I'm not sure if it was divine intervention or what but the other day, in the midst of my angst over the events of the past few weeks, I was suddenly aware of an interesting word and its definition. I have heard the word before, I sort of knew what it meant but I never really researched it much. As I was praying and crying and going over things in my head, the word made its way to my consciousness and I felt moved to delve into the meaning of it.
To be honest, I will never know if it was the Holy Spirit which led me there. Knowing how loving my Father is, and knowing that He knows not only the desires of my heart but my specific personality and my needs, I would like to think that the random way in which I came to this word and felt pushed to research it was a little gift from Him. Also, when I went to confession yesterday and spoke with a visiting priest, he relayed to me without knowing me or any specific details of my situation (as I only confessed my inability to show love to someone who has hurt me deeply), that I need to be mindful of the fact that other people are imperfect, too, and they have many problems themselves and can't always have healthy relationships with me. Ding ding ding!
Ok, so the word I'm referring to is Narcissist. The surface definition of narcissism is the excessive love of oneself. But when you actually take a look at the symptoms of a narcissist, i.e. the behavior they display in relationships, it goes much deeper than that. It fleshes out the degrees of self-love and what kinds of issues it causes in what could be a healthy relationship otherwise. I think a lot of people, myself included, can have narcissistic tendencies, especially when you have some emotional baggage you're still sorting out with God. BUT, to have the disorder, to really be hidden deep in the muck of narcissism is kind of scary, actually. Probably not to the narcissist because they're completely unaware of it, except if you're my friend, Erich, who seems to think he is a narcissist but doesn't mind saying so. But to other people, people who love a narcissist and want a relationship with them, it's frightening!
So there I am, reading over report after report of this word. I am not even close to really understanding the true depths it is capable of extending to. I am not an expert; I was aware of the word before but only began to really study it just the other night. I obviously cannot officially diagnose someone with NPD because I am not a psychiatrist. But from what I can understand of it, and what I can check-mark off the list of symptoms (practically everything), I believe the word fits as easily as Cinderella's lost glass slipper. Only this story is far from a fairytale.
How does one have a relationship with a narcissist? The answer is, simply, you don't. I mean, not really. You can have a surfacey relationship with a narcissist as long as you understand one thing: there is no fracking a narcissist.
What is fracking, you might ask? Fracking is a term used for hydraulic drilling/fracturing (for natural gas/oil, etc). It's high-pressure so it's apparently very useful in combination with regular drilling, to get to the source. However, there have been recent studies showing how unsafe, unstable and dangerous fracking actually is; not to mention a huge waste of resources and the potential of contamination and injury.
I've realized that the same can be said for trying to develop a deep close relationship with someone who displays narcissism as their primary personality trait. If you are the long-term victim of a narcissist (i.e. the boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, child, friend), you often have a sense of there being a good relationship and because of your victim status, you're completely unaware of the true nature of the relationship. From what I've read, you will defend the narcissist in your life for their behavior, sugar-coat and minimize their wrong-doings, and often put that person on a pedestal for being such a great person, for "saving" you (because the narcissist has made you believe you were nothing without them), etc. You might also develop some of the same tendencies they've displayed, blaming other people for issues that arise even though it's not their fault, or using people for your own purposes and then dropping them when you're done with them.
With a narcissist, you cannot dig deep. You cannot dig around into the relationship, trying to establish a close bond without the very real potential of something bad happening. You can't attempt to understand them without a lot of wasted effort and time as a result. Because almost everything you say is taken the wrong way, much of it can be manipulated and the end result is a lot of hurt. Often, narcissists will bring something up, make it a big deal but then back-track and say it's not a big deal, only after there has been some sort of blow up. In these instances, they were the ones attempting to do the fracking but in a very manipulative way and for all the wrong reasons; not to understand, but to control - you or the situation, and the explosion thereafter can often be paramount.
Taken from this source (also cited below this post) is a really good spot of information: Communication with a narcissist is best described as "crazy making"
because narcissists are known to reinvent reality to suite their
personal agenda. Leading psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D. weighed in on the topic to further explain the mindset of a narcissist: "Since
narcissists believe that the world revolves around them, or that it
should, they think they can reinvent reality and no one should question
them. Even though they know that what they're writing or saying is
stretching the truth, they think that they are so clever about it that
they will fool the recipient into going along with them." Narcissists thrive on evoking both reactions and emotions from their victims.
Reading that above statement right there was like someone
just hit the nail on the head! I read through several of the
correspondence emails that had caused so much anxiety for me the past
few weeks and realized how much of that had taken place. One such
instance was saying that she had asked me several questions in a
previous email to which I did not respond, but I combed over that email 3
times and found not even one question. I re-read the email before
that, still no questions asked. There were several other instances in
which I found the "truth to be stretched," and it just made my heart
ache. I can't even get mad about this sort of thing, it is just too sad
To share some of what I've learned about how to deal with a narcissist, here are two suggestions I found to be very helpful, taken from this source (also cited below):
Know when you’re being gaslighted.
