Forever alone, revisited.

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This is going to be another “running naked” post.

I have mixed feelings about being in a relationship. On the one hand, I long for it because I can’t deny that my inability to connect with anyone on a deep emotional level has caused me a lot of sadness and pain.

At the same time I need my solitude, and it’s almost always my preferred state, due to my avoidant personality. I’d much rather do things alone than do them with others. I’m simply too selfish and don’t want to give of myself to anyone else. I think the selfishness stems from fear though. I’m too afraid: I struggle with fears of rejection, abandonment, judgement, engulfment, being hurt, being used, being abused, etc. I have little to no interest in sex, although I can be sexually attracted. (maybe this is TMI, but I prefer my fantasies to the real thing).

So I have a sort of conundrum. I don’t want to grow old and die alone, but at the same time I don’t want to and am afraid to do what it takes to avoid being alone forever. I was married to my malignant narcissist ex for many years, but the marriage was extremely dysfunctional and I was always in the codependent role. Thinking about the marriage’s failure (which was inevitable from Day One) now makes me feel sad, although for a long time I just felt rage (which is why I started my first blog).

I would only consider a relationship with a non-narcissist now (and really, not with any Cluster B), but that’s a problem because I’m simply not attracted to non-disordered people. I never have been.

The other problem is I’m “in love with the idea of being in love.” Like most Cluster B’s, I become limerent easily (though less so than I used to) and get addicted to the whole “high” that infatuated feeling brings. But it never lasts and I know intellectually it’s not real love. It’s a type of addiction that feels as good as a drug, but the crash (and there always is one) is just as bad as coming down from a powerful drug too. I miss that drug-like high of falling in love though.

To rectify this longing, I live the limerent experience out in my mind by developing powerful crushes on people who cannot give me anything in return for a variety of reasons. Oddly enough, this lack of reciprocation is okay with me. I don’t feel like anything is “unrequited” because I deliberately and consciously get attached to a person only in my own mind and prefer not to share my feelings with the person in question. I have an active enough imagination that there is no need to play it out in reality. In fact, I’d probably run away in terror if it became obvious my feelings were returned. I’d get off on the supply that comes with that, of course–but it would send me into panic mode too. It’s very weird. I don’t know if this is just an eccentricity of mine, or if this sort of thing is experienced by others. Having an active imagination does have its benefits. It’s very narcissistic though.

I think unless I can become non-disordered (which is unlikely), that I need to accept the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. On a day to day basis, I’m okay with that, but it’s sometimes so hard when you look around and everyone else in my age group is married or in a relationship, and I have to do everything on my own. You’re treated by society as defective and if you don’t make a good living, it’s hard to even survive. I feel like a freak sometimes. I can’t look at singleness as a permanent lifestyle or I get very sad and afraid. I have to do what they do in AA, and take things one day at a time.

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A little romance.

I love this photo of my daughter and her fiance.

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Do narcissists fall in love?

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Narcissists can’t love but they can and do fall in love. All the time. What they feel is a state Dorothy Tennov has called “limerence,” more commonly known as infatuation or colloquially known as a crush.

According to Wikipedia,

Limerence (also infatuated love) is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person typically including compulsive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship and have one’s feelings reciprocated. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for her 1979 book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love” to describe the concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.

Limerence has been defined by one writer as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest”. Limerence has also been defined in terms of the potentially inspirational effects and the relationship to attachment theory, which is not exclusively sexual, as being “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation”.

In other words, the state of limerence is much like being high on a drug. The “LO” (limerent object) is the person fixated on, and this person is a mirror for the infatuated narcissist. When a narcissist falls in love with you, they can be the most romantic people you could ever imagine. They’ll gaze longingly into your eyes, bring you flowers, want to spend every moment with you, tell you they want to be with you forever.

But it’s not you they are seeing. What they are seeing is a reflection of themselves that you are showing them by reciprocating. You make them feel good about themselves because you are giving them supply and attention, and letting them know how wonderful you think they are. You’re basically nothing more than a mirror, and your narcissist, when he gazes into your eyes, is really gazing at his own false self you are feeding.

This doesn’t mean that only narcissists experience limerence or infatuation. Most people do at some point in their lives. It’s much more common for teenagers and young adults to have a “crush,” but it’s a temporary state. I think it’s more common in young people because they are still rather narcissistic and trying to find out who they are. Mature adults can “fall in love” too, but will normally move from the initial state of limerence with all its heady excitement and intensity, into a more stable state of deep love, which is less emotionally intense but much more rewarding for both partners.

