Throwback Thursday: My Inner Narcissist.

Originally posted on January 8, 2015

envy pride
The beautiful paintings in this article are by Marta Dahlig at Deviantart.

Narcissism isn’t limited to narcissists.

Most people have some narcissistic traits and that’s why it’s dangerous to try to diagnose someone you don’t know pretty well or have lived with. Mislabeling happens a lot, and ACONS and victims of abuse tend to be quick to label anyone who shows any narcissistic traits as a narcissist, because we’re so hypervigilant about everything and trust no one.

I hate my narcissistic traits, but I do have a few. Now’s the time I “come out” of the closet about them.

We also can’t forget a little narcissism is actually healthy and protects us to some extent from victimization. No one can be completely unselfish. It’s just not realistic or good for survival.

My two most deadly narcissistic sins are:

1. Envy. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be pathologically envious of those who had more than I did, were more attractive, came from loving homes, had a better job or made more money (practically everybody!) I don’t think this is uncommon in people who were raised and/or married narcissists, and we are not incorrect about having been cheated in life. We have a right to feel like it’s unfair. It’s still an ugly, soul-destroying emotion though, because it makes us hate ourselves even more when we think we fall short of others.

I think what sets my envy apart from true narcissistic envy is that I have never had any desire to ruin or take away someone’s else’s good fortune. I might feel bitter and brood about it, but I never felt it was my right to interfere. Sometimes the people I envied could inspire me too. I also didn’t necessarily hate the people I envied, even when I wanted to. Or maybe it just sets me apart from the MALIGNANT narcissists, because those are the dangerous ones who really want to hurt you.

I’ve been getting a lot better–but another deadly sin that is envy’s polar opposite is slowly taking its place…

2. Pride (vanity). I haven’t experienced too much of this until recently. I think some pride is normal and healthy. If you have no pride you feel like you deserve nothing. But I have noticed a tendency to brag about this blog when it’s doing well or my stats are high. Maybe that’s a normal thing for bloggers (I think we tend to be competitive) but I bet it’s also made a few people think I’m a narcissist playing the victim. I hope not, but I still worry about it. I’m always tempted to delete those stats posts after they go up, but then again, why not share good news when you have some to share? Because until recently, I hardly ever had any good news to share. So I’m like a little kid on Christmas Day or something.

I still have to watch this though, because you can drive people away with too much bragging, and pride, as pleasant an emotion as it can be, can turn you into a narcissist eventually. It’s a slippery slope to selfishness and evil. I can’t ever forget that my primary focus with this blog is to get better, and maybe help others get better too through my writing. Not to have X number of views or Y levels of visibility. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about what God wants for me and how he wants me to be of service.

Acquired narcissism due to good fortune is probably why there are so many narcissists in Hollywood and the music industry (not all celebrities are narcissists of course). Their success has probably changed them. Or it drives them crazy. I think only the most mentally sound and insightful celebrities are able to escape from the clutches of acquired narcissism (or serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and even psychosis). It can’t be easy being famous and sought after by millions of strangers and having to be “on” for the media all the time.

Then there’s the other kind of pride–the kind that keeps people from admitting when they’ve been wrong or showing humility when it would benefit them and others to do so. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m guilty of that kind of pride very much. I can admit when I’ve been wrong and am not “too proud” to do so. I think narcissists pretty much have a monopoly on that type of pride.

My last “deadly sin” is sloth. I can be the laziest person you ever met. I’m a world class procrastinator. But I don’t think that’s a narcissist trait.

sloth

What are yours?

Advertisements

My stupid ego stands in the way of empathy.

pride_humility

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.

“Saving face”

saving_face

“Saving face” is the concept of avoiding facing the consequences of having been shamed, sometimes by sacrificing something you value. A perfect example is what I almost did yesterday when my irresponsibility for posting a certain article was called out elsewhere. I almost took down this blog!

