Let me tell you what it’s like living with a narcissist. They are often the most popular people among their social group, and for good reason. The narcissist is a master emotional manipulator. He knows how to make people feel good in order to get what he wants. Once he’s got it, however, no matter how lovely the person he’s getting it from is, the narc is off looking for his next source of narcissistic inspiration … exploitation … supply.
Most narcs are so good at manipulating people that their victims – those poor souls who, out of the goodness of their hearts, have fallen prey to the narc’s abuse out of a pure desire to please them – are often not believed by those around them. In fact, some victims are even painted as the bad guy, with the narc convincing their most trusted confidantes (even people they’ve known for decades!) that the victim is, in fact, the abuser, the narcissistic one, the one in need of therapy or intervention. This is called triangulation. The narcissist is effectively recruiting others to do their job of manipulating for them. As a typical winning team, they then gang up on the victim or victims (usually objects of envy to the narc for whatever reason, real or imagined) and by means of isolation, casting doubt on their character or judgement and good old-fashioned gaslighting, slowly break him or her down, the way a snake’s stomach acid breaks down an insect – an insect that was unlucky enough to be caught and eaten.
I have lived with two spectacular narcissistic individuals for decades now. It must be said that their narcissistic abuse did not manifest clearly until after certain people left our lives, namely, those who were honest to a fault and consistently called the narcs out on their manipulative or deceitful behaviour. An honest and outspoken person is a great barrier to a narcissist because they tell it like it is, and the narc knows they don’t make exceptions. They are the best weapon, it must be said, against narcissism in all its forms because they treat everyone the same. And when you treat everyone the same, you are respected.
Do people hate you? Of course they do! But at the end of the day, they have to admit your supremacy over bullshit. You don’t tolerate lies. This makes the narcissist tremble in his boots. He skirts around you, avoids you, peeks at you with surreptitious eyes. Doesn’t try his usual shit on – not with you.
Such a person is, in my opinion, a hero.
My hero was my grandmother.
She was not only completely allergic to bullshit in all its forms and unafraid of putting people in their place; she was also kind, fair and – darn it, darn it, darn it – my best friend in the whole world.
When my grandmother died, I became like an orphan. I was lost, confused and intrigued by death for the first time in my life. When someone so close to you goes to a mysterious place you cannot, you yearn to follow them. Failing that, you thirst to learn as much about the place they went as possible on this side of the black curtain.
Ah, if only losing my grandmother was the only tragedy to have ever befallen me! I had no idea how bad – how unimaginably bad – things would get with her gone.
When my gran exited life, truth went with her.
Bullshit moved in … to stay.
My home became a war zone. In my initial days of being a Christian (beautiful and fresh as they were), it was often three against one. My mother and father took my brother’s lead in bashing me every which way they could. If it wasn’t complaints about my going to a non-Orthodox church and taking communion in the form of “orange juice” (my mother’s words, not mine), it was my befriending a Christian lady and sharing my inner life in Christ with her.
But who am I kidding? This was not my family’s fault. The narcissism, the abuse, the manipulation … all was sent by Satan for the express purpose of making me turn back from the path I had embarked on… And failing that, to make my life here on earth a misery. I had inherited eternal life. Therefore, I must be punished. I would spend glorious days with Jesus in heaven. Therefore, my earthly life must be as hellish as possible.
But this post is about narcissists. I can say in all honesty I have never met a narcissistic abuser like my brother in my whole entire life. Living with him, from the time we were children, has been an exercise in exasperated forgiveness. I remember being a toddler and seeing my father spanking him for some infraction. His pitiful cries would rouse me to cast myself between the spanker and spankee. “Daddy, no! Don’t spank my brother! Spank me instead!” I would cry, knowing it was futile to protest. These were, after all, the old days of corporal punishment. As my parents delighted in telling us, “Spanking came out of heaven.” (How I hated that phrase!)
However, when it came my turn to be spanked, cry as I may, no reciprocal calls for compassion came from my brother. Gleefully, he would take his stance beside my father and urge him to beat me harder. “Spank her more, Dad!” he would yell. “That’s the way!” I came to believe I deserved to be spanked since my own brother could not muster even a smidgen of sympathy or empathy for me, as I often did for him. “You don’t have a good personality,” I would so often hear from my mother. “Your brother and I can get along. I can’t speak to you.” Such hurtful words would usually issue forth after failed attempts at making nice while sharing culinary activities. For some reason, my mere presence in the kitchen seemed to trigger my mother. I would later learn it was because I reminded her so strongly of my grandmother, her mother-in-law, who had lived with us until almost her death. My mother harbours very painful memories of my grandmother. As I said, truth tellers don’t beat around the bush. They let people have it, good or bad, right between the eyes.
