“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.” ― Neil Gaiman
My mother used to tease me about a tendency I had – my attraction to what she called ‘mysterious ways’.
Mysterious ways = taking the path less traveled. Trekking off through briar and nettle patches when I could just stick to the well-trodden path, cleared of uncomfortable and painful perils to humans, nettles and briar patches destroyed by agent orange and things not always as extreme as that but with similar consequences (although with less guilt and shame attached, perhaps). Being willing to get lost by wandering off into the wilderness, dangerous detouring, veering off, trusting a compass, a map, a way to go, which was mine alone, not sanctioned by others. Being open to getting hurt and eaten alive, when I could just stay safe from such a thing, put rubber on the sharp edges, stick my head in the sand, and things like that.
It was one of many things about which she teased me. Her teasing could be relentless. It was relentless because she was obsessed. Not with me, but with me as I was for her, what I represented to her about her. I was an extension of her, and as such I commanded her attention without wanting it but getting it anyway.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Her teasing was a – this is what is ‘funny’ about you – yet there was nothing funny about it for her, she was serious and I had to take her seriously, takes the things which she took seriously seriously, even though the serious was disguised by mocking laughter. Her teasing was not the mockery which it appeared to be on the surface. Her dismissiveness was not the dismissal it appeared to be. Her criticism, her taunts, her scathing reviews of me, were not what they appeared to be.
My self was a constant source of concern for her because each segment of it, of me, triggered her issues. Her issues = my issues for her. It was all about her, never about me even when she gave the impression of being it all about me and not her. I just happened to be the focus for her stuff about her. And it appeared as though it was about me, but those appearances were deceiving.
Stick with how things appear and you will get tangled in a web of confusing pain (your pain, that of others, that of others mixed with yours, that of others disguised as yours, yours made into that of others, and so many other permutations of pain, and such a pain creates a vortex of it’s all about you when it has nothing to do with you) from which you will never escape. But not everyone wants to actually escape (what we say versus what we do), so… sometimes we aid and abet what and who keeps us trapped and then blame others and other things for our remaining exactly there.
The uncomfortable comfort zone.
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” ― Paulo Coelho
My mother was using humour (a twisted and pained kind) to disguise her fear. She was a very fearful woman and still is. Afraid of everything, of everyone, desperate to be afraid of nothing and no one. So she put on a front and that front became her identity. It still is. She did this in such a way that she convinced herself that she was who she pretended to be, and all was well in her world – except it never was. Never will be.
Her identity was constantly under threat from outside forces beyond her control, and the majority of her behaviour was designed to try to control what she could not control. She’s still doing this even though this never works, and has never worked. A recipe for a nightmare within her and for all those who strayed (and still stray) into her perimeter, which often stretched (and still stretches) beyond its boundaries.
Narcissists aren’t good with boundaries, but they’re not the only ones who have problems defining such a thing and sticking to it once it’s defined. But they’re excellent at telling others how to do this and what those boundaries are (until they move the goal, fence, whatever, posts).
My mother was and is a covert narcissist.
“If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” ― Groucho Marx
But that’s just a label which explains the way that she was and is. It is not who she was and is, it’s just a layer on top of her real self (another one), a layer I have given her as a way to understand her behaviour, to figure her and my own experience of her out. A way for me to escape rather than stay stuck… easier said than done, and not just because of her, or even of myself, but because… the things which define and confine you (whoever you are) aren’t always about you.
In her own eyes she is not a covert narcissist. She is a child who was never loved, a child who was born to parents who had a child for the sake of having children because that’s what married couples did and still do. She was a girl born when boys were more highly valued. She felt that de-valuation of her gender deeply and personally. And often told tales of how her brother could get away with anything, but she could get away with nothing. She was punished for being naughty, he was praised for being a good boy – the things for which she was punished were the same as those for which he was praised.