Throughout my life, “saving face,” has been my usual reaction to being held accountable for choosing wrong actions. It’s never made me happier, and more often than not, I wind up regretting it later. I later wonder why I didn’t just own up to it and take responsibility. But the fear of being shamed is great enough to make you do crazy things just to avoid it. In my case that usually meant some sort of disappearing act–you know, acting on that urge to “sink through the floor in shame.” But the thing is, all it does is make you look like a coward and that in itself makes you look worse than the thing that caused it all! Please note I am not talking about situations in which you are being unfairly treated or bullied. That does happen, and it happens to the sensitive the most of all. In those cases removing yourself might be the best and smartest course of action. No, I’m talking about situations in which you know you’ve acted badly and are called to the carpet about it.

“Saving face” is a staple of some cultures. In Japan, ancient samurais adhered to the tradition of seppoku, which meant stabbing oneself through the heart with a dagger when one had been shamed.* The intent was to avoid shame, even if your life was the price. Related to this (but different) is the practice of “honor killings” some fundamentalist Muslim countries still adhere to. This means killing a family member (usually a woman) when they are believed to have brought shame to the family. In these cases, love is weaker than narcissistic pride. How else could one voluntarily kill their own wife or daughter who they claim to love?

It’s interesting to me that even the term, “saving face,” is a reference to the False Self, a mask shown to the world. Saving face isn’t about honesty or authenticity; it’s about maintaining the mask, even if all it involves is escaping consequences.

Some people see “saving face” as somehow noble. But it isn’t–it’s cowardly and narcissistic. Unfortunately it’s human nature, especially for those of us who grew up in situations where we were constantly shamed just for being ourselves and developed low self esteem. We may not be suicidal, but we’ll sacrifice things we love if the consequences of behaving badly are too embarrassing.

But why should it be that way? People are still going to talk even if you remove yourself from the situation or disappear, the way I’ve always tended to do. Wouldn’t it be better to face the consequences? Even if people aren’t forgiving, ironically your humility shows them you have self respect and the courage to own up to your mistakes. What’s so shameful about a simple “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry.”

* I understand that non western cultures differ and to call traditional practices narcissistic or selfish is probably not accurate.

What really matters.

mex_nyman_dancing

Life isn’t about what you do or who you are.
Life is about those moments that just make you say “Wow. I did that.”

–“Mex Nyman”

My daughter just made me cry.

rowan_me
Molly and me in the car in April 2014. I was 2 months No Contact with my MN ex by then.

My daughter Molly got home from visiting some friends, and admitted that she had come across my blog back in December and read the article about her where I said I thought she was a malignant narcissist (I think I was mistaken about that).

I thought she’d be angry, but instead she told me that although it hurt her feelings, it was a wake up call too, and because of that article, she started to rethink some of her past behaviors. She had time to do that during her 30 day stint in jail too.

Then she actually thanked me. She said, “Mom, even though I was so hurt you thought I was a narcissist, I started to think you were right and realized I do act very narcissistic sometimes, especially when I was doing pain pills (she hasn’t done pills in over a month). I want to say thank you, because I know you would never have written that if you didn’t love me.”

It gets even better.

She continued, “You’re different now, Mom. You seem so much happier now. I’ve read some of your other blog posts and I have to say I really admire you, Mom, for being so honest about everything. I think you’re so brave to be doing that and it’s doing good things for you. I could never do what you’re doing. I really want to change, Mom. I want you to be as proud of me as I am right now of you.”

me_chatting
She took this with her phone while we were talking. I wasn’t crying yet lol.

And then she came over to hug me and we were both crying.

For the record, the article I linked to describes something that wasn’t true. She had a brief relationship with a narc who lied to me about her doing hard drugs and because he gave such a good impression (this guy was a skilled psychopath who could sell ice to a penguin), had me believing him. It turned out everything he said to me was a lie. I wrote about that too, but it isn’t a long post (and actually replaced another one which I deleted).

