Guest Post: Descartes and the Killer Bees (by Anna Girolami)

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A reader named Anna Girolami (she has a blog called Good Red Herring) emailed me wondering if she could write a guest post for this blog.    I felt honored that she wanted to do this!  The post she wrote is definitely out-of-the-box and thought-provoking and has some intriguing ideas about handling people with various personality disorders, especially the Cluster B’s. I had to laugh at the reference to the “Killer Bees” (and will overlook the fact that technically, I’m included in this category, but since I’m recovering or maybe already recovered from BPD, maybe not).

I do want to add a disclaimer, however.   Anna’s thoughts about “managing a narcissist (or other disordered person)” are interesting, but I don’t think it would be wise in most situations, at least not for any length of time, and certainly not for any malignant narcissist or sociopathic personality.    No Contact, is of course, ALWAYS the best way to “manage” a narcissist, but there are situations where going NC may not be feasible.   In those cases, there is a technique known as “grey rocking,” which basically means being so mind-numbingly boring to the narcissist they go elsewhere and leave you alone.  Even that doesn’t always work, but I don’t think it’s really feasible to “manage” a disordered person without doing damage to yourself.  I think to try to manage a narcissist or another person with a personality disorder in this manner would prove extremely exhausting at best, and soul killing at worst.  Essentially, it means providing them with narcissistic supply!  So I don’t recommend it, but perhaps it’s something you can try if all else fails. It might work for the non-“Killer Bees” like the obsessive-compulsive or dependent PDs that Anna mentions; I’m not sure though, since I’m not as familiar with the Cluster C category of personality disorders.

That being said, I do see Anna’s logic here, and perhaps with a narcissist who isn’t very high on the spectrum or someone with a different personality disorder, this type of management might be an option.  Or, it might work in a pinch, when you can’t get away but you’re only with the disordered person for a short time, say at a party or a meeting.  It might work on a boss, too, if you really don’t want to leave your job and grey-rocking might seem too rude. (Never tell your Histrionic boss they’re sexy, though!)

Descartes and the Killer Bees.

By Anna Girolami

Blog: Good Red Herring

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René Descartes is regarded by many as the father of modern western philosophy. For most of us, he boils down to a single, famous phrase:

Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).

A lot of disordered people, however, operate on a variation of this theme. I’m talking about Cluster B people – the Killer Bees. They don’t think, they really don’t want to think. That’s the last thing they want to do. No, their being depends upon something else:

Videor, ergo sum (I am seen, therefore I am).

Equally important to them, is the flip side:

Non videor, ergo non sum (I am not seen, therefore I am not).

One of the hallmarks of disordered people is “splitting” – the simplistic belief that things are either completely wonderful or completely dreadful. Anything more ambivalent than that is just too difficult to deal with.

For our Killer Bees, this habit of splitting combines with the above dictum in a catastrophic way. They can admit only two possibilities – either the whole world is watching them and thus they are alive or no-one at all is watching them so, arrrrgh!, they cease to exist.

Given that very terrifying choice, which one would you go for? A Killer Bee has no real option but to cling desperately to the belief that every single person in the world is watching them for every second of the day. It’s either that or existential obliteration.

This belief requires that – consciously or not – they beat down any aptitude for empathy that they may have. Iris Murdoch (who was a philosopher before she was a novelist) nailed this when she said “Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.”

I take some issue with this as a definition of love. As a definition of empathy, however, it’s absolutely bang on.

The proper acknowledgement of other people’s autonomy and identity is a highly evolved function – one that many people seem unwilling to develop, on the very understandable grounds that it would deprive them of a great deal of secondary gain.

A Killer Bee cannot afford to acknowledge that anyone else is real. Even those – especially those – they ought to love the most. Other people are merely robots whose only function is to watch the Bee and thereby preserve them from extinction. Ideally, they should watch and approve. But even watching and disapproving is better than nothing.

What the watch-bots simply cannot be allowed, is any independent thought or action or intent of their own. That would mean they might stop watching the Bee for a while and then the Bee would cease to exist.

For a Killer Bee, it really is that simple – and that important.
Non videor, ergo non sum.

*****

If you’re married to or in some other way entangled with a Killer Bee, it is futile expecting them to notice you, support you or in any other way treat you as if you are real. They can’t do it. Not without professional help and not unless they want to. Very, very few want to – why should they give up this way of living that means lots of lovely attention and never having to think about anybody else?

So, what do you do? If your Killer Bee is of the mild-to-moderate variety, you have three choices:

1. Suck it up, suck it all up.
2. Ditch ’em.

Or..

