The Korean Drama Guide to Narcissists – page one

The other day in a post I said the following:

“…although I am beginning to think that I may have been Korean in a previous life due to how comfortable I feel with what I’ve gleaned of the culture from my recent obsession with Kdrama…”

I didn’t think much about my words when I wrote them down. However later on those words kept repeating in my mind until it bothered me enough to think about it.

If I’m nagging myself in that manner there’s usually a message I’m attempting to get across to myself – What was it this time? What was it about those words which was bothering me?

Those words reminded me of something I have said in posts about Narcissists. An observation I made about myself with regards to why and how I got myself involved with Narcissists other than my parents – I found the dynamic, scenario, setting ‘comfortable’.

Being in the company of Narcissists is, for the most part, uncomfortable – you can never relax for a variety of reasons. Hypervigilance becomes the norm.

For those, like me, who grew up with Narcissist parents, that discomfort can feel comfortable because it is familiar territory. In fact when the discomfort isn’t there it can be more uncomfortable than when you’re uncomfortable because it is there.

My whole system (body, senses, mind, emotion, etc) is used to operating under the pressure of constant nervous tension.

Originally I’d decided that the appeal of Korean Dramas for me was  due to their similarity to the Japanese cartoons I used to love and watch as a child. That’s true (A few Kdramas are based on Japanese Manga, such as the one I’m watching at the moment – Naeil’s Cantabile/Cantabile Tomorrow).

But why was I attracted to Japanese cartoons (Anime fans would probably want to kill me for calling them cartoons) as a child?

Japanese cartoons are like Soap Operas.

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Life with a Narcissist in it is a Soap Opera.

As a teenager I watched a couple of US Soap Operas and made the comparison between them and life with my parents. I once pointed that out to my mother, and after that she would gleefully announce to people that her life was a Soap Opera, as though this was a great thing – that’s a Narcissist for you!

That comparison did help me to understand how come total strangers would get so involved in my parents lives – for those people it was as though they could participate in their favourite form of entertainment. The more crazy and unreal, the better… and when they’d had enough of it, they could opt out, change the channel (unless they’d gotten themselves too enmeshed in it).

One of the reasons I like reading recaps of Korean dramas is because it allows me to see the perspective of the person who watched the drama and wrote the recap (it works even better if you watch the show as well as reading recaps because then you can contrast and compare perspectives – a couple of times I’ve been stumped by how differently we’ve perceived the drama, the story, a character). They’re sharing how they saw the drama, what excited them about, what they loved, what they disliked, found boring, etc.

Some of what seems to appeal to people about Kdramas is also what seems to hook people into the dramas of Narcissists.

For instance, during one recap, the recapper said that while they liked the episode, they’d wished that there had been more angst-inducing situations in it for the characters. This stood out for me because:

a) there was a lot of angst in the episode and whole drama – how much more angst did the recapper need? And why did they need more angst? How much more suffering did they want the characters to go through for them to feel satisfaction? What did they get out of watching characters in a drama experiencing angst and suffering through angst-inducing situation after angst-inducing situation?

b) I usually find myself wishing that there were fewer angst-inducing situations, wanting the characters to have more peaceful experiences and enjoy their happiness, and I liked this particular Kdrama because it was less angsty than a lot of other Kdramas. Some Kdramas are so angst-ridden and so relentless in bombarding the characters with angst-inducing situations that they’re unwatchable… for me anyway because it reminds me of life with my parents. You were never allowed to enjoy peaceful moments (this was akin to a crime), and your happiness was viewed as an affront, something to be stolen from you or ruined for you if it couldn’t be stolen (if they can’t have it then you can’t have it either).

Narcissists like to see people suffer (schadenfreude), it makes them feel better about their own lives. They use the suffering of others as a comparison point (comparison with others is a big part of their self-image, self-esteem, self-assessment).

While Narcissists are attracted to and admire happy, successful people, their attraction inspires a lot of fear for them, and their admiration is envious. They want to be those people, but they can’t figure out how to become those people (they like those articles, books, and videos which promise to reveal the 5 simple secrets to being rich and famous just like rich and famous people, but they’re often disappointed, and vengeful towards the person who sold them those secrets even if they were free, when the easy magic formula doesn’t work for them – they drank the ginseng extract so why haven’t they miraculously become 10 yrs younger, 100 times smarter, and incredibly beautiful/handsome!? Was it a con!? How dare anyone con them!!!!!), and if they can’t be those people then they don’t want those people to be those people either.

