To everything there is a season…

I forgot about this old article I wrote in June 2015, but I’d like to put these thoughts out there again for others to think about.

Lucky Otters Haven

seasons

There seem to be three different kinds of people in the world. Those who are fake-positive, always wearing a plastered on smile and never admitting to failure or to their true emotions; those who walk around wearing their misery like a badge of honor; and everyone else.

Before I became active in the narcissistic abuse community, I really only met the first type of person and the third. I’m all too well acquainted with “positive thinking nazis” — you know, fake and shallow people who don’t want to acknowledge your pain and tell you to “get over it” or “you bring your misery on yourself with your negativity.” These people are often–but not always–narcissists (but even when they aren’t, they are all neurotypicals.) They are good at social skills and making a good impression at all times, and that means they are always smiling. They cannot and will not understand…

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8 ways letting go of my “narc-hate” has changed me for the better.

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Back when I started this blog, I was a narc-hater. I think such an attitude is both justified and normal when you’re trying to go No Contact with an abuser. In fact, your rage gives you the courage and motivation to make your escape, because righteous anger overrides fear. Without that anger, you’d stay stuck in fear and codependency and that has an extremely high price, maybe even your life.

But too many abuse survivors (I prefer the term “survivor” to “victim”) can’t or won’t move on from the rage and hatred. Although that enables them to get to the point of going No Contact with their abusers, they seem to remain stuck in a victim mentality that keeps them from progressing or moving past the abuse in their minds, even though the narcissists are out of their lives.

Here are 8 good reasons why letting go of narc-hate has made my life better, and can make yours better too.

Not everyone is going to like this post, and I understand. It’s controversial to some people. But these things have been an important part of my recovery and without them, I’d still feel like a victim instead of a survivor!

1.  Education.  After I ditched the hate, I realized I wanted to learn the real facts about NPD. I found out that not all of them are evil or don’t want to change. I learned this mostly by reading forums for people with NPD and found they are just as human as anyone else, but have adopted certain defense mechanisms that cause them to project onto and act out toward others.

2. Looking inward.  Letting go of hatred made me able to look at myself and see my own narcissism (I was shocked to learn I had quite a few N traits of my own!) I am working on those now in therapy. I would not have been able to do this if I hung onto my “us versus them” mentality.

3. The victim mentality sucks.  I found out that by hanging onto rage, when it has nowhere left to go, you start to become paranoid and start finding narcissism in normal human behavior. You begin to suspect everyone of being a narcissist.   You even run the risk of becoming narcissistic yourself.   I’ve seen it happen too many times to people who had no idea it was happening to them.  That’s no way to live and a sure recipe for misery and continually feeling like a victim.

4. Pity removes their “teeth.”  I started to feel less like a victim. By realizing my abusers did what they did because they couldn’t help themselves, and not because they were inhuman, evil monsters, somehow that made them seem to have a lot less power over me. They began to seem sort of…pathetic. Which they are.

5. They can teach you about yourself. Slowly, I realized that although what they did to me was terrible, that they chose me as a target precisely for those qualities which are my strongest and which I want to reclaim (having tried to hide them due to shame) and develop even more: sensitivity, vulnerability, empathy, and the ability to love. Framed this way, narcissists can be very important teachers in our life’s journey. I’m beginning to realize just how valuable these lessons were. Whatever they seem to hate about you are those things you should work to develop and use even more. They hated you because you had strengths they envied and feared.

6. Strength.  Having grown up in a family full of narcissists, I had to become strong. I think I’m a lot stronger and think more deeply about human nature and life in general than I would have if I had been raised in a normal home.

7.  Shades of grey.   I found out that nothing is black or white. Everything is just shades of grey. Narcissists usually also have PTSD and adopted narcissistic defense mechanisms, and those of us who aren’t narcissists are still often on the spectrum somewhere. There’s a lot of overlap between the “victims” and the “abusers.” Often a person can be both.  Realizing this has made me more empathetic in general and less likely to see everything in terms of black and white.

8.  It’s better to be a survivor than a victim.  If I continued thinking of myself as a “poor victim” instead of someone who could actually learn something from the narcs, I would not have come so far in my recovery as I have.