3. you can manage them.

If you can’t/don’t want to ditch them, it seems obvious that your best option is to manage them. They’re quite primitive machines and, if they’re not too far gone, it is possible to manage them once you understand the clockwork. Oh sure, it makes you seethe, having to “manage” an adult, simply to stop them behaving like a three year old with low frustration tolerance. But it’s either that or suck it up, suck it all up.

Remember: videor, ergo sum.

Each variety of Killer Bee needs to be seen in a slightly different way.

–The Narcissist needs: “I see you, darling, you’re amaaaazing.”
–The extraverted Histrionic needs: “I see you, darling, you’re sooo sexy.”
–The introverted Histrionic needs: “I see you, darling, you’re so pretty but don’t get up, you’ll spoil the effect. Just you sit there and look perfect, I’ll do everything.” Or something like that.
–The Obsessive-Compulsive (OCPD, not OCD) needs: “I see you, darling, you’re trying so hard.”
–The Dependent or the Borderline needs: “I see you, darling, don’t worry. I’m here, I’m always here.”
(Yes, I know obsessives and dependents aren’t technically in the Cluster B group, but they often wander over into their territory.)

If you don’t know exactly which type you’ve got, just go with “I see you, darling, you’re wonderful.” That will keep most of ‘em happy, it’s the seeing that really matters. When Killer Bees are happy, they can actually play quite nicely.

This sounds easy enough but here’s the thing – you have to do it all the time. Every waking second of their day, or near enough. Once a week simply doesn’t cut it.

Remember: non videor ergo non sum.

They genuinely feel that if they are not sufficiently seen, then they don’t exist. When that happens, anxiety quickly overwhelms them. The narcissist will rage and belittle you, the histrionic will weep, the obsessive will sulk. Whatever.

It’s exhausting (and maddening) to have to supply this amount of constant watching with, inevitably, no reciprocation. It is, however, less exhausting than the tantrums. It may help if you realise that it doesn’t always have to be you who does the watching. They’re not fussy, these people. No one is real to them. One watch-bot is as good as any other.

So if you can do it reasonably, consider offloading some of the watching duties onto others (although not onto your children, that’s absolutely not supposed to happen. It’s a tragedy that it so often does). My own particular Killer Bee, an Obsessive with a heavy histrionic topcoat, is good at running, so I encourage him to enter as many races as he can. When he does well (which is usually. He’s an obsessive, after all), he gets a big chunk of lovely watching and approval from a whole host of other people – and I get a bit of time off. Its almost win-win.

Our holidays aren’t very restful though.

Have a great week,
Anna

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About luckyotter

This blog is my journal. I just choose to share it with the world instead of keeping everything inside my head. I'm a recovering Borderline and have also struggled with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I also have Complex PTSD due to having been the victim of narcissistic abuse for most of my life. I write mostly about narcissism, because I was the child of a narcissistic mother, and then married to a sociopathic malignant narcissist for 20 years. But there's a silver lining too. In some ways they taught me about myself. This blog is about all that. Not all my articles will be about NPD, BPD or other personality disorders or mental conditions. I pretty much write about whatever's on my mind at the moment. So there's something for everyone here. Blogging about stuff is crack for my soul. It's self therapy, and hopefully my insights and observations may help others too.
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15 Responses to Guest Post: Descartes and the Killer Bees (by Anna Girolami)

  1. rubycommenting says:

    This is a new and different way to look at it for me. Really breaks it down to the point, the bottom line of what they want from you, and keeps it simple. I wonder what suggestion she would have for ‘managing’ a psychopath. If it’s even advisable. I know, they want you to let them spike your drink.

    Liked by 2 people

    • luckyotter says:

      i noticed she left out Antisocial PD’s (psychopaths). They are probably too far gone for anything to work. They don’t care what you think , they just wanna do what they wanna do. In that sense, they differ from the other cluster B’s.

      It is an interesting way of looking at things, and giving a little N-supply might work in a pinch if you cannot avoid them or make them leave.

