Last night I watched an old film – Repeat Performance (1947) – which triggered an old wound, releasing some new insights into myself and my story for me personally.
The synopsis of the film on IMDb is as follows:
“On New Year’s Eve 1946, Sheila Page kills her husband Barney. She wishes that she could relive 1946 and avoid the mistakes that she made throughout the year. Her wish comes true but cheating fate proves more difficult than she anticipated.”
What the synopsis doesn’t mention is that Sheila Page is married to a classic Narcissist – her husband fits the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder perfectly (plus all the things the diagnostic criteria doesn’t mention… such as what it’s like to live with a Narcissist 24/7).
He is a self-loathing, selfishly-centered projecting and transferring of all his shit onto others bully, who turns his self-loathing into hate for everyone (it’s only through hating others that a narcissist can feel good about themselves and hate themselves less) and everything else (everything is awful to a Narcissist unless it’s not, but eventually even what is not awful will be awful)…
(love this song… it totally gets it!)
…and thinks everyone owes him everything (and nags, whines, whinges, has a tantrum, plays the victim, emotionally blackmails, psychologically blackmails, randomly does blackmailing of every sort all over the place and doesn’t get it that no one likes a blackmailer, intimidates, and bullies others into giving the narcissist all the stuff they think they don’t have and believe others have and should give to them) but nothing they give him is ever good enough for him. He sees himself as a victim of others, of circumstances, and thus he views himself as righteously justified in victimising others (the narcissist isn’t the victimiser and his victims aren’t his victims, they brought it on themselves by being bad, unfair, evil, having what the Narcissist doesn’t have, being who the narcissists doesn’t want them to be, refusing to be who the narcissists wants and needs them to be for him or her, etc), taking what he wants and then throwing it all away because it’s not what he wanted, it doesn’t satisfy the bottomless pit of seething need, want, greed (which devours and devours but neither tastes nor savours what it devours). He wants the world at his feet… so he can stomp on it and kick it. Nothing he does is his fault, nothing is his responsibility, the consequences of his actions are someone else’s problem… and so on.
And Sheila Page fits the Victim of a Narcissist criteria perfectly too – she thinks that she’s the one at fault, that she’s to blame for what happened between her and her husband (What the film doesn’t show you at the beginning is that Sheila Page shot and killed her husband because he was trying to kill her. Why was he trying to kill her? Because he blamed her for everything and he’d decided that if she was dead then he’d be free to live the life he believed that he deserved. She was an obstacle between him and his dream ideal…), and that therefore if she had a do-over she could fix things and get a happily ever after for both of them.
The relationship with a narcissist always begins with a dream… and always ends in a nightmare… which just keeps going and going like the bunny which energiser and duracell fought a legal battle over (because shit like that is important to humanity).
If she could do things differently then she could make him happy, give him everything he said he wanted, make him love her, give him enough love to… but he only ended up hating her just as much as he had done before (because his hate for her wasn’t about her and who she was or what she did – but she couldn’t see that!).
But since she was trying to fix a relationship which involved a Narcissist… the story was inevitably going to go around in a vicious circle and end up exactly where it had ended up the first time around.
She could have had endless years of Groundhog Day do-overs and the Narcissist would have caused all of them to end up exactly where the first time around ended up. The only way to change history would have been for Sheila Page to start her do-over by leaving her husband… and even then… he’d have probably been pissed off at her for leaving him (how very dare she!) and things would have played out as they always do when a Narcissist is involved.
The dream always ends up being a nightmare merry-go-round ride, and there’s no way to get off… even in death (even though my father is now dead my mother is still keeping him alive and riding the nightmare merry-go-round).
Narcissists are stuck in a loop, and they go around and around, repeating the same performance over and over – anyone who gets sucked into a relationship with them inevitably gets sucked into the loop, going around and around, repeating the same performance.
Groucho Marx describing what Narcissists do
Watching the film was more than slightly agonising. I did consider turning it off, but for some reason I was transfixed. Particularly with the part where the husband hates his wife and blames her for everything that is wrong with his life, with him, and goes wrong for him regardless of who she is and what she does – and she does an awful lot to please him, bending over backwards to support him, to save him from his self-destructive tendencies, to help him realise his dreams… the nicer and more helpful she is, the more she gives him, the more he loathes her, the more he punishes her, the more he feels right in his view of her and his version of reality – She’s the reason he’s so miserable, therefore she must die (really dude!?! You’re a miserable swear word I can’t use online without offending people who don’t deserve to be offended, but you’re that and yet according to you you’re a saint and everyone else is the sinner….)
The way the film ends is intensely unsatisfying, and unfair. Sure, the Narcissist gets shot and killed again, but… others get to pay for his repeat performance.
But… it is only a film, a fiction… right? Or is it?
