Have you ever met someone with whom you wanted to spend all of your time. You just can’t get enough of them, you want to be with them as often as possible because being with them is so wonderful. You want to talk with them, call, message, text, email them as often as possible. The sound of their voice, the way they express themselves, the look in their eyes, the way they see you, their touch, their presence, the feel of them, how they feel about you make you feel good about yourself, about life, about them.
They reflect you back at yourself and what you see in that reflection of self is beautiful – you look and feel as though sunshine is pouring out from within. You’re glowing all over!
They inspire you with love for yourself and loving yourself makes you love them.
It’s rather addictive to love yourself, the world inside and outside seems happier, you get along better with everyone, and everything flows more harmoniously, the people and things which used to bother you don’t bother you as much as they used to, you can shrug it all off more easily because you feel healthier, stronger, wiser, resilient, you bounce… and since you connect all of this with them, you may become addicted to them, perhaps even a little bit obsessed with them, but in a good way. They’re good for you!
Sure you could probably love yourself, feel this way, without anyone else’s help, but that’s rather challenging to do… the instructions for doing it are complex… like trying to put a piece of furniture together, there are all these separate bits and pieces which are supposed to fit together, there are tools to do it, illustrations showing how, words explaining the process, it’s supposed to be easy, take only an hour, but somehow… try as you might again and again, you’re a failure at it (and you’re not supposed to say that, think it… so you’ve failed there too).
We’re so prone to criticising ourselves 24/7, picking on, poking and prodding ourselves, finding fault, flaws and bad habits to get rid of, nothing we do is ever quite good enough, we need to try harder, work at it, get better, achieve our potential (which seems to be a carrot in front of our nose which we just can’t catch). Those moments when we do feel satisfied with what we’ve done, who we are, what we have, seem so few and far between… and they often seem to be the same moments that someone comes along and poops on us.
Just as we excel at criticising ourselves, we also excel at criticising others – what you do to yourself will inevitably be something you’ll end up doing to others but you may not notice it’s happening as we don’t usually call it criticism when we do it to others. You were just sharing your opinion (you have a right to do that), pointing something out (surely they would want to know if there was an error in what they’d done or said), answering their question (they shouldn’t have asked if they didn’t want your answer), being honest (they wouldn’t want you to lie to them, would they), practicising freedom of speech, telling it like it is (it’s not your fault they’re not a realist like you are), and a million other things which are anything but being critical.
And since others are most likely also being hard on themselves (because they’re not as different from us as we sometimes think they are, their I’m fine smile hides what ours hides, they’re wondering what we’re thinking about them when we’re wondering what they’re think about us and they probably think we’re seeing what’s wrong with them rather than what’s right, noticing that blemish, that error, while they see us as having our shit together and they don’t, they’re probably comparing themselves to us and using us to make themselves feel bad about how badly they’re doing compared to us… just as we’re using them to do the same thing), they’ll end up being hard on us too but they won’t necessarily see it that way.
Everyone is tuned into radio criticism – we’ll hear a critique in something that isn’t necessarily a critique at all (at least not one necessarily aimed at us in particular, it may just be a generalised disappointment with reality not living up to an ideal or dream, sarcasm, cynicism, skepticism, or some other form of self-defense against the sharp edges of life which we keep clumsily bumping into), we may even turn a compliment into a criticism (What do you mean I look nice today, do I look mean on most days or are you saying I’m bland!? Thanks for saying I look good but I don’t so you’re wrong, my skin is too dry, my hair is frizzy, my nose is too big, my teeth are yellow, I need to lose weight, etc).
Meeting someone who makes us feel good about ourselves can be like coming across an oasis in the desert… and we want to live in that oasis forever and ever, make it ours and hold on to it.
In our enthusiasm and excitement about the feeling good feeling which has been inspired in us by a person… we may end up ‘love bombing’ them.
Of course the ‘love bombing’ which most people do when they’ve fallen in love with someone is not the sort of ‘love bombing’ associated with narcissists.
The Love Bombing which narcissists do is however similar to what all humans do when they’re caught up in a new love, a new passion, a new exciting relationship.
