In the previous post – The Korean Drama Guide to Narcissists – page one – I mentioned that:
“…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)…”
I never really got hooked on US Soap Operas, not in the way that my American friends were hooked on them. If they missed an episode, it was the end of the world as they knew it, they’d experience withdrawal symptoms, they’d cry and moan as though a loved one had died.
I am exaggerating, but their reactions to missing episodes appeared exaggerated to me. It was strange, foreign…
There were many lifestyle differences between me and most of my friends – the main one being stability.
Part of the reason my American friends became hooked on Soap Operas was because it was a fixture of their daily routine, their social routine – everyone they knew did it and they often gathered together to do it. Their daily routine, and social routine, were a fixture of living in the same place (often since birth, with their families also sometimes having lived there for generations), with the same people (who had known them forever, everyone knew everyone since forever), for years.
I was intrigued by it, by them, by their lives. In some ways you could say that I was a character in one of the Soap Operas they liked to watch looking out through the TV screen at them (as though they were the ones who were really on TV) wondering what it would be like to be them, to live as they did.
I moved around a lot, the places and people around me changed regularly, I rarely if ever got to watch an entire season/series of a TV show from start to finish – I saw bits and pieces, an episode here and there (sometimes dubbed in different languages, and out of order) and had to piece the story together for myself. Which is why I didn’t see any problem with missing episodes.
With US Soap Operas, as far as I could tell from the bits and pieces I saw of them, the same thing happened repeatedly, the characters did and said the same things as though stuck on a loop. Sure there were exciting storylines but they developed at a snail’s pace. If a character had been tied up and thrown into a lake to drown, it could take an entire week for them to be rescued – seconds turned into hours. Someone just opening a door and walking into a room could take days. It was agonisingly slow… and the pay-off for waiting for something to happen to move the story on was often some delay which stretched the wait even more. Lance was finally going to tell Cassandra that he’d lied about Devon, but then Cassandra would have something she wanted to say to Lance before he said anything… Nooooo!!!!… maybe there’d be a long session of you-go-first-no-you-go-first-no-you-go-first until either neither said anything after all of that or Cassandra would go first, it would take her an age to say it and after that Lance would decide not to say anything after all (OMG just friggin’ say it!), or Lance would go first (YAY!)… but that’s when Lucretia walked in to announce that Giuseppe had gone missing (dum, dum DUN!!!! ARGH! NO! UGH!).
What I found annoying about US Soap Operas was the same thing I found annoying about life with my parents – Just when you thought a matter was going to get resolved, that the agonising wait was over, that the story was finally going to move on from where it had been stuck for ages, that the characters who had been prevaricating, fighting, stuck in an endless vicious cycle of misunderstandings, would finally see the situation clearly, cut through all the bullshit and decide to make a clean break from it…the writers of the show would throw a wrench into the time-space-logic continuum works.
A Narcissist can take a simple story and turn it into a convoluted twisted mess, that drags on long after it should have ended. Misunderstandings breed like flies on a carcass. Characters get killed off and resurrected. And people do, say and believe completely illogical nonsense and go out of their way to make that illogical nonsense fact.
Korean Dramas are also Soap Operas. They’re often Soap Opera versions of fables and fairytales – that is part of their charm.
That’s also part of the charm of a Narcissist.
When people first encounter a Narcissist they often appear to be anything but a Narcissist. They’re a handsome Prince or beautiful Princess, a hero, a heroine, a dream come true, a mythical being swooping in to shine their spotlight on you, you YOU! You have been chosen, you’re the chosen one, special, different, destined to live happily ever after in their magical kingdom…
A quick ad break – If you’ve never watched a Korean Drama, and maybe want to check one out but the whole reading subtitles aspect to it puts you off, there’s a fun and friendly English-speaking TV show which could ease you into the genre – Dramaworld.
It’s about an American girl-woman (with one of the most viewer-distracting horrendous haircuts that I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen some really horrendous hair cuts on my own head) who is obsessed with Korean drama and due to a freak accident she ends up inside her favourite show as some sort of ‘angel’ who can help her favourite characters find true love but, of course, things get complicated…
Ad break over… where were we?
