Last night I watched an intriguing film which told the story of a man who had never forgotten his first great love. The extent to which he hadn’t forgotten her was obsessive. He thought about her all the time, wrote letters to her every day (which were returned to sender as she hadn’t lived at the address he had for her in decades), and mentioned her in his conversations with others (in a way which made people want to avoid talking with him). She was the one who got away and because of that she got in the way of all his subsequent relationships for the rest of his life. He couldn’t love anyone else because no one could live up to his idealised version of this perfect love he had had and then lost. She haunted him and through him she haunted everyone in his life.
Eventually we find out a secret about him and his relationship with this woman and why she got away, why this great love ended.
The love of this man for this woman was narcissistic.
He was Narcissus staring at his own reflection in a stagnant pond of the past, but to him that reflection was a magnificent ocean upon which he sailed chasing after a fairytale that with each passing year became even more perfect in its love. The past was always more alive to him than the present.
Although his love was narcissistic, he was not a narcissist but his obsession with this love, his absorption in the wound caused by the loss of that love, his living in the past, made him behave narcissistically.
While watching the story unfold, which it did in a dreamlike manner, my mind offered up a few associations of other stories told of love, loss of love, of obsession and pining away for something which was never real, for something which was never what it eventually becomes the further away from it you get.
One of the diagnostic criteria for NPD mentions a ‘preoccupation with fantasies of… ideal love’.
Those who have a been in a relationship with a narcissist will be treated to a version of this preoccupation with fantasies of ideal love one way or another, probably in many different ways.
In my own experience of narcissists – they never stop talking about love. They talk about love all the time because they’re obsessed with it.
But we’re all a bit obsessed with love and love to talk about love, tell and hear stories about it, read books about it, see films about it, listen to songs about it, chase after it, be chased because of it, pine for it, lust for it, think it will cure all our problems like a magical wand being waved over our hearts… or blame it for being the source of all of our problems, it’s the knife which stabbed our heart, the hammer which shattered us into pieces.
This obsession with love is a shape-shifter and can take on many forms.
One of the forms it can take may be to get us involved with a narcissist.
Our obsession with finding love meets their obsession with being loved… and, at first, it can be the greatest love story which ever happened in the history of love.
They appear to have stepped out of your dreams of love – you’ve finally found your prince or princess charming!
Why do you think that?
Can you recall what made you think they were the embodiment of your ideal lover?
Was it because they made you feel as though you were the embodiment of their ideal lover?
Everything about you was special, they couldn’t take their eyes off of you… you were just too good to be true.
If you can keep this love in the realm of fantasy it may stay that way forever and ever and you will live happily never to have an afterwards.
If you can stop reality from bursting your bubble… but you can’t because it isn’t you or reality which bursts it, it’s the narcissist who does that then blames you and reality for it.
There is something inside of the narcissist which can’t resist destroying the castle in the sky which they’ve built, and doing that while you’re inhabiting it.
Why do they do that?
They have it all and they throw it all away. You gave them your everything and it still wasn’t good enough for them. It was good enough for you, right, for you this love you had with them was perfect, they were perfect, you were perfect together. You made them your everything and you thought that you were their everything (because they kept telling you that you were)… how did this wonderful cornucopia of everything turn into a wasteland of nothing.
Nothing but pain.
Because for a narcissist the real everything is the pain. And there is nothing quite like the pain of the loss of perfect love.
There was a very clever scene in the TV series Girls which captured the narcissistic love perfectly. The whole series is an homage to narcissism in all its forms (including societal narcissism), but this particular set piece showed narcissistic personality disorder at work in a romantic relationship. The narcissist was the character of Marnie, and her victim was the character of Charlie. She breaks up with him in typical narcissistic discard fashion, and moves on quickly to someone else, someone better. She’s happy pursuing pipe dreams which offer happiness and that’s all that matters. But then she finds out that Charlie has moved on too, and this infuriates her. She actually states that she expects him to be heartbroken and pining for her and the love that he lost when she left him for many years to come, maybe forever never to get over her.
In some ways the only way a narcissist can feel love is when that love hurts. They can only feel your love for them when your love for them hurts you… then they know that you truly love them, that they are really loved.
Love, for them, is an unrequited longing. A yearning for an intense pleasure which is always just beyond reach. It is a searing pain that accompanies their every living hour… they’re attached to that pain more deeply than they are to anything else.
