Have you ever had one of those experiences where suddenly something that someone said pops into your head and strikes you differently from the way in which you originally heard it.
Perhaps you’ve done it with something which you’ve said to someone else, had a moment when your words came back to haunt you and you realised that what sounded straightforward may have been more complicated.
Your mind has offered you a new perspective on something which at the time seemed to only have one angle from which to be viewed.
Maybe you were perplexed by someone’s reaction to your words.
You gave them a compliment and they seemed to hear it as a criticism.
You were being nice and they behaved as though you were being mean.
You told them that they looked so much better today… and all they heard was that you thought they looked worse before today.
You told them how intelligent they were, but you said it with what sounded to them like surprise and they concluded that you usually expect them to be stupid because you think they’re less intelligent than you are.
Or perhaps you were being critical, mean, and they appeared to take it too well, they seemed pleased rather than displeased.
You were in pain, maybe because of something they said to you, and you wanted them to feel your pain so you lashed out at them personally, but they didn’t appear to care when you wanted them to care, take it to heart and have their heart broken a bit like your heart was broken a bit. You wanted them to take it badly, the way you would have taken it if someone had said to you what you said to them.
Or maybe they misunderstood you, and you wanted to be understood so you tried to explain what you meant based on what you thought they thought you meant… which only seemed to make things worse.The more you tried to untie a knot, the more knotty it got.
You couldn’t understand it at the time, thought they were being illogical, unreasonable, deliberately going out of their way to misunderstand… because, of course the problem had to be caused by them and not you.
Or you were the one who misunderstood… and now, out of the blue, awhile later, you understand, and perhaps feel a bit foolish.
Humans are a complex labyrinth with lots of dead ends, paths that lead nowhere, around in a circle, have traps, pitfalls, and an endless array of gauntlets to run.
How do we know this? Sometimes through the frustrations we feel when trying to interact with others, and sometimes through the experience we have when trying to navigate the shit which goes on inside of us.
Other humans can be a pain, can cause us to bemoan and exclaim – HUMANS! – in exasperation, but we’re human too, part of the humans tribe (which has many sub-tribes).
Who is harder to deal with – others or ourselves?
The one person (type of people/sub-tribe) we all seem to agree is very difficult to deal with is a narcissist.
If you’ve never had a personal experience of a relationship with a narcissist…
chances are someone whom you know probably has, they may have shared their story of narcissist with you which left you wondering about them – not the narcissist but the one talking about the narcissist – and their sanity. Their tale seemed farfetched at the very least. You thought they were exaggerating perhaps due to overly emotional intoxication. Maybe they sounded completely crazy, talking about a villain who is the sort that only exists in film, books, and TV shows that border on the ridiculous, which are entertaining but this stuff doesn’t happen in real life. Soap operas of the – dead person comes back to life – variety.
It’s funny how popular that kind of fiction is… I wonder why.
Usually what makes something become popular, trendy, go viral, etc, is that it hits a spot for a lot of people. The general human populace can relate to it – although they may not all relate in the same way.
For instance – Why is the subject of narcissists such a hot topic.
And how many of those in the human tribe who relate to the stories told about narcissists, about being in relationships with narcissists, and all that entails, belong to the sub-tribe of narcissists.
If you think that only non-narcissists can relate to being in a relationship with a narcissist, having to deal with a narcissist, being victimised by a narcissist, the vicissitudes of narcissistic abuse, etc, and that joining a support group (and sub-tribe) for those who have known a narcissist is a safe, narcissist-free zone… think again.
If there’s one thing (and there are many one things) which the narcissists in my life have taught me – it’s that narcissists tend to be the last humans on earth who think they’re narcissists (if you come across one who does, they’re probably not – or they’re a very unusual anomaly) but they also tend to be the first humans to call someone else a narcissist (and then go to town attacking that villain in all possible ways).
