất Hạnh

    Be well.

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    1. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I’ll meet you there.

      When the soul lies down in that grass
      the world is too full to talk about.”
      ― Rumi

      Thank you for sharing, Hope, best wishes and blessings to you on your journey ❤

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  7. I think there is something so beautiful in being able to appreciate and experience the ordinary. I love old clothes for this reason. In our family looking good and being “well turned out” was so important. I am happiest in the back garden wearing old t-shirts digging around in the dirt or throwing a ball with my dog. I grew up thinking I had to excel, instead I tried to hard to be something else and became a weekend alcoholic, hiding who I really was (and busting out the displaced anger at not loving and accepting me). Many years later I feel happier to know I belong in my own skin and that humanity rests on being ordinary and fallible rather than doing all the time and having to be set apart or special. Like you Hope I attracted a woman friend who buttered me up, it wasn’t all false what she saw in me but it said a lot about not being part of the human race just being able to relate like an ordinary mortal. Knowing who we are, being able to be it, for some of us is a long journey. I can really relate to be so tired you wanted someone else to take control, and then that image of sitting the car on the side of the road after the whammo or having surrendered to someone damaged and damaging and being shell shocked. Time comes when we can get back in the driver’s seat and its a long coming to acceptance of the entire dilemma that has gone on leaving us literally shattered, but we can rebuild if we can begin to believe in and appreciate the ordinary and come to the hard won realisation that only we can choose and have the answers for ourselves. There is something so beautiful in that and at the end of the journey I do believe that even though we are at times alone we don’t feel that aching sense of loneliness any more. Thanks so much for bringing us Hope’s experience. ❤

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    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      What a beautiful feeling – “to know I belong in my own skin and that humanity rests on being ordinary and fallible rather than doing all the time and having to be set apart or special.” – and expression of it!

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  8. Specialness (others call it identification, any kind of it, any mask we choose, -some call it ego) is the trap that keeps us in the dream. I think the dream is not limited to our relationship with a person who’s 100% mask (that’s more like a nightmare inside the dream), the dream is our own mask itself. And we all tend to feed it, specially in relationships that makes us suffer, particularly in the end, since they present us with a ‘holy’ mask which is difficult to reject. So the pill of ordinariness is a specially difficult one to swallow under these circumstances. But when and if you do, if you are able to ‘own’ your actions, your decisions, your motives… or as Hope says, to take the driver seat, assume 100% (no less, -I know it’s difficult) responsibility for it all, then you’re free. When you are aware of your own mask (or masks, we normally have more than one), when you have the courage to go in and identify them and look at them one by one straight in the eye (and say to them ‘I know you’ as the Buddha did :), you’re free. Only one thing I disagree on: ‘there are no winners’. There are winners, you are the winner, if you want it badly enough. It requires only two things: motivation and courage, lots of it. And both are interrelated.

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    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      What you said reminds me of a quote which I just read while searching for George Bernard Shaw:

      “Every man to whom salvation is offered has an inalienable natural right to say ‘No, thank you: I prefer to retain my full moral responsibility: it is not good for me to be able to load a scapegoat with my sins: I should be less careful how I committed them if I knew they would cost me nothing.’” ― George Bernard Shaw

      When we’re offered the label of ‘special’ by another person, especially when that person is a narcissist, there is a hint of salvation in the gesture. They are plucking us out of the crowd, pulling us out of the ordinary and placing us on a pedestal, one from which they will subsequently make us afraid of falling off, then they will rock it until they succeed in knocking us off, then be disappointed in us for letting them knock us off.

      I sort of agree and disagree with the statement of ‘there are no winners’. It very much depends on the interpretation of what being a winner is and isn’t, the angle from which it is being looked at, and the meaning given to it. Many interpretations of being a winner require that there be losers, however there are interpretations of it which allow for all to be winners in their own way without the necessity for anyone to be a loser. The way that you have expressed what being a winner is, is the sort of winner I would avoid being as it comes with the proviso of ‘wanting it badly enough’. Under those circumstances I see a lot of pain involved, both for the person desiring to be a winner and those they meet along their path to becoming a winner. Of course there are variables. Sometimes being a ‘loser’ is being the ‘winner’.

      “The play was a great success, but audience was a dismal failure.” ― George Bernard Shaw

      The quote above made me chuckle, it’s a witty way of flipping things around. Perception is everything.