My inner narcissist

envy pride
The beautiful paintings in this article are by Marta Dahlig at Deviantart.

Narcissism isn’t limited to narcissists.

Most people have some narcissistic traits and that’s why it’s dangerous to try to diagnose someone you don’t know pretty well or have lived with. Mislabeling happens a lot, and ACONS and victims of abuse tend to be quick to label anyone who shows any narcissistic traits as a narcissist, because we’re so hypervigilant about everything and trust no one.

I hate my narcissistic traits, but I do have a few. Now’s the time I “come out” of the closet about them.

We also can’t forget a little narcissism is actually healthy and protects us to some extent from victimization. No one can be completely unselfish. It’s just not realistic or good for survival.

My two most deadly narcissistic sins are:

1. Envy. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be pathologically envious of those who had more than I did, were more attractive, came from loving homes, had a better job or made more money (practically everybody!) I don’t think this is uncommon in people who were raised and/or married narcissists, and we are not incorrect about having been cheated in life. We have a right to feel like it’s unfair. It’s still an ugly, soul-destroying emotion though, because it makes us hate ourselves even more when we think we fall short of others.

I think what sets my envy apart from true narcissistic envy is that I have never had any desire to ruin or take away someone’s else’s good fortune. I might feel bitter and brood about it, but I never felt it was my right to interfere. Sometimes the people I envied could inspire me too. I also didn’t necessarily hate the people I envied, even when I wanted to. Or maybe it just sets me apart from the MALIGNANT narcissists, because those are the dangerous ones who really want to hurt you.

I’ve been getting a lot better–but another deadly sin that is envy’s polar opposite is slowly taking its place…

2. Pride (vanity). I haven’t experienced too much of this until recently. I think some pride is normal and healthy. If you have no pride you feel like you deserve nothing. But I have noticed a tendency to brag about this blog when it’s doing well or my stats are high. Maybe that’s a normal thing for bloggers (I think we tend to be competitive) but I bet it’s also made a few people think I’m a narcissist playing the victim. I hope not, but I still worry about it. I’m always tempted to delete those stats posts after they go up, but then again, why not share good news when you have some to share? Because until recently, I hardly ever had any good news to share. So I’m like a little kid on Christmas Day or something.

I still have to watch this though, because you can drive people away with too much bragging, and pride, as pleasant an emotion as it can be, can turn you into a narcissist eventually. It’s a slippery slope to selfishness and evil. I can’t ever forget that my primary focus with this blog is to get better, and maybe help others get better too through my writing. Not to have X number of views or Y levels of visibility. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about what God wants for me and how he wants me to be of service.

Acquired narcissism due to good fortune is probably why there are so many narcissists in Hollywood and the music industry (not all celebrities are narcissists of course). Their success has probably changed them. Or it drives them crazy. I think only the most mentally sound and insightful celebrities are able to escape from the clutches of acquired narcissism (or serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and even psychosis). It can’t be easy being famous and sought after by millions of strangers and having to be “on” for the media all the time.

Then there’s the other kind of pride–the kind that keeps people from admitting when they’ve been wrong or showing humility when it would benefit them and others to do so. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m guilty of that kind of pride very much. I can admit when I’ve been wrong and am not “too proud” to do so. I think narcissists pretty much have a monopoly on that type of pride.

My last “deadly sin” is sloth. I can be the laziest person you ever met. I’m a world class procrastinator. But I don’t think that’s a narcissist trait.

sloth

What are yours?

Free association…thoughts on gratitude, pride and healing.

My head was exploding with ideas for new posts this morning (creative new ideas are almost out of control! Halleluia!) but since none are long thoughts and all came to me as I was running my morning errands and buying a few groceries (By the way, if you’ve never tried Bolthouse Smoothies, you haven’t lived. Blue Goodness is the best. Naked brand smoothies may be a little cheaper. Of course you can make your own too if you’re not lazy like me).

