When your therapist rejects you.

No, my therapist hasn’t rejected me, but I think this is something that all of us in therapy sometimes worry about.

Lucky Otters Haven

Abandonmentsign

I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist…

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My stupid ego stands in the way of empathy.

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There’s been something on my mind that’s been bothering me a lot, but I’ve hesitated posting about it because it makes me sound like a terrible person.  But I’ve always aimed to be honest on this blog, so I’m not going to make an exception this time.

A few weeks ago, I made a new online friend.  She’s in a severe depression right now due to receiving some bad news. She was so grief-stricken she had to go into the hospital and get treated for her depression.   Since then she’s been confiding in me by email, because she’s too shy to publicly comment about her situation.   For about a week or two, we corresponded almost daily.   Our emails to each other were long and deeply personal, and they proved therapeutic for me as well as for her.

I’m no therapist, but I’m always willing to correspond via email and try to direct people to the proper resources or actually help them directly if I can.   I felt like I could relate to this woman; I identified with a lot of her issues. She said she felt the same way about me.  I began to think of her as a friend, someone I cared deeply about, even though we never met and we’d only been corresponding for such a short time.   I felt a great deal of empathy for her situation.  These empathic feelings are  something rather new for me, because only recently I was too busy working on my own issues and trying to recover from my own trauma that I didn’t have the time or inclination or even the ability to really be able to empathize with anyone else.   Lately though, I’ve been rediscovering the empathy I possessed so much of as a child, and it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing.  I want it to keep growing because it makes it easier for me to connect with people and makes it possible for me to be authentic and help someone else in need, which is what I’ve been aiming to do more of.

My new friend told me that writing to me helped her a lot, and I was extremely touched by this.  I told her she was helping me too, which is true.   I began to look forward to her emails, because, well, the things she told me made me feel good.   I felt my ego puffing up with pride like a loaf of baking bread.   I began checking my inbox several times a day to see if there were any new emails.  I was getting a little obsessed, to be honest.  I was jonesing for that feeling of being needed, of feeling like I was important to someone, of knowing that someone I liked and cared for valued me that much.

I haven’t heard back from her in a few days.  Now I’m becoming insecure and hypervigilant and wondering if I said something wrong or overstepped her boundaries or if she just got tired of writing to me.    I kept reading over our emails trying to find anything, any hint at all, that I might have said something offputting that ran her off or made her want to stop emailing me.   I found nothing but obsessively, I kept looking.

After 3 days of no correspondence, I finally emailed her again.  I was extra careful not to sound too needy, and because she’s so fragile right now and came to me for help (and not the other way around), I tried extra hard to not to project my own “stuff” into my email to her.  I read it over several times and it sounded alright to me, but I still worry she may be able to pick up on my neediness.

I realized with horror that my worry about her possibly abandoning me was more powerful than my concern that she might have had to go back into the hospital (or just couldn’t get online, or was busy, or whatever).    My insecurity made my email sound more stilted and less natural than usual.  I no longer feel like I can be as open and honest, because of my own stupid fears of being offensive or overbearing and making her think badly of me.  It isn’t her fault I feel like this–it’s my own ego getting in the way of the real empathy I have for this person.

This happens to me all the time, and is one of the reasons I’ve sometimes thought I’m actually a narcissist.  Everything is always about me, my ego, what other people are thinking about me, am I being validated, am I still valued by them, are they going to leave me, do they secretly hate me?  Even when all the evidence is to the contrary, I still look for the microscopic speck of dirt in my bowl of ice cream–and always find it even though it isn’t really there.

Yes, I do have empathy–and a lot more of it has been freed to me lately–but when there’s any uncertainty or insecurity and I begin to feel hypervigilant and paranoid.  I start fretting that maybe I’m being deliberately ignored or God forbid, abandoned, and all that wonderful, healing empathy I’m learning how to use goes flying out the window and everything becomes all about me and my stupid ego again.

I still care about this individual and want to help her, but I want my empathy to flow naturally and my ego to stay out of it, because all that does is fuck everything up.  I’ve been praying for this to change, because how can I ever really be of help to anyone else if I’m always worried about what other people are thinking about me?   This isn’t about me; it’s about her and trying to help her heal, not getting some sort of ego boost for myself.