It’s important to notice the similarities between what a narcissist does and what you do because if you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist you’re going to at some point need to understand wtf happened – and one of the best ways of doing that is to use reverse empathy. In other words – what this person did is something I have done too, and because I have done it too I have an understanding of why I did it, therefore I can use my self-knowledge to understand why they did it (in its simpler less narcissistic form).
It will probably make you uncomfortable to do that, especially if you’re in the stage of a relationship with a narcissist which rejects everything about the narcissist, villainises them, sees them as evil incarnate. But that kind of discomfort is worth going through if you want to get out of the hell that you’re in, if you want to clarify the confusion, and let go of what is holding onto to you.
All humans have narcissistic traits and behaviours because narcissism is a phase of development – most of us pass through that phase gaining the benefits of it, the positive side of ego and self-centeredness (we also have some of the negative aspects of it because its part of the whole, and when we’re in pain this side of it tends to be more dominant but it isn’t a permanent state). A few people get stuck in that phase and never seem to be able to get unstuck – that phase becomes their home and the traits and behaviours of narcissism become their default setting.
The image which best describes it for me comes from Interview with a Vampire. The child who was made into a vampire and grows older and older while never growing old, she’s permanently stuck in the body of a child, getting angrier by the year, intensely frustrated at not being able to grow up, become an adult, and her psyche becomes more and more twisted because of it.
While the bodies of narcissists do age (much to their shock and horror which often prompts them to go to extremes to avoid such a natural thing), their psyche tends to remain the same age as they were when they received the narcissistic wound which dominates their life and being.
This ‘childishness’ of the narcissist is both charming and horrible. The film which captures this the best is a South Korean horror movie – Hansel and Gretel – about children who lure adults to their house in the woods. These children are orphans in search of the perfect parents to create the perfect family – but the ‘perfect parents’ keep disappointing these children, and when that happens the adults get discarded (after being tortured to make them ‘behave properly’ and be who the children want and need them to be for them) and replaced by new ones.
The difference between what non-narcissists do and what narcissists do when they meet someone new with whom they get a crush on, become infatuated, fall in love, is that narcissists are like children and they get over-excited, over-stimulated (like a sugar rush), become completely engrossed, utterly obsessed, and their new love is their ‘new best friend in the entire world’ or the ‘new toy’ which they can’t live without, they don’t want any other toy, this is the only toy they ever want to play with, they’ll die if they don’t get it, they have to have it and until they have it their life won’t be complete (then they get the new toy, it ends up disappointing them because it doesn’t live up to all the hopes, dreams and expectations they had about what it was going to do for them and their life, and their new best friend in the entire world becomes their new worst enemy in the entire universe).
Narcissists are very idealistic perfectionists and are always looking for ‘The One’ – the one person who will live up to their high expectations, their impossible dreams of perfection, their illusions of love and what love is supposed to be (for them), who will save them from being human, make everything better, cure their wound, redeem them and all of their pain and suffering, reward their patience (with putting up with the mediocrity of life), miraculously give them everything they’ve ever wanted, give them that happily ever after which they’re so desperate to own forever and ever.
When a narcissist thinks you’re ‘The One’ they’ve found their rainbow unicorn with the magical golden horn that can make miracles happen and they chase it to capture it with everything they have. They are relentless in their pursuit because… they’re desperate, they’ve been wandering alone in the desert for too long and they’re very thirsty. That kind of thirsty can make you behave like a crazy vampire.
They seem to base much of their love bombing tactics on romantic films – you know those films where the lead falls in love at first sight then relentlessly pursues and obsessively stalks the object of their affection until (Stockholm Syndrome sets in and) they both live happily ever after.
You could say that love bombing was invented by the creators of romantic fiction and since narcissists live in a version of reality that is more fictional than real, when it comes to romance they’re going to go over the top and off the edge of a cliff (taking you with them so that you’ll break their fall – that’s what you’d do if you really loved them unconditionally like they so desperately long to be loved).
Their version of reality, their dedication to fictional romance is one of the things which in the initial stages of meeting them can be so captivating.
You could blame yourself for being a romantic fool… you could blame them for being the ultimate Bond villain when it comes to love games… it’s a bit of both and a lot of other things.