This last detail gives an insightful look into not just my mother, but narcissists and society in general. The realm of double standards, whose borders overlap the territory of hypocrisy. Whose boundaries are boundaries created to be trespassed and punished for that trespassing based on a whim here and there.
“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain” ― Miyamoto Musashi
I noticed that with her a lot. Her double standards and often glaring hypocrisy. The whims of it all. Her boundaries allowing her to trespass the boundaries of others. How she would often bemoan the way someone had treated her, but not be aware that she treated others the same way. Somehow it was okay when she did it, but never okay when others did it, not just to her but to other others when she said so, chose to notice such things.
All humans do this a bit, sometimes a lot of a bit. Narcissists tend to be very consistent with it, not as fickle as the rest of us where it is concerned. We punish them for it with our scorn, but that’s okay because they have scorn for us and we’re just evening the odds.
It’s okay for those of us who consider ourselves not to be narcissists to dismiss, demean, devalue, dehumanise, those whom we consider to be narcissists. It’s okay for us to search for ways to – get back at a narcissist, piss them off, avenge ourselves on them. They started it, we’re just finishing what they started. It’s okay, we’re victims and survivors of them, we’re justified in doing to them what they did to us.
Maybe, but… there is a tipping point. And that tipping point is closer than we might think it is – images in this mirror are closer than they seem or maybe they are too close for our personal comfort and we make them seem further away than they actually are. It’s not us, it’s them… when it is convenient for us to disassociate. But suddenly it’s us and not them when we change our mind and want it to be something else.
“I’m not as good a man as you are. I can’t so easily forgive those I have wronged.” ― Sigrid Undset
Beware and be aware of your self. This awareness is your saviour and the lack of it is your worst enemy, more so than a narcissist, narcopath, sociopath, psychopath, apath or any other path, including empath… be prepared for a battle within. The battle outside of yourself may be a mirage, a reflection of what’s going on inside.
Face your self.
Then again… you could just create a distraction from such a thing. You could become something else to avoid who you are.
There are certain aspects of narcissists, of NPD, which are often overlooked in the literature available about narcissists and NPD, whether what is written is from an expert, a psychologist or other persons in that field, or someone who has gained a different kind of expertise through personal experience. Are these aspects deliberately overlooked?
Overall I would say that it is about as deliberately overlooked as a narcissist, someone with NPD, is consciously aware of what they are doing to others.
What is right in front of us, we often hide from ourselves with a term here and there. Others do it, say it, use it… have you explored if those others are narcissists or not before you follow their path and ‘paths’?
A significant portion of narcissists will recognise themselves as victims and survivors of narcissists rather than as narcissists. Ergo a significant portion of people identified by others as narcissists perhaps aren’t narcissists but may well be the victims and survivors of narcissists who have been redesigned and their roles rewritten by the person creating their ‘path’. Narcissists are always keeping tabs on trends and such, and like to be there first, or at least there when it counts and makes them special. This is more common online than offline, but it’s there too.
And that is one of the aspects which often gets overlooked – the degree of awareness that a narcissist, someone with NPD, has of their effect, influence, behaviour, etc, on others.
“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.” ― Robert J. Sawyer
People seem to prefer to view the narcissist as being more in control, and more consciously aware of their manipulative behaviour and the detrimental effect that it has on those around them than they actually are. Some are that aware, but most aren’t… that’s why. The why to all those questions which get relegated to answers that aren’t answers at all but somethign else.
The narcissist label has become synonymous with Machiavellian-Xmen-Bond villainy, and the people who write about NPD and those who have it, make them sound like they’re puppet-masters-extraordinaire, and the literature smacks of the work of conspiracy theorists. Is it any wonder that no one believes it? That you, the writer of such things, sound as though you’re the crazy one.
For those who write about it or speak about it after having had a fairly normal (whatever that is) life up until their life collided with that of a narcissist and then got enmeshed in a torrid relationship which started off as perfect and ended up being horrific… because of the narcissist. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.