      Like

      1. Yes, salvation is a very dangerous thing if it comes from something/someone other than yourself. Just to be clear, that is what the message tried to convey. No buddhas, no spiritual teachers, no one. They can be pointers, but it’s all in your hands (I wouldn’t call it salvation, I prefer freedom), you have to ‘walk’ it.
        Winner for me can only mean one thing: can I learn from the situation, can I grow as a person, can I enhance my capability to love and to be happy. If I can, then I’m a winner. But seeing the possibility in something so seemingly negative as a painful relationship requires you wanting being ‘a winner’ over all the rest. And that doesn’t mean creating pain for others, on the contrary. It is painful for you because you have to face your own devils, but the more you face them, the softer, more understanding you get, the less you want to hurt, because you finally understand that hurting others hurts you the most. It may sound too holy, or maybe as hollow words, but it’s the only way I have to describe it and, well, no one has to take my word for it or believe it, there is only one way to know, for yourself.

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        1. I like that kind of interpretation of winner 🙂

          Why do you think that it may sound holy or hollow, or are you just preempting what others may think, or is it part of an internal dialogue about your words?

          I always find the sub-conversations which are a part of a conversation intriguing to notice and explore, they often pepper our sentences with extra dialogue, excuses, disclaimers, preventative measures. Sometimes our conversations with others are full of arguments which we are having with ourselves, or with someone else who is not a part of this particular conversation.

          You are right, we do have to walk our own path and figure things out for ourselves.

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          1. Yes, that is part of my ego, the default mode that sneaks up on you lest you are aware, look at it and say ‘I know you’, and which is almost always based on fear. It has its momentum (and a big one too), but every time you are conscious of it, it loses force. So thank you 🙂

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              1. ❤ to you too, -much 🙂 I wanted to add, that in my opinion in life, despite all the downs (specially the big downs as the ones we talk about here), there is no opposite to winning. It is only a question of time, there is only ‘winning-to-be’, I don’t believe in ‘losing’. I have no way to prove this, though. I guess it’s a question of faith, but I found it to be true. So I share it, maybe somewhere it will resonate, and if it doesn't, there's probably a good reason for that too 🙂

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                    1. What we see is seen through our eyes, what is heard is heard through our ears, etc. We can sometimes glimpse what other see, hear, ect, but that too moves through us… solipsism. Yet… something else too 🙂

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  9. Dear Hope,
    your post stirred a deep sadness in me; I hesitated for a while before writing to you as I don’t want to criticize and hurt you (who am i do to that?) but there is something in your perspective which is a bit distorted in my eyes and experience.
    You start with a negative statement about yourself- you are not special, with is due to your family heritage, they made you believe you were (and are, as you are still saying it right now) unlovable. I am the result of this horror too.
    It’s true, “special” is a recurrent adjective for Ns- my former therapist overdid it and told me I was exceptional:)).I know how it feels as we have believed for such a long time we couldn’t be appreciated.
    BUT.
    Everybody is unique to me, there is not a human being such as “ordinary”, there are so many different hues and personalities.You are your own person and in a way, yes, you are unique as there is no other copy of you in the whole world.
    From a psychological point of view, to describe this unlucky encounter as “i met a disordered person” is a partial view of the problem. As we have just acknowledged, we are hurt creatures, instead of being nurtured by our parents we have been left with a deep scar with prevents us from being available to real love. I am not saying we have a disorder, but we carry a burden which the majority of people don’t, and that’s why we can be easily hurt by Ns while people usually don’t care for them and ignore them. That’s the magnet and unconsciously we “agreed” to it. I talk to you as i talk to myself in my psychoanalytical sessions.if we want to get out of that rabbit hole, we have to see the whole of it.
    True we all long to be loved and love and we took for real waht was an illusion, but I am sure one day you can find someone honest ready to open to you and appreciate your uniqueness. Take care.xxx

    Like

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective 🙂 it’s always intriguing to see what others see, hear what others hear, in what we show of ourselves and what we say. That is part of the gift (and also at times the curse) of sharing our thoughts, feelings, and views with others.

