What a Narcissist Needs… Self-Acceptance is both the Problem and the Solution
“When you accept yourself and all your flaws, you don’t particularly need to focus on self-esteem per se. You focus, instead, on being as good as possible at what you actually do. You may have a positive sense of self, but you don’t blow your sense of self-importance up out of proportion. If you make a mistake, or if someone criticizes you, it’s not the end of the world. You’re the first one to admit that you’re not perfect and you know that there will be days that don’t work out quite the way you’d have liked.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
I have to confess that the only reason I chose to read the article – What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love – is because I found the title irritating, especially the first half of it. I must admit that I am very glad I was irritated and decided to scratch that itch because the article is excellent, insightful and very interesting.
It’s also worth perusing the comments, at least it was for me because I got a little shot of self-esteem from doing so. Why? Because I have a flaw which can’t help itself from predicting reactions to things which are said. When these predictions come true, I am rather pleased with myself and often celebrate by murmuring to myself – That’s what I thought!. I don’t tend to say this out loud as that is a mistake I have made which was identified as a mistake due to the reaction which it provoked. People like you to be confident, but they don’t like it when your confidence is perceived by them as being smugness. When these predictions are proved to be false, I learn from my mistake as best as I can once I swallow my pride, which can get stuck in the throat like a very large and hard to swallow but much needed pill.
In this particular case, as I was reading the article, I predicted that this bit…
“People high in self-acceptance turn out, counter-intuitively, to be low in self-esteem. You might imagine that accepting yourself would virtually guarantee having a pretty healthy self-esteem not one that is lower than the average non-self-accepting sort. However, it’s precisely that lack of self-acceptance that sets the individual up for self-esteem problems.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
…and other similar bits which echoed the same concept, would cause problems for those reading the words. Especially for those who are and have been in a long term (or a short term which felt too long) relationship with a narcissist and are still in the anger stage, and the anger is still very raw.
The process of healing from a relationship with a narcissist is similar to the Five Stages of Grief, as you are mourning a great loss, a death. However since what has died is still alive, you never get closure which can feel as though it is a form of torture designed just for you. An agonising death which never climaxes.
The anger stage is the hardest part to move through as it permeates everything. Just when you think you’re ‘over it’, you’re out, you get pulled back in.
I am fairly calm with regards to narcissists these days… until I am exposed to my mother in some way, either due to her (narcissistic parents never let go of their children, they own you, you belong to them) or due to someone who reminds me of her so much that for a moment I can’t tell the difference between them and her. Then the anger rises like a tidal wave and reaching higher ground on my little legs moving more slowly than the rage is the sort of challenge which I am more likely to lose.
One of the hardest parts of the anger stage is accepting the anger. Many people have a difficult time accepting the person they are when the anger takes a hold of them. The sort of anger a relationship with a narcissist, that a narcissist, can provoke within a person who, up until they got involved with a narcissist and then suffered the apres-honeymoon (love-bombing) phase, considered themselves to be peaceful, kind, compassionate and empathic, tends to rock their identity boat and world in a manner which makes them not only seasick, but heartsick, mindsick and soulsick.
Being a rational soul, whose sickness temporarily makes them irrational, the victim of a narcissist sets out to find a cure. But many of the cures only seem to trigger a recurrence of the symptoms of sickness. Reading an article which seems sympathetic and shows empathy towards narcissists… enrages them. To hell with the narcissist, what about me and what the narcissist did to me (and is still doing to me)!
Indeed… however sometimes the cure is in the sickness, the vaccine uses the virus, the healing is in the wound. Your wound which the narcissist inflicted on you. But more precisely within the wound which caused the narcissist to develop NPD. The wound of the narcissist is the wound which they inflict and pass on to you. Understanding it is the cure. Yet… you’ve been understanding, and you’re fed up of it!
There are diverse types of understanding… just as there are diverse types of narcissists, even if they all seem the same.
Articles like this one, are examining patient zero to determine how the infection spreads from them to others, and how they got it in the first place. It may be uncomfortable reading, because it appears to be, in some ways, favouring the narcissist, but sometimes you need to face discomfort to find relief, release and recovery. A palliative cure for the sickness caused by having a relationship with a narcissist may feel momentarily relieving, but may also create a scenario whereby you move from one narcissist to another, concluding even more painfully that there must be something wrong with you because you attract narcissists and keep attracting them no matter what you do.
Why does this keep happening to you! It’s unfair!
And you may conclude that everyone except you is a narcissist. Which is a rather narcissistic conclusion… but it does not mean that you are a narcissist, it simply shows that intense pain which wraps you up in a suffocating embrace, is a narcissistic experience – ergo… maybe the reason narcissists are the way that they are is because they are in permanent pain. Hence what the article is saying is that… that person whom you’ve identified as a narcissist, who has made a living hell of your life, and your relationship with them is a constant open suppurating wound which never heals, is being the way that they are because they are trying to heal their own wound, a suffocating wound which has completely absorbed them, and like the Blob, has now absorbed you too.
“The lack of self-acceptance that characterizes narcissists is indeed what makes them such difficult living partners. They are judgmental, letting you know when they don’t like something you do or say. They become particularly enraged when your own actions lead others to cast a negative light onto them. If you’re not dressed “just right,” you make them look bad. They believe that everyone, including you, shares their values and opinions. When you cross them, they feel angry that you’re not showing 100% acceptance of them. It’s because narcissists are so hard on themselves that they can be so infuriating when you’re in a relationship with one.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
That flaw of mine which I mentioned which causes me to predict how people will react to things that are said, was a crack created by repeated exposure to narcissists. Being able to predict how someone, a narcissist in particular, will react to what you say becomes a matter of pain-avoidance. Pain in the ass and everywhere else avoidance. You learn to censor, edit, and control your spontaneous self-expression for the benefit of the narcissist which benefits you too (even though the benefit to you is split-second short term and still painful).
