Arguments were a big part of my family of origin. Growing up the air I breathed was electric and heavy with human storms brewing, breaking, and never truly subsiding because no one ever won, nothing was ever resolved, and thus everyone was left frustrated.
Disappointment seeking satisfaction is a hungry beast devouring all ahead, leaving devastation in its wake… for which it blames everyone but itself.
The process which ushered me into existence began with an unresolved argument, which rumbled and grumbled below the surface until it finally found its way out into this world in the shape of a human baby. This birth did not succeed in being what it was expected to be for those who had dreams, hopes, ambitions for it, instead it became what was inevitable for it to become – a lightning rod for unresolved arguments, those which had created it and those which it created by not being what it was supposed to be.
Some of my earliest memories are of my parents towering over me while screaming and shouting over my head, with my body placed between them as a buffer (something I dubbed piggy-in-the-middle). They often used me as an excuse to start a fight, but the issues which really bothered them, which they were really fighting about, were nothing to do with me – I was like the toilet seat which had been left up one time too many, the garbage which hadn’t been taken out, the washing up piling up in the sink, dust on the shelf, and other trivial reasons for an argument which is never the real reason for it.
I was the easy way into another furious episode in the soap opera war between two sides which would never see eye-to-eye because their eyes couldn’t see anyone beyond themselves, blinkered by their own story as told to them by their wounds.
For the last couple of nights I’ve been watching Gypsy – a Netflix TV series which claims to be a psychological thriller. There isn’t anything particularly thrilling about it, the plot, or the characters portrayed.
The lead is a bland and brittle woman who has bored herself into a corner. The boredom suffuses the show… and you, the viewer, will find yourself not caring one iota about anyone in it or what happens to them (a perspective which seems to be shared by reviewers of the show even if they liked it). Since she’s a therapist, she escapes from her boredom by becoming someone else, and as this someone else she meddles in the lives of her patients – by getting to know the people in their lives who her patients have been obsessing over, blaming for all their problems, etc, but whom she has never met until now.
If it’s so boring, why am I watching it?
Because while it doesn’t have all of those things a good TV show is supposed to have, it is a rather fascinating journey into the psyche of the average female narcissist…
She has the perfect life (or at least on the surface it appears to be perfect). She’s physically attractive, wealthy, intelligent, has a career in which she is relatively successful, has a beautiful house in the suburbs, a faithful, supportive, and loving husband (who is also relatively successful in his career), she has a lovely child, and a plethora of other ‘must have’s’ to be considered as one of the Jones’ that others are supposed to want to keep up with.
And while she is proud of the effort (particularly the control of self and others) which she has put into manufacturing the semblance of the perfect life, enjoys the envy of others for what she has (such as owning the perfect marriage when her friends seem to have lost or are about to lose theirs), she just can’t be satisfied with it, it is empty, it doesn’t scratch the itch she has for that which she doesn’t have… or what she could have had had she taken a different path.
She needs the safety of the status quo, the status she has worked hard to make happen and be as it is by whatever means necessary – a cocoon for her to be still within it. However it bores her and her boredom wants the relief of danger, of risk, of chaos – but she wants the danger while keeping things safe just in case she doesn’t like where she ends up. She wants to be able to go back to what she had if what she’s chasing after turns out to be what she doesn’t want.
She wants everyone else to stay the same while she dabbles in changing herself…
…to make her feel better about herself. She wants others to be fascinated by the mystery that she is, they’re not allowed to know her, or touch her, or figure her out… because she hasn’t really got a clue who she is, she can’t touch her self… it is elusive… worse still, it may be boring compared to what she would like for it to be.
As time passes she grows more and more nostalgic for the person she thinks she used to be – which she finds reflected within a young woman (who is portrayed as a siren-type of female narcissist) with whom she becomes intimate (this young woman is the obsession of one of her patients – a young man who defines himself and his life path by the women he is with, and who is seemingly unable to have a self without a woman to define it for him).
In each of the patients with whose lives she decides to meddle… represents a facet of her own life and the issues with which she should be dealing but, just like her patients, she’s focusing her attention elsewhere, on the other and not on herself because it’s safer to do that even if it feels anything but safe as you can’t control the other no matter how good you are at manipulating others… others only play along with your manipulations of them when and if it suits them to do so and fits in with their own stories (in a moment of revelation the lead’s husband reveals that he is being who he thinks his wife needs him to be – and he’s questioning that ‘heroic sacrifice’ now that he’s noticed that she is not keeping up to her end of the relationship contract. Awhile later he reveals to his wife that he’s onto her and she slaps him, reprimands him, forbids him to go there because he must stay where he is while she strays).
