My first relationship, as well as my most recent, was with the same childhood narcissist, revisited 35 years later. As I have mentioned in other posts, the most traumatic moment my young adolescent life was the night he invited me to a party. It was a party with ALL of his friends, including his new girlfriend, who was apparently replacing me. Meeting his new girlfriend up close and personal in full view of all onlookers when I believed I was his girlfriend, was humiliating. He used me as means to make her jealous. This kind of using me, I now understand is called triangulation. He went on to marry her. As I understand it, some years later she went screaming out into the night. I have no doubt this time around, he was grooming me to play the same role with the new girl he was courting while telling me how much he LOVED me!. What I have learned from therapy, and my own personal research is my narcissist LOVES triangulation! While he would deny it to be sure, he cultivated, groomed, and mentioned ALL his ex-relationships…including the one he left me for 35 years ago. The ex-partners as well as all the new gal-pals were always in the mix of our conversations and interactions. “This one said this, that one said that,” all of a sudden I was up against him and THEM! My narcissist LOVED the drama! My narcissist will never NOT be the center of attention! My narcissist will NEVER change! My narcissist will NEVER be happy!
Be honest with yourself. How many other people (girls) were between you and your narcissist? List all the people that he enlisted in his army, include; assistances, family members, friends, housekeepers, landscapers, realtors, decorators, dog walkers, house sitters, check out girls at Meijer…you get the idea. You, him and his harem, is this the kind of intimate relationship life you want?
One of the hardest things for me is knowing my narcissist moved on so easily without me. The truth is he began moving on from the moment he reconnected with me. From the first time he said, “I am falling in love with you again- you are my soul mate (again), my one and only, and you are perfection blah blah blah” he was already baiting the hook for my replacement. I cannot take this personally, as I must realize by now only a sick disordered personality would ever be able carry out such hurtful, manipulative, and cruel conduct. The reason he is on to someone else and I am not, is because I am NORMAL! Wel…l more normal than the narcissist to be sure. I was abandoned, and discarded while I was still investing, and working on the relationship. It is easy to think wow there must be something wrong with me. I can’t connect with anyone. The truth is I have not yet disconnected from the illusion of the ideal romance I thought I had. Most of us are not courting other relationships while telling the person we are with “you are the love of my life!” Only a very corrupt character could be so evil. Normal people feel bad when they mislead and lie, not my narcissist!
The reason narcissists moved on so easily, is because they do not subject themselves to the NORMAL rules of good conduct. They will NOT experience the grief of a broken heart. Their investment in us was ephemeral. We are grieving a hollowed out shell of artificial emotional mimicry. It is not our fault that we want to invest in others. But it is our humanity that made us vulnerable to him. It his lack of humanity that will continue to drive him. He will never, never, never change. We will! Think about “normal.” Normal people, good people, people of integrity, and character are not wired to lie, and cheat for their sadistic pleasure. This is who we mourn, the soulless sadist laughing, and delighting in our pain. List the attributes of what you think is NORMAL. Compare that list to all the other list you have made regarding the behavior of your narcissist… The gap, is real do not fall in it again!
It is important to understand my enemy, both the external as well as the internal ones. There is time to learn, study and reflect on the narcissist. I feel like I have spent the entirety of my adult life in the pursuit. Unfortunately for me, I think the better part of that pursuit was to endear myself the narcissists in my life, NOT to separate from them. Ironically, it would seem despite their unyielding rejections, I am just hell bent on trying to love the people that refuse to love me back! So putting the narcissist on to the side for a moment, who am I? Until now I have been a kind of human reflection pool for all the narcissists in my life. I was born into this kind of servitude, and learned to oblige my masters well. I have to remember, Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, losing his will to live because he was not able to release his gaze. I have been conditioned to be that reflection, forced to serve with that same uncompromising zeal. From a little girl, telling both my parents what they wanted to hear, to my first intimate relationship, I have learned to be the reflection of the people closest to me. The sad truth is as I reflected back to them, I absorbed part of the image. Sadly, I allowed my identity to be influenced by the sickest, manipulating, and most demanding people in my circle. This is the hardest part of dependency, separating myself from the punitive, rejecting, and abandoning forces that continue to draw me close. I am somehow attracted to all my narcissists because this relationship model is the only one I recognize as normal, and this is the biggest of all lies! It is here, at ground zero steeped in the emotional excrement of another failed attempt to love my childhood narcissism revisited, I begin to discover myself for the first time. There are both pluses and minuses that define my personality. Getting to know me is like getting to know anyone…a process.
As a result of this new insight into myself, I found myself in this kind of emotional blank slate… As I move out of the pathological narcissistic space, I choose to reflect on myself. As this is a process, we share this assignment. Evaluate your life, embracing all the good things that make you the person you are today. If there are attributes or aspects of your life that call for change, make a plan to start making changes. Think of your ideal self and take small steps each day to get yourself into the place that feels best for YOU!!