I’m not going to email her again.   I’ll just wait now, and if I never hear from her again, I can live with that.   Maybe she got what she needed from me–the encouragement she needed–and that should be enough.   I hope she is okay.

If nothing else, then I have learned a hard lesson about pride and ego: pride comes before the fall.  True empathy requires humility and the ability to set your own ego outside the door.

Regression.

This is what’s going on with me now.    Comments are disabled here; please leave comments under the original post.

My fractured memory.

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“Fractured Memory,” by Hanna Trussler, 2012

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my early years–childhood and adolescence. As many of you know, my parents were active alcoholics, narcissists (my dad more likely covert NPD or maybe Borderline), and that I spent almost all of that time miserable and lonely due to emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse both at home and at school (because I was already trained to be a good little victim and had no self esteem or the ability to defend myself, I was bullied a lot).

The problem is, most of these early memories are fractured, hazy, or both. I remember snippets of traumatic events, but in most cases I can’t remember the entire event, or it’s spotty. Some of my memories seem more like dreams than reality and therefore I can’t remember the specifics of what happened. The same is true of my abusive marriage. I can only remember fractured pieces of that time. The two and a half decades I spent with him don’t seem like a cohesive whole, but more like a photo album with many of the photos missing. But this post isn’t about my early adult years.

I think something happened when I was 12 that was significant and a kind of turning point for me–it was when I stopped trusting anyone, I think. It was the moment when I realized how truly alone I really was and that no one cared and anyone who said they cared was probably lying. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is when I stopped reaching out to others and began my avoidant pattern of behavior. Of course, this coincided with puberty, so maybe that had something to do with it too.

Here’s what I do remember. My parents and I had taken a two week trip to the beach. Another couple and their two children came along with us and rented the cottage next door. That couple was friends with my parents. I didn’t know my father was sleeping with the wife at the time, and my mother probably didn’t either, but I remember how jealous she was of that other woman because she was younger and blonder than she was and my father paid a lot of attention to her. Their daughter was a year older than me and was adopted. She was from India and was a close friend of mine at the time.  I envied her beautiful long, glossy black hair, permanent tan, and huge soft brown eyes.  Her little brother (her parent’s natural child) was an adorable little blond-headed boy of about 5 or 6. To me, they seemed like the perfect family. It may have been an illusion (for all I know, they were putting on appearances too), but to my 12 year mind, they seemed like they were in love with each other and their kids were both well loved and well-adjusted. My friend always seemed happier, more focused on a future (she eventually became a doctor) and much more emotionally stable than I was. I loved her and envied her.

My parents at the time were drinking heavily and fighting almost daily. Some of their arguments became physical, and I remember lying silently in my bed at night listening to these arguments as they escalated. I was both fascinated and terrified. What if they divorced? What if they abandoned me?  What if they killed each other?  What if I became an orphan?  I seemed to be the cause of an awful lot of their problems (and they did fight over me a lot).

This beach vacation didn’t put a stop to their constant fighting, and one night, my father left. I don’t know where he went, but my mother and I were left alone. My mother didn’t speak to me about this and her demeanor toward me was cold, as if I was an annoyance to her. I was terrified my father was never coming back, and I remember crying myself to sleep the next night. I don’t think my mother ever came in to comfort me. She was probably getting drunk, but I don’t remember.

Desperate for someone to talk to, I pulled the father of my friend aside, and asked him if I could talk to him in private. He always seemed like a warm and sympathetic person to me, someone who loved kids. We sat down outside on a bench near the parking lot, with the sound of the waves crashing behind us on the beach,  and I spilled out all my worries, all my pain, and all my fears.  I talked for about an hour.  He just held my hand and listened. I started to cry and he held me.  He told me everything would be alright. He didn’t say he was going to talk to my parents.

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He must have talked to them, because that night I was told by my mother that my father was returning to talk to me. She said he was not happy and was in fact enraged.
He came back as promised, and that’s where my memory gets all hazy and fractured. I remember snippets, like quick-flashing frames from a movie: getting beaten severely (but I was always beaten in a way that bruises didn’t show), being told I was a troublemaker and was the reason the family was falling apart. That I was nothing but a problem to them and never knew when to keep my mouth shut. I don’t remember the rest but I know there’s even more. I just can’t access it.