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(an aside: I used to have a bowl cut when I was about 7/8 yrs old due to my hero-crush on Purdey – Joanna Lumley – from The New Avengers who had a bowl cut, and I was regularly mistaken as a boy. Pro tip: I also wore non-girly trousers and shirts too.)

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Both of my parents wanted to have glamorous, successful, popular, and impressive friends (in other words – people worthy of their friendship), but whenever they were given the opportunity to meet and get to know those sort of people, they often played hard to get – distancing themselves from those people (pretending to be above them while terrified of being thought to be beneath them).

Instead they used to collect people as ‘friends’ whom they considered to be failures, losers, and inferior to them (preferably those who believed that about themselves too, whether it was true or not), this worked in several ways to fuel them. One of those ways was that compared to those people my parents always looked like they were glamorous, successful, popular and impressive = winners, superior. If one of their ‘collection’ tried to break free by not sticking to their given role, an angst-inducing situation would occur to bring them back into line, and remind them that they were failures, losers, inferior.

In some ways something similar may occur between a viewer of a Kdrama and the characters in that drama.

This does not = the viewer is a Narcissist.

Narcissism is a stage of human development, and therefore all humans have narcissistic tendencies – healthy and unhealthy, and many shades in between. Be careful when assessing yourself or others before applying the dreaded ‘Narcissist’ label, as having traits, behaviours and issues which are considered signs of a Narcissist may also be signs of being a human.

The viewer feels better about their own life by watching the characters in the drama suffer. They feel smarter because the characters are being stupid and the viewer can clearly see everything that the character is doing which is stupid, wrong, and can groan about it (such as when a character is being a noble idiot and sacrificing their happiness so that their loved one will be happy, or is believing the lies a villain is feeding them, or is walking straight into a trap, or standing in the road to have a conversation and the viewer knows the truck of doom is hurtling towards them and if they survive it the coma then amnesia trope may ensue).

But if the characters in the drama start emerging out of their suffering, begin being successful, happy, secure, if things go too well for them… it may induce in the viewer a sense of loss, and they don’t want to lose what that character and that drama was giving to them. The viewer may want a happy ending for their characters, but not yet, it’s too soon, they aren’t ready to let go… and won’t the happy ending be sweeter if the characters suffer for longer and more deeply, up until the very last moment? The greater the pain = the greater the pleasure when the pain comes to an end.

One of the things you see stated quite regularly on Kdrama blogs is disappointment with the final episode – the series was great, wtf happened with the ending!?

Some of the reasons for the final disappointment are – loose ends not tied up, skipping ahead several years after events in the penultimate episode, a sudden drop in momentum, the story slows to a crawl, drama fatigue has set in (which makes me think of the fatigue experienced by people who’ve been caught up in the drama of a Narcissist and just want it to end, they don’t care how it ends, they want to get off the ride, make it stop!!!).

It should be noted that Kdramas do something known as a live-shoot where each episode is filmed shortly before it gets aired, in some cases the filming wraps on the episode only hours before it airs on the channel, with only a short amount of time for editing, so by the end of a Kdrama the cast and crew are often exhausted (I’m exhausted just thinking about it).

For me the main disappointment I have experienced with Kdrama endings is when the villain gets redeemed.

I’m not completely averse to villain redemption (although I am averse to it when the villain is a Narcissist. The concept of forgive and forget is nice, but nice is your worst enemy when dealing with a Narcissist. I forgave and forgot a lot with the Narcissists I’ve known (and kicked myself repeatedly for doing that repeatedly), partly because they’re the sort of people who promote the concept of forgiving and forgetting to others… they never ever do it themselves with anyone, they think it’s stupid and weak –  it is neither stupid nor weak unless… you do it with a Narcissist), but when the villain is still being the way they’ve always been and hasn’t really learned anything, particularly like – don’t be a villain, then it just doesn’t make sense.

I get it, the heroes are so heroic that they can forgive the homicides, the attempted murders, the heart-shattering betrayals, the horrible meddling, the disgusting lies, the destruction and devastation… poor villain, you did all of that because you felt misunderstood, you were frightened, you were abused, you were suffering too, you lost your loved one, you were protecting your interests, your were trying to cover up your family’s crimes, were only doing your job, following orders, trying to make this world a better place by eradicating those you saw as being obstacles… your genocide was accidental, you didn’t mean for things to go that far…

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Kdramas don’t seem as trigger-happy (guns are rarely used, knives have blurred blades if they’re a weapon – which is kind of creepier than if they just showed the blade, most weapons seem to be whatever is lying around, metal pipes, sticks, bats… or cars, words, threats, blackmail, family, and especially money) as US dramas which tend to know that their viewers will only be satisfied if the villain ends up badly, bloodied, possibly dead – really really dead this time rather than dead but not really dead just in case they need to be resurrected for next season or the season after that if the ratings begin to drop and the show looks like it might get cancelled.

