*If you want to cut to the chase of this post – scroll to the bottom.
I was looking through the search terms in my stats which bring people to this blog – something I do on a fairly regular basis, often using them to inspire a post, because I’m interested in what interests other people.
I get about 2500 views a day, sometimes less sometimes more, and it boggles the mind because all I’m doing here is rambling about myself, my life, sharing my thoughts (which can be a confusing mess – sharing them is how I tidy them up, although I am using the word ‘tidy’ loosely), expressing emotions, and other oddities.
The majority of the search terms in my stats are focused on Narcissists and Capricorns – both of which seem to puzzle people in equal measure.
yesterday’s search terms
The searches about Narcissists are sometimes similar to those made about Capricorn. I guess you could conclude that Capricorns are the Narcissists of the Zodiac – but that is perhaps a conclusion which shouldn’t be jumped to without a bungee cord or parachute to pull you out if you change your mind or help you land safely on less muddy ground.
The conclusions we make have consequences for us and for others which ripple beyond the moment. They sometimes come back to bite us, particularly when we use them to bite others.
The same could be said about Narcissists
It’s worth keeping in mind that these search terms reflect posts on my blog, things I’ve written about which come up in search results when certain words are used, so they’re a small part of a bigger picture. Capricorns and narcissists bring people to my blog, but they’re not necessarily connected even if sometimes they may be.
A can full of paint isn’t going to fall on your head every time you walk under a ladder, and walking under a ladder isn’t always unlucky… sometimes it is, and those are the times you notice which may lead you to conclude that this action is always unlucky and you’ll get splattered with paint. Someone else might be saved from being crushed by a falling tree because the ladder broke the tree’s fall, and they may conclude that walking under a ladder is lucky. Trying to explain to them that such an action is unlucky may be a difficult task because your facts and perspective, and theirs come from different experiences of a similar thing. Who is right and who is wrong? Can someone’s right be the same as someone’s wrong?
Which leads me to…
At the top of yesterday’s search terms was – How to describe a narcissist to someone
This stood out because it is one of the big quandaries which everyone faces when they have identified a narcissist in their life and want to share that information with others.
If you consider how difficult it can be to first figure out that someone you know is a narcissist…
Chances are you didn’t start with that label, you had to find it.
Unless it found you because someone else described a narcissist to you and what they said fit a person you know and explained issues you were having with and about them. More people are talking about narcissists these days, the subject is a hot trending topic, in the popular lingo… so in theory it should be easy to describe and ascribe.
But it’s not as easy as deciding that someone is a Capricorn – all you need is a birthday. The info on Capricorns is a far easier read than the info on narcissists. And accusing someone of being a Capricorn… isn’t going to be much of a surprise or a problem. The Capricorn isn’t going to argue with you about being a Capricorn (although they might argue with your version of what the sign is like, especially if they have Mars or Mercury in a sign which likes to argue), and no one else is going to say – No, you’re wrong about them, I don’t find this person to be a Capricorn at all!
You’re not going to end up sounding like a crazy person for labeling someone a Capricorn (except to those who think anyone who discusses astrology is crazy).
The common denominator is the man, and he could be the crazy one accusing everyone else of being crazy… or he could simply be the sort of person who attracts and is attracted to crazy people.
Just because you’re surrounded by narcissists doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist who thinks that everyone else is the narcissist… but it could mean that.
It could also mean you’re a narcissist who is surrounded by other narcissists.
Or maybe no one is the narcissist, but everyone thinks everyone else is.
If you had to find the term ‘narcissist’ on your own…
You probably started off by searching the internet for answers to problems you were having with someone which probably didn’t include the term ‘narcissist’. That label came up in the results and when you looked into it, you found that it described the person and the problems you were having with them. You read a bit more and perhaps felt a bit hesitant to accept that they are indeed a narcissist.
What is written about narcissists does not paint an easy picture to look at even if it’s a portrait of a person you know and of a relationship you have or have had with someone.
Accepting that someone you know is a narcissist is not an easy step to take for many reasons. Even though they may tick all the boxes of the criteria which identifies a narcissist, and even though you may have all the proof you need to conclude that this friend, lover, family member, boss, colleague, etc, is indeed a narcissist, you still may be reluctant to accept the conclusion to which the proof points.
Unless you’re a narcissist, then you don’t need any proof to accuse someone else of being a narcissist other than your opinion which a narcissist views as being solid evidence. When a narcissist thinks someone is a narcissist, then they are a narcissist and they have no problem describing a narcissist to someone else. Narcissists tend to be quite adept at convincing others that the person they have labeled a narcissist is a narcissist.
Whereas those who aren’t narcissists tend to find it hard to convince others that a narcissist is a narcissist, and often falter when it comes to describing a narcissist to someone else.
Why is that?
Is it because narcissists excel at telling stories. Their stories captivate their audience, make you laugh, cry, boo, cheer, live an adventure vicariously. They sound like they’ve lived life to its limits and extremes. Their emotions are vivid, no one you’ve ever met feels as much, as deeply, as they do and they can make you feel what they feel. There’s an addictive quality to listening to them.
They can make opening a bottle of water sound more interesting than a trip to the Moon.
Their anecdotes can be legendary because they are focused on making an impression on you, the listener, so they tell you their tales in a way that makes you want to hear more.
Even though narcissists are accused of not having empathy, which is true (they usually don’t have the understanding required to do it), they do have the ability to read people – a bit like a psychic who uses cold reading techniques – which can come across as empathy, especially if you think it’s empathy. They watch their ‘audience’ very closely to know what to say and do to impress them, keep them hooked… how to push the right buttons, or how to push the wrong ones. Pushing the wrong buttons can be as effective as pushing the right ones.
The narcissist needs to control how they are perceived and this entails learning how to affect how others perceive. For them learning about us is a matter of survival. When your survival depends on something you get good at doing it.
Is it because narcissists create such a good facade that they’re the last person anyone would consider to be a narcissist, until they get to know them better… which means knowing the worst side… which can take a long time to discover as narcissists avoid that kind of intimacy. They don’t want people to know them better because then you’ll start seeing what hides behind their Hollywood face.
The silent treatment is often precipitated by you finding out something that the narcissist does not want you to know about them. They’re giving you time to forget it, and giving themselves time to figure out a way to cover their tracks. It is similar to when non-narcissists make a foll of themselves and wish the ground would open up beneath them and swallow them whole. The silent treatment is not as much about you as you may have been led to believe…
It usually takes repeated experiences of the panoply of narcissistic tricks, games, manipulations, excuses, abuses, etc. before a person finally begins to suspect they’re dealing with someone who may have a disorder of the narcissistic type. Even then you will probably doubt your suspicions, second guess yourself, hope you’re wrong about them, and give them the benefit of your doubts.
Realising that the person with whom you’re in a relationship is a narcissist… reflects badly on you. It doesn’t really, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking that there is something wrong with us for having liked, loved, been attracted to, become involved with a narcissist. It’s even harder when the narcissist is a close family member because you’ve been programmed to think that everything is your fault – you’re the one with the fault.
Many search terms are variations on the theme of – How do I stop attracting narcissists? – which could be read as – what is wrong with me that makes me so attractive to narcissists!?!
The truth is narcissists are attracted to you because you’re attractive. They’re attracted to the same things about you which attract non-narcissists, it’s just that narcissists tend to push others out of the way, come on very strong when they see something they want, someone they want. While your non-narcissist is still trying to decide how to say ‘hello’ to you… the narcissist has taken advice from The Romantic Film Hero-Stalker’s Manual and has swept you off your feet, whisking you away to a fantasy land.