      I personally find that Hope’s words – ‘I am not special’ – are exhilarating because they are liberating, and embracing the concept of being ordinary is personal power in action. To me this post in many ways shows that Hope is special and extraordinary, as it expresses her individuality and uniqueness. It also shows courage because there is a rebellious undertone, a going-against-the-tide.

      In a time when being special seems to be so important, and has been for a while, for someone to declare that they are not special… is a bit like showing a bare ankle in those times when such a thing was considered the height of impropriety. And when someone does that, we don’t know how to react, which makes us feel uncomfortable. And when we’re uncomfortable we look for ways of returning to comfort, even if that comfort is painful.

      There is a challenge within this post which I find very inspiring, one which calls for the reader to self reflect – Whatever these words stir up in you, belongs to you, are you willing to own it or will you give it away to the writer.

      There is so much insightful subtlety in this story, in these words, so many tangents to follow and explore, so much food for thought, emotional gems, and healing for the soul. What we find in it is Hope’s gift to us.

      How we react to the words ‘special’ and ‘ordinary’ shows us our own view of what those words mean to us. Our reactions give us a doorway into ourselves and our psyche. When someone shares their story with us, they help us to discover our own story.

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  10. “There are so many of them out there, and they all do the same thing: Very simply put, they’re engaged in a lifelong game called Self Esteem at the Expense of Others. They are not monsters, just human beings with a very fucked up sense of self. That’s nothing special, nothing extraordinary, not really.” This perfectly summarizes narcissists.
    The whole piece perfectly describes the dynamic with Narcissists the good ,bad and ugly. Love the analogies.

    For some reason it made me remember a friend of mine from my teen years — who when I when I think about it fits being a narcissist. I had forgotten all about her. My life has been filled with them. Born to one and have gravitated to this type of person ever since.
    .
    Sorry to hear about the pain this person caused you. Glad you’ve gained so much wisdom from it! You sound like you know your convictions and are very strong. Best to you.

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  11. Thanks for sharing…I cried the entire time while reading this post. It rings so true in so many ways for me and my ex narc friend. Initially I was in the driver’s seat & she gave me the illusion of control. She verbally would tell me how special I was & I was willing to unlock things for her that she never understood about her life…she was working on making me feel responsible, dependent & loyal to her. It worked & I felt special. It feels good to feel special. It was my fantasy too. But my fantasy was exploited by someone disordered. Someone normal would not do this to someone else. I love the question of whether to chose the illusion or the truth? What’s it gonna be? I couldn’t have one foot in one world and the other foot in another world. It was literally tearing me apart, as my legs moved farther apart and I was being split in two. We are not meant to be split in two- we are meant to be whole. I have learned that being whole is special enough for me now. Being ordinary is nice.

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    1. Thank you 🙂

      It does feel good to be special, it just takes a while to find the right kind of special which suits who we truly are individually. We need to discover our own interpretation of it, and of many other concepts which make up a part of our personal world, find what it means to us and how to feel special in a way that is natural and easy. To be special effortlessly in an ordinary way because it is who we are as is.

      There is nothing natural, easy or effortless about being special to a narcissist, after the initial buzz wears off, it’s all an uphill struggle downhill. We get pushed, pulled and pressured into being a version of special which gets further and further away from our natural selves. We basically end up having to forfeit our authentic specialness for an inauthentic version of it created by someone else… therefore controlled by someone else because we can’t be who we are, we have to be someone else, and we don’t know how to be that someone else so we need their instructions.

      It’s a bit like those stories of Hollywood ‘discoveries’. You’re the waiter or waitress who gets discovered by a movie mogul who decides to turn you into a star because they love everything about you, you’re special, you’ve got the X-factor… but your teeth need straightening, whitening, and veneering (to the point where you lose your original smile but the new one is ‘better’), you need to lose weight (even though you’re already underweight), you need to change the colour of your hair, a bit of plastic surgery, voice lessons to change how you speak… they love everything about you, then try to change everything about you. They take your natural and make it unnatural. They take away what was special about you naturally to make you special in a different kind of way, a way which will be popular and loved by many (but you may never be able to love yourself for letting this happen to you).

      It is fun to explore all the possible options of who we could be, try out other skins, and when someone invites us to try out their version of us… we try it out as we may find that the skin fits, but what if it doesn’t and they glued us into it?

      Being ordinary is about just being who we are as is, letting the skin we’re in be the skin which others see and which we wear (most of the time 😉 ).