In this Twilight Zone you will experience the kind of turbulence for which wearing a seatbelt won’t help, but you’ll wear it anyway because you think it helps and what you think becomes your reality (just as it did when you thought the narcissist was your ideal partner – the person who embodied everything you have on your list of who someone has to be for you to love them), your comfort zone in a chaotic experience. That seatbelt will be your path finder for you.
And many ‘paths’ it will find for you and for others.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ― Gautama Buddha
* inspired by reading – Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths – protect yourself – not just the article but the comments too (especially the comments, the creepiest ones came from the most unlikely source) and wondering who was the real threat. The real person from whom one had to protect oneself. People are not always as they seem or as they see themselves. None of us are.
Your way of analyzing your mother’s psychological features is deep and so real that i have the impression I have met her. Your writing makes your story true and vivid.I always learn something new when i read you and i also try to see myself differently, sort of seeing myself as if I were a third person and at once the observer watching my own reactions. You are the master of “what if we looked at that from another point of view..” Thank you!
Thank you 🙂
I was my mother’s confidante since I was a very young child. She shared everything, too early for me and my young mind, and far too much of it over the course of many years. So, I know more about her than I care to know. But she had no one else to talk to, no one else who was willing to listen (I was a captured audience, who did not have that kind of choice of will), so she talked and talked and talked to me, at me. Some of it has been useful in figuring things out.
But the most important aspect of figuring things out for me is to see it from different perspectives. I don’t like to get stuck in one point of view, because then I miss the bigger picture which is made up of other pictures, angles, light and dark, and many other shades.
This post really worried me after I posted it and I almost deleted it – that’s a good sign for me. 🙂
Plz forgive typos…I post quickly before I change my mind.
I am so grateful you did not delete this post. Your wisdom was my soul’s guidance, just for today, that I am on the right path despite my misgivings. We never know who we bless in our healing.
No worries. I never mind typos, I have dyslexia so I don’t tend to notice them. They’re not important, what is important is expressing yourself.
Thank you for that, what you said about me not deleting my post. It’s an old fear, I have learned to keep going when it rears up.
Step by step we get where we’re going and our misgivings become allies instead of enemies 🙂
And that’s very wise and true – “We never know who we bless in our healing.” – thank you very much for that, you too ❤
“Beware and be aware of your self.” This is so insightful, Ursula, and something of which I’m beginning to have a dawning awareness. After I separated from my ex-narcissist and went into counselling, I became concerned that I might be a narcissist, as well. And I still think that I did tip over for a time. I was fighting for my life – it very much felt that way – and I started to make use of the same tactics that he was using. My counsellor counselled me out of that behaviour, for which I am extremely grateful.
Your point that some of the people who write about narcissism might be narcissists themselves has been concerning to me and I know that you have written about this before. I agree that some of it is so extreme, so over the top, that it sounds like narcissistic character assassination. Some sites have made me feel very uncomfortable. I have thought a lot about finding balance when I consider narcissism. Narcissists are deserving of sympathy (there’s that path again!) but that has to be from afar. I have maintained no contact for three years now (as soon as I could after all the divorce ends had been tied up) and when I find myself thinking of him now, I deliberately wish him well, or more precisely, to get well, to be mentally healthy. I really want that for him, even though I know that it’s extremely unlikely.
You are such a talented writer, Ursula. You make me think. 🙂
It is a natural part of the process of being involved with a narcissist to become a bit like them in some ways. They can bring out the worst in people, bring out the unhealthy side of natural narcissism – which is one of the ways we can learn to spot them, especially the covert narcissist who is much harder to spot than the overt narcissist, by observing how we are affected by them, their influence on us.
This is an insightful view of covert NPD – http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/29/narcissists-who-cry-the-other-side-of-the-ego/
Sometimes you fight a virus by using the virus itself to create a natural immunity and to heal from it. Tipping into unhealthy narcissism can be healthy in the long run – it gives us a personal point of reference which can be invaluable in many ways. Been there, done that… and now you know it inside and out. It can be personally shocking, but also a necessary shock which has a beneficial effect. Insight borne of experience.
