This somewhat older post of mine is in the same spirit as the Brene Brown videos I posted yesterday, so I decided it was time to reblog it.
I read a post yesterday on another blog that I agreed with, except there was one thing that didn’t quite sit right with me. The post said that self-pity is an important part of healing from Complex PTSD.
In his book (which I’m still reading), Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker says that self-compassion is an important part of healing, and I think this is what the blogger actually meant. But self-compassion isn’t the same thing as self-pity, an activity which I don’t find at all healing and in fact seems to make my problems worse. Of course we have the right to engage in self pity from time to time (and probably can’t help doing so), and no one should deny us the right to do so. But for me, it just doesn’t work. It’s an unpleasant, soul-sucking experience that seems to drive my negative programming…
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I’ve been dealing with a situation that’s been somewhat traumatizing to me and has gotten me very depressed and experiencing feelings of self-hatred and shame (having SAD doesn’t help). I became so depressed all I could do was lie in bed and sleep or just mope around and do nothing except wallow in self pity. I lost all motivation to write anything at all. I prayed for answers and clarity on this situation, and now that I finally understand the reason this thing triggered me so much, I’m finally starting to feel a little better about it.
I’m sorry, but I’m not prepared to say what the situation is. I’m not ill nor is anyone close to me sick. I didn’t lose my job. No one died. Nothing “bad” happened. It’s purely a thing that has to do with my mental disorders and is probably something that wouldn’t bother a normal person nearly so much but sent me hurtling down a mental black hole.
I have therapy tomorrow where I will be talking about it. The only person that knows exactly what’s going on with me right now is my therapist. I hope I come away feeling almost back to normal.
I still don’t know how much I’ll feel like posting, though.
This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article. It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.
Do narcissists cry? Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices. Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest. The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave. Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist. Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.
Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.
Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.
Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.
While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”). Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category. They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them. They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you. They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.
Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?
A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare. But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible. Don’t get your hopes up though. That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting. If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing. Maybe. (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be. It’s his livelihood).
Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy. For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.
I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.
One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.
I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.
Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.
Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at Deviantart.com
Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?
The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams. A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above. Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it. They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams. Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon. The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists. If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane. Suicide is not unheard of.
Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing. If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on. Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being swept away in the the river of day to day reality. It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede. But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been. I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.” Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.
Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are). That being said, I like to remain optimistic. I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls. Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never. I don’t recommend you try doing this yourself. Leave it to the professionals or to God. You cannot fix a narcissist. All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.
I read a post yesterday on another blog that I agreed with, except there was one thing that didn’t quite sit right with me. The post said that self-pity is an important part of healing from Complex PTSD.
In his book (which I’m still reading), Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker says that self-compassion is an important part of healing, and I think this is what the blogger actually meant. But self-compassion isn’t the same thing as self-pity, an activity which I don’t find at all healing and in fact seems to make my problems worse. Of course we have the right to engage in self pity from time to time (and probably can’t help doing so), and no one should deny us the right to do so. But for me, it just doesn’t work. It’s an unpleasant, soul-sucking experience that seems to drive my negative programming even deeper than it already is.
The way I see it, the difference between self pity and self compassion is analogous to the difference between pity and empathy. I think this makes the distinction clearer.
Pity has an element of condescension or even contempt. You pity someone you dislike or look down on. It’s kind of like sympathy but it’s contaminated with judgment and scorn. You feel like you’re “better” than a person you pity. A wealthy banker may “feel sorry” for a homeless person without feeling a shred of empathy. The banker is glad they’re not homeless, and feels as if they’re above that anyway. If someone says “I feel so sorry for you,” or “I pity you,” you’re likely to feel offended and judged, not comforted. I hate being pitied so much I might be tempted to punch you if you do.
Superficially, empathy, compassion, or sympathy may seem like the same thing as pity, but they’re not the same at all. Sympathy means to feel sorry for someone without judgment or condescension, but it’s not quite the same as empathy, because it lacks the sharing of a feeling. It’s a shallower emotion, but it’s still better than pity. Compassion and empathy are interchangeable and both imply feeling “with” another person, or sharing an emotion with them. It’s giving your friend a heartfelt hug after a breakup, or laughing or crying with them when they’re happy or sad. It’s giving a homeless person your own sweater because you hate to see them shivering in the cold. There’s no condescension or judgment. When someone empathizes with you, they say, “I understand” or “that really must have hurt.” Doesn’t that feel a whole lot different than someone telling you, “I feel sorry for you.”
