Becoming real.

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I haven’t been posting as much about my recovery or therapy on this blog as I used to, because it’s grown so big and I feel more comfortable posting such deeply personal stuff on my other blog, because it’s so much smaller and has far fewer readers than this one does.

But I’m making an exception today, because of how important I think this dream I had last night is.

My subconscious mind seems to be revealing the most to me lately through my dreams. Later I tell my therapist about them, and we interpret them together. Sometimes though, the meaning is obvious to me and lately it’s getting easier for me to figure these dreams out on my own.

In my last therapy session, I was asked what my real self is really like.   I wasn’t able to answer very well.  I felt like I had to make things up.  Chair Girl (my inner child, who I have “sit” in a chair in my therapist’s office, which is how she got her name) is so elusive, and only comes out intermittently.  I know she’s shy and has the potential to be very loving, but sometimes it’s hard for me to capture her essence, who SHE is.

Last night, I had another beautiful dream that answered this for me.

I owned a strange object.   It was a cat made out of black stone.   But it wasn’t actually black stone.   The person who gave it to me explained that this object had once been a real cat, who had been killed during a plane crash (but whose body somehow remained intact) and whose owner, a man from China, had the cat’s body cryogenically frozen and sealed, much like those services that do taxidermy on dead pets and send your pet back to you stuffed and fitted with glass eyes.  But this cat wasn’t stuffed and it didn’t have glass eyes.   It was hard as a rock, heavy, and shone like stone.   Its eyes were sealed shut, forever sleeping.

I loved the cat anyway, and felt sad over what had happened to it.  I  liked to just sit with it and pet it, even though it was no more than an object and could never respond or give back any love.  I sometimes wondered what he had been like, and I named him Max.

One day something very strange happened.  I knew Max had been dead for years.   But on this one day, while I was holding it in my arms, pretending it was a real cat, I heard a small mew.     I looked down and saw that Max was trying to open his eyes.    I almost dropped him in shock, but instead set him down gently on a chair and watched in amazement.   I wasn’t sure what to do.   This was scaring me.  But I was frozen in place.   I couldn’t stop watching.

Max began to transform.   His cold stone body became a beautiful coat of reddish brown tabby fur, and his eyes, now opened, turned from black to brilliant blue.   He started to breathe.  He looked up at me and meowed loudly.  It occurred to me he must be part Siamese, with those blue eyes and loud, raspy voice.

I asked him if he was hungry, and he immediately jumped down and walked regally toward the kitchen, as if he understood what I was asking him.  He kept looking back at me, meowing.  I happened to have some cat food and he ate as if he’d been starving.    My shock having worn off,  I felt love overflowing for this tiny animal.   I picked Max up and held him and listened to him purr contentedly.    He was so tiny but so beautiful and I realized that somehow, it was my love that had woken him up and transformed him back into a living, breathing, loving cat.

One of my favorite stories as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit, and I think it’s because of the universal truth in that story:  that being loved is how one becomes real.

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Max is the real me.  By learning self-love and self-empathy, she’s waking up and making herself known. She’s becoming real.

If you choose to stay with your narcissist…

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Lidija Rangelovska (Sam Vaknin’s wife) recently wrote about staying with her narcissistic husband and how she handles him.

My view, my principle…
People, unconsciously, but more often intentionally, complicate their lives in order to make some sense of their existence and to justify their actions. Me included. We are all, as my FB friend put it: “personal strength junkies”, who try so hard to be accepted and to belong. It comes from our upbringing, our unstable environment, and the fear of being alone. So, when we find a person that loves us or shows us affection, we are “hooked” and we won’t give up on that person. But we also don’t want to compromise, we want to keep our freedom and to have control over the other. And what now? It’s simple: we have to adapt to the changes and find a new meaning in life!
For me personally freedom is the most important. So, I assume that it is the same with all others and I do give people space… where their selves emerge and grow. If there is a person who has common sense and similar views of life to mine, there is a solid and healthy ground on which to develop the relationship.
But we should learn to communicate, share experiences and emotions, be honest and truthful… not be afraid and manipulative. We should learn to trust in order to understand and accept the other. We should build safe grounds for unconditional love to grow on. And isn’t this all that matters in life?

And later…

…my mother tongue is “narcissist”, literally. I was raised by malignant narcissists and HAD to learn how to communicate with them. And I wouldn’t name it as such, because it’s not the “language” of the narcissist, but of the abused. The “language” consists of understanding the abuse that occurred in the narcissist’s early childhood owing to which s/he adopted the False Self later in the adolescence. It is the ONLY self that the narcissist is aware of and if you can’t accept it, you won’t be able to understand her/him.

My advice would be to not even try to go there, as I call it, the “twilight zone”… it’s the “unknown and forbidden” to some people. For me that zone was my natural habitat. I was there… growing up in an emotionally and physically abusive family. I became codependent and was raised to be a good Source of Supply. I honestly don’t wish that on anyone!