When your narcissist says something, then later denies saying it or
claims to have said something different, you can find yourself doubting
your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is he nuts? Am I
nuts? What’s going on here? Your narcissist may be doing this
maliciously to throw you off balance. Or, more likely, he’s simply
responding to his need of the moment, forgetting what he previously
(I had this happen in this scenario several times and I really thought I was going crazy. I mean, seriously, I have mommy brain and post-partem brain and I have so many other things going, plus I'm not perfect, it is possible that I could have been wrong in those cases but when I had actual words staring at me on a screen that backed up what I thought, I knew it. The reality of this "gaslighting" suffocated me like thick smoke, but at least I knew I wasn't crazy after all!)
Bolster your own self-esteem.
Don’t be surprised if your self-esteem tanks because your narcissist
is bent on satisfying his own needs, not yours. This doesn’t mean that
something’s wrong with you. What it does mean is that you’re not getting
enough positive reinforcement. So, say kind things to yourself. Spend
more time with others who think highly of you. Get involved with group
activities that bolster your ego.
(So this past week, after having been told that I was such a disappointment over and over and being made to feel like everything was my fault (though all I wanted to do was UNDERSTAND), my self-esteem did a major downward spiral. Everything that I messed up on in my own life with my own family seemed to be magnified and I was in a very raw state of self-hatred and despair. It was so difficult to climb out of it. THANK THE LORD for the sacrament of confession because it was up until this past Saturday when I went that I really couldn't seem to see the light of day no matter how hard I tried. My husband seemed really concerned about me and my kids suffered greatly for it. It is very important, especially as a mother, to take this piece of advice because when you feel low, it's not only setting a really bad example for your kids in the way of how one should view oneself, but it affects them in so many negative ways.)
Now if only I can put these things into practice. Given the place in my life this person has, it doesn't seem feasible to just stop talking to her. And honestly, I don't think that's what God wants of me. We had to do that several years ago, my husband making that decision, for what I see now as the same reason though I didn't understand it then. But, it wasn't just because she was/is a narcissist; it was because her interactions with us were affecting our marriage and we were already struggling so much. We had to get rid of everything that made it more difficult to unite as the couple God made us when we joined together as one on our wedding day. There were other relationships and things we let go of back then, too, that we could not pick back up again. As a recovering co-dependent, it's a bit of a difficult scenario for me as it's kind of dangerous to have a relationship like this. And often, the pain of my flesh likes to speak above the love in my heart. I don't think letting go completely is what God is asking of us now. I'm not really sure what it is. I have much more prayer to engage in.
And that is one of the best pieces of advice I have received and in turn, offer: PRAY! If you are dealing with someone who exhibits this personality, pray for yourself and for that person. Pray that the Holy Spirit can guide your interactions and help you stay on the path you are meant to be on toward Him. And pray for healing and a conversion for them and anyone they have affected with their behavior.
So what is the point of writing all this anyway? This actually really really hurts to even think about, let alone write out. But, at the same time, one of the reasons I started a blog was because I am a servant and though I don't always write anything of importance or direction, I do know many of the things I have written and shared have helped others. I can only give that glory to God as He is the one who placed it on my heart to serve in this way and I am nothing without Him. Sometimes I fail miserably and don't always come across the right way to some. I am guilty of that a lot. But sometimes, there is a nugget to be found amidst these heart-felt ramblings of mine, and whether I am told about it helping someone or not, God knows which ones and directs them accordingly. Though I only have 30-some followers, I have noticed some other traffic from all over the world here to my blog from people googling different phrases which land them here. Hopefully, their short stops will find them gleaning some small tidbit of information they didn't have before, or some inspiration from God's love which I try often to convey here.
I can't pretend like this blog is much of anything in reality but if one lonely lost sheep finds even one iota of *something* which leads them to a better life, than God's job for me has been fulfilled. I think about many lovely ladies in my life whose blogs I happened upon in weird random ways (probably divine intervention), and how several of them have become close friends, mentors, and sisters in Christ. All that just from them doing what God asked of them. I only hope to mirror some semblance of their servanthood, humility and grace.
While I write about many things on this blog, mostly centered in my motherhood and my immediate family of 5 children and my husband, I think it's important to step out of my comfort zone, lay my heart open and bare on the line, and reach out to anyone who struggles with other issues as I do. Today it's the serious subject of dealing with unhealthy, hurtful people...tomorrow it could be something as simple as how to not burn biscotti!
(Some of) My Sources: