Okay… now that it’s Friday, it’s time to get serious. Today’s topic is about narcissists.
If you’ve been following my blogs for awhile, you may know that narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are pet topics of mine. Having looked around on social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube, I see that it’s an issue that affects a lot of people. Yesterday, I stumbled across some videos posted by Dr. Les Carter, a psychotherapist who practices in the Dallas area and has written several books about narcissists and narcissism. I want to write about Dr. Carter’s videos today, because I watched several of them yesterday and they really resonated. I shared a couple of them on Facebook, and they were re-shared by several of my friends. Obviously, I am not the only one who was positively affected by Dr. Carter’s wisdom.
For years, the main narcissist in my life was my husband’s ex wife. She’s what you’d call extremely “difficult”. She makes unreasonable demands, belittles people, tramples all over other people’s rights, extorts money from people, and does her best to drive wedges between others, particularly family members. When she was married to Bill, she worked hard to isolate him from anyone who might influence him. She tried to blackmail him into not speaking about her abuse and continue to tolerate it. It was “her way or the highway”, particularly when it came to their two daughters and her eldest son from her first marriage. Because Bill is an empathetic person, and he recognized his ex wife as “damaged” due to her abusive upbringing, he put up with many years of abuse from her. Even when I met him, almost a whole year after their split was final, he was taking the blame for all of what went wrong in their marriage and subsequent split. He was afraid of her, and constantly tried to appease her. In the end, all that did was lower her respect for him even more.
Ex’s insistence on pushing her warped perspectives on Bill even caused him to think other people would only see him in the way she seemed to see him. He thought I would “hate” him because of what happened in his first marriage. It took him a long time to work up the courage to tell me his story, and an even longer time to realize that he was the victim of a very oily narcissist who never cared about anything more than using him. I’m sure that realizing he was used was just as hurtful as the actual abuse was. It wasn’t even “personal”, because she clearly saw him as a mere tool for getting what she wanted. Any willing, warm, male body could have fit that role (since she also wanted children), and as we can see by the number of marriages she’s had (3), several warm bodies have done just that.
Narcissists have a way of scaring their victims into thinking that everyone will agree with the narcissist and not see the situation for what it is. That fear isn’t totally unfounded. Narcissists tend to be very slippery and convincing. They are usually superficially charming people, skilled at presenting themselves in the best light, and shifting blame to other people. For those who don’t spend a lot of time with them, it becomes harder to see that narcissists never take any responsibility for their part in a problem. They don’t apologize with sincerity or make any attempt at seeing the big picture. Any issue that comes up is always entirely someone else’s fault; they are victims who refuse to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. If you know them casually, what they say can seem right. But spend some quality time with a narcissist, and you’ll soon find yourself made the scapegoat… and someone else, typically, will be the “golden” person the narcissist admires. That golden person will be their champion, adding to the false narrative that the narcissist is a victim and the victim is the oppressor.
Narcissists are adept at “crazy making”. They do whatever they can to muddy the issues to the point at which you feel guilty, confused, and defeated whenever you try to stand up for your rights. It’s easy to just give up, or give in, when it comes to dealing with these people. They lack the ability to compromise, and have no desire to expand their perspectives or behave in an empathetic manner. Everything is entirely about them, and them alone.
My years with Bill have led me to study this subject intently. I’ve watched a lot of videos, read a lot of books, discussed it with a lot of people, and thought heavily on the issue. There’s a lot of good information out there, but I was especially impressed by Les Carter’s comments in his engaging videos about narcissists and narcissistic abuse. Below is the first video I discovered by Les Carter.
I shared the above video mainly for my friend, who is dealing with the aftermath of her marriage to a narcissistic man. However, I noticed several other friends watched the video and shared it. I noticed the reactions from my friends’ friends were as profound as mine was. Dr. Carter really gets it, and he has a way of engaging his viewers and making them realize that they’re caught up in a cycle of craziness that isn’t their doing. That’s a pretty huge thing, and that’s what makes his videos so helpful. I like that he seems very calm, friendly, and understanding. It’s like a balm to someone who has had to deal with a narcissist, who typically reacts in extreme ways that lead to stress.
I used to liken dealing with Bill’s ex wife as like being trapped in a can of soda that’s been shaken violently. There’s so much reactivity and bubbling going on that it’s hard to know which way is up. And then if some action is taken, particularly if it displeases the narcissists, there’s a messy explosion, just like there would be if you shook up a can of Coca Cola and popped the top.
Dr. Carter makes it plain that narcissists are pathetic. They are bound by their stubbornness, their need to be right, maintaining the perfect image, and always having the last word. They can’t compromise. They aren’t free to accept other people for who they are. They can’t be vulnerable, admit when they’re wrong, ask for help, or show kindness without expecting something in return. They are enslaved by the compulsion to be rigid in their lives and to control other people. Because they expend all of that energy on maintaining control, they don’t have the time or the energy to simply relax and enjoy life.
I have been as angered and frustrated by control freaks as anyone. I freely admit to being pissed off at them. But Dr. Carter correctly points out that if I should feel anything toward narcissists, it’s pity. They can’t simply relax, be brave, and be authentic. They have a rigid vision of how things must be and they can’t deviate from it. It’s a horrible way to live, for them, and for anyone who is hopelessly stuck in their trap and isn’t on to their behaviors.
What I like about Dr. Carter’s videos is that he reminds everyone that they are in control of their own lives. Just like Dorothy was always in control in The Wizard of Oz, and always had the ability to “go home”, so do adult victims of narcissists. You are free to make another choice. You don’t have to do the narcissist’s bidding. It may lead to a dramatic scene if you make a choice other than what the narcissist wants, but ultimately you can say “no”. It just takes some courage and foresight. Despite what they think, narcissists are not really “the boss” of you. What it comes down to is learning how to react appropriately and, eventually, plan for an exit from the relationship.
Anyway… those are my thoughts for today. If you are struggling with a narcissist, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Carter’s YouTube channel or his official Web site. I am currently up to my ass in books to read, but I will probably add a couple of his to the list. He’s really that good.