(I’ve never been romantically involved with a narcissist but I have had narcissist friends and parents. My parents made my friends wish that they had my parents too because they romanced my friends – whatever your relationship to a narcissist, there’s always an element of romantic fantasy to it because the narcissist lives in fantasy. They want to embody your ideal and know how to find out what that is, and pretend to be it for as long as they can hold that illusion intact, like a mirage beckoning you further into a desert. They’re your perfect dessert made entirely of sand but it looks like it’s made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and it can be eaten without consequences… but it does have consequences)
There’s a lot written about why you attract narcissists which supports the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with you – you’re co-dependent, an empath, a people-pleaser, and a plethora of other things which are somehow your fault and fatal flaw. The weakness which the narcissist sees in you and reacts to like Hannibal Lecter.
isn’t he a sociopath with narcissistic tendencies rather than a narcissist
There’s a lot of scare-mongering because… people are scared (and also people make money from people who are scared by offering a form of safety in times of chaos).
Some of what is said is true, but truth is a moveable feast and has many courses.
All those things which are your fatal flaw where narcissists are concerned may also be an asset where non-narcissists are concerned. Be careful that you don’t kill off the good parts of you because a relationship with a narcissist made you see them as bad and only bad.
A narcissist can make ice-cream and chocolate appear to be cyanide, especially when they’re embodying the role of a fitness guru (they do love being gurus). Look at all diets which accentuate the DIE in DIEt, and make people hate themselves for looking like themselves and not like some fantasy version of themselves which is based on some photoshopped image in some magazine that didn’t consider how it would affect those who saw it, and when it was asked to consider that they pointed at other magazines and said – everyone is doing this if we don’t do it too we’ll go out of business.
Want to describe a narcissist to someone… perhaps using societal narcissism might be useful to get your point across, but… debates, arguments and discussions about others things ensue from there and your original intention gets lost.
Besides you may not be at that point in your narcissist awareness journey to be able to discuss things from anything other than a personal angle. The personal angle is a long and hard road, involving many twists and turns, detours through landscapes which may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unknown (for now).
You may still have feelings for your narcissist which are caring… while you also want to never to care for them again, wishing perhaps that you could erase having cared for them from your memory. You may have feelings of love, affection, lust, attraction for them which now all seem horrible and wrong to you, you may hate yourself for that because you also have feelings of anger, dislike, hate and repulsion.
This chaos is so painful… you want to bring order to it, stop the pain!
Being involved with a narcissist is a very confusing, contradictory, cognitively dissonant experience… which is why it’s hard to describe a narcissist to someone else.
Unless that someone else has experienced a narcissist themselves, but even then your narcissist and theirs may be different or appear that way because – our narcissist always seems worse than those of others even when the stories of others sound worse than ours. This can be a difficult road to navigate with triggers for you and others along the way like cat’s eyes on a road at night.
Your narcissist is the worst for you – but the narcissist of someone else is the worst for them.
If someone doesn’t have a narcissist in their history… they’ll still probably have someone in their life whom they experienced as a worst person ever to know.
We all have villains in our lives…
Sometimes we’re the villain in our lives.
We prefer to be the heroes in our lives…
villains usually think they’re heroes, even when they know they’re villains.
We’re all complicated, so explaining someone else’s complicated to someone else… is very somplex.
So – How do you describe a narcissist to someone else?
I’ve tried to figure out this conundrum throughout my life when attempting to either warn people about my parents (which always backfired) or having to explain myself to people who my parents were using against me. My parents liked to play the game of – Let’s you and them fight (which is a non-sexual version of Let’s You and Him Fight, coined by Eric Berne).
They’d pick someone to come and have a ‘talk’ with me, often total strangers to me, they’d tell this person a tragic tale of a poor poor parent who had a very difficult child, they loved the child but why oh why did their child not love them… the person they wound up would then come to me and lecture me without giving a shit about my side of the story (something I only realised after stupidly thinking they actually wanted to know both sides of the story in which they were interfering).
I eventually gave up explaining or warning or talking about my parents to anyone else. Even when I discovered the term – narcissist – in its present form, and knew that NPD described my parents perfectly. I didn’t use it in social conversation, I stuck with saying as little as possible about them – usually what I said was what I knew people wanted to hear or at least what they could handle…
until one day it all came tumbling out (on tumblr – which is where I first started blogging about the narcissists in my life in tentative and cryptic ways).
Blogging about your story with narcissists, describing narcissists through a post… is very different from having to tell people in person, in RL, about a specific narcissist.
People will accept a lot more online, even with the ultra-sensitivity which is a part of online communications, because it is somehow removed from the RL personal – while also being at times more personal than RL personal.
In the last few years I had to attempt to describe narcissists to people in a personal one to one not online scenario…
We can safely conclude that I still haven’t figured out how to describe a narcissist to someone else.
It’s one thing to do it on my blog – I’m preaching to the converted, so to speak. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know because you’ve been there and experienced it yourself. You end up on my blog, read my ramblings, because you’re researching the subject for yourself. You’re researching the subject because you already know about narcissists – I don’t have to describe them to you… and you don’t have to describe them to me.
We describe them to each other… but that’s more for ourselves than for the other. We’re figuring things out by discussing it.
Our personal experiences of narcissists may be similar, different, a bit of both, but we know what the word narcissist means to us, and it will be close in meaning for others too.
Those who don’t know about narcissists, or only know about them through works of fiction, or the works of fiction they think are the personal stories of others (of us when we tell them about something they just… think is us making shit up), who haven’t had a personal experience themselves of a narcissist… may not even be interested in narcissists to bother listening when you try to describe one to them.
If someone talks to me about a subject which doesn’t interest me, about something I have no personal reference point, I may hear what they’re saying but it’ll probably go in one ear and out the other. It’ll only sink in when something occurs to make the information relevant to me personally.
I’ve had people I know socially who also know about this blog make offhand remarks about ‘that narcissist thing’. They’re usually trying to show me that they’ve taken the time to look at my blog, which means they’re interested in me and what I’m interested in… or something like that (one person used the info in a rather narcissistic manner, they were poking me in a place they thought might get a rise out of me to show me how clever they were. Narcissists aren’t the only ones who like pressing people’s buttons)… which is nice of them, but… yes, there’s a but… sometimes it’s better when people don’t try to feign interest in what doesn’t interest them. Just because what interests you doesn’t interest them doesn’t mean that you’ll be any less interested in them and what interests them.
The last thing I want to do is explain something to someone who doesn’t really care about the subject. Describing a narcissist to someone who isn’t interested in narcissists is a climb up a steep hill… which you didn’t want to climb because you were enjoying a walk in the valley, then they asked you to climb that hill, and… both of you are doing something neither of you wants to do.
But what if someone else really wants to know about narcissists?
It’s a challenge to describe a narcissist to someone else. It’s fraught with pitfalls… for you to fall into and get stuck there.
Cutting to the chase… finally!
Some of what to do and not to do when trying to describe a narcissist to someone else:
1 – Don’t hand that someone else a manuscript made of everything you’ve printed out about narcissists from the internet which means somethign to you but doesn’t mean anything to them.
Most people don’t read the terms and conditions of the apps and software they use. Most of us don’t read the instruction manual which comes with the stuff we buy unless we run into a problem while trying to use it – then we tend to skim to the relevant bit.
Hand someone a manuscript about narcissists and they’ll be bored of the subject before you’ve even got to the part you want to discuss with them.
2 – Try not to appear ‘crazy’ – you may feel crazy because your narcissist drove you to that destination, but…
use some intelligent if reluctant empathy, uncomfortable memories of those times someone has tried to tell you about something or someone but it was just a stream of incoherent words punctuated by rants, sighs, crying, and other things like that.
People switch off when they can’t understand you, when you’re overwhelming them, when they’re hungry and what you’re feeding them isn’t food and nourishing for them.
When you seem to be a maverick who doesn’t play by the rules which are familiar and make them feel safe…
3 – Make sure the person you’re talking to isn’t distracted by personal urgings – like getting as far away from your emotional overload as possible.