It can be hard at times to distinguish between a narcissist who claims to be a victim and a victim of a narcissist, partly due to the anger involved in healing from being in a relationship with a narcissist. It has certain similarities with narcissistic rage – it’s not the same but it can appear that way. I can see that with myself, and now understand the answers to many of my questions about why others preferred to believe the narcissists rather than me.
This is an interesting article about the healing process and some of the pitfalls – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/200905/the-line-between-victims-and-abusers
Narcissists are often more appealing ‘victims’ than non-narcissist victims of narcissists, at least where an ‘audience’ is concerned because that’s where their focus is – on how they are being perceived and what they get from it, on showing people what people want to see, on telling people what people want to hear, to get from those people what they want and need from them – their story (and supply) depends on it. They tend to build upon what others react to, what is ‘popular’, what draws more attention (increases their blog stats). Whereas a non-narcissist victim of a narcissist does not have that kind of focus, they want to sort things out within themselves and heal. They may put people off because they’re more likely to rip off a bandaid, balance blame and things like that, are more likely to explore grey areas in search of truth, more likely to deviate from their original path as they move along it and open themselves to other perspectives, are more likely to heal and move on (which in blog terms may mean a tapering off, a change of direction, or even an end to that blog). A narcissist instead will find a rut and keep digging it, stick to the black and white, never explore grey areas or other perspectives, never rip off bandaids, but shore up the bandaids which are already in place, piling more on to hide the wound.
It’s really not that difficult to spot if you’re willing to see it – trust your feeling of being uncomfortable. Use yourself and your own journey as a template. Always trust what your path has taught you.
It’s not really unlikely to wish your narcissist well, that’s what non-narcissists do even with those who are narcissists, even with the narcissists who have deeply hurt them. It’s intrinsic to human nature, the healthy kind. When we know that the reason someone has harmed us and others is because of their own intense suffering, we can relate, understand, feel compassion. We are not like them, but we can understand them and why they will never understand us. They just can’t do what we do and don’t get it, never will, think we’re stupid because of it… yet it fascinates them, and they hate that it does.
Trust yourself, you are a beautiful soul having a very human experience, living and learning. 🙂
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Thanks so much for your very supportive comments and for the links. I’ve spent a lot of time browsing the Psychcentral site – it has been edifying. 🙂
I am learning to trust myself – it has been a tough slog in lots of ways, but completely worth it. 🙂
It is hard to trust ourselves, probably one of the greatest challenges in life because we’re often taught to fight it, doubt it, deny it… perhaps that’s part of the challenge, as once we get it, we value it in a way that we maybe never would have done had it been an easy thing to do.
You especially have very good instincts, intuition and insight. Let you guide you, and keep trusting yourself. Let your heart show you the way. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Interestingly enough this piece is timely throughout, in so many ways. I’d live to go point by point but don’t want to be to open. I just love the way you think. Sister’s in healing lol I am so thankful to be able to relate and not feel so alone. I struggle with forgetting. Just yesterday I forgave him and know I must keep moving on. Day 12 of NC and I have not contacted him at all. There have been dome close calls but I literally picture him and his face not loving me and am reminded that I was in fact, not loved. Painful but true. I am teaching myself to feel empathy for him while knowing there is nothing I myself can do for him. He may never change but should be wish to help is there. I go through moments of intense anger at how I am left. But I also get to experience moments of extreme peace knowing I chose growth over fear! Thx for being here An Upturned Soul. I an inspired as of late. My creativity is re-awakening. I cannot ever let him or anybody steal my energy away. Energy, like light everywhere in abundance. It is only in taking that which is not offered that a person becomes draining. I know now if someone leaves me feeling drained, it’s in my best interest to stay away from them.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
The early days of NC are the hardest. So be gentle with yourself as you deal with it. You will have many ups and downs, highs and lows, and the lows can go very low. You’ll be okay, trust yourself. Take it step by step, even if the steps are shaky.