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Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007)

Limerence only lasts an average of 1-2 years (in evolutionary terms, this is just enough time for a relationship to result in the birth of offspring, and is also about the length of time of an average engagement). But limerence isn’t love. It’s what Tennov calls a state of “cognitive obsession.” You can be “in love” with someone you don’t even know or have never met (like a celebrity for example), so how can that be real love? It isn’t. It’s obsession. You may be projecting what you want to see onto the limerent object, rather than seeing what’s actually there. That’s why later, after you’re “over” the object of your infatuation, it’s common to wonder, “what did I ever see in her?”

A narcissist can certainly fall in love (unless they’re the commitment-phobic type), but once you begin to express your own needs, and begin to show cracks in your armor that mean you’re only an imperfect human, you are no longer mirroring the narcissist as they want to be mirrored, and that’s when the abuse and manipulations will begin–or in some cases they will begin to devalue you before the final discard.

A narcissist cannot move from a limerent state into real love, as a normal adult can. Real, lasting love requires mutual give-and-take, empathy, sacrifice, compromise, and a lot of hard work–all things that narcissists simply can’t handle. That’s why their marriages and relationships usually don’t last that long–or if they do, become such hotbeds of misery and discord.

If you’ve been discarded by a narc and they’ve moved onto someone else, don’t feel too bad. Before you know it, that new “perfect” lover will seem not so perfect to them anymore, and they will be abused or discarded too, joining their long list of conquests.

All my narcissistic lovers.

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Not long ago, when I started studying narcissism in depth for this blog, I came to a shocking and disturbing realization: Every single one of the men I had relationships with or fell in love with were narcissists. It’s because I was trained by my family to be Narcissistic Supply, and as a Borderline, these relationships tended to be stormy.

Having BPD means I’m not the ideal codependent doormat, and when I felt violated–even though I’d allow the abuse to continue because after all, I was trained that way–I’d still try to fight back, at least for awhile. This led to lots of drama and some truly terrible fights with narcissistic men who I could never fix, no matter how hard I tried. I sure wish I knew then what I know now.

I have always been attracted to narcissistic men and they have always been attracted to me. I’m easily taken in by their elaborate displays of romance and promises in the beginning–there’s no one more romantic than a narcissist trying to procure you as supply. It’s fun while it lasts, but as soon as they know they have conquered you, the abuse begins. One red flag to watch out for: a man who moves in too fast, or starts talking about a permanent commitment or marriage only weeks after you met them.

Here’s a list of the narcissists I was seriously involved with (or married to). Only one wasn’t a narcissist, but he was severely bi-polar. The names are made up.

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Steve P: my first serious boyfriend in high school. Steve called constantly (like 8-10 times a day at first), wanted to be with me all the time, regularly sent flowers, was very passionate and loving at first. He actually would cry because he “loved me so much.” After a while he became physically and mentally abusive, insulting me, questioning me about other boys, what I was doing when he wasn’t around, calling me names, and finally becoming physically abusive. One day, with absolutely no warning, he called me and told me he was dumping me because he met someone else. I was enraged at the nerve of this but actually relieved to be rid of him finally.

Mark S: my second serious lover during my college years. Mark was very cool–knew everything there was to know about art, music, theater, and he had offbeat, interesting friends. He used to take me to the East Village in New York City where we’d attend all the punk and new wave clubs and shop in funky vintage clothing and record stores. We had a lot of fun. But he was also an intellectual snob and looked down on my “pedestrian” tastes in music, movies, etc. He looked down on my friends, whose intellectual abilities he felt were beneath him. Mark saw himself as a rogue and a cultural rebel, and after awhile his constant put downs became annoying and we’d fight. He also never wanted to have sex (he was a cerebral narcissist), thinking it was a huge waste of time that could be better spent feeding his mind with new cultural experiences. After about a year, he told me I was too boring and my tastes too commercial and pedestrian, and he dumped me for a woman who looked exactly like me but was apparently much more hip and “in the know” about what was cool and cutting edge than I was. He wound up marrying her.

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David B: David was not a narcissist; he was bipolar and suffered from severe depressions and substance abuse. He drank heavily to self-medicate and was always in and out of the psychiatric ward. He regarded me as a sort of mother figure and I liked the idea of being needed so much. But his neediness and clinginess became cloying and suffocating, he was constantly drunk, so eventually I left him, not without a little guilt in doing so. But he was really driving me crazy.

Michael B: The malignant narcissist I married. He is actually a psychopath. Michael acted very much like Steven in the beginning–showering constant attention and gifts on me, moving in very fast, talking about marriage just three months after we met. Being that I was in my mid-20s, I was open to marriage and he seemed perfect. I should have seen one HUGE red flag: the expensive engagement ring he insisted I have was purchased with my own credit card, because he had already maxed all his out. He always lived way above his means. He’d take me to expensive restaurants and insist I pay (and of course, he would pay me back later, but he never did). The rest of our story can be found in the articles under “My Story” in the header. Let’s just say the man is a psychopathic monster with serious substance abuse issues and a parasitic monster at that.