Self-pity is part of our toxic programming. It’s driven by shame. Self pity is when you sit around and think about how much your life sucks and how much YOU suck. There’s no self-nurturing or comfort in self pity, no self love, only self-hatred and shame. Self-pity enforces the terrible things we’ve already come to believe about ourselves. If we’ve been told time and again how stupid, bad, clumsy, ugly, or what a loser we are by our narcissists, eventually those voices become internalized and we develop a toxic inner voice called an Inner Critic. When you’re stuck in self pity, that’s your Inner Critic demeaning you and repeating to you the same lies about yourself your narcissists already drummed into you. You learn to abuse yourself, and self-pity is just self-abuse. When you say, “I suck” or “I’m a loser” or “nothing ever goes right for me,” you’re reinforcing the toxic programming and acting as a flying monkey against yourself.
Unfortunately, for those of us who suffered from narcissistic abuse, it’s common to wallow in self pity. It’s an all too familiar state of mind, but it isn’t the real you. The things we tell ourselves when we’re stuck in self pity are lies. When I get stuck in self pity, I feel just horrible. I just want to die. I usually wind up feeling resentful and angry at the world, but also ashamed of myself for being such a helpless victim and pathetic loser. I’m consumed with shame and guilt, which leads to depression. I also can’t release the negative emotion when I’m in self pity mode. I get stuck there and it drags me down and saps from me any energy or joy. I’ve had hangovers that felt more pleasant than a bout of toxic self-pity.
You can replace self pity with something much better that also feels a heck of a lot nicer: self-compassion. Self-compassion means acknowledging that you are a human being worthy of love, happiness and the good things in life, while empathizing with your inner child’s hurt over not having gotten those things. You give your inner child permission to feel sad or to grieve and agree with them how unfair it is that she/he got cheated or was abused. This may seem like self pity, but it’s not, because the element of judgment and shame isn’t there. You’re not beating yourself up over how terrible you think you are; you’re telling yourself you’re good and deserve better and allowing yourself to grieve. Instead of covering up your inner child with a paper bag, you’re offering her a hug.
It helps me to actually visualize my inner child. I have her talk to me and tell me what she needs and wants. I don’t judge her or try to shut her up; I just listen. If she feels sad, I tell her those feelings are valid and let her feel sad. If she feels mad, I let her express the anger (but at the same time reassure her she won’t be able to hurt anyone or anything because I won’t let her). I find that by non-judgmentally listening to what she wants and needs or how she feels, I’m eventually able to release any negative emotions and I don’t get stuck. By giving myself permission to feel without self-judgment or self-shaming, sometimes I wind up being able to cry, and as weird as it sounds, that always comes as such a relief. When I’m stuck in self pity, these healing tears never come, because the shame that’s been programmed into me won’t allow me to release them. My programming tells me the massive lie that crying is shameful and weak, when in actuality it’s sometimes the most healing thing you can do. Your Inner Critic is a narcissist who doesn’t want you to heal and that’s where all that awful self pity comes from.
Some days are better than others. Overall, they are getting better and better, but there are days where I feel like I took three steps back and get trapped in my old toxic emotional thinking patterns. At those times I feel like I’m trapped inside a dark, moldy prison with no one but my own demons to talk to and will never be able to escape. I know that’s not true, and tomorrow will probably be better, but right now, at this moment, I’m in immense emotional pain. I feel like if I died and went to hell, it wouldn’t much worse than this. I can’t just turn the pain off with a switch, the way the narcissists in my life seemed to expect me to be able to do.
I got triggered. At least I know what the trigger is. Today is my daughter’s birthday, and we were planning to drive up into the mountains and have lunch together. She was supposed to be here around 10 AM. But by eleven AM I still hadn’t heard from her. I began to panic and imagine some kind of catastrophe befell her, the way I always do because the world has always seemed incredibly dangerous to me and no one can be trusted. You never know when you’re going to get bad news or when the other shoe will drop. It’s a horrible way to live and I definitely don’t recommend it. But it’s in my programming. People think I’m nuts but I can’t help being this way. It’s hard to change the programming.
Around noon, I finally got hold of her and she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. She was hung over from a night of partying and she was also depressed. All I could think about was myself and what SHE was doing to ME. I told her I’d been looking forward to this and I’d taken the day off work to spend with her. She told me I was putting her on a guilt trip and she was right–I was. I apologized and told her to try to have a nice day and we’d get together another time. But I still felt triggered and ornery. I’d written a nice, positive post this morning about the fun day I was anticipating having with her, and what a great daughter she was, but I couldn’t bear to keep it up, so I removed it.