You have now reached the end of page one, page two will be available when it’s available (it’s already partly written in draft)…

Please feel free to comment, ask questions, share your perspective, personal experience on the subjects connected with this post… or add something totally random, tangential, whatever… like this:

I’ve also been watching this recently… I have no idea what’s going on – sometimes that’s a relaxing experience. Hwaiting! Puing Puing!

8 thoughts on “The Korean Drama Guide to Narcissists – page one

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  1. The collection of friends thing is something I realized about narcissists. I was also raised by two narcissistic parents and have a history of romantic and friendship relationships with highly narcissistic people. At almost 50, t still feels very uncomfortable for me to treated respectfully. I recently started grad school. To get accepted I needed two letters of recommendation. I had my husband read them for me. Not to me, but for me. I couldn’t bring myself to read them, I feared the discomfort of people saying good things about me that badly.

    I added my new education venture on social media. I received many positive comments from those who wished me well on my new undertaking.

    Then something else occurred. One female friend (frenemy) who I believe is a narcissist sent me a message asking why I have seemed to “disappear” from her life. I found it an odd thing to say, “disappeared.” Because I hadn’t disappeared. We are friends on social media, I know for a fact that she also has my phone number, email address, and could easily find my home. I am not nor have I been unreachable for her. Although maybe I ought to be. She actually was able to message me on social media, see me, and then question why I have “disappeared.”

    What she meant was, my attention had disappeared. I stopped paying attention to her because it no longer felt worth the effort. I have plenty of other things to attend to. Plus she has 1,000 friends. She has 5 BEST friends. They’re all BEST friends in a different way. But they make her top 5.

    One time, several years back, I was visiting her with two of her top 5 BEST friends. At the time she was enamored with a new friend and group. When she has a new friend she becomes obsessed with them for a time and all of her attention goes to them. One of her BEST friends was really struggling with it. She felt pushed aside for the new friend.

    She said, “I guess I’m not enough.” and I said, “You’re not enough.” – she and the other person looked at me like I had two heads or was demon out to hurt her. I wasn’t. I just blurted out a truth to her. My intention wasn’t to be mean. Although I see now how blurting out that reality to her could come across that way. I wasn’t saying she wasn’t enough as a person in general. Just that she was not and will never be enough for this woman she is BEST friends with.

    I digress. Discussing narcissists is so difficult and goes on and on…. so this woman messaged me recently, about why I “disappeared” and I realized what likely prompted her was seeing my announcement of going to grad school. And I’m studying psychology.

    Interesting that for a person who has probably 50-100 people on speed dial to call up and interact with and who is NEVER alone- she zeros in on a person who pulled away from her and is going their own way.

    The second thing that occurred after my announcement was a man who I believe is a narcissist and who I had a serious relationship with when were in high school – and then years later a brief reunion that didn’t end well but woke me up to narcissism in my life, blocked me on FB.

    We were not friends on FB. While I know the advice is always to BLOCK narcissists in every way, I opted not to block this person. Since we weren’t friends I never saw anything related to him. Even though we have many mutuals. I never went to his page to look at it because for me it’s like emotional cutting. I didn’t want the pain of that so I didn’t go there.

    He had messaged me once on FB about 6 years ago and it didn’t go very far. It was a hoover I suppose, and I don’t know what prompted it that particular time but it didn’t last long. I let it go.

    But I just found it interesting that 6 years later. out of the blue he decides to block me and it was right after an announcement of something good I’m doing.

    Of course because I still struggle with my own fears of everything being my fault, and maybe it’s ME, I’m the bad guy, I’m the narcissist. It can’t be my parents, my friend, my HS boyfriend. – it can’t be they’re all narcissists and I’m the only one who is not. It has to be me or it has to be ALL OF US. But it can’t be they all are and I’m not. How does that saying go? If you think everyone is an asshole guess who the asshole really is?

    So I don’t know. I had reached a point where I decided to just lay low and mind my own business. Let go of those I didn’t get along with well. And yet they seem to not like that I’ve done this, it seems as though it’s made me a bad person who “disappears” and must be BLOCKED.

    If you devalue and discard me what else am I to do?

    Is a big ask to keep myself busy with other things and pay attention to other things, while I sit and wait for them to possibly return when they need me?

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    1. Thank you very much for sharing 🙂

      Congratulations on your new education venture! That’s great! A brave and beautiful adventure to undertake!