The Narcissist who seems like anything but a Narcissist (they don’t match the seemingly universally accepted profile and trope of a Narcissist, they don’t look or behave like a TV or film villain, they don’t appear to be arrogant, entitled, greedy or ruthless, they aren’t waving any of those red flags listed by every 10 things you need to know to identify a Narcissist lists which are doing the rounds, copy/pasted on blogs and newzines, they aren’t wearing the Narcissist label… and everyone seems to love them) has managed to somehow break through your cynical-skeptical-realist (successful, intelligent, confident, hardsmartass who isn’t easily fooled by illusions and delusions like everyone else) adult defenses and tap into your inner child’s (you don’t have one of those) secret hopes and dreams (for magic to be real, miracles to happen, and for all of that to occur to you) which you thought you’d managed to suppress, repress, deny until it was dead, keep hidden from everyone including yourself because the reality of living as a grown-up in this human world had made you ashamed, afraid, anxious, and certain that such things could never come true, not for you anyway… until now…
The Narcissist who couldn’t possibly be one of those has promised you a happily ever after…
first there’s this little teeny problemo…
okay, you’re pretty good at assessing and solving problems, what is it, and how can you make it go away so that you can have your happy ending?
Oh, y’know, there’s this villain and they’re a big bad meanie who is constantly blowing all the birthday cake candles out, it’s so unfair, poor hero, can you kill the villain for the hero, teehee, because the hero can’t kill them – heroes can’t really be heroes if they go around killing people… um… villains?
Korean dramas hook you with their charm, and their offer of a fairytale dream come true.
Then they take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions…
offering you a way to release, express, feel, all those emotions which you’ve had to keep buried inside – this is a safe way to let them out while still keeping them buried.
All of this is just between you and the Korean drama – no one else needs to know that underneath your cool, collected, business-like attitude to life is a seething mess of confusion about purpose, existence, reality, and love – does love really exist (please, please, please say yes) or is it a collective delusion/illusion/propaganda to keep people under the thumb of the 1 percent (bloody TV show/film writers and music score, emotionally manipulating me like that to make me feel the feels, using me to make money… grrr).
(You can see the conflict play out more clearly when observing others experience it – ie. reading a recapper’s perspective of a Korean drama, where they get all passionately involved one minute, squee, swoon, scream yay or boo… and then later on they’re like – I totally didn’t get passionately involved, I know this is make believe, I’m being manipulated but I’m too rational for the manipulation to have any effect, etc. Observing the same thing in oneself is prone to the same bias that scientists experience when they experiment on themselves or when an experiment needs to prove a theory they have and they desperately don’t want it to prove their theory wrong.)
The ride continues through increasingly intense angst-inducing territory, until it finally climaxes… AHHHHhhhha… and spits you out completely haggard, wasted, sucked dry of energy… addicted to the experience, obsessed, wanting more (even though more might kill you).
The reason Narcissists are so attractive is that they offer to make your deepest dream a reality.
The reason Narcissists are so repulsive is because after they’ve made us believe that our deepest dream has become a reality… they reveal to us the very dark and sinister shadow of our deepest dreams becoming real.
The other day I started watching – Hi! School Love On (the kdrama meme above is from that Korean drama).
I wasn’t too interested in watching a high school drama. I’m not keen on films and TV shows about high school for various reasons – such as living with Narcissists for any length of time is like being stuck in high school, with the Narcissists playing the roles of bullies (overt narcs), victims of bullies (covert narcs) whom you have to sacrifice yourself to save, or teachers/headmaster-mistress (all narcs love to adopt authoritarian roles).
I didn’t get bullied in high school, probably because by the time I was in high school I new how to take a provocatory slap (physical, verbal or otherwise) and look bored, unmoved, unaffected by it and stare the slapper down until they decided that I wasn’t a viable target (this sometimes even worked on my Narcissist parents, the main bullies in my life who made all other bullies seem… like not bullies).
Most human interactions require that everyone involved take on their assigned roles and play the game as scripted ad nauseum, ad infinitum – I prefer it when a character in a story evolves, rebels against their given role, is a bit of a wild one, maybe even tells the writer of the story and their role in it to eff off.
I’m an oddball – oddballs are my favourite characters in TV and film.