Many people are influenced by fictional accounts of relationships and love – it’s hard not to be because that sort of thing starts before we’re aware of it and keeps going and going (like the duracell/energiser bunny wars).
Perhaps as children we listened to someone telling us fairy tales (including those fairy tales our parents and others tell us about their own relationship), or we watched Disney films (which carefully remove any of the cautionary and very dark parts of the original stories which means we only get one side of the whole story), and later as we got older we maybe watched made for TV stories or read teenage fiction (and saw the film version of it) where obsessive love was kind of what love was all about.
As adults society keeps telling us to reach for the stars, pursue our dreams, and pretend to be who we are not until we become what we’re pretending to be – the power of positive thinking…
Those subtle influences plant seeds in us which make us yearn for a dream come true, a fantasy made real… and may make what is real seem a bit bland in comparison.
When it comes to love – we all have a dream about it, an ideal about the one we will love and who will love us in return (hoping the one we love will love us too is a dream ideal in and of itself even when our feet are firmly planted on the ground in other respects… as if we’re picky about the one we love, others are too and just as others may fail to tick the boxes on our list of traits and behaviours which our loved one must have we may fail to tick those boxes on the loved one list of others).
Enter the narcissist who is totally going to make fantasy, illusion (and delusion) come true for themselves… and for you too if they decide that they need you to make their ideal real.
What a narcissist does in the initial stages of their attraction to you can be attractive to you and hard to resist – you’re sucked into a romance novel, swept off your feet by a knight (of any gender) in bling armor to a castle in the sky on cloud nine above the boring old regular world where you will be queen and they will be king of hearts (or whichever suits the scenario).
They make you feel very special (which is rather nice in a world that keeps trying to make you feel anything but special or at least not a good kind of special)… and even the most level-headed person may find that attractive, alluring, worth indulging in at least in the short term – Take a break from feeling ordinary and insignificant and hop on board the extraordinary and super significant cruise to the island of your dreams.
The appeal of a narcissist is in making you believe that your deepest dream has come true, that the longing hidden inside of you (which may even scare you to admit that you have it) can finally come out to play because your time to shine has come!
How does the narcissist embody your dream? How do they tap into your hidden desires – they simply use the kind of ‘empathy’ which a narcissist has and that’s not the same as the kind of empathy which non-narcissists call ‘empathy’. They assume that you have the same urgings which they do (this assumption comes from them being unable to distinguish where they end and others begin – you are all about them and if they have an urge then so must you) – and since their urgings tend to be those of fantasy becoming reality… sometimes they hit the nail on the head because most humans have a bit of that going on in the psyche but most humans keep it under wraps because they’re afraid of wanting such a thing – the narcissist offers you that very thing and invites you to take off the wrapping, open the gift, stop letting it gather dust in the back of a cupboard.
Romantic fiction tells them that you want to be chased – they chase you.
It tells that even when you say you don’t want to be chased – you do really!
You (them), the hero of the story, should never take ‘No’ for an answer (society confirms this just in case a second opinion is needed on such matters – we’re always celebrating those who beat all odds to make it and succeeded because they didn’t let life and people say ‘No’ to them) because a “no’ is simply someone playing hard to get, someone hiding behind the walls they’ve built around themselves and their heart, it’s the guardian of the treasure worth fighting to get, and only true heroes can break those walls down by constantly battering them, defeat the guardian and get the treasure (all for themselves – they’re not sharing that bling).
It tells them that what you want is grand gestures like coming home to find someone broke in and filled the place with thousands of roses (How romantic, not creepy at all!). And all because the lady loved milk tray (this reference will only make sense to older people in the UK).
It tells them that you want to be lied to because the truth hurts and lies are soft pillows for you to lay your weary head upon and if you believe in a lie strongly and longly it’ll become the truth (which will then hurt you when that bubble blows).
All a narcissist wants to do is make all of your dreams come true because your dreams are their dreams and they are entitled to those coming true – fairy tales and Disney promised them that this would be their reward if they were good little children and believed!!! BELIEVED!!!
That’s sort of what is going on when they’re ‘love-bombing’ you.
They tend to believe a lot of their own BS which is why they make others (you) believe it – the parts which they don’t believe, they’re hoping you’ll make them believe them because you believe them.