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Daniel S: The only lover I’ve had since the divorce. Well, okay, we were actually still married. (I’m not proud of this). But my marriage was already long over and I was desperate and miserable and not thinking straight (not that it’s an excuse to cheat). Daniel was actually a worse malignant narcissist than my ex, if that can be believed. He had that intense predatory stare, which I took to mean sexual and romantic interest, but was really his way of sizing up me as his prey. Of course I found him irresistably attractive. Unfortunately Daniel was another cerebral who had very little interest in sex. After a huge show of ardent romance and all that goes with it, he started the abuse, which included insulting me and comparing me (unfavorably) with his past lovers and what he saw as an “ideal woman.” He said he wanted babies with me but constantly criticized my parenting skills (as if he could know, since he never met my kids). He raged a lot although he never actually became physically abusive. He sulked and gave me the silent treatment when I didn’t do things his way or wanted to spend time with my family. He was stingy and although he had a lot more money than I did, he always made me pay my own way on dates. He obsessed about money. He would buy me things and constantly remind me how much those things cost him. He also would give me gifts and then ask for them back later, telling me he was only letting me “borrow” them. I am serious about this. After I ended our relationship (due to guilt at least as much as his abusive treatment), he still continued to call me constantly “as a friend.” After several of these phone calls, I finally worked up the guts to tell him to bug off and blocked his number.

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I have not had one lover or husband who was a just a nice regular guy. There have been a few of these men who seemed interested in me, but I always found them boring and rejected their attentions because I didn’t feel any “chemistry” with them.

I think it’s time to change all this. I want to start dating again soon. I know what red flags to look out for now so I think I can avoid the narcs, but can I fall in love with a normal man who will treat me well?

“The Survival of the Fittest”

The Survival Of The Fittest
By Audrey Michelle, Spoken Word Artist.

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“Sad Angel” — Photo by Nimiko Nara

Stranded in the ends of time
A mind that needs to unwind
Living too much within a past
That pain consumed and it still lasts

A view that still sees purity
Though only shown pure cruelty

Each and every person met
Is loved and proven a regret
They hurt a sore and beaten heart
While smiling as it’s torn apart

All shreds of hope and fantasy
Are sliced for crimes
Though not guilty

There is an image to pursue
Beauty viewed by any view
Beauty though has disappeared
Wept out and fallen with each tear

Assumptions made while viewing cover
Assumes there’s no more to discover

Forced each time by will inside
To try to force a truth denied
The goodness is seen, but then ignored
Beauty does not come with such reward

Others survive by turning bitter
While true of heart shall only wither

Though always just misunderstood
When saw the world as full of good
The sweetened mind can’t realize
A truth that offers its demise

Life would end with such resolve
So to bitterness, truth can’t evolve

This is the post that scared me so much I almost deleted it.

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I have never been so scared to publish a post until this one. I had this set to Private for several days and drove myself crazy trying to decide if I ought to post it. It’s about some of my most vulnerable moments and posting about those is incredibly scary for a person who usually has their guard up. But I longed to post it. Something inside was telling me I needed to and I wouldn’t regret it. I also felt this post was my best written one ever because while writing it I allowed my emotions to flow unimpeded. What to do?

I even wrote a short post asking people if I should post something that made me feel so naked and vulnerable. Ultimately, the decision to make this post public was mine, but the consensus seemed to be that I should.

I read this post over again earlier today from the imaginary perspective of a random reader who just happened on the article and had never seen this blog before. I realized that as this “someone else” it would be something I’d want to read.

So here it is, guys. The post that made me feel like I was going to pass out cold when I pressed “Make Post Public.”

Milk and Open Hearts: Embracing the “Feminine” Emotions

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about vulnerability lately. I’m reaching a point in my healing journey where I can start to allow myself to become more open to my emotions and to sharing the feelings of others. It wasn’t my intention to write another post about crying so soon after my last, but I think my interest is due to something that’s happening inside…

For years I couldn’t cry, but wanted to. I was so numb from all the abuse that I had dissociated myself from my feelings. I felt like I was dead and in hell. Recently I’m finding a lump in my throat or tears starting to well much more frequently–usually because I’ve been touched by something or someone in some way, and it’s usually a pretty simple thing. I realize this is a sign that the long term dissociation within my mind is coming to an end because I’ve gained more courage to embrace my feelings instead of pushing them away or denying their existence.