My mother, a soft soul, would often be crushed by my grandmother’s comments. Thoughts like, “You married my son like an ugly old bird captures the best flower” would not be too outlandishly insensitive for my grandmother to happily share with my poor mum. A daughter-in-law does not forget these things. Any person does not forget such things. Such things take root and fester and grow. They poison the soul. They turn a pleasant person into an emotional wreck … then an emotional manipulator … and finally into a full-blown manipulative narcissist – someone who is no longer capable of discerning the truth from lies because, quite frankly, they don’t care. Truth wounded them deeply. They now have no more time for it. Emotions rule the day.
Thinking about all this, I honestly cannot blame my brother for turning out the way he did. It was a cry for help, a way to make sense of the emotional whirlpool he was raised in. Trying to figure out my mother’s moods made him emotionally volatile in an effort to cope. The problem came when he began turning his weapons on me – the youngest of the family and the least respected in every way.
I constantly feel like I’m walking on egg shells around my brother. I never know when he will blow his top. It could be over the simplest thing – a sock placed in the wrong drawer or an ice cube tray left to air out. It’s really absurd when you think about it. There is no rhyme or reason to the explosive tantrums exhibited by narcs. They don’t seem to care who wins an argument as long as the argument keeps going and they can keep bashing you and making you feel drained and pathetic. These people have no logic in their minds yet they will argue till they’re blue in the face that logic is all they care about. They can shoot the head off their Siamese twin to make a point if they have to. Seriously, don’t make them angry.
Why am I sharing all this?
Because tonight, sadly, I did the thing I had always wanted to do but had never allowed myself to – I blocked my brother on Facebook. It hurt to do it – but a weed is a weed, lush and green though it is.
I once went no contact with my brother for three whole months while living under the same roof. It was the three most peaceful months I can remember as an adult. Now, I am considering going that route again – purely for the reason that I cannot talk to him anymore. I mean, I don’t know how to talk to him. There is no reason in our conversations. There is no love. There is only this exhausting sense of competition, of someone constantly wanting to put me in my place and show me I’m not that special – in fact, I’m nothing, really. I sometimes wish I were a ghost. Maybe then he’d like me. I don’t know. All I know is he needs help.
But where can the narcissist get help? When someone has isolated their loved ones from wise, thinking, no-bullshit people, people with hearts and souls, when they have drawn into their circle only those who are enraptured by them and under their spell, those who make perfect triangulation buddies … where can one turn? Those who could help, who could see things as they really are have all left, not having time for this crap. Those who are left are either too ignorant to see the truth, or they too are narcissists – and like attracts like.
This is a topic too little discussed in our culture. It often only makes the headlines as an afterthought in the aftermath of some horrible domestic violence incident, usually the murder of a woman by a man she trusted.
You want to know how many times I wish my brother was just a friend or boyfriend? Then it would be easy to leave him behind. To move on with my life and be free. But he is family. And if I were to cut him off forever, I would be scorned and judged by those who think they know what my family is all about but actually have no bloody idea.
I will close by sending out a little warning and a prayer. If you believe you are dealing with a narcissist or an emotional abuser, please, my friend, if you can, run.
Don’t be ashamed. You are saving your life and sanity. There is courage in daring to be a fleeing victim. There is courage in putting a stop to these phrases:
“He’s right – I am so dumb!”
“But I can’t get on without him.”
“Nobody would want me, silly and shy as I am.”
“Maybe I should just end it all, then I’ll finally have peace.”
There is great courage, my dear, in daring to believe you are stronger and smarter and kinder than you imagined. Narcs mess with our heads. Their first port of call is our creative mind. If they can restrict our imagination, they can stop us from achieving our potential and therefore showing them up, dull and insipid as they often are.
Narcs hate those who are better than them. They can’t stand someone else being the centre of attention. They abhor their weaknesses being shown to them. They haven’t grown up. They cannot deal with the reality of life. They need mummy or daddy love all the time, and if they can’t get it from actual parents, they will seek it out in their other relationships, often with disastrous results.
So never be tempted to believe what a narc says about you. You know what they say: “Narcs are always talking about themselves.” If they call you lazy, it’s because they are lazy. If they say you can’t cook, it’s because they’re not confident in the kitchen. And so on. Ignore it. Treat it as white noise. And get the hell out of there before it’s too late. A narc can only have hope of treatment if everyone else pisses off and leaves them alone with only themselves for company.
I pray with all my heart for all narcs to come to love themselves and others with the pure love of our Father in heaven. But failing that, I pray that all narc victims find the strength to transcend their painful situations and end up survivors – with great stories to tell!