Are they stressed out by a personal issue. Would they rather talk about themselves and what’s concerning them. Busy. Need to pee or pooh. Ill. Tired. Hungry.
Basically, ask yourself, do they have the time necessary and needed to dedicate to you and this complex subject or describing a narcissist to them, or are you trying to talk to them while they’re pulled in many directions by a million other things.
4 – Don’t use emotional blackmail – I listened to you about so and so therefore you owe me and you have to listen to me about this so and so. I was there for you when… so now you have to be here for me. I supported you, believed you, etc… do unto others… just because you did something for someone else doesn’t mean the other person will do it too for you.
You’re you, they’re them.
Emotional blackmail can work… but it will work against you more often than it works for you.
It works for narcissists… and we hate them for it!
5 – Just because something works for a narcissist doesn’t mean it’s worth doing too. But it might be.
don’t expect people to feel the same way that you do about narcissists
6 – Try to make your information entertaining. This is taking a leaf out of the book of narcissists. They get their points across even when the whole story is far-fetched because it entertains their audience.
That someone whom you want to describe a narcissist to is a person but also an audience. Just as you are a person and an audience when someone wants to describe something or someone to you.
Find out what your audience wants, what they listen to, watch, what interests them, what they understand – give it to them when trying to get your point across.
7 – Keep it short. People have a short attention spans, life is full of distractions…
They want sound bites, quick answers to problems, cake now (they don’t want a lecture on how cake is made, how the ingredients were grown and gathered, how the recipe came to exist, nor do they want to watch you make the cake or wait for it to bake – they want cake now!
You like it when you want cake now and get it.
Remember yourself when others are trying to tell you something when you’re trying to tell someone else something. There will be similarities…
If they’re giving you time – appreciate the time they’re giving you. Don’t expect more from them than they can give – you don’t like it, do you, when people do that with you?
Sometimes what you have to say… well, you can handle it but others can’t at this time. Respect that – you’d want the same kind of respect from others, wouldn’t you, if they wanted to describe something or someone to you which you’re just not ready to understand.
8 – Taking in information about a narcissist is taxing – no one likes paying taxes or things which are taxing.
Narcissist are taxing and having a relationship with them can be far worse than paying taxes because their taxation system… doesn’t even seem to benefit them even when you think it does.
The narcissist sucked all the energy out of you.
It exhausted you to process everything you’ve learned about narcissist.
Just talking, thinking, about them can be draining… if it drains you and you have a vested interest in working through it, imagine what it’s like for someone who has no vested interest in it.
9 – Perhaps the best way to describe a narcissist to someone is to keep the description in context with the experiences of that someone – people tend to understand what they already know, what they can personally relate to. It’s also what keeps their interest.
If they believe in aliens, then they’ll accept your tale of being abducted by an alien more readily than if they categorically do not belief in aliens.
So if someone else really wants to know about narcissists and wants you to describe them – get them to help you do it.
The more involved they are in crafting your description, the more likely they are to understand the subject even if they have no personal experience of narcissists – who knows, maybe they do but they never connected the dots, they never connected a difficult person in their life with the term – narcissist.
And the more you have to take your time crafting your description because you need or want to share it with others, the more you’ll need to explain things for yourself… which will require that you clarify things for yourself and that may be far more useful than describing a narcissist to someone else.
I’m really enjoying your site. Learning more about narcissism and myself. I thought I had learned it all. When I first came here about a year ago it unnerved me – so much went against what I was used to hearing in the recovery community. Now that I’ve read through it more thoroughly I find it oddly comforting – yet still upsetting.
I was just recently discarded and I’m in pain – obsessing – wondering who was the real N him or me? I have more reasons to believe it’s me – than I do him. We were on/off for 8 years and that was mainly my doing. He was never quite good enough for me, too many personal problems. I learned my parents are both N’s and have a history of emotionally abusive relationships, depression, anxiety, dysfunction.
This may seem confusing and is leaving out some important aspects – but I have to leave them out and it’s a very, very, very long story with more people in it than just me and him.
The sex was great and for the first time ever I enjoyed it for ME not to get a man to love me or please him. He was a generous lover and so was I. It was also the first time I could be physical and not feel so emotionally attached. I was free and learning new things about myself through my relationship with him. I had feelings for him but didn’t love him. He was a very passive man, never got angry – and seemed like a doormat to his ex wife. Never seemed comfortable in his own skin, and avoided conflict and confrontation at all costs.
He chased and chased me – and wore me down. For 7 years. He “struggled to move on.” Said “I know we’re meant to be.” “I’ll never love anyone else.” T
he past year my self esteem took a dive – not because of him but other things for me personally not panning out the way I hoped. The lower my self esteem the more I wanted him and to be with him and fell in love with him. I believed I could over look his flaws -since he loves me for all of mine.
Last year he started to distance himself. I blew up at him one day -caught him in a lie – and I got the silent treatment. I called, texted, emailed – got nothing. I gave it a few months – reflected on my own behaviors and how I treated him poorly – sent him an email apologizing for my part in it. He responded that he’s been going through a tough time with his young adult daughter – had a mental breakdown. I felt horrible. Things started to settle down and he agreed to meet with me and we decided we would resume our relationship and he would do better with communicating. Well he didn’t. I expressed how I was feeling, calmly and he said “I guess my problems are too much to keep you happy.” I flipped out again. I’ve been doing nothing but reacting.
He was being distant and I was feeling selfish about it – he had problems and I wasn’t patient or understanding enough. And he always had been with me. But I couldn’t get over the sudden change in his personality. He was totally different than the man I knew.
If he didn’t want this anymore – why not just tell me? Is he confused? Not sure how to end it? I don’t know. I asked him “If you found someone else just tell me.” – he says there’s nobody else, he loves me. He doesn’t want it to end. He loves me. But he hates hurting me and doesn’t know what to do anymore.
I texted him I understand it seems like we’re in a catch-22. and he went silent on me again. he responded with he doesn’t know what to do – he’s struggling feeling like he failed as a father – his kids are a mess and it has to be his fault. He doesn’t want to keep hurting me. He loves me but I don’t seem to believe in his feelings for me or trust him.
I took it as he wanted to end it but couldn’t say it – so I sent him a message saying we should part ways and give it some time. I got no response. Nothing. I was hurt, confused, pissed – wheels spinning. Didn’t know how to deal with it. I sent him a scolding message that the least he could do is acknowledge me about ending it. Nothing.
I feel I’ve been duped, lied to, and he played with me. I don’t know why I feel this way. I’m a mess and what I read on this site is causing me to feel I have more serious issues than I ever believed.
I’ve been obsessing over him and after all I THOUGHT I new about N’s – not sure I know anything anymore. He doesn’t fit the type – 8 years and I didn’t see it – 8 years and I see it in me – I strung him along – picked him up when I wanted and put him down when I didn’t. I never needed him and now I feel as though I do – and that I’m in love with him.
Now he doesn’t want me. I sent him one last message apologizing for the scolding email – that I understand it has to be this way – it’s just difficult after having in my life 8 years and now it’s over. I love him and just want him to be happy. He never responded. I think it’s finally over and I’ll never hear from him again – and now I do feel attached and that I bonded with him. That I never meant a thing to him. And it hurts.
I would be sad times before, miss him – but I truly didn’t care if I heard from him again or not because I knew I didn’t want a relationship with him. And honestly I’m still not sure. I just feel like I love him – and want him in my life. But he’s done with me now. And NOW I care?
When I felt good about myself I didn’t need him. When my self esteem is low I do. What does this say about me? And what does it say about him?
Why do I need for him to tell this time it’s officially over – he won’t be back again. Was this revenge for him? I once asked him if he was doing this to get back at me and he said “I’m not vindictive.”