I also don’t know if my friend’s father had told my parents what I’d said to him because he was concerned about me and thought they might listen to him, or if he was just another participant in the abuse against me.

I realized even then my parents were drunk and probably not fully in control of what they said and did, but I think behind their alcoholism was narcissism. I think a lot of narcissists become alcoholics or addicted to drugs, and even after they become sober or clean, refuse to look any deeper into the core issues that caused them to drink or use in the first place. But that’s a subject for a later post. One thing that did occur to me, was that the only time my parents seemed to come together as a team and weren’t attacking each other, was when they joined forces to attack me. Only then were they the unified couple I dreamed of, unified in their abuse of their only child.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that beating and berating. I’m pretty sure our vacation ended at that point. I might have been sent to stay with relatives for a week or two, or left with a babysitter, so they didn’t have to deal with me. I feel like something important got blacked out, but I can’t remember what it was. But it was around this time that I stopped being able to confide in anyone at all. I remember one of the nuns who taught me in 8th grade, a woman who seemed to favor me for some reason, once called me aside and asked me if I was abused at home. I thought to myself, how can she tell? Of course I told her I wasn’t, that everything was fine. But nothing was fine in my life anymore.  I think my emotional growth stopped that summer.  At age 12.  But it might have stopped even earlier than that.  How in the name of God was I ever supposed to grow into a happy successful adult, able to form healthy attachments to others, when I never grew beyond the age of 12?

The next summer I was sent to sleep-away camp for the entire summer, and while I did enjoy it for the most part, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a rejection, a way for my parents to get rid of ‘the problem child’ so they didn’t have to deal with my “issues.”

Wow. Suddenly I feel like crying. The pain is getting real.

I’m asking the little girl who still lives somewhere inside me to tell me everything she knows.

Interpreting last week’s dream.

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Last week I had a bad dream which I described in this post.   I typed it out when I was still half asleep because I knew it was important and didn’t want any of it to fade away.  I emailed it to my therapist and asked him to print out a copy for our session tonight because I don’t have a printer.

I didn’t hear back from him and wondered if he had got the email, but  tonight I saw a copy sitting on my chair in his office, and he had printed out a second copy for himself too.  We spent the next hour talking about it.  It’s funny the way a dream can seem to make almost no sense, but therapy can bring so much clarity to it.   How did I not recognize what was so obvious?

I’ll go through it here, one paragraph at a time, and explain what we found out.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

This part I already knew. At age 22, I had another therapist I experienced a strong transference with, and spent 2 years with him. I quit out of frustration because I couldn’t handle my powerful romantic feelings and at the time, I had almost zero insight. But his manner, in many ways, reminds me of my current therapist. They are both attractive men of approximately the same age (at the time of my seeing them). In my dream, they both represent a Hero/Parental archetype.

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

He was touched by this and told me so. He kept wanting to go back and talk about it, but this is the part that was most awkward/uncomfortable for me to talk about because it’s me at my most vulnerable/open/unguarded (which means it’s very important NOT to avoid!). He pointed out that the woman who wept with someone else in the dream was the “real me” and therefore I do have the capacity to empathize with and connect with others. He wanted me to remember some times in my real life I actually felt this way. I tried to remember; it was hard because there have been so few times. Most of the time when someone opens up to me I find myself pulling away. The last time I felt really open and emotional with another adult was in 1986.  But that was with my ex, who betrayed my trust and wasn’t at all who he seemed to be. Still, I want to feel that way again because I want to be able to connect on a deep and meaningful level. In the dream, I was open and vulnerable, but not in emotional pain at this point.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

The art complex represents creativity and vision. But this is destroyed by what my therapist says which triggers familiar feelings of “the other shoe is about to drop because the world is dangerous and people are untrustworthy.” I have opened up to my Hero and made myself vulnerable and tapped into my creativity but my Hero is about to drop a bomb that will destroy all of that and destroy me.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Mind games. Playing with my emotions. Tormenting, goading, sadistic teasing. This is exactly the sort of thing my narcissists did to me all the time. In the dream, my Hero becomes someone else out to destroy me. No one can be trusted.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come