Free association #1. My daughter’s victory.

victory

I got a text from my daughter saying she pressed charges on Paul last night for assault (he had slammed her into the door, which was why it broke) and theft of property (he did still have everything of hers, including most of the money!) and the sociopath who passed himself off as such a “loving” boyfriend was arrested this morning.

Then the unbelievable (well, maybe not so unbelievable) happened. He called her from jail, crying and apologizing over and over again. I would doubt it’s genuine remorse as he is obviously a skilled psychopath–he’s probably just scared to death of her now and the fact he was called out and actually arrested for his despicable behavior, and he lost. I told her I was proud of her for having so much courage and getting justice.

I am ever so grateful. This proves there is justice in the world and karma WILL come back to haunt the evildoers who have no remorse for their actions. At the end of the day, they will get what they deserve, even if it takes longer than we expected. Sometimes we just need to grow some balls (even if we’re female) and throw away the Cowardly Lion act. With God’s grace and patience, we will be vindicated.

Free association #2: Pride: seductive and deadly.

pride

Proverbs 29:23 – A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

Galatians 6:3 – For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Proverbs 11:2 – [When] pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly [is] wisdom.

Proverbs 26:12 – Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.

James 4:6 – But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I’m treading on dangerous territory now as big changes are beginning to happen since I left my narc and was inspired by God to start a blog. Doors that seemed forever locked are now opening. I feel like I take up more “space” in the world–before, my world seemed very small and claustrophobic. I felt hopelessly stifled, and at the same time I was afraid to venture out into the wider world, which I am doing now, even if right now it’s just the wider world of the Internet.

This is all fine and dandy, but it contains a deadly pitfall: the sin of Pride.

Pride in moderation is fine and healthy, as long as we don’t give all the credit for our joys and achievements to ourselves (because we are not gods–in spite of what sociopathic “prosperity preachers” like Joel Osteen tell us). We need to realize that as humans, we are vessels made by God and our first priority is to give glory to God, in whatever manner or talents He has gifted us with.

Each and every one of us has a special gift or talent we were given and the painful lessons we learned in life may be the key to what our purpose in this life may be and where our true abilities lie.

If we neglect to credit God for imbuing us with his Spirit in the form of creative, empathic, scientific, or any other type of vision, we can become full of pride–and pride is a slippery slope to full blown narcissism. That’s why so many Hollywood celebrities have become so narcissistic–because they failed to realize they are not gods themselves–their success or outstanding talent is a tool that God imbued them with and they are merely vessels. God wants nothing but the best for each and every one of us. He wants all of us to realize the potential he created us with. However, his gifts are to be used to help us best serve Him and others, not to serve ourselves.

I need to continually remind myself of God’s enormous role in the changes I’m beginning to see in my life–as well as this new, unfamiliar, optimistic feeling that I actually have a future and a purpose in this world to help first myself and then pay that forward to others.

Sure, of course, there’s going to be a little narcissistic pride (like always bragging about my stats LOL), because we are human and imperfect. That’s okay as long as I NEVER forget that it’s not all about me. God wants me to use my writing and blogging ability not to become full of myself over what it can do for ME (because that’s the point at which everything falls apart, as these Bible verses tell us), but to use it as a tool to help others fulfill their OWN potential and help them find the person God wanted THEM to be so they can use their own Godgiven gifts…and pay it forward…just like in that old 1970s shampoo commercial that said if you tell your friends, then they’ll tell their friends, and on and on and on….I know we’re not discussing brands of hair products here but the analogy is a good one.

God wants all of us to succeed, in spite of what our abusers and narcs have convinced us is true. They are lying. Because God made you special, he made me special–we are images of Him and how special and loving he is.

If you think God didn’t give you any special gift, you are mistaken. If you think you lost or wasted your gift, you are wrong. I was sure I had frittered away and wasted all my talents and abilities due to prolonged narcissistic abuse. I was sure God hated me and was using me as an example of how NOT to be, how NOT to live, as a pitiful laughing stock to the rest of the world…I really believed this!…but again, I was so, SO wrong.