I remember even during the darkest days of abuse by my psychopaths and narcs, when I walked around like an emotional zombie due to all the abuse I endured, there were rare moments of clarity when truth and beauty shone through the murk of depression and PTSD.

During my pregnancies with both my children (I was pregnant three other times–one abortion which I am writing about next–the child would have been a boy born in 1999–and two miscarriages), my brain’s marination in a continuous bath of pregnancy hormones made me very emotional. Not depressed-emotional–in fact, I was happier than I’d ever been. Things just touched me or made me feel some kind of ineffable euphoria or inexplicable sadness and suddenly there would be tears.

I think the increased emotionality experienced by pregnant and lactating women is the result of nature’s opening our hearts to connect deeply and lovingly with our children from the moment we know we are pregnant. The torrents of female hormones–mostly estrogen and progesterone–help wire our brains to to allow the limbic (emotional) system to run things for awhile. The heightened ability to feel is a gift that helps our species survive because under the right circumstances, emotional openness transforms into unconditional love and empathy.

The hormonal bath continued for some weeks after the births of both my children and I remember getting particularly emotional one dark and cold night as I held my firstborn against milk-swollen breasts, with Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” playing on the stereo. I watched as my son rooted for the nourishment he sought and found it. Latched on tightly, dark pink lips pursed in determination and a primitive and preternatural hunger, my baby son began to nurse. As I felt the milk come down, I was overwhelmed with tenderness and love for this completely helpless creature who so recently had lived inside my body and taken nourishment from my blood, and whose wastes were eliminated with my own, and suddenly my face was awash in tears.

I watched as if through antique swirled-glass windows as my tears soaked my tiny boy’s thistledown-fine hair and ran across a petal-soft pink cheek busily working my milk glands. There was a melancholy underpinning to my overwhelming elation and I allowed myself to feel that sadness too–and realized that melancholy welled up from an awareness of how fragile my tiny son was, how fragile we all are–at any age; and how easily a trusting, childlike soul can be stamped out by hurt, abandonment and abuse. I wanted to protect this child from any harm that might ever come his way. I didn’t realize then my son’s own father would set out to destroy his spirit. Thank God he did not succeed.

At the moment the first drop of salt water touched my baby, opaque dark blue eyes fluttered open and gazed at me, seeming to understand my feelings. Sighing a delicate baby sigh, this tiny human being I had created through my love for a man and sustained and nurtured by my blooming, hormone-soaked body, nestled in closer and suckled harder until swept away in blissful sleep. I marveled at the knowledge this tiny boy would one day be a man, taller and probably physically stronger than me, and that I would play a huge part in his journey to manhood. It scared me to pieces but I felt willing and ready to take on the challenge–because of love, the greatest power we have as humans.

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This wondrous connection–this moment of almost painful sweetness–was so honest and magical I almost dared not breathe. The tears poured down. I didn’t wipe the wetness from my face for that would have disrupted the beautiful connection I felt with my child.

It’s during these moments our hearts are open and we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, that we are fully engaged and connected with life and open to the bliss and pain of pure unconditional love. That kind of love is expressed in tears (often combined with laughter or smiles) because there are no words that could ever express the depth of this sublime emotion–an emotion of such beauty, rarity and truth it nearly hurts.

Tears are the mark of our common humanity and connect us with each other. We are pushed into the world crying, and are (hopefully) cried for when we leave it. Crying marks the most important milestones of our lives, whether they are happy or sad. There are always tears at graduations, pregnancy and wedding announcements, falling in and out of love, weddings, births, baptisms, death and funerals. There are tears wherever there is honesty, intimacy and love.

The happiest people in the world are often people who cry a lot. Their hearts are open, so everything and everyone touches them. They’re not afraid to connect and to empathize. Their love sometimes overflows the confines of their physical composure, and so they cry. I used to know a beautiful young woman who said she cried five or more times a day–just because she was so happy all the time. She wasn’t annoying happy. Honest joy never is annoying. She moved through life regally and with dignity and compassion, appreciating everything and loving everything and being touched by everything, and everyone loved her right back because they knew she was an empath. People wanted to be close to her, they wanted to be touched by her, both emotionally and physically. Her large expressive eyes were almost always wet with tears. At first it seemed a little strange, but soon we got so used to seeing her that way it just seemed normal after awhile. And it WAS normal, more normal than anything could ever be.

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I was so envious of that girl for her emotional openness. But she showed me a great truth about myself. I could be that girl because that was me. I just needed to find a way to knock down my thick concrete walls of fear. It’s getting easier. I still have a lot of emotional blockage, but I no longer feel like one of the walking dead.