I just do not know anything anymore.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
Going by what you’ve shared here and on another post, you’re definitely not a narcissist.
Asking yourself – who is the narcissist? – you or the other person whom you think may be a narcissist, is a fairly common question for those who have relationships with narcissists. Asking the question itself is pretty much proof that you’re not a narcissist because a real narcissist would never question their judgment that someone else is the narcissist and they’re not a narcissist.
If you find narcissistic behaviour in yourself, be aware that it’s natural and normal to have narcissistic traits and behaviours, both the positive and the negative expressions of it. Narcissism is a developmental phase all humans go through – narcissists get stuck in that phase.
If your parents are narcissists you will have absorbed some of their ways of being, behaving and relating because children learn by osmosis. If narcissists are part of your formative experience then you’ll copy them without thinking about it until you get to that stage of life where you start thinking about it.
This is an interesting forum, and this is a very thoughtful piece they have posted on there – https://www.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists/comments/1p1uag/help_i_think_i_am_a_narcissist/ – it’s worth a read for all children of narcissists as well as those who’ve been in a longterm relationship with one.
Exposure to narcissists tends to bring out our own narcissism more. We tend to pick up the traits, behaviours and even speech patterns of those with whom we spend a lot of time.
The fact that you’re questioning yourself, examining your behaviour, reflecting and self-reflecting, not afraid to go to those uncomfortable zones, means you’re not only not a narcissist but you’re less narcissistic than the average person. Most people don’t tend to question themselves unless they are forced to do so by circumstances. It’s logical really, why do something which can be unpleasant if you don’t have to do it.
Years ago when the Self Help movement was picking up pace I got into the work of Anthony Robbins, a lot of his stuff is very shouty and showy, and I mostly don’t remember much about his teachings expect for one story he told about his version of the pleasure versus pain principle. People tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain, however certain types of pain can give us pleasure because they’re hitting a spot for us, and we may get stuck unable to shift ourselves out of a way of being, behaving, an attitude or belief about ourselves, life, other people. He said that he liked to shock people out of their usual patter and patterns, and in the story he told he was approached by two women who were attending his seminar, one of them started to relate her life story to him and he interrupted her by shouting something like – Aren’t you bored of telling this story! She got upset and he asked her why she was upset, she was at his seminar, she obviously wasn’t satisfied with the way things were, so why keep repeating a story about the way things are/were when it’s obviously not giving her the kind of pleasure she wants. The more she tells people that story, the more she confirms to herself what her story is which makes it harder to break out of it. He said if you want to break free, then break free. Pay attention to what you call pain and what you call pleasure, make sure you aren’t confusing the two.
His work was a bit too simplistic and jingoistic, his solutions to problems were a bit of the quick fix variety which only lasts while you’re under his influence or while life has given you a break from the usual mess and chaos, but it had some wonderful insights into how we get stuck and how to unstuck ourselves. Before then I hadn’t realised how much pleasure pain can sometimes give, and that sometimes people are attached to their problems and don’t really want solutions for them. It made me look at myself and the stories I was telling differently and also look at the stories the people close to me were telling. I often wondered why my parents kept making the same mistakes when they complained about those things all the time and claimed they wanted to solve their problems – yet they kept repeating the behaviours and scenarios which created them.
There’s a great book worth reading about relationsips – Soul Mates by Thomas Moore. He writes about it in this article – https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199403/soul-mates – he explains some of the reasons why certain people may obsess us even when we don’t want to be obsessed by them, why we fall in love, why we don’t always fall in love the way we would like to, and many other things which are interesting.
Sometimes relationships in the present allow us to resolve relationships from our past – and sometimes they do that by perplexing us with a thing called ‘love’.
One of the most intriguing points which Thomas Moore made about love is – when you fall in love you end up in a place which makes you feel safe, the kind of safe which allows all those things you’ve been repressing and suppressing because you felt unsafe to rise to the surface to be dealt with. Love brings out the best in us and the worst in us. When someone loves us it helps us to love ourselves too. But love also brings out all the issues we have about loving, being loved, being lovable, being vulnerable, intimate, sharing ourselves, and all sorts of other issues connected to power, powerlessness, fantasy and reality, the ideal versus the real. Relationships in the present are haunted by ghosts from relationships past.
Narcissists are often caught up in some unrequited love dynamic – not sure if your guy is a narcissist but he does sound as though he is rather enamoured of the unrequited love scenario. Non-narcissists may also get caught up in the unrequited love dynamic because it taps into fantasy, imagination and private yearnings.
With a narcissist you often get dumped when you don’t live up to their fantasy of you, or when they don’t live up to their fantasy of themselves. Narcissists have hyper-sensitive expectations which get disappointed by people being human, including themselves being human (which is something they have a really hard time with being).
Never take a discard personally even when it feels very personal – regardless of whether the person discarding you is a narcissist or not. People are complicated – you’re complicated too. Think about those times when someone may have felt that you discarded them when you didn’t actually do that you just kind of let things peter out because that’s what happened.
Self esteem is an ego thing mainly, it comes and goes, has its ups and downs (and further downs), often at the most awful moments for it to do that. It’s a bubble which is easily burst. Far more important than self-esteem is self-understanding and self-compassion.
This is a good article about that – http://www.psychologymatters.asia/article/305/move-away-selfesteem-make-way-for-selfcompassion.html
I find it helps to sometimes treat myself the way I would treat someone else if they’d been through what I’ve been through – we’re often far harder on ourselves than we are on others, sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack.
Sometimes we fall apart… it’s okay to do that. It’s okay to need others, to have periods of low or no self-esteem and look for a boost from someone else. We’re human and humans sometimes are a mess. It’s okay to be a mess.
Be gentle with yourself, and if you’re harsh with yourself be gentle with the harsh side of you, our harshness comes from hurting and wanting to protect ourselves from hurt.
You come across as a lovely person to know, if others don’t appreciate that, that’s their loss, and you may feel the loss… sometimes you just have to shrug because not everything or everyone or you will make sense 🙂
Thank you for your response to my vent yesterday. I felt ashamed after writing and sharing. I was in raw pain when writing it and I had to get it out and share it – I actually scolded myself for dumping my personal pain into your really intelligent blog.
I am constantly trying to remain aware and catch myself behaving as my mother did. I’m not sure about how much my father plays into it. I have issues with males because of him – he was perverted and valued females for youth, beauty and sex. My mother I know has a lot of painful experiences from her past – including giving up a child when she was young. She was forced to at the time by her parents. That was how it was in her day. She never spoke of it – and then he contacted her when I was a teen. She met with him – they communicated for a few months. Then it ended. I am the only girl in the family and my mother was always emotionally incestuous with her boys. She flirted with them. I was competition. She worked to ensure I never surpassed her in any way or took any attention away from her. When my parents split I became her partner – she was livid when I left and began my own life. She was also unhappy when I had my child.
My first love was and is a narcissist and he came back into my life several years back after not seeing each other for decades. I believed he targeted me but now I feel as though I was seeking to experience him again – I was ready to find answers about my life. It was an existential crisis for me – painful – I broke down completely. Got into therapy.
Several months later is when I met the man I speak of here. He was recently divorced. I was very hesitant at first – but thought he would be fun, give me attention – make me feel desired while I was feeling anything but. I didn’t set out to hurt him – it just kind of “see what happens” – I broke it off after 3 months. He didn’t take it well as I said.
He never would let me go. I never intended to string him along or hurt him – he just kept coming back. I ask myself “Why after being divorced for 8 years would he not find another available person to be with?” – I was clearly not emotionally available. So perhaps he does enjoy the unrequited love part – the other N did too. I was long lost love – and he found me again – but that swiftly turned and we replayed our old routine. I returned his feelings then he wanted rid of me.