They chase obsessively after cures for their never-ending pain, but that pain can never be cured, that wound can never be healed, not because it can’t but because they don’t and won’t let it – who would they be or become without it.
It makes them special.
It makes others special too… for awhile.
If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know what that kind of special feels like.
So much so that when it gets taken away it leaves you with an intense searing pain that borders on the obsessive.
Chances are that you never thought or felt as much for and about your narcissist until they hurt you in a way that no one has ever hurt you before and ever will. It cut you to the core. You’ll never be the same again.
Whether they discarded you or you escaped from them, you will never be able to forget them, and for a long time you will be obsessed with them.
Being obsessed with a narcissist is a normal part of the experience of a relationship with a narcissist.
Did the narcissist use black magic to cast a spell on you?
It can feel that way, and you may find yourself going down the path of magical thinking in an effort to explain to yourself why you can’t get someone whom you don’t want to think about out of your mind.
The harder you try not to think about them, the more you think about them.
And if you do manage to stop thinking about them, it’s like they have some sort of sick sixth sense about it as that is the very moment that they decide to remind you of their existence. Perhaps they send you a text, an email, try to contact you even though you’ve blocked them. Maybe they do it through someone else, either deliberately by sending a go-between to check up on you (and make sure you’re still obsessed with them), or accidentally, one of your friends asks you about how you’re doing, if you’ve been thinking about the narcissist, or maybe life turns on the radio with a song which was a favourite of theirs, maybe the theme tune to your great love.
You were almost free of them… but something pulled you back in.
is a big feature of the lexicon of a relationship with a narcissist. It is an intrinsic part of the narcissistic wound, and the wound gets passed onto you when you have a relationship with them. Their wound has a way of opening up wounds inside of us, sometimes because we have a similar wound.
is something which haunts and hurts all of us in some way.
You had the perfect love with your narcissist (before that word became their name). They were your ideal person. You were their ideal person.
Then all of that changed and became a nightmare of almosts which almost drive you insane.
You almost had the perfect love. You almost found your ideal person. You were almost their ideal person.
You almost had it all, for awhile you thought you had it all… and now… you almost have nothing left except your obsession for them, which is something you don’t actually want to have.
A relationship with a narcissist turns us into Narcissus.
At first by making us fall in love with our reflection in their eyes. We’ve never been so beautiful!
Later on that reflection changes. Bit by bit our beauty gets chipped away. Their eyes darken, clouds gather. The sun which shone upon us like a warm and blindingly euphoric spotlight slowly vanishes behind a dark cloud. Our reflection shifts from the light into shadow, until the shadow eats up the light completely.
Until all we see when we look in their eyes is a reflection of ourselves which terrifies us. We’re ugly, distorted, twisted, angry, venomous, vengeful, toxic shadows of our former beautiful selves.
We blame the narcissist for doing this to us, they’re the monster not us… but that does not bring the relief we’re seeking.
We can’t see ourselves anymore, but we can’t stop looking, searching to find ourselves again, see the beauty which once was there.
Just one more glance of that special vision of us which they showed us, which they used to see and which we saw because of them…
But the more we seek to find what has gone, the less we see.
The greatest trick the devil ever played was making us fall in love with ourselves as seen through the eyes of a narcissist.
Are you obsessed with your narcissist because of them or because of yourself?
Is it because of what they did to you or because of what you did to yourself?
Is it because you can’t understand them or because you can’t understand yourself?
A relationship with a narcissist brings us face to face with the narcissistic parts of ourselves, and as long as we refuse to look at what is there, avert our eyes and look elsewhere for a reflection which we prefer to see, we will be trapped in the pond of a past addicted to lost love and the pain of it all… until pain is all we feel, and feel intensely.
Writing letters to someone who will never read them.
But who are we really writing those letters to?
Who or what are we really obsessed about?
And what is the true purpose of that obsession?
Do we really want to hurt ourselves with it or are we trying to help ourselves?
How can an obsession help you?
More to the point, how can being obsessed with your narcissist help you?
An obsession with a narcissist feels more helpless than helpful. You feel powerless, your mind is not your own, it belongs to them. Even with them gone, out of your life, they’re still there, everywhere, still where they want to be at the centre of your universe, it’s still all about them. In fact it’s more about them than it ever was. Your every thought is about them. Your every conversation is all about them, even when it starts off being about something or someone else entirely it finds its way back to them. They own more of you now they’re gone than they did when you were with them.