It feels like the entirety of my life has been a quest to find love. It has become my identity, my quest. I have idealized the connection into an almost Cinderella like extension of myself. My narcissist understood my vulnerability. He depended on it! He fostered it! He used it to crush me, and drew sadistic satisfaction from it! These rescue images, grounded in some savior fantasy, albeit compelling, is just not reality. I think because of the chaos of my youth, I imagined this person who would come along as save me from the isolation, and suffering. It was clear that no one including my mother, father, aunts, uncles or love interest were going to be the ones to do it! It was this final most heart wrenching go around when my childhood narcissist returned, which played out in front of my son that finally woke me from the co-dependent quagmire. Like it or not, I am resonating in reality. My reality, is a place where self –love, self-awareness, and self-driven understanding will be my only true salvation. This is an unsettling new place, however, this is my new operating platform. I feel very young and awkward in this space. Sometimes I feel frightened, overwhelmed, sad but hopeful that I can turn the corner into “more normal-vile.” I have lost so many years, waiting. I have spent the entirety of my life glorifying people who don’t care for me. I chased people who could not love me. I ignored and dismissed people who present with stability. I saw them as boring and lackluster. After all in the quiet hum of normal, what would I do? Part of learning to love and care for myself is the acceptance of REALITY. Reality, is that quiet hum of two people simply sharing time together. That is the magic!
Examine your personality. Are you the person in a never ending quest for perfect love? Do you tire or grow restless in the quiet hum of normal? If your answer is yes, then the good news is that you recognize something deeply wrong within yourself and it is here at emotional ground zero you can make changes. Embracing normal is not easy for those of raised in crazy…but I believe desire is the first step in getting to normal!
So what is trauma bonding? The textbook definition of traumatic bonding, is understood as the result of ongoing series of abuse in which the sporadic reinforcement of reward, and punishment creates strong emotional bonds. This kind of bonding is resistant to change. Sound familiar? Ironically, if a person is parented in this kind of unsafe home, it makes later unsafe situations more appealing. This statement has an organic underpinning beyond any cognitive learning. It is trauma in one’s past that actually draws a person to the same kind of trauma bonding. With the help of therapy and my own personal research, I began to understand my childhood and early relationships directly affect my reactions to trauma. The result of trauma caused me to “NUMB OUT” when it came to intimacy. I responded positively to my abusive narcissist because it made me FEEL SOMETHING. It is neither rational nor irrational. I just felt connected, alive, seen, and understood in the company of my withholding and punitive narcissist. So after the initial “love-bombing,” the erratic, withholding, punitive and mean spirited exchanges became a familiar normal. In this chaos, I worked very hard for even the smallest positive return. It was those very small returns that kept me hooked. I deserve more…so do you!
If survivors can come to understand that part of the attraction is, while very unwanted, a natural process, they may be able to better manage those feelings, and control their situation. Think about your relationship in terms of the “trauma bonding” model. After the initial love bombing were you subject to this kind of sporadic reinforcement of reward, and punishment. As time went on was there far more punishment than reward? Were you working overtime for the reward? Were you emotionally numbed out? Ask yourself were the extremes of your narcissistic relationship “love” or were you just experiencing the “FEELING SOMETHING” as result of the wicked treatment? Love should not hurt!!
Some days, I feel like I am taking ten steps forward and five back. Because in truth, keeping the NO CONTACT rule is also about internal discipline. It is like fasting for communion. Emotionally fasting, while steeped in hate filled thoughts, seems as counterproductive as keeping the NO CONTACT rule while endlessly obsessing about your narcissist. My narcissist fancied himself unique, special, and unknowable. The longer I stayed with him, the more infected I became with the notion of my own “uniqueness.” I call it an infection because while each of us are indeed unique, his projection of our kind of “special” was artificial, half-baked, and unrealistic. However crazed and idealistic, I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I had not fully formed a strong understanding of myself. I realize now, the importance of knowing who I am. No one should, or can in healthy fashion define me! In keeping all of this in mind, I noted some triggers (WORDS, IMAGES, FRAGRANCES, SONGS, FOODS, PEOPLE, PLACES, BROKEN PROMISES even THE LIES that have the potential of catapulting me back into the abyss. My narcissist understood how to attach himself to me at the cellular level. He brilliantly projected his sense of “uniqueness” unto me, and what I thought was the evolving us. I hear “our” songs, it reminds me of him. I smell “our” fragrance, it reminds me of him. Even trips to “our “special bakery evokes images of the once unique, now lost us. The triggers are like a slow acid drip unto my vulnerable (bad news) and maturing (good news) self-esteem. Each trigger somehow has the potential to remind me I was “NOT SPECAIL ENOUGH!” Each trigger also gives me an opportunity to reframe and redefine my own realistic uniqueness. Each time my internal meta-thinking dialogue- helps me to slay the trigger, I say I am moving forward!
Make a list of trigger words, songs, include places, mutual friends, events, fragrances, foods, broken promises and lies. These mental constructs are all triggers. Once you have identified the trigger words, create an image of yourself as a narcissist slayer. Each time you are triggered use the image of you slaying the trigger. Replace the artificial truth with a strong mental image of yourself slaying the narcissist -trigger. You are playing a mental video game. As the images surface slay them until they stop!