Dreamers are the best sellers of dreams and narcissists excel at being dreamers.
And they too suffer when the dream disappoints by not living up to expectations, the promises it made and the wishes which seemed granted. Their suffering due to disappointment is what turns the dream into a nightmare for you…
Cinderella’s Prince becomes the wicked step-mother when his shiny dream bursts and his gold turns to brass – then it’s up to Cinderella to put her years of experience as a scullery maid to work and shine that brass back into gold (every day for the rest of her life). She’s still a Princess as long as she can turn the wicked step-mother back into the Prince.
The real issue isn’t really about the love bombing which narcissists do in the initial stages of a relationship (and sometimes in the latter stages when you’re trying to escape and they’re trying to stop your escape). The real issue is that you fell for it, and rather liked it, it felt good to be in that oasis, you hoped it was real and… the big disappointment was that your hopes for this being real were dashed, the frog you kissed only seemed to turn into a prince, but it was always a frog (a frog who needs you to keep believing that your kiss can turn it into a prince because it believes a witch turned it from a prince into a frog), and you’re back in the desert with no oasis in sight.
The real issue isn’t what the narcissist did or what you did in response to what they did – it’s what you’re doing to yourself now.
Behind all of the anger, hate, outrage, and everything else we feel and think about narcissists, within all of the stories we tell about them, what they did and are still doing to us, inside all of the accusations and blame hurled at them, the pain, the suffering we feel, and remind ourselves constantly about, reliving it over and over never able to quite move on, let go, is… self-criticism.
We’re pissed off at ourselves for being human – which is similar to the wound of narcissists. Did they infect us with their wound or did they trigger our consciousness about a wound we already had?
Do we, like them, have a hurt inner child who keeps hoping to meet someone who will wash away all our pain with love?
Is the reason we fell for them and their routine, their love bombing, due to the child in us finding the child in them play the same game – a game of searching for a happily ever after.
What made us vulnerable to their charm and how can we make ourselves invulnerable to charms like theirs?
If we fell for a narcissist once, will we fall for one again?
If you do a search for ‘Love Bombing’ online without adding anything else to the search (like ‘narcissist’), you’ll find lots of information about the narcissistic version of the buzzword but you’ll also get results which describe a method by Oliver James Ph.D which he has created to help parents ‘reset their children’s emotional thermostat’ – that sounds rather sinister but apparently what it entails is simply to spend a day (more or less) devoting all of your attention to your child, giving them quality time with you and the control over what you do with them, for them.
Excerpt from How Love Bombing Changed Our Family Life by Heidi Scrimgeour
I found it rather interesting that a treatment for children, a method to improve the parent/child relationship and family dynamics, should have the same name as a behaviour associated with narcissists. It could be considered confusing for two separate things to be labeled with the same term (which version of Love Bombing came first?), but maybe one can help to elucidate the other.
The method is actually similar to how a narcissist charms the object of their affection, and it’s also what a narcissist craves – to be the centre of your attention, your love, and given full control over you, what you do, what you say, where you go, etc.
Narcissists just want ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ (or both) to love them and only them. They just want you to love them and only them… which is partly why they love bomb you… they want to be love bombed (but they want Oliver James’ kind of love bombing not the kind that narcissists do).
Narcissists often do to you what they want you to do to them – your relationship with them (and theirs with you) is all about them.
But what about you?
What is your relationship with them about?
Isn’t at least part of it about you and what you need/want? Perhaps you hoped someone else would give what you need and want to you, and when they failed to do that (because it was all about their need and want) – what happened to you and your needs and wants?
Did you turn your disappointed expectations into yet another reason to poke, prod and pick on yourself. Is your anger at what the narcissist did to you really anger at yourself and what you did to you?
Is it really about them betraying you, lying to you, fooling you… or is it about you betraying yourself, lying to yourself, fooling yourself?
Is it about what’s wrong with them (and what’s right with you because of what’s wrong with them) or is it about what’s wrong with you (that you fell for someone who you now see as being all wrong)?
Is it about them or is it about you?
Can you ever forgive yourself for making such a mistake, for letting yourself down, for disappointing yourself?