In both cases – they didn’t directly tell me they were no longer interested. They behaved in a way that sent me signals I’m no longer wanted. I find myself getting hooked into the game – feeling like “I’m going to get you to fess up and be honest with me. You are NOT getting away with this.” But a game I can never win. “I love you I just can’t give you what you want and I’m hurting you.” “It seems like you want nothing to do with me.” “My feelings haven’t changed.” “You don’t trust me and it hurts.” Projection?
As far as disappointing this last one – well I’m sure I have. When we first met – I was in a great place, and I looked pretty amazing after the N experience. Best weight loss secret around!
I was in good shape, I was starting school which excited me – he called me an “upgrade” compared to his ex wife. I cringe at that now. He used to stand behind me and hold me while I was looking in the mirror – and look at us together – he wanted to see himself with me. I remember feeling uncomfortable with it.
8 years later I’m older, gotten a bit pudgier in the middle, college caused me to gain some weight. I’m done with school and drifting without direction. I say he’s changed suddenly – but I’ve changed as well. I changed on him and I’m no longer who he fell for.
He has two kids who were 10 and 12 when we met. Now they are entering young adulthood and have many problems. His daughter had extreme emotional issues when I met him. We were walking along the beach one day and passed a group of people standing and talking and laughing. Out of nowhere she burst into tears and said “They’re all laughing at me!” – he calmed her down. But I could see issues.
Right now all of his friends have kids graduating HS – starting college and jobs. His daughter just dropped out of school and his son was recently arrested. He is struggling with his failures as a father.
I’ve always known about his problems – and his lack of responding to them – and that’s part of why I never fully invested. And for some reason over the past year I finally did invest and believe we could make it all work. But I never FULLY believed it. I always ran into impossibilities too.
I just never imagined he would manipulate his way out of it – and “play me” in this way. But I guess what you’re saying is I just have to accept that humans are complex and shit happens – I can’t control it. Try to not make it personal. I logically get it. It still hurts my heart though.
People always just ditch like I never mattered. I’ve grown weary of it. Not all people though. I do have 2 very special people in my life that I haven’t valued nearly enough. That’s the other part of my shame – I focus on the ones who don’t value me more than on the ones who do. Their views of me never seem to count.
Thank you very much for the links and again for your kind response.
Narcissists and narcissistic people blow hot and cold depending on what’s going on in their lives, what mood they’re in, what their latest drama is, and what they need from you.
A relationship with them is like the Hokey Pokey, one foot in and one foot out, etc. They’re rarely if ever straightforward about whether they want you, love you, need you or not because sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t – it’s not usually down to anything you do or say or you, although they may give you the impression that it is, it’s generally always about what story they’re living at any given moment, and what role they’ve given you as a supporting cast member.
They often love you more when you’re not around because nostalgia is a source of love for them, it feeds their fantasy which is what their life stories are based upon, and they love you less when you’re there as reality never lives up to their fantasy and often pops their bubble, disappoints, doesn’t live up to their high expectations.
If they’re living the story that they’re passionately in love with you, then they’re passionately in love with you, chasing you, romancing you, trying to catch the beautiful being that you represent to them. It’s exciting to chase after you and imagine all those things which will happen once you’re theirs. Your love will save them, solve all their problems, be a miracle cure…
Once they catch you, once you love them, then… it’s a bit like when you really want something, have wanted it for a long time, have fantasised about having it and then you get it. For a moment you’re on top of the world, but then… the reality pales in comparison to the fantasy. The reality comes with things which the fantasy didn’t have and lacks things which the fantasy had. You find yourself missing the wish to have and you switch your attention to something else that you don’t have but want, need desire as what you have isn’t as interesting as what you don’t have.
Narcissists are forever chasing unicorns and rainbows… they like the chase. If they actually catch a unicorn or find the end of the rainbow they always manage to find something wrong with it and find a reason to keep pursuing something else.
It is something which is wearisome.
We all have a bit of ‘narcissist’ within us. We focus on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have, we notice those who criticise us more than those who compliment us. We pay more attention to people who treat us badly than those who treat us well. We see the one who got away not the one who is always there for us. I think it’s a part of human evolution to do that – a primal spur which leaks into civilised life and doesn’t always go well with it, especially not in relationships – it can be useful in business and in our careers, although even there if it is allowed to run amok it can lead us to the sort of consumerism which eats the world alive and then we wonder why the planet is a wasteland. Kind of like the story of Easter Island, what supposedly happened there.
Shame is a difficult abstract to deal with because it is part mind and part feeling. It’s there to inform us, but sometimes what it informs us of isn’t easily applied or understood, and it gets even more complex when the shame isn’t ours but passed down to us from others.
One of the important things to remember is – everyone is a mess, even those who appear really tidy and perfect. Embrace the mess and see what grows in that garden 🙂
Another random thought that popped into my head while obsessing – I have noticed that with both of these men I believe to be narcissists – they have remained friends with other women they were involved with. I wonder about that one. I have some ideas with the first one.
But this latest one confused me a lot more. He was involved with other women during our off times – he was honest and told me about them. One of them he discarded for me – or so he claimed. But he’s still friends with them. And of course is still in contact with his ex wife.
But I can’t make the cut for friendship? It’s all or nothing where I was concerned it seems. Maybe that’s my thing – maybe they knew I wouldn’t be able to tolerate just being friends. I guess I answered my own question. LOL
When you know you’re dealing with a narcissist or a very narcissistic person it’s best to not take what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, personally because it’s not about you it’s about them.
If a narcissist discards you and then comes back to you or keeps you on as a friend after you’ve been more than friends, you’re not really a ‘friend’ you’re a person who is useful to them for whatever reason – sometimes it’s because keeping an ex on as a friend makes them look good, or because they judge their own quality based on the quantity of people they can count in numbers as ‘friends’. Kind of like what some people do on social media with Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc. Everything is a competition and everyone is a reflection of who they are for a narcissist.
If a narcissist cuts you out of their life for good it usually means you’ve seen too far behind the surface veneer, you know too much, you know something about them that they want to forget about and pretend doesn’t exist, and they’re scared of you because they can’t fathom you or control and manipulate you.
I tend to see it as a good thing when a narcissist never talks to me again, and when I suspect or am sure that someone is a narcissist I tend to encourage them to discard me (it’s easier if they discard you than vice versa), and I always groan a little when they come back after they’ve been away because it means they have some use for me and I’m going to have to go through the rigmarole where they try to manipulate me to get what they want and there will inevitably be drama. They’re like very bratty children, except they never grow up or out of that phase.
So it’s not that you ‘don’t make the cut for friendship’ – you really don’t want to make the cut for friendship when it comes to those who are narcissists or very narcissistic because then you’re just a thing they can use when they need you. If they cut you out of their life it’s as close as you get to being respected by a narcissist.
I find myself stuck where I find myself accusing others and then seeing where I’ve done it myself. On your other article I mentioned how I wish people would want to spend time with me – just for ME – today it hit me, that I didn’t always spend time with him just for him. I’ve also idealized him and what we had many times during our off periods – some of which were my choice not his – and I would use thoughts of us to escape, distress. Most of the time the thoughts were enough – I enjoyed them without having to deal with the actual person and all the stuff they come with. But then I would hear from him, he would express his longing for me and I’d give in. Then when I would see him in person I often felt disappointed, he didn’t live up to the image I kept of him in my head.
So I keep seeing myself in what other people do. It bothers me that I can’t be aware of this more often.
I’m not sure if this is the final discard. It feels different from all the times before – mainly because I care more, where before I didn’t.
As far as seeing something in him he didn’t want me to see or know – I remember once, several years back we got together for dinner, after we were sitting in my care and he said something about me not believing in his feelings for me – he often said that – I felt comfortable enough to speak openly with him and I said something rather bold, I told him I was never sure if he always wanted to be with me because he loved me, or he just didn’t like being alone. He became furious! And he always prided himself on how he almost never gets angry. I didn’t intend it to be offensive, I thought it would start an honest dialogue. But he immediately got out of my car, into his, and sped off, looking at me as if he wanted to kill me.