The trailer for Hi! School Love On made it look like it contained an oddball who was going to shake the typical story up. It gave the appearance that the tale would be amusing, and since this one was about an angel who suddenly becomes human I thought it might be fun and funny, different, rather than angsty and filled with bitches and bullies. I thought wrong, the different, fun and funny lasted for about five seconds before it succumbed to a slow, plodding crawl through homicidal bitch and bully samesville.
I watched far more episodes than I should have before giving up on it, and then read recaps of the episodes I didn’t watch out of curiosity to see if I’d given up too soon just before it got good, rebelled against the path it was taking, or if it got worse and I was right to give up. It was the latter.
One of the characters (after reading the recaps it seems that several of the characters also ended up doing this) followed a trope which many Korean dramas seem to have and give to one or both of the second leads: The – I love you so much that I’m going to destroy the person (people) you love because once they’re gone you’ll have no choice in who to love because I’ll be the only one left and you’ll have to love me back (ps. my destroying those you love proves to you how much I love you – my love is that strong… even though it also proves to you how much I don’t give a flying eff about you, what nurtures, nourishes you, and your version of love, but that’s irrelevant as this is all about me and my love for you) – trope.
The logic of it is… typical of a Narcissist and narcissistic love.
The meme above is (I think) from Master’s Sun, which I’ve read in its entirety and which I’d love to watch as I enjoyed reading the recaps of it from start to finish (it’s a waking up from a coma able to see ghosts Kdrama). This scene is taken way out of context, and So Ji-sub’s character isn’t as Narcissistic as he sounds (the words are his character’s and not hers).
The taken out of context version of those words is what many Narcissists expect from love and from their ‘loved’ ones (this includes Narcissist parents expecting their children to die when the parent withholds their love and/or threatens to stop loving them – which is a regular feature of being the child of a Narcissist). If you don’t die or live like you’re dying when a Narcissist removes their love from you… it’s very confusing for them. If you go on to live well after they’ve discarded you… how on earth did that happen!?! What went wrong!?! Why aren’t you dead or slowly dying??? How can you exist without them and their love?!?
In the US TV show Girls, the most obviously a Narcissist character, Marnie, breaks up with her long (suffering) term boyfriend, Charlie, because he’s boring, loyal, just not good enough for her. She expects him to continue to love her as always (she likes him loving her, she just doesn’t like feeling obliged to love him back, it’s a burden… especially as she’s also set her sights on someone bigger and better) and to curl up in foetal position and slowly die after the break-up, pining away because he’ll never be able to love anyone but her. Instead he moves on and life gets better for him – this drives her nuts, how dare he, and so she decides to chase after him and make him, his love and all his newfound glory hers. She suddenly loves him again, only ever loved him, and they must live happily ever after!
For those people who are searching for a mystical, magical, miraculous formula to make a Narcissist love you – your absence from the Narcissist’s life is that formula. But magic comes at a price – you can never stop being absent from their life if you want the love to remain as love. The moment you get close to them the love will turn to hate/contempt. They ‘love’ the fantasy they have of you, the version of you who they can make perfect in their imagination, not the real flesh and blood in person you.
(and yes, I do have personal experience and proof of this. Going No Contact with my parents made them ‘love’ me more than they had ever loved me when I was in contact with them. Oh, the stories I’ve heard about their love for me… or at least for a me who is a figment of their imagination that was able to run free and make shit up once I was no longer around to spoil their version of me and reality for them)
While those who have been in relationships with Narcissists spend countless hours, days, weeks, etc, trying to figure out whether the Narcissist ever loved them and if Narcissists are capable of love (often deciding that they aren’t, thus the Narcissist never loved them – which is a painful conclusion to come to), Narcissists are spending countless hours, days, weeks, eons, convinced that only they know how to love, understand what true love is, feel love truly, madly, deeply and meaningfully.
Narcissistic love is obsessive, intense, passionate, and often ends up scorching everyone and everything around it as it plots its course to its happy ending with the object (and the loved one is definitely an object) of their desire.
Whenever I hear anyone say (whether in RL or in fiction) that someone is the best ‘thing’ that ever happened to them, it always makes breaks screech in my mind.
Thing = an object.
I realise not everyone means it the way it sounds – expressing your emotions/feelings using words can be awkward because words are not the natural language for emotion/feeling. Actions are a more natural language for emotion/feeling, but sometimes that language is blocked due to leaves on the line, ego, pride, fear, issues, hurt, pain, invisible boundaries and barriers.