I spent the rest of the day alternately feeling sorry for myself and being angry. I did nothing but sit on the couch, switching channels mindlessly but not really watching anything, and poking around online but not really paying much attention to what I was looking at. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t focus and would keep reading the same sentence over and over, not comprehending the words. I yelled at my cat for no good reason. I snapped at my housemate. I thought about how much my life and everything in it sucks and how I’m not getting any younger and will probably be dead in the next 25 or 30 years with nothing to show for it. I thought about how most people my age and even much younger are doing much better than me emotionally, financially, and every other way. They have healthy, real relationships because they were given the emotional tools to have those things. My programming cut me off from having access to those things. Of course I was constantly reminded of my inferiority by my unsupportive narcissistic family (I was rejected and labeled “the black sheep” for my failure to attain the “success” in life my very programming denied me) until I cut off almost all contact with them. I was cruelly told to “sink or swim” but never given any swimming lessons and in fact spent most of my childhood with my head forcefully held under the water. That’s the sort of mindfuck you get when you’re the child of narcissists. You can’t win. You can only lose–and then you’re callously blamed for it. Sometimes you’re even disowned for it. I’ve been treading water–barely–for years, in constant fear of drowning.
The rain stopped and the sun is shining but I have no motivation to even go sit outside on the porch. All I want to do is stew in self pity and self hatred. Why? What good does it do? I hate it. Angry and bitter? You bet. But I refuse to drown in those feelings because I still hold onto hope that I can be a real person someday. I won’t give up on me, even though the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally did.
Finally I got a call from my daughter apologizing to me. She was crying. I felt so terrible. She told me how depressed she was and it sounded a lot like my own depression. She was talking about all the bad choices she’s made. She feels badly because some friends she went to school with are starting families or are getting advanced degrees or have careers and she has none of those things. But she’s just 23. She blames herself. I could relate. I tried to be empathetic and not think about the way I feel very much in the same boat–only I’m a lot older and don’t have my whole life ahead of me or the options she still does. I assured her that she may be a late bloomer but that she is blooming and to be patient with herself. I may never be a perfect mom, but I will never give up on her or abandon her the way my family did to me, because it’s not something you ever get over. It ruins you. It murders your soul. I won’t let her soul be murdered.
Sorry this post wasn’t more upbeat. But I’m just really depressed today and needed to write about it. It doesn’t help to keep this crap inside.
Do you know a “do gooder” who always somehow makes you feel guilty and less saintly than they are? Everyone knows someone who plays the martyr. Do you know a Needy Nancy or Ned who has an endless litany of problems that never seem to go away? Do they get mad at you when you try to help because your help isn’t good enough or is the wrong kind of help? Do you know someone who never apologizes, never admits wrongdoing, and never even says thank you when you offer help? That “victim” may actually be a narcissist. How can you tell the difference? Red flags. Gaslighting. Manipulation. Guilt trips. Projection. Blaming. They are never wrong but you always are, especially if you dare to suggest their problems may be their own fault. You can’t win with one of these characters.
This article describes the covert type of narcissist, who can be much harder to spot because they aren’t arrogant, grandiose and in your face. They’re good at what they do, so it pays to be vigilant.
It’s Narcissist Friday!
N – Get off the road, stupid idiot! That guy drives just like your brother!
You – Why do you say such mean things? It isn’t like you are a perfect driver.
N – What complaint do you have with my driving? You are always criticizing me. I have to be perfect before I can say anything anymore.
Then, when you get home:
N – Well, you can breathe now. I didn’t say anything mean and we got home without an accident. If you still think you can handle such a mean person, you should probably drive tonight when we go out. That way you can feel safe. Maybe I can sit back and criticize your driving.
Ever notice how the narcissist can become the instant victim? I used to have a relative who could say anything, accuse of anything, or criticize anything. But if…
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This article embarrasses me now, but I think it’s a great example of how narcissistic I can be sometimes, even online. I just thought I ought to call myself out about this whiney, self-pitying, falsely-humble, yet grandiose post that’s like wearing a neon sign flashing the words “I can’t take criticism! Waaaaahhh!” This is covert narcissism and BPD in a nutshell. Narcissistic injury. We’re always so butthurt over everything.
It’s interesting. At the time I wrote it, someone called me on this post being very narcissistic, and that upset and angered me (of course!) I actually couldn’t see anything wrong with this self-indulgent post and thought the person was being a bully. They were, but that doesn’t mean the article wasn’t narcissistic.
Seeing myself this way is like having glasses after years of being almost blind.
But I’m being careful not to beat myself up either. The past can’t be undone, but you can make your own future.
I feel like a disclaimer is needed, though the above photo should be enough of a disclaimer, because it says it all. Someone made a sarcastic remark about how I think I’m a celebrity because of this post, so I let their comment make me set this post to private, because I don’t have a thick skin and am too chicken to come out with a snappy or snarky comeback. I always think other people can get away with doing that, but I won’t be allowed to. It’s because of my past. I was never allowed to speak my mind or have a voice. Now I’ve internalized that and don’t allow myself a voice sometimes. I’m getting better but I’m not out of the woods yet.
In no way do I put myself in the same category as celebrities (who are just people who get wrinkles, have morning breath…
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“You’re too sensitive!”