They’re still doing to you what they did then. They’re still trying to control you. Only it’s not them doing it, it’s you doing it to yourself. You’ve become them in a bizarre twist to the story.
They’ve even managed to isolate you without them doing anything new or anything at all. You’re the one doing it. No one wants to be around you because they’re sick and tired of hearing about your narcissist, what your narcissist did to you, your PTSD due to narcissistic abuse, all narcissists in general, all the information you’ve gathered online about narcissists, the latest book you’re reading about narcissists, the most recent healing system which you’re using to cure yourself of all that your narcissist did to you, your new favourite hero in the fight against narcissists, and the latest person you know who turned out to be another narcissist.
You know you’re doing this but you can’t stop yourself. You’ve tried countless times, but it’s exhausting to control it and you keep losing control. You’d avoid yourself too if you could. If someone else did to you what you’re doing to others you’d probably label them a narcissist.
As painful as it is, this is part of the process of healing yourself from a relationship with a narcissist.
Think of it this way – if you go on a cleanse to rid yourself of toxins in your body, the toxins have to be flushed out of your system, and that’s usually a sweaty, stinky, unpleasant, things get worse before they get better process. The longer that your body has been absorbing the toxins, the longer it takes to flush your system.
So, your obsession with your narcissist is the psyche’s way of flushing itself. Every time you talk about them, every time you research and read up on narcissists, you’re sweating them out.
However, as with a body cleanse, there’s usually more to it than getting toxins out of your system. If the toxins were willingly ingested as part of something which used to give you pleasure until it started to be a pain and became unhealthy for you, you need to figure out what the attraction is and why it happened.
This is not something that someone else can do for you.
Sure they can give you great answers to your questions which hit home and make sense. But their answers will not be bespoke, tailor-made for you even if they say they are and you’re paying for a service which offers to do that. They’ll be generalised, one size designed to fit all, something they stitched together for themselves which may fit you, but it will not fit all of you and will need to be altered, or someone else’s take on your situation, you and your story seen through their eyes, processed through their mind, filtered through themselves.
Something that worked for someone else may work for you, but it may also not work for you – Don’t worry if it doesn’t, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just not them.
Most of all – someone else did the work of finding the answers to your questions.
In the case of healing from a relationship with a narcissist the real healing comes from doing the work, from finding the answers to your questions yourself (and not the kind of finding which comes from using a search engine).
One of the ways to do this is to listen to yourself. When you’re talking about your narcissist, your relationship with your narcissist, listing everything which is wrong with them, how badly they hurt you, how terribly they treated you, and how much you love to hate them – listen to what you’re saying, especially the stories which you repeat and those elements of the experience which you keep coming back to and going over again and again until it feels more like stroking than poking a wound.
Listening to yourself can be more tricky than it may seem. If someone were to ask you if you’re listening to yourself when you’re talking to them, you’d probably get defensive and maybe even offended – Of course, you’re listening to yourself! You’re NOT a narcissist!
But you may actually only be hearing yourself talk rather than listening to what you’re saying.
Mostly we tend to listen to ourselves the same way that we look at ourselves in a mirror. We know what we’re saying the same way that we know how we look. Although we’re more likely to admit to not being certain of our looks, more likely to confess to not having looked at ourselves properly, and may be more open to someone asking us if we’re looking at ourselves as we glance at a mirror.
Sometimes others become a mirror for us because we refuse to look at ourselves.
When what they reflect of us into our eyes is beautiful we want more and more, perhaps because we don’t believe what we are seeing and need for them to make us believe. It can take a lot of convincing. And even then we may never believe it… we may find it easier to believe something else, something ugly.
When what they reflect back at us is ugly, we tend to accept it more readily and hate ourselves for doing that, or pride ourselves on being able to shoulder the burden of it without it breaking our back, and we’re usually better prepared for it. We quite like fighting against it. The world is full of beautiful creations which have been spawned by people fighting their own ugliness, be it real, imagined, or someone else’s view of them.
The reflections of us which others show us are as real as the ones we show others of themselves. They know us as well as we know them.
A relationship with a narcissist is a house of mirrors… where all the mirrors eventually shatter all at once, and all that is left is what is within the mind’s eye. Inner self-reflection is the only mirror left, and it is the most interesting mirror to look at and to see yourself in… looking back at you, seeing you.