The costume party represents the fakeness I see in everyone around me. No one is who they appear to be. I’m not a part of it; I’m left out. I can’t cry because to protect myself, I’ve shut off my emotions again. The wall is back up.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

The raku vase is probably a minor detail, but could represents the creative urge I’m trying to hold onto (I almost drop/lose it). I call him an asshole because he has played with my emotions and seems to be doing it deliberately by refusing to fully explain what he meant but making me wonder and worry. The crying is angry, hurt crying, in contrast with the tears of openness and empathy early in the dream. I attempt to hide this because I no longer feel safe being vulnerable.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

My Hero has become a disapproving, narcissistic, uncaring parent who is only concerned with his own feelings and is punishing me because I criticized him, and finally abandons me. This is what my parents did to me and is at the center of my mental illness.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

Shame of who “I” am and for expressing my feelings. Being abandoned makes me feel like I don’t exist.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

Everything is a sham, fake and cheap. My Hero, who I trusted, doesn’t care. He’s abandoned me and has joined with all the other fake and cheap people. He betrayed me, just like everyone else. Abandonment and betrayal makes me feel dead.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

Self protection; defense mechanisms come into play. To protect myself from feelings of nonexistence, shame, and abandonment, I become fake too, to fit in with the fake world and all its fake people. The ridiculous costume would be my “false self,” ridiculous because it’s not me at all. It’s familiar because I’ve seen it before, on the people who raised me. I still want to die because inside I still feel as empty and abandoned.

None of this was really new to me, but I feel liked everything’s been spelled out for me now through this dream and I have a better idea of the issues I need to work on the most. It would be natural for me to trust no one since the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally were untrustworthy. I also feel like I’m no longer alone in figuring all this out.

A very unpleasant dream.

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I need to write this down where I’ll remember this later.

I just woke up from a dream. I must remember this one so I can tell my therapist. Right now I’m still rising up from the fog of sleep and my memory of the dream is still fresh but will fade away soon so I can’t delay in writing it.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

I woke up and was overcome with relief when I realized it was only a dream and knew I had to post it right away. I haven’t worked out what it all means yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m skirting around the edges of the yawning black hole at my center, where my abandonment and early attachment issues live. I’m about to dive in there, I guess. It’s interesting that even though I trust my therapist more than anyone I’ve ever known, and he has given me NO reason to think he would ever abandon me, this fear I have of him abandoning me seems to be a recurring theme in our sessions. Obviously my transference toward him has been successful and I’m replaying some kind of abandonment/rejection trauma I experienced when I was a child.

The 7 things narcissists are most afraid of.

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I was actually going to try to post funny search terms again, but alas, they were just not funny, so I nixed that idea.  However, I did find one that inspired me to write this post:

what 6 things are narcissist most scared of

It’s a good question.  Are narcissists afraid of anything? You bet they are, and there are 7 things that scare them silly, not just 6.

1. Abandonment and rejection.

love_me

Narcissists can’t stand being rejected or abandoned.   That’s why they fly into rages and punish and threaten you if you threaten to leave them, and love bomb you if you do manage to get away.  To reject a narcissist means you are rejecting the false self they have so carefully constructed to impress you.  To reject that false self negates their entire reason for existing, since whatever true self they may have left is completely inaccessible to them and the false self cannot survive on its own; it’s completely dependent on the approval and attention of others, who it feeds from like a vampire.  When you reject a narcissist they are forced to confront their own emptiness and nothing scares them more than that.  They will fight tooth and nail to avoid it, even if it means they have to destroy you in the process.

2. Being made fun of.

don__t_make_fun_of_me__by_quackedsquare

Credit: Quacksquared

Narcissists have no sense of humor.  Nada. None. Zero. Zip.  They may laugh cruelly at you when you fall and break your arm, and they may chuckle at the discomfort of someone else (since they have almost no empathy), especially if the discomfort was caused by them (because remember, to them you are not a real person but an object),  but they are completely incapable of ever laughing at themselves.