Narcissists can and do sometimes call out someone for being a narcissist and that person is a narcissist. Narcissists can and do have relationships with other narcissists. They also call those who aren’t narcissists – narcissists – and can prove it. They’re better at proving such things – for popular consumption – than non-narcissists are, partly because they lack the self-doubt which non-narcissists have about their assessments and judgments of other people, partly because they’re more experienced at telling tales, spreading rumours and gossip, feeding the beast in others.
Non-narcissists tend to hesitate where narcissists don’t. Non-narcissists have a way of scuppering their own stories by being too understanding of what the other person in their story (their narcissist) may be going through. Non-narcissists tend to practice without thinking about doing it – Empathy.
There’s a lot of talk about empathy, which pretty much everyone seeing themselves as being empathic. With a certain portion of those people labeling themselves as Empaths (another sub-tribe) or Highly Sensitive People (highly sensitive in what way – because narcissists are also highly sensitive, not just of themselves but of others too. The difference is in how this sensitivity is used).
Empathy is a valuable skill to own. It’s an intrinsic element in personal intelligence. It is an important asset in human interaction, particularly in understanding. If you can place yourself in someone else’s shoes, think as they do, feel what they feel, see things from their perspective – you can understand them, answer those questions which they may prompt you to have, and if you can understand them you don’t need to fear them as they aren’t an unknown.
You may not like what you understand about them, you may never in a million years ever be like them – but the human in you crosses a bridge to the human in them and makes contact.
If you’ve ever been pushed, by having all your buttons repeatedly pressed, to the point where you envisage a better world if a sub-tribe of humans were eradicated… you understand the thinking behind genocide. You may think it’s heinous (because it is), and may find yourself at odds with your own thinking – I want them all dead, but that makes me a mass murderer, no better than the people I want dead (maybe worse than them, but to me they’re the worst, so… I do I deal with this brain fuckery going on).
We all, all humans, have to deal with contradictions and variations on that theme.
If you’re a tree-hugger, how can you ever use paper, or accept anything made of wood which isn’t in its natural form. If you take it to extremes you may find that you can’t accept anything or use anything because a tree died in some way, past or present, for it. If you investigate your life with a microscope you’ll probably find that your life and lifestyle is benefiting from the death of trees in some way. You can be an activist about it but at some point how much of an activist your are will get challenge in a way which may test you too close for comfort.
Do you burn everything for the sake of a passion or do you realise that if you burned everything you might end up killing the source of the passion. Maybe the passion itself is the source of the problem the passion is trying to prevent and solve.
If you think killing all narcissists will solve the problem of narcissists – that solution creates a quandary about the person with the solution.
If you think you’re the embodiment of good but spend most of your time focusing upon and obsessing about evil… and fantasising about how good life would be if evil was eradicated, yet fail to see the evil in your thoughts (or blame that upon others, if they didn’t exist you wouldn’t think this way), then you may be setting yourself and others up for a fall from the sort of pedestal which gets us all into trouble – the kind of trouble we don’t want to admit had anything to do with us and our failure to deal with the things which we meet outside being part of the things we need to meet inside.
Of course, when it comes to the being human part of being a part of the human tribe, when it comes to living life rather than thinking about living life, when the feelings are being felt rather than contemplated after they have been felt…
Who we’d like to be, who we say we are, think we are… versus who we actually are… can be a difficult conundrum full of contradictions we may pretend aren’t there to simplify the complicated.
There’s a rat in my garden. He (or she) has been in the same place for over an hour. Under the bird feeder which is there to feed the pretty side of nature NOT the ugly side of it! – that’s the ideal of the idealist. The perfection of the perfectionist (who is usually an idealist that thinks the ideal should be the reality, without considering the consequences or the confluence not ideal things which usually have to happen to make an ideal become reality).
The ideal or the idealist and perfection of the perfectionist – we all experience those, that’s a rather narcissistic experience. Most narcissists are idealist-perfectionists. Much of narcissistic abuse comes from idealism and perfectionism, expectations which do not want to be disappointed and which have such high standards that they cause a lot of pain for the person who has them and the people they are imposing them upon – they also impose them upon themselves.