This seems to be a phrase many ACONs have heard their entire lives. And yes, many of us are more sensitive than the average person, which is why we were targeted, scapegoated, and bullied in the first place.
Narcissists know being sensitive means we can see the truth about things, that we can see through bullshit and lies. They don’t like that because it exposes them for what they really are, so they turn a quality that gives us intuition and insight into something that makes us seem weak and defenseless.
If our parents were narcissists, we were trained to be ashamed of this quality and turn it against ourselves, rather than learn to refine it and develop it into the powerful gift it really is. Society doesn’t help much with that either. Sensitivity is generally thought of as a weakness rather than a strength. It’s not something you would want to admit on a job interview when the interviewer asks you what your “worst quality” is. I actually did that once, and was shown the door. They want to hear “I’m too impatient” or “I’m too greedy,” or “I obsess too much about power and control,” not “I’m too sensitive.”
I think narcissists also like to pull out the “you’re too sensitive” card because they’re projecting what they see as a fault in themselves onto us. They’re good at that. Narcissists are incredibly hyper-sensitive–but only about themselves; no one else ever benefits from their hypersensitivity.
It’s my opinion that narcissists, before they adopted narcissism as a defense mechanism, started out life as extremely sensitive children and in some cases even had the potential to be empaths. Abuse and neglect turned them into narcissists. Narcissism is an elaborate defense mechanism that obscures, buries and eventually can nearly destroy the sensitive true self. It almost would take an act of God for a narcissist to ever shed their swagger and their “I’m a big mean unfeeling badass” mask and let their sensitive true self come to light. Most of them couldn’t do it even if they wanted to.
But narcissists can’t hide from themselves–not completely. Most of them have exquisitely tender feelings and are easily hurt. It’s very easy to insult a narcissist. They have no sense of humor about themselves and are unable to take a joke at their own expense. They are big crybabies who will whine, sulk and complain loudly should you hurt their feelings (and it’s almost impossible not to). Most will show their hurt as rage–because raging makes them seem big and tough, something they really aren’t but wish they were. Or they will retaliate by ignoring you, abandoning you, cutting you off, or giving you the silent treatment–because those things make it look as if they don’t care. You’d be wrong though. They care alright, and when you have caused them narcissistic injury they are off licking their wounds in silence where you can’t see. Or loudly complaining to others about how
mean and narcissistic YOU are.
They call us too sensitive because they’re unable to own their own hypersensitivity. They turn it into a bad thing because they know they have lost that part of their sensitivity that would have made them able to feel for others and empathize. They’re crippled people. They can’t ever feel sorry for someone else–but as far as self-pity goes, no one can beat them at that.
Today wasn’t a good day, except for it being Friday.
1. I woke up with a pounding headache.
2. Traffic jam made me late again.
3. I wasn’t in a good mood and was being hypersensitive to everything. I felt like my coworker was picking on me today even though she probably wasn’t. Some days I just take everything the wrong way.
4. I felt depressed and negative all day, and I’ve noticed after some time of feeling more positive that a negative outlook tends to attract negative things.
5. I was unfavorably comparing myself to others who have things better. That’s a bad character defect (envy) I’m trying to work on.
6. I had another argument with my roommate. I’m convinced she is doing things to annoy me on purpose. I won’t even get into what the argument was about because it was stupid.
6. It was cold and windy and they are predicting snow tonight. I hate cold weather.
7. I was trying to renew my antivirus software and couldn’t open the browser to renew it. I Googled a customer service number for Norton and called the first one that came up, which was a shady company (iYogi–do NOT talk to them!) that supposedly represents Norton. I got a very nasty guy who barely spoke English who I allowed to remote access my computer, and he told me my hard drive was corrupted and then started hard-selling me some bullshit program to clean up my hard drive “that only cost $149.99 and you get all this!” He was almost impossible to get off the phone and started yelling at me and telling me I was being uncooperative because I wasn’t buying his hard sell.
I finally got him off the phone (he kept asking when he could call me) and scrolled on Google until I found a real customer service number and they were able to help me. Of course there wasn’t anything wrong with my hard drive, only a browser hijacker (Astromenda–be careful, it’s very hard to get rid of and it slows your system down and makes pages hard to open) that was blocking my access to certain pages. He told me people have complained to him before about iYogi. If you have Norton and have to call customer service, be sure it’s the actual Norton (Symantec) website’s number.
I don’t know why everything has to be so hard.
That’s it for the negativity for today. Tomorrow’s another day.
Sometimes you have to remind yourself you are still moving forward even if you take a step back sometimes. I don’t have as many bad days as I used to. But I was beating myself up for having a bad day, being negative, oversensitive, hypervigilant, impatient, and envious. I need to stop beating myself up all the time. I’m too hard on myself. I was trained too well.