Somehow we managed to move on past that event and continue. I guess it just got swept under the rug. Just like when the blow ups in my family happened – later it was like it never really happened.
Thanks for your responses. You are so great at seeing things from different angles. I need to work on this for myself.
Being able to see when you’re accusing others of doing things that you do and have done yourself is an intrinsic part of empathy and understanding, it is an important ability to have as it can make a lot of difference in relationships, not just the relationships you have with others but also the relationship you have with yourself.
It takes courage to do it when the accusation is a hard one, a negative, but it’s worth keeping in mind that accusing someone of doing something is a similar process to relating to what others are doing in a positive way. So it can work to help you understand your positive behaviours as well as negative ones – and negative and positive behaviours are often linked, by understanding negative behaviours we can adjust them and a negative can become a positive.
Seeing in others what you do yourself can help you to understand what you do by observing and experiencing it from the outside looking in. How what they do affects you can show you how what you do affects others, and it can explain scenarios from a different perspective – your reactions to when others do things which you have also done can explain why people reacted to you the way that they did when you did those things.
You do have to be careful about not being too harsh with yourself over it – what you did and what they did may be similar but it may not be the same.
You need to keep an eye out for getting caught in making excuses for the behaviour of others because you want to excuse those times when you’ve behaved that way – why you behaved that way may not be why they behaved that way.
Just because it looks the same doesn’t mean the reason, intention and motivation behind it is the same.
One person may do something spiteful because they’re hurting and are lashing out but they don’t mean to be spiteful, and don’t enjoy it, don’t like themselves when they’re that way – whereas someone else may mean to be spiteful, may enjoy it and like it.
For instance, something like the ‘discard’ or the ‘silent treatment’ are things which most people have done in relationships but maybe they haven’t called them by those names. Both the discard and silent treatment are often advised as a way to deal with a narcissist and fall under the – No Contact – tactic. Non-narcissists are advised to discard a narcissist and give them the silent treatment. They’re similar but not the same thing.
A narcissist does those differently from non-narcissists, in the No Contact versus discard/silent treatment scenario there’s an awareness of the difference but in other scenarios the lines may be blurred. One of the things which can cause problems in relationships between narcissists and non-narcissists is that behaviours of both sides may be similar and may be seen as being the same thing – non-narcissists often attribute to narcissists their reasons for doing similar things and confusion ensues. There is also the flip side where narcissists attribute to others their reasons for doing things and others may end up doubting their own reasons and adopting the views of the narcissist.
Taking the narcissist factor out of the equation – At some point in our lives we may not feel like talking to someone so we don’t, or we decide that we don’t want to continue with a relationship so we don’t, but we may change our minds later on when perhaps we regret what we did in the heat of a moment, or we get new information which changes how we perceived the person and relationship. We can all appear narcissistic and do some erratic and shitty stuff, especially when in pain, confused, afraid, and triggered by past experiences.
You also need to be aware of attributing to people good intentions which you have which they don’t necessarily have – this is something which used to trip me up a lot in relationships and still does although I’m quicker to adjust my thinking these days but I still get tripped up by it. I tend to think people are more trustworthy than they are and have to remind myself of things like – just because I wouldn’t lie if I was them (because there is no reason to lie in such and such scenario) doesn’t mean they’re not lying (and don’t have a reason to lie in such and such scenario).
You are very intelligent, strong and brave, you allow yourself to question yourself, use doubt to inform yourself, explore, dig and delve into the inner deep, seek understanding and choose to be aware – this is rarer than you may think it is.
If you get stuck somewhere, ask yourself why… and don’t assume it’s due to a negative of yours (children of narcissists are prone to assuming the worst about themselves).
One thought/question – have you researched your MBTI. Using that tool has helped me quite a bit as it has explained some things which I do that I was being hard on myself about and my MBTI type eased the self-critical approach.
Keep doing what you are doing, trust your path – question yourself but sometimes allow the questions to not have an answer or just one answer 🙂
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I tested INFJ – it wasn’t the official MBTI – maybe I’ll try that one someday. The description does fit me though. The site I used said “The Advocate” and I think I am like that. I have always rooted for the underdog, been a fair minded person. I think I’ve gone overboard though and have been too idealistic about things. I’m beginning to think that a possible pattern for me as far as romantic relationships is I become drawn to man I see as an underdog, a diamond in the rough, and it makes me “special” and “good” that I can see good qualities in them that others cannot. It’s been pointed out to me more than once that I tend to undervalue myself and pick men who are – I can’t think of a right phrase – beneath me? Unworthy of me? – I don’t like to view others in that way – I’m out of their league etc. I know I could never imagine being with anyone “normal” or balanced or healthy – because I’m not. I grew up with so much dysfunction and being involved with me is not easy at all. Many want no part of that.
I’m a Virgo too. I can be very hard on others – because I’m also very hard on myself. I get disappointed easily. I’m very sensitive. I was told repeatedly when growing up “You are too sensitive!” – So I know I can over-react to things.
I also have tendency to think I’m empathizing with someone – they tell me about something that happened that reminds me of something that happened to ME – and I feel MY feelings about it – and think they are feeling the same way. Only to realize later they were not feeling nearly as upset as I had believed.
I think this most recent relationship that has seemingly come to an end is due to several different reasons. He has many I can think of. It wasn’t so much the ending of it but more about how it ended. I want things to end up neat and tidy, with maturity, in some kind of normal way. But it wasn’t a normal relationship. So it can’t end in a normal way.
I really, really, really just don’t like the silent treatment – being shunned – even though I know not to take it personally. I grew up with my mom doing this repeatedly, and just hate it. I specifically told him this – that it’s the most hurtful thing you could do to me – and he promised he wouldn’t do it again. Then he did. But I guess if he did so – to purposely hurt me – that’s about him not me.
The silent treatment, whatever form it takes and however you look at it, is a bummer. It’s such a complex thing with so many variations on the theme. Thing is we often give people the silent treatment and don’t notice we’re doing it because we’re not doing it deliberately, it’s not ‘the silent treatment’ in our eyes and if they accused us of doing it we’d be surprised and upset that they thought we were doing that to them, particularly if we don’t like it when people do it to us.
For example people who need their texts to others replied to right away… who don’t reply right away when other people text them. They know why they haven’t replied to someone else’s text, often because they’re busy living their life or haven’t noticed the text, etc,… but when they have texted someone else they completely forget to use intelligent empathy, and apply to others what they expect others to apply to them. SO it’s okay for them not to reply right away, it’s not something the other person should take personally, but when the other person does to them the same thing – that’s not okay and they take it personally.
We’re all pretty much aware that we often have double standards when it comes to what affects us versus what affects others. We all tend to be more sensitive about ourselves than about others, and may get irritated when others are being ‘too sensitive’ about themselves while getting upset when others are not being ‘sensitive enough’ towards us because we’re being ‘too sensitive’ about ourselves. Woe betide anyone who calls us ‘too sensitive’ the way we might call someone else that.
If we’ve told someone that something hurts us we expect them never to do that if they care for us – those who care for us often try to remember those things and do their best, but sometimes they’re so caught up in themselves that they forget about the list of things they can and can’t do with us, or they told us about something which hurts them which they expect us to never do if we care for them but, oops, we forgot or did something we didn’t think fell into that category and… so then that gives them the permission to hurt us with our thing as we hurt them with their thing.
Being sensitive is both a blessing and a curse. We tend to be more aware of the curse side of it because that hurts and pain always gets more attention from us than pleasure.