A few years ago on a forum I posted on, there was a man who became enraged when someone wrote “LOL” at a joke someone else made at his expense (the joke wasn’t very offensive), and from then on he gave both of them the silent treatment.     They take themselves very, very seriously and are very, very sensitive.  But that sensitivity doesn’t extend toward anyone but themselves.   The reason they are so bothered by jokes at their expense and can’t laugh at themselves is because the self they present to the world is a false one that must be propped up and supported at all times by everyone else.   To poke fun at a narcissist is to poke fun at a self that’s as empty inside as a puppet.  It has no substance.     It will fall to pieces and then the narcissist is forced to confront that terrifying emptiness that constantly haunts them.

3. Being disrespected.

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No one likes to be treated with disdain or disrespect, but the narcissist is downright phobic about it.   He or she worries about it all the time and imagines slights and personal attacks even where they don’t exist.  Again, it boils down to the false self which he or she must constantly keep propped up.  It’s your job to puff it up and inflate it constantly lest it collapse into a limp pile of flimsy rubber.    Disrespecting a narcissist is like popping a hole in their balloon-self and they feel like they are going to die.    To avoid this, a narcissist uses every defense mechanism they have in their arsenal–gaslighting, rages, silent treatment, lying, projection, denial, fabricating,  and false affection–to keep you inflating their balloon-self so they don’t have to acknowledge the horror of recognizing they have lost their real one.

4. Being ignored.

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This is a no-brainer.   Ignoring a narcissist means giving them no supply at all, and without narcissistic supply, the narcissist dies a slow death.   Or believes they will.   That’s why some narcissists would even rather be hated than be ignored.  Negative attention is still attention, and at least it provides acknowledgement that they still exist.   When you ignore a narcissist, it’s as frightening to them as being killed.  They’re no longer confident they exist without your attention.

5. Exposure.

Several colorful arrow street signs with words Not Me - His, Her and Their Fault, symbolizing the twisting of the truth and shifting of blame

If you call out a narcissist on their abusive behavior, they will usually become very angry.  Their anger might be expressed in rage or in more covert means such as the silent treatment or gaslighting you. They don’t like to be held accountable for the things they do to others, because that means they have to admit they are less than perfect.   It also means they have to acknowledge the humanity of someone else, which they aren’t capable of doing.  Narcissists are all too aware of their imperfections, but only at the subconscious level, and the way they handle this is to project their own imperfections onto you.  So a narcissist might tell you that YOU are the narcissistic one, or that YOU are the abuser.  They’re also good at getting others to side against you, and those people become their flying monkeys.    They will accuse you of doing things that they themselves have done and everyone believes them and not you.

You start to feel like you’re living in a hellish world of smoke and mirrors, where you’re no longer sure what’s real and what isn’t.   The narcissist has, unconsciously or consciously, set up this elaborate lie as a massive defense mechanism against being exposed as imperfect and flawed just like everyone else, because being forced to acknowledge their shortcomings is to expose their vulnerabilities, and being vulnerable is incredibly terrifying to them.   They blame so they don’t have to feel shame.

6. Loss of the trappings of youth and success. 

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As narcissists age, they often grow even more  abusive (a very few may improve–but they probably weren’t high spectrum to begin with). That’s because aging means a loss of looks, career, health, possibly even a spouse (who provides a narcissist with supply), and in some cases even financial solvency. All these things are proof to a narcissist that they still have value and are still admired and respected.

Somatic narcissists, who are most concerned with their health or physical appearance, have never developed other aspects of themselves that could be fallen back on when those things begin to go; that’s because the false self is a flimsy one-dimensional construct and is incapable of love, true attachment, friendship, and other things that the rest of us can fall back on when we’re old and not in such great physical shape or health anymore.   If someone has spent their entire lives only concerned with their appearance, once that goes, what’s left?

Cerebral narcissists, who are concerned with their intellectual ability or business acumen, may be able to hang onto those assets a bit longer, but eventually, their minds may begin to become less sharp or they may be forced to retire or reduce their hours working.  Having to retire is a huge blow to a narcissist whose entire identity is tied up in his or her career and earning ability.  What is left?

