Learning that your partner is a narcissist can bring a great deal of relief as you realize the source of the crazy making behavior you have been living with. However enlightening this information may be it doesn’t seem to have the power to stop the incessant dwelling on thoughts of the narcissist and how that person has effected your life.
As much as learning about narcissism can bring a sense of awareness and even relief I have found that taking responsibility for ourselves and our own part in the relationship brings the greatest amount of healing.
Although we are not responsible for the behavior of the narcissist, we are responsible for our own emotional reaction to that person and also for learning the life lessons that are brought to us through this experience.
Life has a way of putting us in situations that force us to grow beyond our self imposed limitations. Whether we are struggling with fear of abandonment, low self esteem, lack of confidence, dependency, neediness, powerlessness, or all of the above, the narcissistic relationship will bring our deepest wounds to our attention.
The mistake most of us make is believing that the narcissist is causing our pain. He is merely triggering the pain that is already lying dormant within us. We can so easily be attracted to the narcissist on an unconscious level in order to grow past our previous limitations in the quickest amount of time. Although it may take years to fully embrace the lessons brought to us by a narcissistic relationship, if you truly embrace these lessons you can come out years ahead of where you might have been otherwise. I’m not talking about where you were materially but rather emotionally and spiritually. Material status comes and goes, but our emotional and spiritual state is the foundation for who we are in the world.
I am reading “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie and discovering her “work” that is all about self inquiry and understanding how our thoughts fabricate these elaborate stories that keep us stuck in our pain. It got me thinking about the narcissistic story and how by continuing to tell “our story” we can so easily stay stuck in our pain.
Your story is all the ways that the narcissist abused you. “He took advantage of me, used me, dumped me, had an affair, made me walk on eggshells, took me from being a high powered corporate executive with a six figure income to a Welfare recipient with no energy or self esteem. “ These are the stories we continue to hold onto and replay in our minds.
I don’t want to belittle the pain of the narcissistic experience! It is painful! No doubt! I’ve been there! But I also know from experience how to avoid staying there! And I know this is what most of you are searching for.
The compassionate rescuer in me wants to open up a sanctuary and invite all of you who have been abused by a narcissist to come and stay with me and be healed. But I know this is the part of me who still wants to rescue others because I identify with thier deepest pain. Rescuing a person robs her of the opportunity to learn how to rescue herself! Ultimately this is why we find ourselves in this situation. We need to learn to care enough about ourselves to stop waiting for someone else to rescue us. We need to rescue ourselves!
Some of the situations people find themselves in are pretty horrific! No doubt! And I’ve seen my share of horrific situations as I receive so many desperate letters from people looking for help! I offer many helpful resources through my Website, so there is support available for everyone. But still I find many people don’t want to do the work. They just want to be rescued. And truly it is our desire to be rescued that got many of us into this in the first place. Think about it!
When we work on rescuing ourselves then we tend to release our need to rescue the narcissist from himself. One of the most listened to topics on my radio show is “Is There a Cure for Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” Why is this topic so popular? Because most people when discovering a partner is a narcissist would much rather put their energy on curing the narcissist and helping him/her to get better than to cure themselves from their need to have the narcissist rescue them.
Once again, I was one of these people! I realize it often takes time and one must go through these stages before being ready to face the demons who are more likely in the mirror than in the narcissist. Granted we can’t do anything about the narcissist. He or she is what he or she is. We are powerless to change others. Who the narcissist is, is not any of our business. Who we are is our business! If we can understand this one thing it would really help most of us focus our attention on where we need to be focused. On ourselves!
How we feel about the narcissist and what we think of him/her can provide important clues to where we need to be doing our work. I’ll use my own story as an example.
When I came out of my relationship with Rick (not his real name) I was lost! I felt betrayed, abandoned, discarded, unloved, and very angry. I hated him for what he did to me. I hated him for not caring! I hated that I went from an attractive, self confident woman to a mere shadow of my former self. I had no energy, no self worth or motivation to do anything in the world. I hated who I had become. But as I began to do the work I discovered those parts of myself I had been avoiding most of my adult life. I hid behind a false front, just as the narcissist did. I hid behind my physical attractiveness, my talent, my intelligence and even my beliefs. All my hiding places had been stripped away. I was stripped down to nothing! I was nothing!
What if we draw narcissistic people into our lives to uncover those parts of ourselves that are narcissistic so that we may become real! How else would we discover those places where we are lying to ourselves if we did not attract a mirror to show those places to us?
We can hate the narcissist for reflecting our own painful issues to us, or we can thank them for exposing the lies we have been telling ourselves so that we may live more honestly.
Those who have studied narcissism know that the narcissist lives a lie. He erects a false front and hides behind it. He constructs grandiose fantasies of who he is. He lacks compassion and empathy. We can so easily throw stones at the narcissist for being who he or she is or we can turn it around. “Where might I be living a lie? Where might I be erecting a false front to keep me safe from others? Where have I constructed a grandiose fantasy in my life? Where am I not showing compassion and empathy for myself?” When we can honestly ask and answer these questions we take the focus off the narcissist and place it back on ourselves. Suddenly we don’t feel so out of control. Because we are not waiting for the narcissist to change. We are working on changing ourselves.
If we don’t get the lesson we are sure to attract another teacher. I did! I had the great opportunity of attracting two romantic partners in a row who showed extreme narcissistic tendencies. It wasn’t just so I would know what narcissism was. It wasn’t because I was “messed up!” It was because there were places that I needed to grow within myself that I might not have seen had I not looked deeply into the mirror of narcissism.
A therapist once told me I wasn’t the narcissist because most true narcissists would never ask the question how do I know I’m not the narcissist? But still I had narcissistic parts of me. We all do! We live in a narcissistic society and we learn from our environment. Our parents and grandparents, school teachers and peers all displayed narcissistic characteristics. They may not have full fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but there are characteristics. And believe it or not we are in a time of escalated spiritual growth on our planet and the lessons are coming hard and fast. And so we are attracting experiences that provide us the greatest amount of growth in the shortest amount of time, and it feels worse than boot camp.
For many people being a victim is a way of life. You may want to ask yourself in what areas have you been a victim? What areas do you feel you have narcissistic tendencies? What do you identify with? What characteristics or accomplishments do you hide behind? How have you looked for love outside of yourself to complete you? How have you looked to others to validate you and your sense of self worth? How often do you catch yourself talking negatively about others? How important is it to find others to validate your story of abuse?
If the narcissistic love in your life has run off with another and tells you he/she doesn’t love you anymore and never really did, that will most likely leave you wondering what just happened. You will likely feel used, abused and betrayed. The pain is very deep. You may find yourself fantasizing about the narcissist and his/her new love and wish you had that again. You probably are asking what’s wrong with you and why he/she never loved you? I warn you not to use self inquiry as a way to shame yourself or blame yourself for the failure of the relationship. Self inquiry is for the purpose of setting you free. So instead of asking “what’s wrong with me?” Ask “how have I used, abused and betrayed myself? How have I rejected myself? How have I not loved myself?”
The narcissist in your life provides such excellent clues to where you have abandoned and betrayed you. If the true narcissists of the world are here to be button pushers for the rest of us then when they move on to someone else they are simply doing their job of pushing buttons to someone else who needs to learn those same kinds of lessons. We should be careful not to romanticize someone else’s experience.
We all have our lessons to learn and sooner or later we will have that opportunity. Your opportunity just happens to be now. So embrace it! Take the responsibility for yourself and use this experience to know yourself on deeper and deeper levels. You will emerge from this experience a new person, or rather the person you really have come here to be.