In the Stephen King movie “The Green Mile,” John Coffey is an autistic man who nevertheless is an empath. He’s been unjustly sentenced to Death Row for the murder of two little girls because he was the last one seen with them (and probably due to his being black as well). You sense Coffey never killed those girls and in fact you realize how empathic this man really is. He has no defenses against the world due to his inability to hide his emotions (some autistic people have trouble regulating their emotions), and at the same time this very defenselessness gives him unbelievable strength and goodness. Coffey cried almost constantly, feeling the emotions of everyone around him and freely giving unconditional love where none existed.

A couple of years ago, there was a very popular video that went viral. It featured a 10-month old baby girl apparently crying from empathy as she listened to her mother sing. I’m not usually a fan of “cute baby” videos but watching this baby was fascinating because she cried like an adult would have–and the purity of her emotion was an achingly beautiful thing to see.

We are born withour hearts unguarded. When life begins to hurt too much (and it always does), children eventually learn to guard their hearts or in the worst cases (NPD, ASPD and some other mental disorders), dissociate themselves from their true feelings so thoroughly there is no turning back to the emotionally open state we were born with.

It’s a sad state of affairs that all the tender (“feminine”) emotions such as sadness, deep connection or friendship, love in all its forms, joy of the non-shallow type, feeling touched or moved, gratitude, and empathy– have been so devalued in modern society and are often seen as proof of weakness in a person when in fact they show a person who has the strength and courage to leave their hearts unguarded when it matters the most.

It’s interesting that all these softer emotions indicate goodness and purity of heart. They possess enormous potential to eliminate or reduce darkness and evil because they are emotions of healing, love, and our human connection with the Divine.

In a perfect world where all human beings had open, unguarded hearts, an alien from another planet upon first meeting a typical human would see smiles and laughter graced by tears. If the alien were to question what these signals meant, the answer would be “Love.”
The angels in Heaven would tell you the same.

Why you should never jump into a new relationship after narcissistic abuse

The Wheel of Abuse

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Not all abusive relationships involve physical abuse. Emotional and mental abuse can be every bit as damaging, and sometimes more so. (Click image to make larger).

A new friend of mine (a survivor of several abusive relationships with narcs) and I were talking on Facebook. Rather than try to paraphrase, I’ll quote her directly–and then give my own opinions.

Friend:

“I realized he [her malignant narcissist ex-boyfriend who she’s still in minimal contact with but who is still trying to gaslight her and get her attention by stalking her on Facebook] did everything on that wheel except for the Economic abuse. He started to subtle test the boundaries…and realized I wasn’t game. Although I believe he probably still believes I’ll contact him again. It’s amazing, [Lauren.]

The more time your away, they stronger you feel. Your self-esteem comes back slowly. I get those frightened moments when I think my new boyfriend will just Abandoned me out of nowhere. I understand why the Psychopathic free support group did not recommend a relationship right away. They know you suffer from PTSD from the aftermath of this abuse. It’s difficult. I find myself having dark flashbacks. I also believe you have to be careful and choosy about your women friends and surround yourself with only kind people. We are fragile and vulnerable after this abuse.

My reply (My original reply was short–I embellished it when I wrote this post. I hope my friend sees it).

These are all great points. It makes sense to stay out of relationships if you’ve just escaped from an abusive one because of the PTSD you probably have or even worse problems such as major depression–you need time to find yourself and work on yourself. You need time to be selfish and not have to answer to anyone because you’ve been giving, giving and giving some more with nothing to show for it in return.

We’re mentally and emotionally exhausted and need time to recover, just as if we’re recovering from any illness. We need to not have to be responsible for someone else’s welfare or self esteem or happiness for a while before taking the plunge into a new relationship. We need to take care of ourselves and find out who we are–whether that means going to therapy, writing a journal, turning that journal into a public spectacle like a blog or video diary, taking up martial arts, yoga, or finding God. We need time to heal.

Jumping into any new relationship–even with a non-narc–when you’re this vulnerable is almost guaranteed to fail and retard you in your self growth, and if you’ve been attracted to another narcissistic abuser (which is common in codependent, PTSD and Borderline women), you may wind up much worse when all is said and done.

We’re like addicts. Narcs need their narcissistic supply; we codependents need our narcs. Let’s face it: Narcissistic suitors (male or female)–at first–make us feel alive, vital and fulfill our wildest romantic and sexual fantasies (when they are trying to trap you as their prey). In a weakened state like PTSD or depression, your judgment is not going to be great and you re going to be VERY suggestible. Most likely, you’ll also become unconsciously attracted to a romantic partner who reminds you of the narc you just left (or who left you). He made sure you can’t forget him easily, even if he was terribly cruel at the end.