If the object of the Narcissist’s desire repeatedly refuses to love them, their love will turn to hate – which for a narcissist burns even stronger than love (and they may confuse hate for love). And they will most likely decide to destroy their loved one because they love them too much, and if they can’t have them then no one can.
That’s true love for you!
Isn’t it romantic?
Romance is a big part of narcissistic love. If you’re being wooed by a Narcissist, you may end up feeling transported into a film, a novel, a modern fairytale, a Korean drama.
They only have eyes for you, you YOU! You are their Sun, the centre of the Universe, and all the stars, the milky way, and galaxies beyond!
(and they’re you’re soon to be black hole)
Before they met you they were lost, alone, adrift, bored, lifeless, but now… you, you, You have saved them! You managed to climb their ivory tower, break down their impressive defenses, burrow into their hearts, get under their skin.
For those searching for a way to get under a Narcissist’s skin (this is a search term which pops up regularly in my blog’s stats) – are you sure you’re not already there and that’s the real crux of the problem?
They will lavish you with compliments. Wine and dine you by candlelight. Buy you flowers, chocolates, and diamonds. Take you on trips to resorts. Give you a makeover… wait a minute, why are you being given a makeover!? What’s wrong with the way you looked, dressed, behaved before… didn’t they fall in love with you just they way you are?
Don’t be a spoilsport, ungrateful, don’t you want to live the Cinderella dream, don’t you want to be made better than you are? Don’t you want to be worthy of them?
The Korean dramas I’ve watched and read seem to favour the plot of a Prince meeting his Cinderella.
Both the Prince and Cinderella are transformed by their relationship.
Cinderella is transformed by having to deal with all of the nightmares connected to the Prince, such as his childhood traumas, and his wicked stepmothers/mothers/grandmothers/fathers/uncles/brothers/and other family/business villains.
The Prince gets transformed by Cinderella’s pure innocent and child-like love for him (which often undergoes several deaths along the way but somehow manages to bounce-back). The Prince often starts out as an arrogant snobby narcissistic rich brat whose heart of spiked ice is melted by a slightly dopey, docile, plucky, sincere, doormat, with a ravenous appetite, bad fashion sense, and maybe a messy perm with awkward bangs, woman-child.
Any sexy, stylish, females are usually the bitches. The second female lead is often gorgeous but horrible, forever twisted by her one-sided love for the Prince (although sometimes she was his first love, perhaps he used to one-sidedly love her… haha but now the tables are turned, take that you female all females love to hate!), and her love of money, appearance, social status, and convention.
The second male lead is often a sweetie, kind, gentlemanly, stoically heroic in a quiet no need to brag manner, so much more appealing than the male lead but… that’s the problem with him! A man should be an arrogant dick so that a woman can change him into a sweetie with her love, right? If the man is already a sweetie then… there’s no point in a woman loving him because he doesn’t need to be changed. If a woman can’t change you with her love, what’s the point of loving you? Worse still, if a woman is cursed to change the man she loves, then if she loves a sweet man and her love changes him… does he turn into an arrogant dick?
A few of the male second leads have gone psycho due to their love for the female lead who just won’t love them back… as the second male lead in Hi! School Love On did according to the recaps of the episodes I read after I stopped watching it. I guess the writers felt there weren’t enough psychos in the drama even though pretty much everyone was one, the more the miserabler I guess and the more it shows that true love conquers all.
Does it though?
You have now reached the end of page two (phew! please take a moment for some self-applause for achieving this feat), page three will be available when it’s available (it’s already partly written in draft and will be my attempt at a partial recap of a Kdrama which I partially watched and then bailed on because… the Narcissists, the Narcissists… took over the show)
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:
This is a clip from a Korean Variety show – Hidden Singer – where a professional Korean (Kpop) singing star (in this episode it’s IU – she’s #5 in the line-up) hides amongst a bunch of contestants who mimic that singer’s style and sound. A panel of judges and the audience has to guess who is the professional. The actual Kpop star does run the risk of getting eliminated, and should that happen the contestant who is the last one standing gets a big prize.
If you’re wondering why I add seemingly silly things to posts which appear to be fairly serious… I wonder about that too sometimes, other times I know why. Can you guess why?