How to recognize a covert narcissist.

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When most of us think of narcissists, we think of the overt type– arrogant and full of themselves, outwardly aggressive, flying into rages if they don’t get their way or their supply is not cooperating, confrontational, demanding, and high-maintenance. Think of the tyrannical boss everyone’s terrified of; the demanding, high maintenance, conceited friend; the roommate who feels entitled to “borrow” your clothes, car or money without asking; or the abusive and philandering husband–those are examples of overt narcissists. They’re in your face. They’re outwardly obnoxious. They may seem nice when you meet them (otherwise they wouldn’t be able to trap you as prey), but as soon as you’re in their clutches, they begin to show their true colors.

The second type, covert narcissists, seem much more benign, even after they’ve reeled you in as a source of supply. They don’t necessarily drop the nice act. That’s why they’re so dangerous. Because it’s hard to put your finger on what these dolls are actually doing, you may think there’s something wrong with you for feeling wary or nervous around such a “nice” person. They are the true wolves in sheeps clothing. The red flags are much harder to see in a covert narcissist. But make no mistake–they are predators too.

Some examples of covert narcissists include:

— the compassionate and friendly nurse who “accidentally” kills her patients.
— the needy friend who gives you unasked for gifts or does unasked for favors, then complains that you are acting selfishly if you want to spend time doing something besides being with them.
— the spouse who plays “martyr” and puts everyone on a guilt trip because of “everything they’ve done for you.”
— the friend who seems to have a neverending litany of problems, but when you try to help them they never take your advice or give you a long list of reasons why the advice you give them will never work. This friend is an emotional parasite, and will make you feel drained.
— the parasitic spouse who won’t get a job (and doesn’t appear to be trying). They keep giving you “reasonable” excuses as to why they can’t find one or why they haven’t tried to look. Really, they are just trying to live off you.

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Illustration by Mike Reed.

The red flags we normally look for to peg a narc are much more difficult to detect in a covert narcissist, because they can seem so friendly, charming, generous and even altruistic (yes, altruism can be selfish when it comes with strings attached). The website Info Self Development, in their article about covert vs overt narcissists, lists these tell tale signs for recognizing a covert narcissist:

–Emptiness, seems to have something missing that you can’t quite put your finger on
–Stubborn, rarely apologising unless they want something from you (see narcissistic supply)
–Ability to make you feel guilty, even when something is not your fault
–Entirely self centered; they are the center of their own universe
–Expert liars; charming, hypnotic, a master of manipulation
–Projecting their insecurities and defects onto you
–Very sensitive to constructive criticism
–Inability to form intimate relationships
–Inability to feel genuine remorse
–Blaming others for their problems
–Low emotional intelligence
–Highly materialistic
–Extreme lack of empathy
–Superficially charming
–A victim mentality.

I think the last one is important– victim mentality. These are the do-gooders, the “altruists,” the first person to volunteer for the church fundraising drive, the mother who volunteers as the classroom mother, the favor-doing friend. If you fail to “appreciate” their good deeds to their satisfaction or live up to their unrealistically high expectations (for example not volunteering ALL your free time to the church fundraising drive), watch out. That’s when they will work behind the scenes to ruin your reputation through gossip, lies, and triangulation. They are “martyrs” and you are selfish and evil for not sacrificing yourself the way they have “for you.”

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They can also appear in the form of a needy “friend” who monopolizes your time with a seemingly neverending litany of problems or crises (sometimes brought on by themselves). They never seem to learn from their mistakes, and they will eat up your time and patience pleading or begging you to “fix” things for them. They almost seem to take a perverse pride in being victims. But any advice you give them will be dismissed or ignored. They will make excuses as to why the advice you gave them wouldn’t work. In some cases you may even be blamed for giving them the “wrong” advice, thereby making their problems even worse. They are emotional vampires who take and take, but never give anything back in return. If you ever have a problem, fuggaddaboutit. They won’t be there for you.

Covert narcissists may seem nice, but they aren’t. As with any narcissist, the best way to handle them is by avoiding them or cutting off contact with them if you can.