This show is an intriguing exploration of the boredom which permeates human life especially when a human tries to live by the standards which society has deemed to be the ideal. Being civilised, taming the wild, suppressing the primal impulse… comes at a price, which may be worth paying or… maybe not. We expect to be rewarded for sacrifices made, but what if the rewards pale in comparison to what we imagined, fantasised, and hoped they would be?
Watching this TV show is like watching the wound of this moment in time of human history play out really slowly… it takes all of our personal and interpersonal drama and serves it up for what it actually is. That drama when it hits us, sweeps us up in its thrall, is epic, exciting, engrossing, but ultimately it is boring because underneath it all we’re bored… which is why we create the drama – to alleviate our boredom…
We need others to witness us, our life, our story, our wounds, trauma, and… others won’t play the witness if we’re too calm about it, if it isn’t entertaining, if it doesn’t offer them an escape from themselves… we need to make it dramatic, scream and shout to be heard and seen above the din and dong of others.
In one scene a patient of the meddling therapist thanks her for truly caring (which the audience knows isn’t the case at all, and chances are this patient will end up very badly thanks to the therapist’s lies and games), then turns the compliment into a complaint by pointing out that no one truly cares about her, that they pretend to care but then moments later they turn their attention to their phones, their social media, their TV’s, their video games… for her others truly caring for her means that others must focus all of their attention on her and her problems – they must be as focused on herself as she is (and it doesn’t occur to her that they are as obsessed with themselves as she is with herself), however unlike her they have to work to fix the problems in her life (and she can reject their solutions on the grounds that they could not possibly understand what she is suffering and going through because they have it easy compared to how hard she has it – which from what we are shown is not that hard at all, she’s a stereotype of the privileged white person whining about first world problems).
In another scene the lead tells her daughter that – you’re my girl! But is the daughter really a girl or a boy?
The show has vaguely, subtly, infused the plot with an element, a hint, of that hot trending topic – being transgender. Is this a gimmick designed to appeal to more than just a ‘feminist’ audience (the show is written, produced and directed mainly by females… and the female lead is not your typical female lead, in some ways she’s a typical male having a masculine midlife crisis lead. She’s very narcissistic which is usually only likable, relatable, and approachable when male characters do it – Mad Men, Suits, Billions, etc. With the main exception being Scandal where the women are monsters but we like them for it – but then in that show everyone is a monster and we kinda like them for it as long as we can detach and see it as a super duper load of…).
And the lead mentions while being her alter ego that her ‘friend’ (in other words the lead’s real or at least everyday self) is ignoring the issues raised by her child not being a typical girl (which is causing problems at her school, mainly with the narcissistic mothers whom the mother has to deal with – and deals with them by first sucking up to them, out-narcissist-ing them, then getting frustrated because you can’t out-narcissist the narcissistic – they keep going and going like the energiser bunny, and having a tantrum at her daughter’s b-day party because… that’s what you do when it’s all about you!)… and maybe being a boy.
Part of my continued watching of this show is… the lead reminds me of a subdued version of my mother… and of all the narcissists and ‘unhealthy’ (because there is a healthy version of it) narcissism I have known, seen, heard, done and been in life…
I wasn’t a ‘typical girl’ as a child… strangers often mistook me for a boy (early on because I had a pixie cut – due to my mother trying to make my hair do what she wanted it to do, and later on when I got my ‘Purdey’ or Joanna Lumley from The New Avengers haircut, which my mother hated but I loved because Purdey kicked ass)… luckily I grew up during times when children weren’t quite so sexualised, genderised, shared on social media as status symbols for their parents, and expected to know who or what they were before they were ready to know such things for themselves. I was labeled a tomboy by those who needed to apply a label, just as I was labeled as ‘precocious’ or a ‘brat’ when I was deemed too whatever by adults, and things were left at that.
Even though they were narcissists and did use me for their identity, as an extension of themselves, my parents weren’t quite as invasive and proprietary of their child’s private life as they seem to be now. Even with invasion and trespassing of my boundaries which my parents did do… I seemed to have more room for my self to grow and move then than is allowed nowadays.
It’s kind of strange that the more freedom we have… the less freedom we have… or have to give to others (we’re so in demand and busy, and our attention is a valuable and rare commodity) while wanting it from others for ourselves (they’re also so in demand and busy, but apparently they’re not allowed to be that way while we are allowed to use that excuse to ignore them when they want our attention).
(do we really need ‘scientists’ to study this kind of thing… ?!) With so many people claiming to be empaths, but with so little actual empathy being shared around… I guess we need detached observers to teach to be better observers of that which is detached from us)
Is it because more freedom for us means more freedom for others… and while we want more for ourselves we’re not keen on others having more for themselves, especially if it means they are beyond our control – and while we don’t like it when others try to control us, we like having control over others.
We are allowed to have emotional outbursts as part of us expressing ourselves, but others… well, it bothers us and our emotional selves when they do that. They make us feel such and such when they’re freely emotional which we don’t like feeling… but if they tell us that we make them feel such and such which they don’t like feeling when we’re freely emotional…
We are allowed to stray, but they must remain faithful… if they stray it’s a crime they’ve committed against us which can never be forgiven or forgotten unless they understand that they owe us forever if we forgive and forget… but if we stray it’s because of some crime they committed and we’re only doing it because they didn’t do something we needed them to do or something like that…
My mother… was like the lead in Gypsy…
she saw herself as a woman whose wildness had been tamed into suffocating boredom, and it was everyone else’s fault that this had happened, that she was so bored… and causing trouble because she was suffering from the intense stifling heat and cold of that boredom.
She was the special one who really could not be contained by the structures of regular society… she was consistently and constantly rebelling against… her father, always the teen who never grew up and got over that phase of human development – her father was replaced by her husband, a man she married to give the finger to her father because papa disapproved of him… and not because she necessarily loved him – love was always a narcissistic quest for my mother, one where relationships were about contracts, bargaining, and reverse IOU’s – I did all of this for you even though you never asked me to and now you must do this for me and if you don’t I’ll resent you forever and ever.
I owed her for bringing me into this world… and the debt is one which can never be repaid because that’s the way they keep you stuck with them where they’re stuck – why should you escape if they can’t.
She was one of those people who needed everyone to be under her control (her control was good for you, get it… stop fighting against it, the more you squirm the more the noose tightens), was vicious (while editing her viciousness as anything but that… usually it was saintly stuff) when you strayed beyond the small cell she’d given you to exist in, did not tolerate defiance (unless it amused her and you were doing it on her behalf, against one of her many enemies… who were sometimes nice people that had simply annoyed a person who could not tolerate being annoyed, highly sensitive people don’t put up with what insensitive folk can easily deal with in a live and let live manner), and so on… but she could do all the things you weren’t allowed to do and it was just, right, righteous, noble, and so on when she did it, while being the polar opposite when you or anyone else not in her favour (when she favoured you… you could be a scumbag and she’d think you were an angel) did it.
The gypsy’s curse apparently never applies to the gypsy who curses…
Don’t fence me in, she says as she erects a fence around you, barb-wires it, them adds electricity to fry you if you try to escape…
She was was allowed to have emotional outbursts, but no one else was allowed to have those around her because it made her feel bad. She was allowed to be angry, but no one else could be that way unless she wanted you to be that way (not towards her, of course, but towards those she hated and required that others hate too). She was permitted to do what you could not do because… she needed you to be fixed while she was a mutable substance.
The narcissist doesn’t see what she does to others, she only sees what others do to her… and this justifies what she does to them. You hurt her so of course she’ll hurt you, but her hurting you is right, your hurting her is wrong…
Which brings me back to arguments… the unresolved ones which often continue on in our heads long after the physical manifestation of them have dissipated.
The people who started those arguments, and never finished them to your satisfaction (and maybe even not to their satisfaction) may have gone (even gone, gone), but the words still live on, fighting, finding fault, frustrating you, flummoxing your search for inner peace and other possible illusions, magic places and mystical moments.
I lived in the flotsam and jetsom of these storms as a child… and learned to work my way around them, through them, and continued to do throughout my life.
One coping mechanism evolved as I did, which was to imagine all possible arguments from all possible things done or said… particularly the ones which seemed innocuous as those are often the ones which hit you sideways, take you offguard, are the favourite of narcissists…
I used to regularly play out how I would deal with a terrorist who decided to hijack a plane I was on… I used to fly a lot during a time when hijacks were a regular occurrence (so much so that it became the object of comic sketches of the time), and it seemed like a good idea to practice dealing with that kind of scenario…
perhaps because being held hostage by terrorists, while not quite the same, is similar to living with (and growing up with parents who are) narcissists. Loving narcissists is a type of Stockholm Syndrome…
I’ve had many arguments in my head which I will never have with real and unimagined people…
How do I know I will never have these arguments beyond the confines of my mind?
Because, thus far, I haven’t… and I could conclude that all that time and effort spent practising is wasted, however maybe it isn’t, and maybe I don’t get to have those arguments with real people because I’ve practised with unreal people and because of it…
Do we attract what we need in life or what we don’t need?
I do sometimes wonder if the lack of people challenging me comes from my preparedness for being challenged and what comes with being that kind of being prepared…
maybe people are challenging me and I just don’t see their challenge as a challenge…
that would explain certain things…
and it inspires the question – what happens when you finally find the peace you’ve been seeking? When the inner and outer arguments finall cease and you’re left with what’s left once those cease to be when that has what has always been?
Are you prepared for that?
Who are you when no one is watching?
Do you need a witness to be or can you be without anyone noticing your being?
Do you have a favourite colour if no one else can hear you say what it is?