I used to be overly sensitive, learned to do that due to paranoia – I had to be extra sensitive towards the narcissists in my life because they were hyper-sensitive about themselves, everyone, everything. It was useful to be sensitised when around them, or at least it seemed like it was useful. But it hampered me when with non-narcissists, because non-narcissists aren’t as sensitive about themselves or others – they take care of themselves and expect others to do the same. Healthier relationships tend to need a certain amount of insensitivity – as in stop taking things others say and do so personally, and don’t worry about others taking everything you say and do so personally. It’s a confusing thing to learn if you’re used to being in a narcissistic version of sensitivity and relationship dynamics and duties.
INFJ is considered one of the rarest of the MBTI. The ‘J’ is interesting coupled with the ‘F’ – it’s a rather complicated combo because ‘judging feeling’ is very subjective. As you mentioned in the examples which you shared.
Most abilities can also be disabilities at times depending on the situation and influences. A trait which has become over-emphasised needs to be balanced out and sometimes the way life helps us to balance ourselves hurts. If we get too invested in others then we may need to go through a period of not being able to connect with people that way. If we depend too much on others for our self-image, we may find ourselves without that kind of a mirror for awhile, perhaps because pain makes us turn away from looking at others for a reflection and forces us to look within, rely on ourselves for our self-image.
If we’re too hard on ourselves we may end up with someone who is harder on us than we are – this makes us take stock. What others do to us, how we experience them can reflect what we do to ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves is always involved in our relationship with others. We can be completely insensitive towards ourselves and that makes us overly sensitive to the way others treat us because we’re looking for nurturing from them which we’re not getting from ourselves. And others do something similar with us.
Relationships are a fascinating source of insight into ourselves as well as into others. 🙂
Yes I certainly have a whole lot to learn about myself and relationships. I’m heading towards 50. My fear is I’ll end up bitter and alone like my parents have. I kind of laugh that they never got back together – they really are perfect for each other. And they have never been able to make it work with anyone else.
Up until now I’m a failure at relationships. But I guess the most important relationship I have failed at is the one with myself.
Thank you very much for you responses.
It’s interesting that you used the words ‘failure’ and ‘failed’ with regards to relationships. I used to use those words a lot to describe myself, and everything I did. I now see that as the influence of my parents and their narcissism, and my absorbing their views and their wound.
Narcissists tend to see things in black and white, if they don’t ‘win’ then they’ve ‘failed’, and they view the process known as relationship as a competition, an exam, which has a set of questions and quests attached to it that have right and wrong answers, and answers are tallied up resulting in a win or a fail.
With them every aspect of relationship is a test. They test your love all the time and score it, the score reflects on them and on you. If they ask you to do something for them and you refuse, then that is a fail on their part to get you to do what they want, they are not lovable enough, have not gained the kind of love which they seek to inspire in others, and it is a fail on your part as it means your love has failed them, you don’t love them enough.
As a child of narcissists you will most likely feel a constant undercurrent of failure, that everything you say and do is the wrong answer, everything you are is being measured against an impossible ideal to live up to, your love is never good enough, doesn’t pass the test, you have to work harder, study more, figure out what the right answers are – but with parents who are narcissists you’re rarely allowed to get things right. The right answer in one instance may become the wrong answer in another instance.
For instance – Birthdays – the narcissist’s birthday is a test of their own worth based on how others respond to it. They gauge their value based on the number of people who remember it’s their birthday, on cards received, gifts given, and gestures made. They have an ideal of how they should feel, and what others must do to make them feel this ideal feeling. They are constantly monitoring their feelings, with a focus on the bad. When someone wishes them a happy birthday there’s like a little machine inside of them which is checking the levels of joy which that happy birthday gives them and if the level doesn’t get high enough then your happy birthday wish was a fail. If your gift isn’t what they wanted (which it rarely is because their expectations are astronomic), if you didn’t pick up on all the subtle hints they’ve been dropping for weeks about what they wanted (which is probably something you can’t afford or which is hard to get), then your gift failed them therefore you’re a failure and they have failed to inspire in you the kind of devotion which would mean that they are truly loved and lovable, valuable, special. And even if you get everything right, offer them the world on a platinum platter, it may still end up being wrong because of some tiny detail which you missed but which they did not miss as they are always looking for the negative especially in the positive.
Growing up with narcissists is like living your life in a classroom where you are constantly taking exams and failing to pass. Worse still you see others come into the class and pass the exam easily, move on to bigger and better things which are always out of your reach. Even if you do exactly what they did, somehow when you do it you fail. And they often pass by giving the answers which you gave – how come those are right answers when they give them and wrong answers when you give them.
And on things like birthdays, when the birthday is yours – it’s still a test of your love for the narcissist, and even on your birthday you get to fail. Sometimes you feel like a failure for having a birthday perhaps because the narcissist parent makes you feel that your birthday is a burden to them, look at all the trouble and effort they have to go through for you (such as remembering what day it is) and they have better things to do than waste it on making you feel good about an triviality like a birthday. Just don’t copy what they do to you on your birthday when it comes to their birthday as what is trivial when it’s yours is never trivial when it is theirs.
Even when you get away from your narcissist parents their influence still operates – they’ve programmed you to see the world in shades of failure (because that is a component of their wound).
So when you relate to others, to non-narcissists, you may find yourself trying to ‘win’ in a relationship and always feeling that you’ve somehow ‘failed’. You end up thinking and feeling that you’re letting everyone down – and even if they try to assure you that you’re not, it’s hard to hear them over the noise which the narcissists have left inside of you, and you end up thinking that they’re being nice to you because they feel sorry for you or are just being polite (and are lying).
It can take awhile to realise that relationships are not an exam, they’re not a competition, they’re not something which you can ‘fail’ or ‘win/pass’. They’re an experiential experience – through them we do learn but there are no right or wrong answers (there are certain rights and wrongs but they’re not the same as the rights and wrongs of narcissistic relationships, and they’re not answers to questions they’re wisdom and understanding, values and principles).
This is a really good article, it’s very long and is a book review – http://appliedjung.com/book-and-movie-reviews/eden-project – and shares an insightful perspective on relationships, those with others and those with the self and how those two go together.
From what you’ve shared in your comments it doesn’t sound as though you’re a failure in relationships, not with others or yourself, it sounds as though you’re a human experiencing life.
Relationships are always a challenge because they’re messy as people are a mess (just look at our relationship with this planet – even people who seem perfect haven’t figured that relationship out although they may think and feel that they have), but that mess is neither right nor wrong, it’s just part of living life and being a being.
You’re not going to end up bitter and alone – that’s the story of your parents (and narcissists rather like being bitter and alone because it proves what they’ve always suspected – they’re too special for this world – which they tend to find satisfying), it’s not your story, you’re not a narcissist.
I’m amazed at how insightful you are. I was just talking to someone yesterday about the fact that I view everything through this negative filter. For example I was invited to a small party and the person who invited me caught me by surprise when she did. My first thoughts were “She must sense I’m feeling down and is feeling sorry for me. She doesn’t REALLY want me to come.”
A few years back a female acquaintance invited me to have coffee with her sometime – I said “Sure, we should do that.” – but I never followed through. I believed she didn’t really mean it and was just being nice. I learned a few years later she took her own life. I thought she was the type of person who had a “perfect” life and why on earth would she want to spend any time with someone like myself?
The belief is that narcissists believe they are too good for others, my belief has always been I’m not good enough. So I avoid others and avoid trying, I hide away, isolate, then feel lonely and want others around. I’ve been told by a few that when they first saw me, their impression of me is that I’m snobby and don’t want to be bothered.
I’m starting to see where a person can reject others because they feel like they’re too good – and they can reject others because they feel like they’re not good enough. Some do a bit of both – and I guess some do it to the extreme on either end.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me.