When I first saw the rat, I thought – How cute, look at that fluffy thing! We may think something similar when first setting eyes upon a narcissist.
If I didn’t know it was a rat, I might have lived under the illusion that it was anything but a rat for awhile. In the countryside there are creatures which look like rats that aren’t rats, some of which are endangered and if they visit your garden… you’re special (because your garden is special for catering to an endangered species).
I knew it was a rat because it looks like one (country rats can look like water voles… so I could be wrong). But part of me wants me to be wrong because it being a rat causes a problem for me. A contradictory one.
Do I try and kill it.
I can’t scare it away – rats are intelligent and don’t scare easily. The usual scare-tactics for creatures don’t work. The birds will scatter if I go outside, and especially if I approach the feeder. This rat let me get real close, ran into some bushes for about five seconds, realised I wasn’t a threat and came back out to continue eating.
I’ve lived through a rat invasion of the home before. Do I base how I handle this new home and new rat based on the past or do I look at it from a new perspective.
Do I live in fear of what might happen based on previous experience, and maybe react to the resent based on the past – there is a logic to doing that, there is a reason to bring the past to bear upon the present – lessons learned aren’t really learned lessons until they’re a part of us.
Since I live in the country, as do rats, and they’re a part of the ecosystem as we are even if we humans would rather they were not for our sake… because we don’t like these creatures, we only like certain ones… and so we tend to get rid of what we don’t like, not thinking about how it affects those we do like… until much later and then, we interfere again….
This rat is like a narcissist,
at least my reaction to it, to knowing it exists in close proximity to me, is similar to my reaction to the narcissists in my life, and the knowledge of how their existence has affected me. I’d like for it to cease to exist because its existence makes me uncomfortable – that’s the sort of thing a narcissist might think, as well as a non-narcissist.
The smaller picture can sometimes cause the bigger picture to get warped or not be seen at all.
Our pain, whether real in the now or once real in the past which may still feel real in the now as it always ripples… can narrow our focus and vision. Our perspective only hears one part of the whole conversation and creates an entire new one, one which may or may not have happened, out of that fragment.
One narcissist and your experience of them can end up distorting your view of everyone, it can make you think everyone you meet and know is a narcissist because you become paranoid… you never want to go through what you went through again, so you become hyper-vigilant and overly-sentisised.
You may think this makes you smart, it can but it can also make you stupid. You may think that protecting yourself is what you must do, and that you must do things which may be… narcissistic… to do that. It’s one thing if a narcissist does narcissistic things, it’s another thing if you do them… right? Or wrong?
If someone criticises you – that’s bad – but if you criticise someone else… you were only trying to help them.
If someone is mean to you – they meant it, they’re mean! Probably a narcissist! But if you’re mean to someone else… you weren’t being mean, they misunderstood you, you were being blunt, honest, it’s not your fault they can’t handle the truth.
If you treat someone else like they’re toxic – you have good reason to do that. If someone else treats you like you’re toxic – wtf is wrong with them!?!
If you go no contact from a narcissist that is nothing like them giving you the silent treatment or discarding you unceremoniously! It’s not but superficially it can look like exactly the same thing, and to the person on the receiving end it can be the same thing. Your narcissist will take your no contact, research it on the internet and find their answer to it in posts and articles about narcissists – just as you did with their discard and silent treatment.
Sometimes when I read what has been written about narcissists… I end up wondering who is the real narcissist in this scenario, because what is written sounds like the sort of thing a narcissist would write, would say, would think and feel about others (and yes, I have that same perspective when reading what I have written and write about narcissists). I makes me do a double-take and ponder the grey areas between black and white thinking with a bit more thought applied.
In our attempts to understand we often end up not being understanding. In our attempts to be fair we may end up being unfair. In seeking justice we might become unjust. The scales of balance are always shifting…
Ultimately narcissists, rats, and other things like that are part of the bigger picture, part of life on Earth, part of things going south, part of experience…
We learn from our relationship with rats – from not wanting to have them, not wanting them to exist, from how they affect us and the things they make us do, feel, think and where those lead.