You are human, let yourself be that way. You will have moments when your heart softens and you want to reach out to him because you feel for him. That’s not about him, it’s about you and your open and caring heart. Keep yourself safe using the reminders you need to use, but pay attention to what a generous heart you have, turn that generosity on yourself and give to yourself.
Having empathy for a narcissist takes time because empathy can trigger sympathy – sympathy is not useful in a scenario involving a narcissist. Empathy however can help you to understand and therefore answer your questions, clear your confusion. Take it slow, don’t pressure yourself or push outwards when you need to retreat. Respect yourself and what you need at this time.
It’s wonderful that your creativity is re-awakening! 😀 Nurture it, nurture yourself, look after your energy, take care of your self and all that is a part of you. Bit by bit you’ll find yourself blossoming more and more, let it happen naturally and enjoy it as it happens.
Take good care of yourself ❤
“Path” way. Well that certainly is a new connotation on an old word. Yet again … never would have thought of that one. Twilight Zone however, oh yes that is familiar. That is the livig hell that has defined my life for the past couple of years. Dealing with a whole set of other monsters that were drawn into the scene and continue to ruin what is left of my life long after she is gone – the long arm of the law along with all the corruption anyone could ever imagine. I have not seen hide nor hair of the N since the night she went out of her mind and there was nothing but fire in her eyes and a Narcissistic rage. Until last night that is …. She has emerged from her hole. She is done ruining the former friend of mine that she tracked down to ruin me, who is actually one of the lamest pothead, stoner dudes I’ve ever known. Dumb and boring as a rock. Nothing at all like her – but Narcissists are not particular, we all know this.
She is always on the prowl. She is a man hunter.
Oh yeah, a huge knockout, drag down fight earlier in the evening. She has wasted another couple of years and wrecked another man. I was warned of the breakup. Doesn’t take her long to recover. After close to 2 yrs of not seeing this witch even once … now she is back out in the club amongst the humans who once knew us as a couple. It has only taken her a couple of hours to get back in action. She’s on her feet, standing up in front of everyone, her wicked ass swaying to the beat of the music like old glory. The single guys – all the same dudes that we knew as a couple are gathering around the fresh meat. Forming a barrier around her. I am out and they are in.
She senses my prescence and turns around, for a moment our eyes lock. A hint of a smile curls up from one corner and she turns back. I know what look was on my face – the same look everyone has been seeing for two years. I have not touched a woman since. Hell, I don’t even know what to do with one anymore. No decent one wants to be with one who is as damaged as me and that’s a fact that needs no explanation. I go to my friend and tell him to not let me say one word to that slut. If he sees me anywhere near her, he is to come pull me away … I have too much to lose – I know what that thing is capable of.
Which one will be the lucky one, for she wil fuck another one soon and bring him back into the turmoil left behind just a few hours earlier. Yes, she will make that last dummy suffer much more through this triangulation. When you are a drama queen it is always funner to drag another man into the suffering relationship and let them have at it while playing little miss innocent. Oh yes I know her modus operandi. She did it to me twice …. I know – I’m an idiot. The covert N you spoke of …. oh, they are very, VERY good at it 😦
God knows I’ve been wallowing around in this twilight zone long enough. The one that came before twelve years ago should have prepared me for this one. I looked up “Evil” and was surprised to see that it includes bad luck, because that sure as hell came my way in the form of the long arm of the law. I know it is going to get worse. She is livin’ the life out searching new sources of supply. Gonna make a new start yet again just as she has done before and before and many times before. She will bring a new victim in and morph into the personality she needs to get the job done. And all will be as it is meant to be. Me – I continue to carry a kind of rage I never could have imagined. My life remains desparate from day to day. The so-called authorities are just a step away. I am not allowed many normal things the rest of us take for granted. My freedom as a U.S. citizen has been restricted down to almost nothing. The threat of dire punishments are held over my head. Can’t go into all of that. What did I do to deserve all of this. I never broke the law. I just continued to try to hold onto a Narcissist longer than I should have. I knew better and I was even warned. But you know how it can be. They come with a high price tag before the time comes you realize you were sold nothing but a bag of rancid garbage all wrapped up in a pretty container. I only hope that someday, someone will throw that garbage out with the trash … and it will be done.