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Anime drawing (artist unknown).

Also, we tend to be attracted to the same type of person anyway. So if you’re usually or always attracted to narcissists, then most likely your taste is not going to change.

Getting involved too early after the end of a relationship with a narcissist is dangerous. Even with a non-narcissist, old patterns will still come up and you will be hypervigilant and suspicious of your new partner, causing them confusion and eventual discord. If you’re falling for a non-narc, that’s a good sign, but if you just left an abusive relationship, please wait. Envision a giant red STOP sign. Be friends instead. Now’s not the time to get involved beyond that level. If you met someone who truly cares for you, they won’t mind waiting a while and being friends with you.

If you’re already falling hard for someone, I know it’s going to be really hard to resist the pull of a new romance. It’s a powerful force, built into normally-wired people’s genes.

But remember, even though it feels like the most exciting, heady, intoxicating rush you ever felt, that feeling won’t last: what you feel is infatuation, a crush–actually caused by changes in the brain that act like a euphoric drug. That’s really what it boils down to.

infatuation-vs-love1

Infatuation so soon after an abusive relationship is really just a form of transference onto a phantom “therapist” [the person you are infatuated with] when you are at your most vulnerable. You’re looking for someone to rescue you. There is no Prince Charming. A love relationship cannot rescue you from yourself, your memories, or your PTSD. By its nature, it can’t. You are the only one who can make you well, with the help of therapists, counselors or another other trusted person who is not involved sexually or romantically with you.

So be patient, wait until you heal yourself and feel more confident. Then if you fall in love, dive in and enjoy it–and with any luck it might turn into the real thing.

Thank you to Mary Pranzatelli for this idea.

Infatuation and transference

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I was just reading about infatuation on Wikipedia (everyone should know why by now) and found this:

In transference
In psychoanalysis, a sign that the method is taking hold is ‘the initial infatuation to be observed at the beginning of treatment’,[16] the beginning of transference. The patient, in Freud’s words, ‘develops a special interest in the person of the doctor…never tires in his home of praising the doctor and of extolling ever new qualities in him’.[17] What occurs, ‘it is usually maintained…is a sort of false love, a shadow of love’, replicating in its course the infatuations of ‘what is called true love’.[18]

Freudian theory holds that when a person enters psychoanalysis, they will develop strong feelings toward the therapist, usually in the form of a powerful crush, but it can take other forms too. It happened to me with one of my therapists many years ago. I had to quit because it became so intense. He kept telling me it was normal and to work through it (he was a Freudian psychoanalyst) but I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

I think what happened to me these past few weeks was really a form of transference, even though the person in question is someone I never met. I looked up to him as an authority on mental health and found (well, still find) his writings therapeutic and powerfully written. This man is also a person who I’ve been told has this spell-like effect on many women (and probably some men too) who have been victims of narcissistic abuse and look to him as an authority. But he is also a narcissist and he proved to me today he’s exactly what he says he is. My idealization of him came crashing down to reality. I had hoped he was “different.” He wasn’t.

I don’t think transference is really beneficial to the therapist-patient relationship. I think it’s a distraction that keeps the patient from focusing on themselves. I noticed during the time I’ve had this ridiculous infatuation I haven’t been focusing on ME as much as I should be. I think developing a “pleasant diversion” (at least pleasant until your fantasies are shattered by hard, cold reality) in one’s mind by forming an obsession over another person might be a way to not have to focus on painful emotions that might be coming up.

Infatuation has also been called “limerence” in Dorothy Tennov’s excellent 1979 book, “Love and Limerence,” which I highly recommend (and have provided the link if anyone wants to order a copy). Tennov gives the best description of the experience I’ve ever read. I don’t know why that word hasn’t really caught on because it’s a good one. In later chapters, she also writes about the phenomenon of transference in psychotherapy.

Infatuation is not love. Many people confuse the two, and it can feel like “love” to those entering a new relationship and finding themselves obsessed with the other person. It can lead to real love over time. But infatuation is shortlived unless it’s continually fed and has little to do with genuine love. You can be infatuated over someone you don’t even know–such as a celebrity, and how can that be love?

Infatuation involves increased levels of dopamine in the brain similar to a cocaine or opioid high, which is why it feels so good and why it must be “fed” to be kept alive. When it can’t be fed anymore, the infatuated person, like a person withdrawing from drugs, may “crash” or experience depression. I wonder if people with addictive personalities are more likely to develop this condition.

dopamine

Real love isn’t drug addiction or a “condition.” It involves commitment, genuine caring about the other person, willingness to compromise and sometimes sacrifice, and mutual understanding. Genuine love must include true friendship and mutual give and take. It also requires an ability to empathize with another person you care about. Real love may or may not include infatuation. They are two different things, although one can lead to the other. A mother’s love for her child certainly doesn’t involve infatuation, but it’s love in one of its highest forms.