We all have people in our lives whom we see as being like rats…
Some people see us as being their rats… and we may be shocked that they do because we’re definitely not rats!
But we all have rats inside of us, as a parts of us, feelings which creep around within our structure, thoughts which gnaw away at us, infest us, breed, make pretty pictures ugly…
If you think about it… it wasn’t until you had to deal with something like a relationship with a narcissist that you really felt prompted to explore yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, or explore others, their thoughts, their feelings, and review what had happened, been done, been said….
you thought the narcissist meant what they said until you didn’t, and then you tried to figure out what they actually meant by what they said, what was really said.
you thought and felt that they loved you… until you thought and felt that they didn’t love you – which brought their love into question, and also brought your love into question. Which one is harder to question?
Our pain makes us search for a solution for it, it also gives us intelligent empathy – the ability to see that others react to pain the way that we do, sometimes differently than we do as we do it differently from them, but the similarities are hard to ignore unless you do so willfully and blindly. Blocking them out – blocking the narcissist out but they’re still knock-knocking on your tentative heaven’s door.
Sometimes I get flashbacks to things the narcissists in my life have said to me. I had one the other day… something my mother used to say that hurt like hell when she said it (the memory of it kept the hurt alive).
Did she say it deliberately to hurt me, was she being the way people tend to assume narcissists are being – consciously evil to others – or was she simply hurting me because she was hurting. More often than not my mother’s reason for inflicting pain upon me had nothing to do with me and everything to do with herself. When she said it hurt her more than it hurt me – the typical abuser’s excuse – she meant it.
It’s weird to know that so much of the pain she caused me to feel was due to her attempts to stop me from feeling pain. It’s like she was exterminating rats in my garden by destroying my garden, burning it with fire, so I’d never have to know what it was like to live with rats and the problems they sometimes cause.
The reason she destroyed anything nice for me, about me… was partly because that nice stuff can attract people like her who destroy it (except in her eyes she wasn’t being a people like her).
I’ve done that to others… passed on the wound which was passed onto me. Don’t be happy because when you’re happy you attract people and situations which steal it away, so let me steal it away from you now so you don’t get hurt by this happening.
We can all operate from faulty systems.
Most narcissists aren’t knowingly or deliberately evil… like rats… they’re not plotting your downfall – although sometimes they are often for the same reasons why non-narcissists search online for ways to – get revenge on a narcissist.
They’re in pain. Pain is universal and it can makes us all universally insane, narcissistic, abusive, when we’re trying to deal with it, with what it does to us… and we all have a tendency to justify what we do as being okay while seeing what others do in a similar situation as being not okay.
Sometimes I get flashbacks of things which I’ve said… and wish I hadn’t said them. On certain occasions they make me wish I could kill – either myself or those who witnessed the thing which makes me want to kill myself.
But sometimes, thankfully, this feeling gives me insight into a very human condition which can go several ways… one of those is the narcissist way.
Empathy flows both ways…
understand where others are coming from and it can help you to understand where you’re coming from – understand where you come from and it can help you to understand where others are coming from.
If you can’t understand others… it might show you where you can’t understand yourself, and how that affects your understanding of others.
Thank you for this. It gives me much to think about. No sure whether I appreciate that or not. 🙂
I’m just coming to terms with the ‘rat’. Now I’ll have to come to terms with the rat within.
This is an article that I will most definitely have to read more than a couple times.
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Thank you for sharing 🙂
Years ago I read a book, which was either psychology or self-help (can’t recall the title or the author), in which the author said that when you read a book like that and come across a part which makes you react strongly, perhaps want to reject it and throw the book against the wall or in the bin, then you’ve found an area within yourself that needs to be explored as it holds information which you need to understand about yourself and your story. That stayed with me partly because I had been feeling that way about the book itself and was about to give up reading it when I read those words and it changed my perspective on what that type of book is supposed to do for you. I suddenly realised that my approach to reading those kinds of books was to seek solace and as soon as I hit something which pressed my buttons, made me uncomfortable, provoked me, I rejected it. The parts I was rejecting were actually more useful than the parts which were easy to read because they made me think harder and deeper, figure things out for myself rather than have someone else do it for me.