So, then, why am I with Sam?
We are both emotionally damaged and we do understand each other’s pain. It’s in a space and at a time where we fulfill each other’s our unique psychodynamic needs. Where conditions don’t exist and there isn’t a room for any – that is where unconditional love exists… at least, where I found it.

[Anonymous] explained this dynamic […] in a very subtle way. “Personal strength junkies” is her term, not mine…

I’m glad there are people who really want to explore their and other people’s nature/character driven by their curiosity to learn more about themselves in order to relate to their significant others. Indeed, a person has to have the courage to do so… they’re the real heroes, not the ones that deny their existence and adopted the “go with the flow” principle… that’s selfish.

Then she posted the beautiful quote above from the children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit.” It’s amazing how profound certain books for children can be but there’s a wonderful message about unconditional love for adults too.

Several other people who are married to or in relationships with narcissists discussed how they are able to cope with staying with them without losing themselves or developing mental disorders like PTSD. Without exception, the narcissistic spouses (all male) have insight into their disorder and their wives have learned how to “speak narcissist.” There seem to be two primary requirements (besides the patience of a saint): (1) a strong maternal instinct, and (2) an unflappable sense of humor. Under these unusual circumstances, a relationship with a narcissist may actually work for both partners. Some may think of this as an unequal, codependent and even abusive partnership, but if framed as a kind of eternal mother/child relationship, it doesn’t have to be pathological.

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As for myself, I could never work things out with my malignant narcissist ex-husband and I went No Contact early last year (it’s actually Low Contact because we have children, so being completely No Contact isn’t really a possibility.) He had zero insight and denied he was a narcissist at all (instead, he projected his narcissism onto me and made himself out to be the victim and me the abuser). I think when a narcissist has no capacity for insight (which is probably most of them) and is in denial, No Contact (or Low Contact) is the best way to go to avoid psychological damage to ourselves. Even insightful narcissists who are not in denial about their disorder are highly dangerous people and should be handled with extreme caution. They are ticking time bombs.

What [Anonymous] and Lidija have shared provide hope that for SOME narcissists, there may be a way to stay with them and nurture them while not allowing them to obliterate our psyches–and in some cases even benefit from the relationship. It would take someone with a LOT of empathy and even more patience but I believe it can be done in some cases. Having a strong maternal instinct is of utmost importance because essentially, a narcissist is an emotional infant, unable to see others as separate from them. You must accept the fact they are probably never going to get “better.”

As for reproducing with them? Having children with a narcissist you are voluntarily and mindfully nurturing would be disastrous because to the narcissist, a child would be competition and have demands that would need to be met before theirs. This would enrage them in the same way a new brother or sister enrages a three year old. If you are married to or in a relationship with a narcissist and wish to stay with them and nurture them instead of going No Contact, they must be your ONLY “child.” When you choose to be with a narcissist, you are adopting an eternal infant. You would have to accept the fact they will most likely never grow up. Obviously, this choice wouldn’t be for everyone.

Second to a strong desire to “mother” your narcissist would be the ability to laugh at their antics and not take things too seriously. In one woman’s case, she said her narcissistic husband laughs WITH her, even though she admits the joke is usually on her.

I’m happy to hear there are people who can actually make things work with a narcissist. It requires a great deal of unconditional love and the ability to always put your own needs in a distant second place. I don’t recommend it for most people though.

ETA: I would recommend another requirement to making a relationship with a narcissist work: establish FIRM and VERY CLEAR boundaries, early in the relationship. Lidija clearly does this– I remember her saying in “I, Psychopath” when asked who made the rules she said she did. You would have to! Part of the maternal relationship requires the ability to provide discipline when it’s needed too. A narcissist who respects you because you established boundaries and can laugh with them and speak to them in their language won’t have a problem following your rules but may need to be reminded sometimes. 😉

Making love last with a narcissist: the rules

Old Couple

In summary, here are the cardinal rules for keeping your sanity intact while in a relationship or marriage to a narcissist:

1. Be a high empathy person with a strong maternal instinct.

2. Accept the fact they will probably never be cured.

3. Establish FIRM boundaries as early as possible and don’t be afraid to remind them of the rules when they balk or disobey. Remember you are dealing with an emotional toddler.

4. Be willing to always be in their shadow and not steal the show from them

5. Be able to LAUGH and not take what they do and say too personally.   It’s not about you.

6. Do not have children with your narcissist.  He/she is your child. (I used to joke that my MN ex husband was my “other child.” How true that was, and in some ways I wish I had known some of these rules back then, which might have made my life a little easier while still with him.)

The narcissist has to fulfill a requirement too. He or she must be insightful enough to recognize they are narcissists and mentally ill.