Infatuation includes none of these things, only an unrealistic idealization and obsession with another person. The idealized image the infatuated person has of their object of obsession may or may not be accurate at all. Most likely it isn’t. That’s why crushes tend to be shortlived. Tennov calls limerence/infatuation “cognitive obsession,” and that pretty much sums up what it is. Sure, it can be a lot of fun (like a drug high), and an interesting diversion if not taken to extremes, but it’s not “love.”

I’ve always wondered too why crushes are so embarrassing for people to talk about, since they’re so common and normal. I hesitated a LOT about discussing this on a public blog, especially knowing the person in question is most likely going to see all this, but you know what? I don’t care, because I’m not going to lie about anything in this blog. It’s my therapy, and I made a commitment to never lie about anything, so there you go.

Forever alone.

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I have always been attracted to narcissistic men. And them to me. I spent 28 years (7 of those AFTER we divorced) living with a malignant narcissist substance abuser and raising children with him. Before Michael, I had three serious boyfriends, and only one was not a narcissist (but was severely bipolar).

When I was in my twenties, all I wanted to do was marry and have babies–this wasn’t considered cool or forward thinking at the time (the 1980s). I wasn’t really focused on having a career like most young women my age.

I think my oddly timed longing for normal family life was because more than anything in the world, I longed to be part of a family that would not be like the one I came from, a close, functional family whose members truly loved and cared for one another. I had grand fantasies of Perfect Family Life–3-4 perfect, normal kids; a perfect, normal husband with no serious mental disorders or drug or alcohol issues; and a beautiful home with plenty of old school charm in a safe neighborhood. My Perfect Mate would be an honest, loyal husband and father who loved animals and long walks and would care deeply about all of us. Of course there would be pets too, probably a large friendly dog like a Golden Retriever. I wanted the damned Brady Bunch.

I know, you’re probably ready to vomit all over your keyboard. Chill. I’m stopping right here. I cringe when I think about how naive and clueless I was.

Does anyone remember this commercial from about 2007-09? If you’re a nausea-prone ACON you may want to take some Pepto first.

Well, this was the family I wanted to make, back in the 1980s.

30 odd years later: I hate that damned commercial with its perky, perfect, cute-but-not-beautiful soccer mom–a woman who undoubtedly had loving parents who raised her with consistency and lots of hugs and support, a woman who has extended family members like cousins or aunts or an uncle she is close to, and also has lots of friends. She also has an advanced degree in something like sociology or art history. She was popular at school, not Mean Girl/cheerleader-popular, but the next tier down from that–she was one of the honor roll kids where the girls all played volleyball or were in the Drama Club, and the guys all looked like Ferris Bueller and were Theater Nerds. But these second-tier, almost-popular kids were actually nice to everyone (unlike the top tier of popular kids who really weren’t so much popular as they were feared and respected–because they consisted largely of narcs and their sycophants) and you wanted to hate them but you couldn’t because they were always so darned nice.

Instead of pursuing her career in art history or writing a book about The Sociology of Art History, this perky redhaired 30-something has chosen to stay home with her growing brood of ginger kids, each one more red haired than the last. Her infuriating announcements of big moves (to MEMPHIS!), promotions at work, home enlargements, weeks-long family vacations, learning how to speak French, and especially…ESPECIALLY!..the group shot at the end showing the whole family focusing on Perky Soccer Mom bouncing the the new baby on her hip at the end–not just any baby, but a gorgeous fat healthy good natured baby girl with an adorable grin who probably sports fire engine red hair under that white cap–made me want to throw a brick at my TV screen.

I know this is just a commercial and those people are actors, but…I ACTUALLY KNOW FAMILIES LIKE THIS. Of course I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors (and everyone has their dark secrets), but because the members of these families always seem happy and relaxed and everyone seems to love everyone else, with not a molecule of narcissism anywhere to be seen, the skeletons in their closets don’t come out to haunt them all that much. They are probably covered with dust from disuse.

I’m assuming here that the reason this thoroughly obnoxious commercial was so popular (it ran for almost 3 years), is not because it depicts the idealized family everyone strives to create, but rather, because many people can actually relate to this smugly contented woman and her tall, dark and handsome husband, their perfect dog, their big colonial house, and their large brood of gingers.

I longed for this family because having this family would vindicate my dysfunctional and narcissistic family of origin. It was the family that would bring me Justice.