      A thought which occurred to me while reading your excellent take on and of your friend who said you’d ‘disappeared’, was that I would add to your insights the fact that your status update increased your personal value status in her eyes. You said: “I received many positive comments from those who wished me well on my new undertaking.” – and those positive comments would have attracted her attention. She would have read the comments other people made on your post, and wanted that for herself. One way to get that is by proximity. She didn’t comment on the post though did she? That’s a typical sneaky narcissistic tactic – she doesn’t want you to spot what she’s doing as then you could use it against her, it would give you power over her, her Achille’s heel is showing. She also wouldn’t want others to read her comment and see her as just another one of your many admirers. She wants to be a ‘special’ friend of yours, so she’s not going to do what you other ‘less special than her’ friends do. You’ve become a person of importance to know, and she wants to make sure that she ‘knows’ you. Chances are she’ll be bragging to people about her friend who is studying psychology. You’re a trophy she wants on her shelf which she can show off to others so they’ll be impressed by her, who she knows and has as friends.

      The ‘disappeared’ statement is odd – odd statements are usually what make narcs and very narcissistic people stand out, but not in the sort of way that they want to stand out. It’s a red flag standing out. I like your perception of it – “What she meant was, my attention had disappeared.”. That’s a very good call! I would add that using ‘disappeared’ is also a preemptive maneuver – she’s making it your fault that you’ve lost touch because YOU did the disappearing, and now you can’t confront her about her possibly having discarded you because she didn’t need you (until now), she’s put the onus of explanation on you – YOU disappeared, explain yourself! And most people tend to react to that – to an accusation and the demand of an explanation, they feel the impulse to explain themselves especially if the accusation is untrue, perhaps they’re worried about having offended, how it makes them ‘appear’ (a narc tends to think everyone is as concerned with how they appear to others as they are), which distracts them from the behaviour of the narc.

      It’s fun not explaining yourself to a narc, and just leaving them holding their accusation waiting for you to react the way they expected and needed. It’s sometimes even more fun to accept the accusation as though it was a big compliment. Or to accept the accusation and then flip it around – ie. Yes, I disappeared and I’m going to do it again right now… poof! But you do have to be careful of having fun at the expense of a narc and their ego. It’s only really worth doing if and when you need to do it for your own benefit. As a marker of your own recovery and healing.

      With regards to your ex blocking you. Since you haven’t been in contact with him at all recently, I would hazard a guess that the blocking has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with him. He may have been watching your FB, and blocked you to stop himself from watching your FB. Your status update may have made him realise that you’ve moved on with your life, and that he needs to move on to.

      When it comes to what you said here: “Of course because I still struggle with my own fears of everything being my fault, and maybe it’s ME, I’m the bad guy, I’m the narcissist. It can’t be my parents, my friend, my HS boyfriend. – it can’t be they’re all narcissists and I’m the only one who is not. It has to be me or it has to be ALL OF US. But it can’t be they all are and I’m not. How does that saying go? If you think everyone is an asshole guess who the asshole really is?” – what I’ve found helpful when I’ve experienced a similar internal debate with myself is to remember that there is a sliding scale, a spectrum to narcissism.

      Since you’re studying psychology, I’m going to add a caveat lector to what I’m going to say next as not all psychologists agree on whether there is such a thing as healthy narcissism. I prefer the view that there is because it makes more sense to me, as most things have a good, a bad, and an in-between good and bad grey area which could go either way but isn’t quite either of them.

      This article explains things better than I can – https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-vs-normal-narcissism/

      Thus all of us humans have narcissism as it is a phase of human development which we all go through – but narcissists get stuck in that phase. We all have access to healthy narcissism, and to unhealthy narcissistic tendencies. Certain life experiences can push us into a phase of being very negatively narcissistic without us being narcissists – this is something I keep in mind when I’m having one of those ‘everyone is a narcissist’ moments.

      No, everyone is not a narcissist, but everyone has narcissistic tendencies. If you’re focusing on those you’ll find them in others and in yourself. It’s actually helpful to look at and understand your own narcissistic tendencies as it gives more context to the narcissistic tendencies of others, and it’s useful for understanding narcissists.

      Karen Horney’s 10 neurotic needs is a very interesting concept and tool to approach understanding certain aspects of narcissism, narcissistic behaviour, and narcissists. Her life and career are also very intriguing.