I think that piece of advice from that book also works with people who press our buttons. And with rats.
This morning the rat returned to the same spot. While he was nibbling the food which had dropped from the bird feeder I was thinking that one solution would be to stop feeding the birds – which is unfair on the birds. If there’s no food then the rat might go somewhere else. The easy food means it’ll stay here and make this his home where he’ll breed and there’ll be more rats. Or I could move the feeder further away from the house, but I enjoy watching the birds and it’s easier to fill the feeders where they are. As I was mulling over the problem and the way the situation might escalate if I don’t tackle it now, a robin appeared and started hopping around also picking up fallen pieces of food and the rat started to chase it, as though the food on the ground belonged to it and it didn’t want to share. I wanted to grab the rat and slap it for being so selfish. This rat is really pushing my buttons.
The thing about this problem is that I can see how it reflects a pattern which occurs in other areas. This scenario allows me to see my own behaviour in relation to the behaviour of others. The places where I get stuck and a problem repeats. Trying to see things differently allows for different solutions to be seen. Sometimes finding a new solution to an old problem shows us why the problem exists.
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Great post! However, I do disagree with their infliction of pain not being intentional. All the narcissists in my life have been plotters and schemers. They plan 10 steps ahead in order to do this. There is NO WAY that it’s not intentional. Their rages are spontaneous, but everything else is planned well in advance.
Thank you 🙂
You’re right, sometimes the infliction of pain is intentional especially when a narcissist thinks you’ve done something to hurt them – and they can perceive pretty much everything others do or say as a personal slight against them. They’re tit for tat when it comes to pain – their pain is a big motivating force for them.
They are plotters, schemers and manipulators. They are that way even when it’s not done consciously. It’s a survival tactic for them. They’re usually good at being several steps ahead because they base how people will react to what they do on themselves, and since they usually manage to bring us to their level, get us to play their games, they have more practice than we do with the gameplay.
However not all the pain they inflict is intentional. We’re often collateral damage while they pursue some goal. If they see us as an obstacle to them getting what they want, then they’ll hurt us to get the obstacle out of their way. They don’t see what they do to us the way that we do.
An article I read the other day about narcissists
– https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/3384/hidden-language-narcissists-manipulate-traumatize-victims/ –
struck me as being both on point yet also off the mark. Where it was off the mark reminded me of this article
We make mistakes with narcissists when we assume that they do things the way that we might do them. That their intentions are the same as ours would be if we were them doing what they do.
Narcissists don’t see us the way that we see ourselves (or others), they don’t see us as separate beings – we are given roles in their story. We may get the lead supporting role to their starring role for awhile, but only as long as they need us to fill that part for them. We’re objects which are part of their objective. We’re not their equals, nor are we as important to them as we may think we are and perhaps want to be.
We’re not the centre of their universe, they are so what they do to us is all about them and not about us. A lot of the things which we think are aimed at us are actually aimed at a point beyond us – they’re using us to get to a goal. If they’re obsessed with us, it’s not us they’re obsessed with so much as what we represent to them as part of their objective. We get hurt when we don’t cooperate, don’t live up to what they had in mind for us, disappoint their expectations and needs, let them down, get in their way, have something they want and don’t give it to them – they hurt us because we’re hurting them in their eyes, but they’re not necessarily trying to hurt us they just want what they want.
I was thinking about a discussion which happened a few months ago. Someone hired a professional to do a job for them, after the job was done with successful results, the person decided that they did not want to pay the professional. The reason they gave was that the professional had made a small mistake (one which did not affect the work, in fact it actually led to a quicker successful result) which the person felt offended about. But the real reason they didn’t want to pay the professional was because they wanted to keep the money for themselves as they needed the funds. So did the professional, but to this person the professional wasn’t a person too. The professional was an object used to reach an objective, once the objective had been reached the next objective became the person’s focus and for that they needed more money – so the professional became an obstacle as paying them would mean giving up money the person wanted to keep for themselves. Since they no longer needed the professional and their services they did not need to pay them what was due.
