This excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s 1949 play “The Cocktail Party” encapsulates the narcissist experience.
“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
In a blog post titled “Narcissistic Friends: What’s the Attraction?” featured on Psychology Today, Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D. explains what being friends with a narcissist often entails. White also explains why so many people, especially women, struggle to disengage from these toxic friendships.
Although befriending a narcissist isn’t quite the same as engaging in a relationship hallmarked by abuse, there can be a similar dynamic in that the narcissist is able to draw back in a friend who is trying to break from the relationship. Narcissists can be master manipulators who are driven only by the need to gain power through any means possible that allows them to come out looking good on the surface even if inflicting unseen wounds to the psyche.
Read the blog post here
Feelings are not reality, but they are often excellent indicators of my thoughts about my relationships and the actions I’ve taken in my relationships. Do I feel lousy? Like a failure? Like I’m not blessed the way others are? By no longer dismissing my feelings, I can use them as tools for healing. If a relationship does not feel good, why am I staying?
If I must or choose to stay in a relationship—or if I need to have contact with the narcissist—what can I do differently that feels better, without hurting myself in the long run?
Dwelling on negative thoughts, known as ruminating, is understandably detrimental to mental health and wellness. However, in an article titled “The Hazards of Rumination for Your Mental and Physical Health” featured on U.S. News, Stacey Colino points out that persistent ruminating can cause physical consequences as well. Colino writes:
“…research has linked this tendency toward overthinking with numerous harmful behaviors, particularly overeating and drinking too much alcohol, as well as health consequences such as an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and other toxic effects. A study…found that when people ruminate after a stressful experience, it takes them longer to recover physiologically…compared to those who use distraction tactics. Previous research…found that people with a tendency to ruminate experience exaggerated and prolonged increases in their blood pressure and heart rate…”
Read the article here
You will likely be caught completely off guard and left confused and wounded by what the narcissist in your life does next. One minute, it’s all sweetness and light. The next, it’s the silent treatment. The narcissist may withhold communication, affection, attention, or suddenly act like they do not understand why you are behaving a certain way.
This is called “projecting.” Think of a motion picture projector, how it projects a picture out there, on the wall. For the narcissist, other people are the walls and they are the projector. Bad feelings are relegated to the other person (“Why are you always in a foul mood?” “Why do you always have to have your way?” “You are so sensitive but you never hear me.”)
Adapted from NARCISSISM: SURVIVING THE SELF-INVOLVED
I have options. I need not hold onto the fantasy of my relationship any longer. How I see myself and the narcissist is evolving on a daily basis. I’m allowed to change my mind, to stand up for myself. I also know that I’m not always the expert—nor do I need to be. I am growing, seeking to learn, to better myself.
What a relief to learn that I also have choices as to when not to act, to speak, to engage. It’s a humbling part of my recovery.
An important step in healing is focusing on myself. Focusing doesn’t mean blaming and it doesn’t mean pointing out flaws. It means being aware of what I need in the present moment. I notice how meeting my own needs and putting myself first is getting more comfortable.
A new study from the University of Liverpool featured in BMC Psychiatry shows that having a companion animal can be tremendously helpful for those with mental health struggles. From instilling a sense of purpose to encouraging physical activity and social connectedness, pets offer numerous benefits. Lead researcher Dr. Helen Louise Brooks determines:
“Pets could contribute to a sense of preparedness to take self-management action through increasing people’s positivity and self-efficacy.They encouraged their owners to stay in the present avoiding worry and ruminations about past behaviours or concerns about the future. Pets were also considered important in terms of providing protection for their owners…”
Read the entire article here
Focusing on your narcissistic parent might be like a default setting in your brain—you always return to the same place. This is how you’ve been trained by the narcissistic parent to elevate them. By elevating and asking for them to absolve you, for example, you’ve essentially given your power to them.
The healthier, nontoxic way of being in a relationship would be for you to figure things out based on internal cues from inside you. You may see that what you are feeling bad about having done or said is not actually something you did or say, but rather something that the narcissist did or said. The convoluted dynamic would be complete when you apologize for it.
Adapted from When Your Parent Is a Narcissist
In December 2017, The New Yorker published a short story titled “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian. Highlighting gender expectations, dynamics and the intersection of consent and appropriate behavior, Roupenian explores a brief relationship between Margot, a college student and the older man starts dating, Robert. As her interactions with Robert begins to turn, Margot feels uncomfortable and torn. “Cat Person” became one of the most read fiction pieces of the year. In an interview, Roupenian explains why the story-especially Margot’s actions- elicited such intense reactions and opinions from readers.
“That option, of blunt refusal, doesn’t even consciously occur to her—she assumes that if she wants to say no she has to do so in a conciliatory, gentle, tactful way, in a way that would take “an amount of effort that was impossible to summon.” And I think that assumption is bigger than Margot and Robert’s specific interaction; it speaks to the way that many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy. It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting, and if you do it long enough you stop consciously noticing all the individual moments when you’re making that choice.”
Read “Cat Person” here
Read Kristen Roupenian’s interview here
Famous and wealthy men often get a “pass” when it comes to narcissistic behavior, harassment, and abuse. The personal misdeeds of performers, directors, and Hollywood executives are often overshadowed by their successful careers. In an article from The New York Times, Amanda Hess explains that we can longer separate the art from the artist. Hess writes:
“These men stand accused of using their creative positions to offend — turning film sets into hunting grounds; grooming young victims in acting classes; and luring female colleagues close on the pretext of networking, only to trap them in uninvited sexual situations. The performances we watch onscreen have been shaped by those actions. And their offenses have affected the paths of other artists, determining which rise to prominence and which are harassed or shamed out of work. In turn, the critical acclaim and economic clout afforded their projects have worked to insulate them from the consequences of their behavior.”
Read the entire article: “How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women”