      So it’s not an either/or as in either they’re the narcissist or you are (or a you must be because you think they all are), so much as you’re tuned in to noticing narcissistic behaviour and traits, and so you notice them. You’re vigilant about the behaviour and traits which have caused you pain and trauma, and to protect yourself you’ve taken a better to be safe than sorry approach which is completely logical. If someone in your life is behaving in a way which is going to hurt you and/or which is hurting you, and they don’t seem like they have any intention of doing some self-reflection about it and perhaps making some changes, nor are they open to paying any mind to how they are impacting you, then why put yourself through that, especially since you’ve already experienced enough of it for a lifetime.

      Thinking that someone is a narcissist may be how you tell yourself – step away from this relationship.

      From the sounds of it you have a lot of good people in your life – your husband, your friends all wishing you the best in your new venture – you don’t think they’re narcissists, do you? Well then, you don’t actually think everyone is a narcissist!

      Also worth keeping in mind when another narcissist or narcissistic type pops up in your life – narcissists are attracted to people who shine, you’re definitely shining in your comment, and you’ll be doing a lot of shining as you enjoy immersing yourself in your adventure in grad school. It’s not necessarily about what you’re doing wrong, it’s often about what you’re doing right!

      Best wishes! Shine on!

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  2. I used to call Jap anime cartoons too only changed it when relating to teenagers on the topic later. There was a period in my 30s I was addicted to it, watched plenty of series I hardly remember most of it now. Ah I remember watching Saint Seiya though not the 80s version but the later series in 2k.

    The caption from the anime image “I don’t fall in love so easy but when I do I put them in a cage” sounds intimidating hmm…two things came to me

    First, the mother always complained that my father was a possessive man, restricted her freedom and didn’t like it when she had friends and such. She felt like being trapped in a cage. Seeing that, I’d always remind myself never to be the possessive man my father was. Sometimes love can turn a person to being very possessive, obsessive and destructive in the very narcissistic way a Narcissist would.

    Second, actually this question was first to popped in my head, what if Im already staying in my own cage? And in order to put me in another cage, I have to be release first from my own. Not sure how the idea/question came from really, kinda random…

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    1. I love your observations with regards to the Anime caption! When something stirs questions, thoughts, to pop up in our minds, it can be insightful to explore them.

      My mother, like yours, felt trapped by my father – they got together in the late 50’s, and at the time it was still considered appropriate for a woman to give up her life for her husband, and for her to become an extension of him. My mother eventually gave up on her own desire for a career and focused her attention on helping my father with his – this became a big bone of contention in various ways between them. She never stopped resenting him for it. And he grew to resent her help and support because he found it suffocating – so he felt trapped by her too.

      I grew up feeling trapped by both of them.

      I think certain stories/issues get passed along like one of those mathematical equations which don’t yet have a solution. The decisions we make are sometimes our way of trying to solve the conundrum which has been passed along to us.

      I think that the experience of love requires a journey through the possessive, obsessive, narcissistic side of it, preferably from both sides of it, as the obsessed one and as the one who someone else is obsessed about. Both sides are cages – the one who puts the other in a cage is as much a prisoner as the one inside the cage, if not more so in some ways.

      The cage is sometimes a safe and sometimes a prison – which one it is depends on how we experience it. Sometimes we enter it willingly as a hiding place, a haven, a sanctuary, and it doesn’t become a prison until we are ready to emerge from it and found we’ve lost the key. Then it becomes an escape the room game 🙂

      The cages we create for ourselves are the strangest cages.

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  3. I understand about feeling comfortable with uncomfortable. One thing I learned about that (and it took me a long time to learn this) is that for the most part, it’s really not necessary to tolerate that discomfort. Usually, there’s a choice. This might sound quite screwed up to someone who wasn’t raised by an N, but yup, I thought I had to put up with it.

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    1. You’re absolutely right, there is a choice.

      I can still recall the feeling of the moment when I realised that I could create my own options to choose from rather than being stuck choosing from the limited options I’d been given.

      There’s a certain strange version of vanity which comes with putting up with those uncomfortable situations. Because it is familiar territory, you know the lay of the land, you know how to navigate it even if you hate the place and the people. Sometimes you’re proud of yourself for meeting the challenge, for being able to survive in hostile environments, for not running away like most sane people would. Eventually though all the medals you’ve given yourself for valour in the face of madness weigh you down and… who is the real mad one, what is the real madness?

      It can take quite a while to snap out of it and see the exit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dealing with/being raised by a narcissist has provided me with lots of “aha” moments- they’ve been freeing and also saddening (among other emotions). But the “I have a choice” aha moment – that was pretty wonderful. 🙂

        There is for sure – you’re forced on to this sort of stoic martyrdom battlefield, and yup, after a while the medals don’t mean much. Even Darth Vader would leave.

        Liked by 1 person

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