      Like

  12. I love the analogy used of a car and driver’s seat/passenger seat. It made me think of a literal experience with being a passenger for a while.
    I was without a car for a few years, except for about 10 weeks I drove my father’s car while he was terminally ill. Once he was gone the car went back into the estate and I was carless once again.

    Anyway, for those few years, I depended on my roommate/friend for rides when I needed to get some place that was too far to walk or ride my bicycle. He drives a Jeep Wrangler. It’s all shiny and pretty on the outside, rugged and safe looking. But when I’d get in that thing as a passenger I’d be jolted and whipped around and that was just driving on paved roads. When we’d go over a bump I’d feel it PLUS it was loud. Both could be painful. If the driver came to a sudden stop my head would slam against the head rest, which was might as well have been a brick.

    It was the worst time in being a passenger and once I finally got my own vehicle again, I was so thankful not to have to be exposed to such a bumpy ride anymore.

    I’m not trying to diminish the experience you write about here. I know that becoming attached to a human is much different than depending on someone to give me a ride in an inanimate object, but it was also a type of dependency that I hated while at the same time I felt relief of expenses from not having the responsibility of having my own car.

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    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      I love the story which this post inspired in you. That to me is the essence of a great conversation, when one person’s story stirs up the stories of others and everyone shares, and we all travel through the worlds of others which inspire us to view our own worlds differently, with new eyes.

      I think that the driving analogy is an excellent way of exploring relationship dynamics. There was a reality show on UK TV a while ago which filmed people as they learned to drive, and the relationships in the car were fascinating and thought-provoking. One participant became an overnight sensation because of the fights she had with her husband, and other reasons.

      I don’t actually drive (a personal choice) which can be occasionally frustrating, but more often than not it is for the best. As a passenger I’m a fairly good human GPS and entertainment system 😉

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      1. Thank you for appreciating my story.
        I used to chime in with stories all the time when people would tell a story. Then one day while I was working at a sandwich shop, as I was beginning a story after someone else had told us all something, one of the girls said sarcastically, “What is this story time at blankety blank deli.

        I was humiliated and hurt. I shut my mouth and don’t speak up much in that way anymore. But I love to hear and share experiences. I don’t do it much anymore though.

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        1. I’ve had similar experiences which have inspired me to retreat into unsharing silence. Blogging has helped me to break the habit… I’m still uncertain if that is a bad habit which I have partly cured or a good habit which I messed with and perhaps shouldn’t have done so.

          For me, what always hurt the most in the past, was realising that what I had shared, which seemed precious to me, had fallen on deaf ears, was the opposite of valuable to them, and those whom I had shared with weren’t listening because all they wanted to do was tell their own stories, and my story was viewed by them as tiresome talk which they had to put up with until there was a break which allowed them to take over and talk… yet they would expect me to listen to them and their stories with rapt attention.

          The world of humans is a minefield of hurt and humiliation for all of us. How do we transform such an experience into something which encourages us to be ourselves, to share what we want to share, in a manner which doesn’t pass on the hurt and humiliation to someone else – which sounds like what the girl in your story was doing to you. She passed her wound onto you. She watched with envy as you did something which you enjoyed and which others enjoyed, and instead of joining in and participating in a positive way, she rained on your parade and ruined it for everyone, even for herself because although she may have felt rather good for a split second for ruining your fun, it didn’t solve her problem, and my guess is her problem went on to ruin the fun of many others and she continued to be disgruntled.

          I like what Jean Cocteau said about such instances:

          “What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.” ― Jean Cocteau

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  13. I love this entry! You explained it so well. 22 years with a Narc and 7 years free of it. Still mending and still learning, and blogs like yours are well-served to help us connect, to know we can and should learn to live again after having the energy and happiness sucked dry from us, we can learn to live again, learn to see in color again, learn to love again and yes take the steering wheel. Well done!

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    1. Thank you very much 🙂

      This wonderful post was written by Hope who found my blog because I shared my own experiences of relationships with narcissists. By connecting with each other and sharing our stories, our experiences of pain and healing the pain, we help each other to understand what we have been through and how to take our experience and turn it into inspiration for what we have yet to live.

      Learning to see in colour again… is a great way of expressing it, as living in the world of a narcissist is all in black and white.

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