I wanted to clarify what I mean when I say I’ve failed at relationships. I have felt like I had to “win” when in a romantic relationship with a narcissist – and in my family. But what I meant is that in mid-life I find myself basically alone with no social connections. I’m now no contact with my FOO – and I have no friendships. I always had friends and easily made friends when I was younger. But after I turned 18 and my parents blew up their lives and mine I have struggled ever since.
I see people I have known all of my life – they have family around them, they have lots of friends, they’ve remained in contact and are able to keep the friendships going.
I always feel like I never fit in anywhere, with any kind of group. I mentioned on another post people from my past seek me out, then after some time together, they no longer desire to have me in their life.
You wrote a post recently about “Flying Monkeys” – and it made me think of a woman I grew up with. She is what I call a “Queen Bee” – I believe she is extremely narcissistic, she knows how to work a room, she can make anyone feel special when she shines her spotlight on them. She is a part of a group of friends I grew up with, she is the leader and gets to decide who is “In” and who is “Out.” This might sound confusing as I explain it – but another woman who we grew up with sought me out and came into my life – and the “Queen Bee” knew her but didn’t have a lot of respect for her, and when she found out this woman and I were socializing the “Queen Bee” proceeded to tell me all sorts of things she found wrong with her and how she didn’t respect her or her life choices.
After a while – I lost both friendships. Then last year on FB, I see the entire group of “friends” I had growing up, including both of these women, together, all out for a “Girls Night” – hugging and smiling and “We’re lifelong friends!” – and I was excluded. I felt humiliated. They are catty, mean girls who never grew up. They view being a part of a group as a life asset and proof of what a great person they are. Or I suppose I view it this way. Social media is a way to show off in many ways, including “Look at me and look at us! So grateful for my beautiful friends!” – Yet I know the truth – they backstab and gossip about each other.
But they do not look like failures. They are able to keep the friendships and relationships with others going. I guess because they can handle the mess of being human – and I couldn’t.
In my mid-40’s it seems nearly impossible for me to find friends. People are already established in this area. Outsiders aren’t welcomed.
I don’t know. But yes, I do consider myself a failure at relationships, and it’s not about “winning” in my view. I began to stand up for myself – and the result is losing people. If I had kept my mouth shut and played the game I suppose I could be “winning” and be a part of the group, and still be a part of my family. But I got tired of the abuse. Sick and tired and decided it’s better to be alone than mistreated. But it’s not better – it’s just lonely and isolating.
I don’t know if I’ve made any sense here. Something is clearly wrong with me as a person though. Because I either end up being shut out or shutting others out. And based on what I see all around me, other people are managing just fine with relationships. I’m not saying they have perfect lives, but they are connected to others in a way that I am not. It hurts.
It’s like standing outside of house with a big party going on inside and you want to be in there with all of the people, but you can’t be, because they do’t want you, and even if they did, you don’t know how to be with them.
There is nothing wrong with you as a person.
“Something is clearly wrong with me as a person” is the sort of conclusion people tend to make when they’re trying to figuring out a complex puzzle that has many twists and turns, contradictions, complications, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear solution or answer to it. You may find yourself swinging between two extremes – There must be something wrong with you – or – There must be something wrong with others – as you have in your story about the group of friends, but neither is the definitive answer, and neither solves the issue, because it is neither one nor the other.
Humans tend to try to sum things up in a black or white manner, right or wrong, yes or no, stop or go, etc. some things can be dealt with that way but when it comes to relationships that approach doesn’t work and often ends up causing more problems than it solves.
If you search online using the term ‘relationships’ you will find millions of results pertaining to ‘How to make relationships work, succeed, etc’, many professionals selling their services to help you be better at relationships, many life gurus claiming to have the secret to always win at relationships, make friends and influence people, many forums discussing relationship problems, many psychology articles detailing the dynamics in relationships, many philosophical musings on relationships, many alternative methods of dealing with others and yourself. Doing a search like that can put things into perspective by letting you know that you’re not the only one who is trying to figure out this complex puzzle and swinging from one extreme to another while seeking an answer to clear the issue up.
I did a quick search for ‘relationship dynamics’ and found this interesting analysis – http://www.pathwaytohappiness.com/relationship_matrix.htm
– “Let’s begin with the man’s side of the story. Enter Phil. Phil will play the man’s role in the relationship. We must first understand that the Phil doesn’t come alone. What comes with him is a set of beliefs, stories, and images in his mind. That set of beliefs includes images of who Phil believes he is. We could say that every story about him self has an image associated with it.
Some images Phil has fall into the category of “not good enough.” They include failure, loser, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not rich enough, not powerful enough, not good enough in bed, not ______ (fill in the blank) enough. These images can be found in any story Phil has about himself where he compares himself to someone else and doesn’t measure up, or doesn’t feel that he measures up to his own expectations. These beliefs are what create an image of low self esteem that Phil wants to keep hidden. It’s not who Phil really is, just a false Hidden Image that he sometimes believes he is.
We call it Hidden because it’s generally the aspects he doesn’t want anyone else to see. Often it is associated with the emotions of unworthiness, powerlessness, shame, and guilt. When Phil is in this belief paradigm he often looks at things from a Victim point of view.
But Phil comes with other self images also. He has a long list of what he is “supposed to be.”” –
Midlife (40’s & 50’s) is a time known for ‘crisis’, the kind of crisis where we review our lives up until this point and assess what we truly want for ourselves. Many people make radical changes of job, life, living, status, self, relationships, etc, during this time seeking to become more in tune with who they are, be more authentic to themselves.
Many of the things we did when we were younger suit who we were then and those phases of life, they are there as a reference point, but those experiences changed us, informed us, and have contributed to who we are now – there is still much to learn and experience.
“Something is clearly wrong with me as a person” – is a starting point rather than an end point. It’s a quest rather than a conclusion. Explore what that statement and thought means for you, to you, and see where the exploration leads.
I’m fairly certain that you mentioned in a comment having some good friends with whom you get along. Focusing on the relationships which have not ‘failed’ is just as relevant as looking at those which have ‘failed’, they are a part of the whole picture. Don’t just focus on what is wrong, also focus on what is right, and look at all the aspects between those two.
Sometimes what we see as being ‘wrong’ with us is a part of what is ‘right’ with us. 🙂
Very good information as well as the comments. I know outwardly I look and sound confused when I do open up and share my story and I feel that I am going crazy. Still, six months after divorce was finalized I can’t comprehend all the manipulation that took place. I documented everything, wrote down in detail everything that happened and I still cannot explain in a way for other’s to relate. So I just don’t talk about it. This helped so much.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
Feeling like you’re going crazy after you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist and are trying to piece together what happened is normal, natural, and actually quite a healthy sign (even if it doesn’t feel like one).
Trying to tell others about what happened, about the narcissist… in a way they can relate with you and your story is difficult for many reasons. If it’s still a raw experience for you keeping things from becoming emotional may be hard. Raw emotions scares even the hardiest of listener. Most people only have a small window of listening which is open for a brief moment – we’re in the sound bite generation. Explaining a narcissist in sound bites is tough, if you can find a fictional character in a popular TV show or film, and there are a lot of narcissist characters in TV and film, which sums up your narcissist or your experience – use that. If you can’t explain your narcissist and your experience to yourself, if the experience still confuses you and you’ve lived it from the inside out, any attempt at an explanation for someone else may result in them being confused.
It’s slightly easier these days with so much information about narcissists and so many people finding themselves reeling from a relationship with a narcissist, but it’s still a monumental task, especially if you’re trying to explain it to someone whose mind just can’t absorb that kind of information, can’t believe that people like narcissists exist in real life.
Mind you, there is a very famous narcissist at the moment, but talking about them confuses a lot of people and things often end in arguments and tears.
Keep doing what you’re doing, working things out for yourself, the more you do that, and it will take time, the more things will become clearer for you and one day you may find that sharing your story with others will be simpler than it has been.
Take good care of yourself!
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