Avoiding certain types of pain, applying a balm… is only a temporary cure which doesn’t really work unless you’re willing to live in denial of how much you are hurting, of your own personal needs, for the sake of catering to the narcissist… which becomes one of your personal needs when you’re involved with a narcissist. That balm is salt in the wound…
“In order to satisfy the narcissist with whom you’re in a relationship, you’ll need to offer constant praise and admiration. The first sign of conflict becomes a dire threat against which the narcissistic individual seeks protection.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
Narcissists are idealists and perfectionists, who censor everyone, including themselves, to the point where anything even slightly less than their ideal of perfect is a crime, a sin, a terrifying flaw, an horrific mistake which only genocide can cure, and even then… they always want more, and more, and more, genocide. Of course, since they are not particularly good (but don’t tell them that unless you want to be bored to death by an interminable and repetitious monologue to which they never listen but to which they expect you to listen over and over again with rapturous focus as if it was the words of a god – which often includes your own words regurgitated back to you as though you’d never said them, could never think of such a thing, and they just thought of them and are enlightening you with them but you’ll never understand because they are smarter than you) at dealing with the consequences of their actions, once their genocidal solution to all their problems (which is always due to everyone else except them) leaves them all alone on this planet… but, once all alone, with no one to accept what they refuse to accept, no one left to be a mirror which will reflect themselves, a reflection which they will distort to reflect back to them what they desire to see to appease the hungry demon within, with no one to applaud them even if the applause is canned, be their audience listening to their lectures, putting up with their tantrums, echoing their hopes that they are great… great… great… will they finally accept themselves, responsibility and accountability, or will they slowly die of starvation due to lack of narcissistic supply, still hostile and bitter, blaming everyone one else for what they have done, angry at others for allowing themselves to be killed thus leaving the narcissist all alone. You abandoned them to themselves. Poor them, how could you do this to them, it’s unfair!
How could you leave the narcissist alone, alone with themselves, with their projections with nowhere to project them…
“To admit that they played a role in the conflict would mean they would have to admit that they’re not as perfect in relationships as they imagine themselves to be.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
They need you more than you need them, but they will never accept such a thing, because they need to lie to themselves about how much they need you, because that sort of need perceived by them to be a weakness which they perceive as a flaw. A dreaded flaw like the dreaded hooded claw. Thus they always perceive you as needing them more than they need you… they could discard you in an instant and not be bothered by it, they can replace you, you know… you’re nothing to them even if they take everything from you, rely on you for everything which they lack but need… it’s never enough, therefore you are never good enough for them. They’re better than you, better than that… the fear that they are not, pushes them to prove that they are using you and anyone else who is available to be used, abused and… so on.
The title bothered me because the need for more which a narcissist has, has been a source of frustration since I was a child. That relentless and greedy need for more, the desperate scramble to find sources to supply their insatiable demand, the ravenous way they suck all of the life out of you then blame you for being sucked dry and not being able to keep pouring your life force into their bottomless pit of need… and on and on and on… has shaped who I am.
Whether I would have been different from who I am now had I not grown up with narcissists is a moot point. One which is best left unexamined as it could become a thorn in my side which prevents me from accepting who I am as is.
The mirage of what could have been, who you could have been, who you would have been, who you should be, if only this had happened instead of that, is a wound which will eat you alive just as a narcissist does, as it is very much a part of what drives a narcissist to be the way that they are.
“Returning to the issue of self-acceptance, the Peterson and DeHart study also suggests that their highly judgmental attitude toward themselves may be what makes them so resistant to accepting their own culpability in arguments. To admit that they played a role in the conflict would mean they would have to admit that they’re not as perfect in relationships as they imagine themselves to be.
This look inside the mental life of the narcissist may give you greater empathy as well. It’s no fun being low on self-acceptance, and people who are can never feel content about themselves and their abilities.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
Accepting myself as I am, flaws, mistakes, and all… best thing I ever did for myself. Took a long time to do, and is still something which I am learning to do, slowly but surely, day by day. Not all of it is acceptable… but the unacceptable is a part of the acceptable.
“You’re the first one to admit that you’re not perfect and you know that there will be days that don’t work out quite the way you’d have liked.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., What a Narcissist Needs is More, not Less, Self Love.
Once I learned how to accept myself, and just do it without too much fanfare surrounding the fact that I was doing it… it became second nature. First nature is… I think self-acceptance is first nature, but then it gets nurtured out of us (or at least it did with me). I appreciate it more than perhaps I would have… another moot point.
After I began to accept myself as is… it slowly rippled into accepting narcissists as they are. This has been very healing for me, even though it does not give me closure, it gives me understanding… a certain type of understanding which releases me from those invisible contracts which the narcissist signs by forging your name and then holds you to it, using emotional blackmail and other threats.
I accept that I will never be acceptable to them. And I don’t really want to be acceptable to them… because that might make me unacceptable to myself as I recall rather vividly the extent to which I bent myself out of shape to try to earn a smidgeon of acceptance from them… and how that was used against me, to keep me a prisoner of their wound forever feeding its decaying mouth.
These days… that feeling, those vivid memories… inform me in other ways, of myself, and of when I am in the presence of someone who is being narcissistic… whether they are a narcissist, have NPD, or not, matters less than how I react to what they say and do.
My flaws… are also the cracks through which light gets in, even though that light is refracted… it still has a certain shine to it which contrasts with that which is dark.