Anybody, I used to write about other Ns – the worst kind. If you ever get in the mood to have your stomach turned, just go find me over at lit.org
You’re not an idiot. You know that! That’s a common self-label when you deal with and have been in a relationship with covert narcissists or even overt ones. They need you to see yourself that way so they can see themselves as the smartest one. It’s par for the course. What you think of as you ‘being an idiot’ is actually something else, it is being a natural and normal human being. Only narcissists and that type give it a ‘bad’ name because they can’t do it and fear it, and thus they give us a bad name and make us give ourselves a bad name and abuse ourselves because of it, just as they abuse us. They want us to hate ourselves as much as they hate themselves. They’re passing on their wound.
Narcissists ‘reset’ themselves. It’s part of the disorder, in some ways it is what makes the cogs of their motor (and disorder) turn and keep working. They keep trying to create a version of themselves which is ‘perfect’, and they discard their ‘old’ selves because that old self wasn’t perfect. They may look okay when they do it, when they ‘reset’, but they are far from it. Each ‘reset’ eats them up inside. They feel how much others are drawn to how they appear, and they notice that others don’t care who they are as long as they give to others what others want. They tell people what people want to hear. They show people what people want to see. People love them for that – but they know it’s all fake, and they hate it. They hate people for it, for believing the illusion they are feeding them, and most of all they hate themselves for it, for playing up to it. But they can’t do things any other way, it’s a compulsion, one which slowly destroys them and others, bit by bit. Each time they ‘reset’, a time bomb begins to tick.
This woman, most likely, hates every man who finds her attractive, even more so if they know about her story with you. You – the one man who saw through her. She hates you for seeing through her, she also respects you for it, fears you for it, may try to destroy you more for it, but doesn’t want to lose you because of it (it’s very twisted inside of them). But when a narcissist respects you – they might as well not respect you. It’s not a prize. Nothing is where they are concerned because of what goes on inside of them, behind the facade. It is torture for them and torture for others because of it being that way for them. They pass on their wound, and their wound gets worse as time goes by. Each time around the ‘reset’ dance floor, the dance becomes more deadly for them and for others. Once upon a time they thought they would find happiness this way, they kept believing that, that starts to crack… and they get more desperate.
You come across as a really good person caught in a very bad scenario. Narcissists tend to bring out the worst in people, in those they have relationships with and in those who are on the periphery of their relationships. Keep hold of what is good about you, try to focus on that, build on that. Even those who are trapped can find a release through ways which don’t mean recourse to the darker aspects of human nature. This part of it is your choice, even when it doesn’t feel that way. You still have personal power here – just as you did when you asked your friend to help you not engage with her. That is you making a choice, staying strong, having personal power. Trust in your choice to remain on the right side of the law, even if that very law is squeezing you into a corner. Remember this is your life and when things hit the fan… you’re the only one who pays for it. So make sure you do what is right for you.
Take care of yourself, really good care of yourself. Find a focal point which shows you the best in you, don’t rely on others for this, trust yourself in this matter. Who you are is your choice, make that choice for yourself.
“Beware and be aware of yourself “~~~~ peeling back another layer…..ouch!!!!
It hurts, but then there is release and relief 🙂
~~~~ 😦 then 🙂 the cycles of this life…. pressing onward xo
emoticon zen! awesome! ❤
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