With Narcissists you’re never going to get a ‘fair and just’ ending. Chances are your ‘ending’ won’t ever feel like an ending… it’s a loose end flapping in the wind which a part of you will want to tie up neatly, but you’re going to have to let it go… on flapping loosely in the wind (and get as far from it as possible so that loose end doesn’t wrap itself around your neck). It’s a live wire looking for a puddle to fall in just as someone who has nothing to do with the Narcissist’s story is wading through the puddle and others who happened to have been in a relationship with that Narcissist get blamed for what happened to that innocent wader through the puddle.
What watching this film triggered for me was a memory of the constant undercurrent of hostility in which I grew up and lived (and thought was ‘normal’) until my late 20’s when I opted out of being a member of my family (an act which society won’t approve of… even in this day and age when society says it might allow for and approve of such things… but it’s your mother, your father… you’ll be sorry… yeah, nah… they’re shits who keep shitting on me, do I still need to love them or am I allowed to block their asses finally?).
Opting out didn’t stop my feeling that I was living in a world hostile to me and my existence, but it did allow for the healing process to begin… to chip away at that belief which had firmly implanted itself in my psyche.
Hostility is a normal part of the Narcissistic reality in a variety of ways. They say that the Eskimos (sorry if that term is politically incorrect, I have no idea anymore what’s correct and incorrect, feel free to correct me people of the internet) have 50 words for ‘snow’… Narcissists have at least 50 words for (and ways of expressing) hostility, one of which is ‘love’. When a Narcissist tells you they ‘love’ you or someone else… what they really mean is that their hostility is being expressed in the guise of ‘love’, caring and affection.
“If you ‘love’ me” a Narcissist will say, “then you will throw yourself off this cliff for me… if you don’t throw yourself off this cliff then you don’t love me and… then I won’t be able to love you because I can’t love someone who won’t kill themselves for me…” – and other similar dialogues which are common in conversations with Narcissists.
My parents were constantly requiring of me that I prove my love for them (to win their love… which was impossible to win, but maybe, just maybe if I tried hard enough…) through my own self-destruction.. Of course they didn’t see it that way. They were always the heroes (and I was always the villain, even as a baby – I got that view of baby-me from them), and heroes don’t ask their ‘loved’ ones to do that kind of thing… I must have misheard them, as usual I was not listening properly, I was a typical villain making everything they said sound villainous… and other stories from Gaslightville (I watched the film, Gaslight, which gave that Narcissist tactic its name ,many years ago with my Narcissist mother… she loved that film because, of course, she was Ingrid Bergman and my father and everyone else in the world was Charles Boyer).
They also didn’t see themselves as hating me for existing, even when they told me in fairly plain words that they hated me for existing, my existence was a source of pain, fear and loathing for them, and they’d be happier, healthier, wealthier, better off if I died or just had never been born. Why did I force my existence upon them (huh!?!).
Narcissists never really hear how cruel what they say sounds to those who hear it (they’re not really listening to anything they say or anything anyone else says)… they only hear their cruelty when you repeat back to them what they have said to you, but then it is you who is being cruel to them (and they can’t and won’t hear about how they have been cruel to you in similar fashion- so don’t bother trying and hoping to get them to connect what you are saying to them with what they have said to you, it’s a Sisyphean task (another vicious cycle/circle/merry-go-round).
They also constantly told me how hostile the world was (and the world confirmed this in the myriad ways which it does that).
Funnily enough, now that the world appears to be increasingly more openly hostile (thanks in some ways to the internet and the communicative avenues it has opened up for all of us) it in some ways feels less hostile… perhaps because it’s less passive-aggressive than it used to be. Open aggression is in some ways easier to deal with than aggression which disguises itself as love, as empathy, as sensitivity, as a caring entity which is trying to help you see… how much things would be better if you weren’t being you as you are and instead became someone else for someone else who isn’t being who they are… if only you would be someone who would still never measure up to some fantasy of someone who is trying to be a fantasy version of themselves because they hate who they are due to never measuring up to someone else’s fantasy of who people need to be to…????
before you react negatively to this quote… take the time to check out the work of Marie-Louise von Franz in depth to put her quote into context. However if you’ve been in a relationship with a Narcissist you may not need to do that as you may already have too much experience of the ‘tyranny of the feeling/sensitive types’ who aren’t particularly sensitive to the feelings of others – others must adapt – that means you to them.
If you grow up with Narcissist parents – everyone and everything is always out to get you (to get them – the Narcissists, and since you’re an extension of them, a thing, object, which they own, the world will try to get to them through you… you’re the weak link and chink in their armor, which is why they have to be cruel to you to toughen you up, but you’re still so weak and useless… and they will try to get back at the hostile world using you as a tool, a weapon, a soldier who will fight their ‘good’ fight for them and get killed on their behalf saving them like a ‘good’ soldier should die for their master).