Just be careful about Pride, because it’s very seductive and deadly and can veer you WAY off course, into narcissistic selfishness and darkness…and will affect all those around you in a negative way, especially yourself.

Free association #3: Could insightful narcissists be healed?

innerchild

I like to look for the good in people and maybe I’m just hopelessly naive and unrealistically optimistic, but I absolutely refuse to believe (as many people do) that certain narcissists can’t ever recover from their disorder. Perhaps true psychopaths/sociopaths and the most malignant, evil narcissists have crossed a line into darkness and it’s too late for them to change, but I think as long as a narcissist has insight into their own behavior, there is hope for them to heal. I think insight is the first step to healing for someone with this devastating personality disorder.

Right now I can think of several narcissists who have enormous insight into themselves and I think they do have hope of recovery — even if they themselves don’t believe it. There are three I am thinking of in particular: Sam Vaknin; the narcissistic commenter KWWL who recently posted on my blog about their NPD and desire to heal; and my own daughter, who may have NPD (or BPD) but has expressed a true desire to change and stop doing manipulative and bad things. I am sure there are many others, and some of them may be reading this blog right now.

I have a great deal of empathy for narcissists like these, and in that spirit, I want to say a prayer for all narcissists who have been given the divine gift of Insight:

Dear Father,
Please show these troubled people that they have goodness in them, and are the way they are due to how they were treated as children and their terror of removing the masks that serve to protect the hurt child inside, and that they have become so comfortable wearing.

Let that hurt and lonely child out in the fresh air, let that child be nurtured with your love and our prayers, keep that child safe from further hurt, teach that child that doing the right thing can be just as satisfying (and much more so) as doing the wrong thing, and show that child where their true talents are, so they can begin to walk on the side of the sunlight instead of forever attempting to walk the fence that separates the darkness from the light.

Narcissists, even the most insightful, are in grave danger of losing their balance and falling into darkness (as we all are). Father, please keep them safe from themselves, and teach them that at the end of the day, their false pride can destroy them, not to mention those they come in contact with.

Finally, Father, for the narcissists without insight, please bless them with this gift. For those with insight but who don’t want to change, bless them with the desire to change.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional therapist, and do not have an advanced degree (just a BA in Psychology and Art), and have no guarantee anything at all would work for narcs, but in thinking this problem over so much (and doing so much reading by experts in this field–M. Scott Peck, Vaknin, Hare, George K. Simon, various bloggers who believe NPD can be cured, and others), I think an insightful narcissist could be healed through a four-point program–difficult and probably very expensive, but something that possibly could work for some under the right circumstances. (These ideas are not my own–they are an amalgamation of the ideas of others–even the spiritual element of prayer and faith are from the ideas of M. Scott Peck).

How to cure an insightful and willing narcissist.
1. Emotional catharsis (brought on by loss of narcissistic supply and preceding Cold Empathy from the therapist working with them): https://otterlover58.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/could-reparenting-actually-cure-a-narcissist/
2. Dream analysis and training in Lucid Dreaming (because this may be the only time the True Self is accessible).
3. Retraining the conscience through CBT (cognitive behavioral training)
4. Faith and prayer (from others)
Insight and willingness to change must precede all of this, of course.

I am also not suggesting we should enable or give narcissists what they want. We still need to go No Contact with the malignant, psychopathic ones and those who have done damage to us, and sometimes even the ones who just annoy us.

Narcissists, if they are ever to recover, need TOUGH LOVE.

kickass

Note to narcissists who may be reading this.
This is not and never will be a narc-free blog (see my Rules in the header). If you are a narcissist and want to talk about it honestly and civilly here, as some have already , I am inviting you to do so. If you want help, even though I can’t help you myself, I may be able to help direct you to some good resources (also see Info and Support in my header). If you don’t want to post on a public blog like this, you are free to email me with your questions or story.