In both cases, a narcissist experiences an almost total loss of supply and to avoid the ensuing depression, they lash out and attack others like angry dogs.  That’s why old narcissists are so often cranky and mean.   They’re also terrified of death, the last thing on the list that terrifies them.

 

7. Death.

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Every narcissist I’ve ever known lives in mortal terror of death.   That’s because death is the ultimate loss of narcissistic supply.  Death means complete annihilation of the ego and there’s nothing more horrifying to a narcissist than that because their ego is all they are.   Personally, I think some also fear hell.  They know on some deep level how badly they’ve treated and exploited others and think they might be held accountable for it in the afterlife.   I’ve seen a lot of narcissists who suddenly become extremely religious in their old age.  I think that’s because they think by being religious, they may be able to ward off any accountability after they die.

What my fear of rejection makes me do

borderline_pd

Time for a true confession.

I’ve been focusing a bit less on narcissism because the topic itself is somewhat of a trigger for me right now.

But I’ve recently decided to write openly about my BPD, which (along with Aspergers) is often misdiagnosed as narcissism.

Besides the envy and pride I’ve previously mentioned as my worst narcissistic traits, there is one other thing that has sometimes made me wonder if I might really be a narcissist.

Whenever any male in a position of authority has tried to tell me the truth about myself (like a therapist or teacher), I want to attack them. When I was much younger (teens and 20s) this manifested as rage attacks (as it did with my therapist during my 20’s). Today it’s more likely to be expressed as sarcasm, snarkiness, or just…silence. All of this is very narcissistic of me and makes me want to cringe in the corner when I think about it. Because knowingly hurting someone goes against the bigger, better part of me, a person who is kind and compassionate and hates to see anyone suffering or hurt.

I used to torment my therapist back in the 1980s. He didn’t know the intense feelings I had for him. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. If you’ve ever watched the ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon “Hey Arnold,” you will remember how cruel Helga always was to Arnold, but secretly she mooned over him.

helga_arnold

My therapist must have hated me. I LIKED tormenting him. He sat there week after week taking it like a trouper. If he was angry or upset, he never showed it. Most likely my strong feelings and verbal attacks were a form of transference. Maybe I experience a form of transference toward any male in an authority position who mirrors me.

I finally told that therapist I was quitting. Why? Because of my fear he was so tired of my mindfucking him that he’d tell me he couldn’t be my therapist anymore. I knew I wasn’t cured, but I left anyway. Sure, I was having trouble handling my infatuation, but now I know it was really all about hurting him before he could hurt me. How stupid of me, since he was probably more than happy to see the back of me.

hateyou_leaveme

I’ve really been thinking a lot lately about my BPD and the unpleasant ways it sometimes manifests itself. The behaviors are narcissistic, and they don’t happen all the time, or with most people (thank God for that!) But the reason they exist at all is because as a Borderline, I live in mortal terror of being rejected or abandoned, and certain men in authority who tell me truths about myself may represent my father, who I was afraid would reject me (even though he wasn’t really the problem at all).

Sometimes I do wonder if I may be a narcissist.

But I know I’m not because it makes no sense. Real narcissists don’t have a conscience or empathy. They can’t be happy for you or sad for you and I can be. If I do something wrong–even if I derive some kind of sick pleasure during the time I’m engaged in it–afterwards I feel terrible. I just want to run and hide.

I’m working on these behaviors, using an old workbook I got in 1996, because lately I’ve been thinking about possibly dating again. I’m getting over my fear of finding myself with another narc, because I feel like I know enough to read them now, to see the red flags and know when to run if I must–but I also don’t want to drive a nice guy away due to my “I hate you….don’t leave me” Borderline tendencies.

There’s so much apologizing I would like to do to so many people. I know that’s not possible but I wish it were.

I know I’m changing for the better, but a lot of bad and painful emotions are coming to the surface in the process of discovering who I am, because I’m feeling again. I think my PTSD is almost healed, and that’s a great thing, but mixed in with all the nice, loving, tender emotions are some not so nice ones too. Like a maggot crawling on the petals of a rose.

I never said I was perfect.