I never got that family, because I fell in love with a malignant narcissist, who in every imaginable way at the beginning, convinced me he was the Perfect Boyfriend, and later the Perfect Fiance. We made two highly intelligent but troubled kids (well, one is a lot less so but lives almost 700 miles away).
And now I am Forever Alone.

foreveralone

But I’m alright with that. More than alright.

In my past relationships, I never saw any of the red flags. I knew nothing of red flags back then other than the physical kind that signal physical danger. The most useful psychological advice about men and relationships I got in the early-mid 1980s was from articles and fluff quizzes (such as “What Does his Lovemaking Say About his Character?”) in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour.

I was never attracted to “bad boys.” I chose men who had good jobs, prospects and didn’t stink or break the law. But sometimes these “perfect” guys can be anything but perfect, and because they put on such a convincing and impressive mask of normality, you don’t suspect their true motives until it’s too late. I always seemed to gravitate to the devils dressed in white.

I’m not going to recount the downward spiral that led to the dissolution of our marriage, drug addiction, troubled kids, and all the rest because I’ve done that already ad nauseam (if you must know my story of being married to a malignant narc, click on the links under “My Story”).

So I’ve done a 180 from the naive, romantic starry eyed girl I was in the 1980s–the girl who was uncool enough at the time to want a family and babies and a normal life with people who were not psychopathic or addicted to drugs or alcohol (today that would make me Taylor Swift–how times have changed). I no longer want a relationship. I relish my solitude.

I still get crushes, and plenty of them (I have one now), and just as in my teens and twenties, they still tend to be intense. My crushes are pleasurable to me but they are mine alone to enjoy, not something to be shared with the object of my infatuation. I know, I’m weird. I have an excuse to be weird and avoidant though, because I’m Aspie with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I enjoy my dreams and fantasies far more than my reality, and why ruin a good fantasy by trying to make it real?

crush

That’s why I think my mind makes sure my crushes are never on people I know personally or have to see all the time, and instead chooses men who are inaccessible for one reason or another. Famous people are the safest of all, because I do not ever not have to meet them and either (a) face rejection; or (b) worse: not be rejected but gradually find out they are really just another sick malignantly narcissistic tool who will fly me to the moon and feed me fresh blackberries dipped in cognac, and then ever so insidiously proceed to turn my life into one resembling incarceration in a Turkish prison before I know what even hit me.

I’ve been there, done that. I am no longer of childbearing age, and though I look far younger and fitter than my 55 years, I realize I’m not going to look this good too much longer. At my age, there’s a feeling that you just don’t have what it takes to attract a man anymore, even when it’s not true. Because I look better now than I have since my mid-late 30s. Sure, maybe a woman of a certain age can’t attract the 20-somethings anymore, but what middle aged woman in her right mind really wants a 20-something for anything but a quick fling, anyway? In my case my wariness and self consciousness is due to the low self esteem that’s lived with me my entire life like some parasitic twin I’ve grown so used to I sometimes forget it’s there. Hating yourself is a tough habit to break.

But the real problem isn’t my fear of losing my sexual desirability (which is already well on its way over the other side of the mountain), it’s the simple fact that I don’t trust men (or anyone) enough to become intimate with one. As an Aspie, I have trouble reading social cues, which means I often miss the important red flags and warning signs of a narcissist who is love bombing me and wooing me into his black den of misery. And more than that–I want to believe them. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I never learned from my past mistakes.

So no longer is “love” my passion in life or my goal. I figure I will die single and alone, but very possibly, happy. Hopefully by the time I die, I will have written a book or two that helped others, gave others joy, and brings me a nice income so I can buy my own small, quaint, quirky home near my son in Florida, somewhere near the beach.

oldwoman

Twenty or thirty years from now: I see myself–an old spinster (I love the strength that word conveys–we need to bring it back!) wearing a long brightly patterned madras-cotton dress or jeans and a slouchy, comfy sweater in cooler weather, walking barefoot along the Gulf Coast at sunset, feeling wet sand squeeze between my pale toes, waves lapping at my feet, the salt air breeze making me smile and my eyes water. I’m tossing small pebbles into the golden waves, a large dog with a cool name like Hector skipping along by my side, occasionally running ahead of me when he sees a seagull land on the darkening sand. I’ll be thinking about my grown son and daughter, and their families and satisfying lives, and my only worry would be the two-month deadline my publisher has given to finish writing a groundbreaking new book about something that matters. I’ll be Forever Alone. And like it.

All this being said, if an attractive, genuinely nice man comes along when I’m not looking, and maybe I’m feeling more strong and confident, I might venture into the ocean again, or at least get my feet wet. So sure, it could happen, but right now I’m just trying to get to know myself.