The discussion was between this person and a friend of theirs who was trying to point out that what they were doing was wrong and would hurt the professional who had bills to pay, a business to keep going, and they might need the funds as much as this person. One of the arguments used by the friend was – If someone did to you what you are doing to them you would think what they were doing was wrong and would see the unfairness of what you’re doing. This person did not want to see beyond their own need and greed. As far as they were concerned their actions did not hurt anyone. They were not doing this to hurt the professional they were doing it because they were hurting and this was their solution to their pain. They thought it was funny that their friend was so upset about it – what did the friend care about what this person did or didn’t do, and what happened to the professional – the professional wouldn’t care about the friend. Even the idea that they’d get sued which would cost them more money than they actually owed did not seem to phase them.
Contemplating this discussion gave me a new spin on some old hurt and scenarios.
My mother is a covert narcissist – that type of narcissist tends to hurt you when they think they’re helping you. They break you while trying to ‘fix’ you. They’re trying to save you because their objective is to be a saviour.
My father was an overt narcissist – he was only trying to save himself, and if you were in the way then he got you out of the way, if you were useful them he used you to pave the way.
I’m looking for new perspectives on old problems to shift myself out of being stuck. Sticking with the usual view of narcissists, although accurate, isn’t always useful in dealing with the mess they make for us. The more I see that what they said and did was rarely if ever about me and always about them, the more things make sense – it’s the not making sense which keeps me stuck more often than not.
We do have to factor ourselves into our understanding of narcissists.
I am absolutely blown away by your insight, honesty, and humility! In previous articles, I heard, felt, and appreciated your rage. In this post, I hear, feel, and appreciate your compassionate surrender to acceptance. You are a phenomenally courageous feeler, thinker, and writer. Thank you! 🙂
Thank you ❤
“It’s weird to know that so much of the pain she caused me to feel was due to her attempts to stop me from feeling pain.” Love this statement. It’s what I always believed about my mother, yet I tend to fall back into my woundedness and blame her directly or indirectly for her callous lack of accountability for her past and present thoughts and actions…. Truth be told, I believe that Love will win. My rememberance of being Love Itself (the Soul) will be enough to heal my ego-identified wounds. I will be able to more consistently hold compassionate space (with discrimination – to take care of my wounded inner child) for my mother in her wounded moments. In time, my lack of expectation of her fulfilling my greatest desire (unconditional Love) as well as my compassion, patience, and forgiveness just may be enough for my mother to put down her armor and open herself up to courageously attempting to feel again on a deeper level…. I pray for her courage. I pray for my courage!
You have great courage, tenacity for your quest, and dedication to the belief that love conquers all. That is the real reward, the desire fulfilled. What you have now is the treasure, the fruit of your journey.
For me the best thing I did was to give up on my mother, let her go her way and let myself go my way. She’s too entrenched in her position, too attached to her misery, and too at home in her wound. That was made even more clear when my father died. Her concept of love is one which consumes what it loves.
Ultimately we have to find the path and approach which works for us, for who we are. I wish you all the best on yours 🙂
I like how you say that it might not be until we are in relationships with narcissists that we start to examine ourselves. As much as I came to dislike (and even fear him), I would not change the experience that I had with my ex-narcissist. It was through him that I really began to understand others and myself. It was a very valuable (although painful) experience. As time goes on, I find myself softening up toward him a little.
I love the analogy you have drawn here. Yes, rats can cause all sorts of problems, but they are a part of the ecosystem and have a right to exist. As a society and culture, we have our “ugly” children. But as you have pointed out so very well, we wouldn’t have beautiful without ugly.
Thanks. A really brilliant post. 🙂
Thank you 🙂
It always amazes me how often something which is perceived as negative can lead to a positive. Like the Chinese story of the Blessing in Disguise.
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