Since most Narcissists tend to have other Narcissistic people (who may or may not be Narcissists themselves, they may be regular people whose narcissistic side is brought out by being involved in a relationship with Narcissists…) in their immediate social circle… the reality created by Narcissist parents gets confirmed again and again – the world and everyone in it is hostile to you and your existence…. and it’s all your fault.
Nenbroto from the Sola Busca Tarot – meaning: Innocence Lost/Tyranny. Jealous Rulers
The healing/recovery process from narcissistic abuse can take ages (give yourself all the time you need… and give yourself time to realise that you need to give yourself all the time you need)… and many of methods which actually help to recover from a relationship with a Narcissist seem to be the opposite of some conventional healing methods and therapeutic recommendations.
For instance the whole – ‘Getting rid of Ego’ – concept is something children of Narcissists and victims of Narcissists already have done and should avoid continuing to do – our problem isn’t having an ego it’s not having enough of an ego. ‘Getting an Ego’ is actually more helpful – as is figuring out what is meant by ‘Ego’ (Carl Jung’s version of Ego is probably the most helpful and healthiest as the Ego is viewed as an ally rather than the enemy, it’s basically a ‘higher’ self which organises all the separate elements of self into a whole self which works together to help the owner of these selves, ego, etc).
When I was first searching for ways to heal, I found myself attracted to all sorts of healing methods which… in retrospect I would say were ‘narcissistic’ – hence why I was attracted to them. If you’re prone to being attracted to and attracting Narcissists, as I have been, then this can pervade other areas (and you may find yourself attracted to therapies and such which are narcissistic – which I was).
I could have so easily ended up joining a group such as the one shown in this excellent documentary – Wild Wild Country (for those who would rather read than watch, this series of articles sums the documentary up, and adds added info which the documentary did not include – 25 years after Rajneeshee commune collapsed, truth spills out — Part 1 of 5). Watching this documentary is like watching the story of my life with my Narcissist parents as it encapsulates the Narcissistic reality, delusion, insanity which can appear ‘sane’, and ‘ideal dream turned nightmare’ brilliantly (the best bit is how it shows the failings of the Narcissist ideal – they were trying to set up an ideal empathic loving community where a fairly empathic and loving community already existed which the Narcissists could not, would not, and refused to see, and in the process the Narcissists almost destroyed the already loving empathic community which existed for the sake of something which wasn’t what it thought it was and was never going to be that)… only on a larger scale – in a twisted way it helped to heal me to watch this.
I’m going to end this post here… there’s a lot left unsaid. Sometimes there’s more in what is not said than there is in what is said, and sometimes that’s not the case.
When healing from a relationship with a Narcissist… everything is part of the recovery process. Pay attention to what attracts you, what repels you, what triggers you and what doesn’t trigger you (especially if it used to be something which triggered you)… it is all part of the narrative of your story – and ultimately it’s your story you’re trying to figure out.
A big part of the healing/recovery process also entails figuring out what isn’t your story but keeps trying to make itself into your story… perhaps you feel this as a burden, something you’re carrying for someone else, something you have to resolve (re-solve) because someone else handed it to you – it’s their unfinished business which wants a happy ending. Is it really your puzzle to solve or re-solve? Why?
In parting, I’m leaving you with two things which have recently made me feel a strange positivity.
an excerpt from a ye olde text (which I found in a book bought from a secondhand bookshop):
which advises that we leave things in this world as we found them because trying to solve and re-solve the problems of the human world just makes more of a mess of a mess (somehow that piece of advice at the end of a complex story was a great relief). After a lifetime of being influenced by the narcissists in my life who pressured me into thinking that I should make a difference, make a mark upon this world, change everyone and everything to suit some ideal (which wasn’t mine but which I made mine at some point)… it’s kind of nice, relaxing and fitting to see things differently. What if my life makes no difference at all and that’s okay. What if I just make as little of a difference and mark on this world as is humanly possible… and that’s a sort of good thing?
and an image inspired by a TV series – El Ministerio Del Tiempo – which I’ve truly enjoyed watching (and am sad it was cancelled, but such are the vagaries of TV and life and time…), and which puts history (both personal and impersonal) into perspective… especially when we consider meddling with it to make life as we know it better… or just to try to keep it as it is because… while it could be better, it could also be worse.
Sometimes we should just leave ourselves as is… and get to know what is as it is. That takes quite some doing… getting to know ourselves as we are isn’t easy, but it’s the kind of hard that’s worth it,
Feel free to share or ask anything here in the comment section of this post…
and, thank you to Anna, for inspiring me to momentarily break my hiatus from blogging.