      Liked by 1 person

    • giroliddy says:

      No, I’ve personally very little experience of AntiSocials (as far as I know) so I didn’t feel qualified to include them. All the others, on the other hand, I’ve been immersed in all my life. In the brief time since I wrote this and since I read your grey-rocking post, I’ve realised that with my parents (both of whom I’m extremely Limited Contact with), I tend to use both techniques, depending upon circumstances from moment to moment. One of the problems with grey-rocking, as you noted, is that the Narc (or whatever) is immediately aware they’re not getting the supply that they’re seeking. I find it only works to change the subject *once* but you immediately have to go to something they find more congenial (i.e them!) or else there’s the usual hell to pay. So I save grey-rocking for topics that I really don’t want to go near with them (usually, the state of my life) and the rest of the time, deflect them back to themselves with some soft soap. It *is* exhausting but I – and more importantly, my daughter – stay protected.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Judy says:

    I much prefer the grey rock technique. There is something so appropriate about reducing a narc’s lies or overtly heinous attempt at verbal assasination and character slander into the non consequential nonsense trash that it is in an instant. Management is way too much work. Indifference just takes a bit of practice, and it’s glorious and actually entertaining when it becomes your default mode towards the narc. You can entertain yourself and amuse others. Your narc mom says something during Thanksgiving Dinner implying you slept around with every guy you met including her construction worker trying to seduce them with immodest clothing that you didn’t even look attractive in. You smile distractedly, look around her face as if searching for something. “Mmm…hm. Can someone pass me the butter? … I’ve gotta say Aunt Mil these are the best potatoes au gratin I’ve ever tasted. Can I have the recipe?” (Lean past your mom shoving her slightly aside as someone hands you the butter.) “Gruyere! That’s it – I bet there’s Gruyere cheese in this! I don’t normally buy that but I like the way it works in this…”

    Liked by 2 people

    • luckyotter says:

      I agree. Grey rocking is very effective, and works for longer than management. It’s also
      kinda fun, freezing them out. 👿 I would think giving constant N supply would be soul crushing for any length of time. Basically that boils down to codependency, and we’ve all been there. But in a pinch, like at a party or if you’re only going to be stuck with them for a short time, “managing” could be an option. I would go crazy if I had to do it for any long period of time!
      Your examples are hilarious, btw. 😆

      Like

  3. Judy says:

    I like to experiment with contrast. Rule Number 1. The more outrageously hurtful the narcissist’s words are, the more boring the response should be.

    Pretend you do not even notice the reference that you f***ed the hot married brick layer she had working on her patio by getting him drunk on cheap beer while wearing an outfit that made you look like a slutty Godzilla (in reality the jerk came onto you when you hired him to paint your house but you refused him sex but why explain?) but dooo notice the slight differences in texture between muenster, Gruyere, and mozzarella.

    Cheese differences are soooo interesting, are they not?

    “Hey, remember that garbage can trash pizza” (her comments inspiring this) “we got at Luigi’s, the one with all the extra mozzarella cheese or was it provolone and olives man it was greasy but I gotta say it was so damn good… Mom, did you take your pills? I don’t think you took your pills today… If you don’t take your pills you can’t expect to feel well.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • luckyotter says:

      OMG, you are too much! 😆 Hey, I have a great idea! Can you write a guest post for me about grey rocking, using all the examples you have given here, including the one about your mom at the Thanksgiving dinner? That would be a great post and a little humor never hurts either!
      I’m serious, please think it over and let me know if you’d be interested. My email is otterlover58@gmail.com
      Send it to me in text format since i don’t have Office and can’t edit an attachment.

      Like

  4. Judy says:

    “I think she looks tired. Aunt Mil, don’t you think Mom looks tired? I’m worried about you Mom, why don’t you just go lie down for awhile and take a nap…”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Judy says:

    Or how about this one:

    “Judy, you knew he was married when you flirted with him, and I told you he was an alcoholic – ”

    “Mom, excuse me, I’ll be right back and we’ll chat but I’ve gotta use the bathroom real bad. By the way I notice Sue has that old fashioned kind of toilet paper with flowers printed on it…I didn’t think they sold that any more. Seriously! It’s like the kind you used to have when I was small. She hangs it with the paper coming over the top of the roll, instead of under like you hang it, and I gotta say, it looks kind of nice, like a hotel bathroom or the cover of Country Living. Sue, excuse me, but is that toilet paper in the bathroom a new “vintage pattern” toilet paper? I mean, I’ve seen bathroom papers with political jokes on them but never thought I’d see the flowers again….”

    (Later Mom gets up to observe Sue’s toilet paper and she finds out it’s perfectly white and normal…)

    Like

  6. Judy says:

    Yes, I’ll send you something via your email when I can, but until then remember this handy little grey rocking phrase: Ubī sunt lātrīnae? (That’s Latin for “Where is the bathroom”.) If you have at least one emotionally intelligent family member who understands that the narc is campaigning against you, you can have a lot of fun at dinner parties…

    Liked by 1 person

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