Is the time you’re spending scouring the internet for info on narcissists and their evil ways, and ‘how to avoid getting suckered by another one’ healthy, healing or is it a way to keep reminding yourself of a wound which won’t heal.
Aren’t those ‘red flags’ lists which you keep reading and trying to memorise (but they just keep multiplying, getting longer, adding more stuff to commit to your already over-taxed memory circuits) a bit like instructions for putting together a piece of disassembled furniture… and if you’re really honest (you wouldn’t want to lie to yourself, now would you?) aren’t some of the behaviours and traits listed in those red flags lists things that you do sometimes (especially on first dates, when you’re trying to impress someone new who you would like to like you). And if you do some of those things on the red flags lists and you’re not a narcissist… could it be that other non-narcissists may also do those sort of things. And if you judge others due to fear of falling for a narcissists again (and once again having to suffer having your dreams, hopes and heart dashed to smithereens), might they not judge you too (because maybe they too have had a relationship with a narcissist and fear what you fear), and maybe you’ll (both) miss out on a great relationship all because of… what?
Shattered dreams which make you suspicious of all – yourself, your dreams, your hopes, others, their dreams, their hopes, the world, life, love?
You’re back in the desert (you never left it and that realisation hurts more than the heat of the burning sand and sun) only now you’re afraid of everything you see, you don’t believe your own eyes, can’t trust them, and every oasis is a narcissist waiting to quench your thirst with a glass full of sand that they’re trying to convince you is fresh water.
These things may turn a real oasis into a desert.
If you’re looking for someone who doesn’t have a narcissistic bone in their body (you’re looking for someone without a skeleton), you’re chasing (the shadow of) an impossible ideal – which is a narcissistic thing to do.
Pain, suffering, heartache and hurt make us anxious, cautious, hyper-sensitive and suspicious – which is the narcissist’s daily bread, underneath the veneer and facades of a narcissist is a human made of broken bits and pieces desperately trying to put them back together with superglue into a perfect form.
What narcissists do… we do it too (just not the way that they do it).
It’s hard to get over a relationship with a narcissist, more so because that relationship has a way of calling into question your relationship with yourself.
You got yourself into a relationship with a narcissist (sure, it’s all their fault for deceiving you – but do you really believe that) and now you can’t trust yourself anymore because the narcissist betrayed you = you betrayed yourself.
So what do you do?
Perhaps you need to love bomb yourself (the Oliver James way) – give yourself your full attention, shower yourself with self-love, take quality time out with and for yourself, let yourself be in control of what you do, where you go, what you say… trusting yourself to make the right choices instead of certain that you’ll get yourself into trouble again by making another wrong decision.
What you really need to do after a relationship with a narcissist is ‘reset your emotional thermostat’.
Let yourself know that it’s okay to be human, make mistakes, and learn from your experiences.
Sure, that’s not exactly the miraculous and magic snake oil cure to a problem which hurts and haunts you, but magical miracle cures aren’t always the best solution to problems (even if they seem really awesome, especially thanks to fiction repeatedly making us crave them) particularly when they’re oily and their ingredients require the ritual sacrifice of creatures who had nothing to do with the human issue.
Maybe what the narcissist did to you isn’t all bad… the negative has positive in it.
Perhaps it was a wake up call to go a bit deeper within and review your expectations, your dreams, your longings, your inner hidden world, and your relationship with yourself.
Your relationship with yourself comes up all the time in your relationship with others – getting to know others helps us get to know ourselves.
So what does getting to know a narcissist do for our relationship with ourselves (other than make us suspect that we may be a narcissist)?
They make us more aware of what we don’t want which helps us refine what we do want… sometimes by making us less picky (if being picky was one of the things which made us get involved with a narcissist as they seemed to embody our perfect ideal non-human human).
Exploring what you’ve learned from your relationship with a narcissist – that’s a personal journey for you to take. It may seem like a trip into Mordor, but actually it’s the way out of it.
Be gentle with yourself, and let the adventure be one of discovery rather than one of crossing the familiar territory of being cross with yourself.
Start where you are… and not where you’re not, then put one foot in front of the other and see where it leads…