This morning, I watched yet another video by Dr. Les Carter. In it, he shares the fable of “The Alligator and the Rabbit”. I’m sure you’ve heard of or read this story yourself in any number of incarnations, like the similar fable, “The Frog and the Scorpion”. The version Dr. Carter shares is the tale of a foolish rabbit who trusted an alligator to go against its nature. The alligator agreed to take the rabbit across a rushing river on his back. Once they got to the other side of the river, the alligator ate the rabbit. The alligator then tells a bystanding turtle that he can’t help his nature. Alligators eat rabbits; therefore, the rabbit never should have trusted him. You can watch the video below.
Although I’ve had a few run ins with narcissistic people myself, by and large, they don’t tend to like me very much. I think it’s because I am not particularly eager to be liked. I mean, there was a time when I was more eager to be liked than I am now. When I was a child, it even seemed essential, and given that children are dependent on others, it probably was. But I’ve never had a “people pleasing” personality. I’d rather please myself. Maybe that makes me selfish, but it also keeps me out of the traps set by so-called “quick friends”.
You know what a “quick friend” is, right? A quick friend is someone who “sweeps you off your feet”. This person comes on strong with positive regard, flattery, and attention. I mentioned “love bombing” recently. Well, a “quick friend” is quick to love bomb and sweep other people up into their spheres. Once you’ve been dazzled by their seductive bullshit, you soon see another side of this person who seems too good to be true. Then, you try to focus on getting out of the situation, but the “quick friend” continues to blind you with more confusing love bombing mixed with something that seems more like disrespect and hatred.
You might see this phenomenon in a lot of different situations. If you’re thinking of joining an organization, for instance, like a very restrictive church or, especially, a cult, you might encounter love bombing. When Bill and his ex wife joined the Mormon church, they were “love bombed” by active members. They had many invitations to dinner and people were extremely friendly and nice. All of it dissipated once they’d all been baptized. Those people now had to turn their attentions to the next investigators/prospective members.
I experienced attempted love bombing back in 1994, when I attended a session for a multi-level marketing scam. People already in the organization paid a lot of attention to me and tried to flatter me into signing up, even though applying for the job involved a $20 “application fee” and I would have to “rent” a desk in the office to the tune of $500 a month. I look at those terms now and realize how preposterous they were, but when it was actually happening, I felt pressured to be nice and give in to the flattery. Especially since some of the flatterers were attractive men who acted like they liked me. Fortunately, while I do have low self-esteem at times, I also have a healthy measure of common sense.
You might experience love bombing in the form of a boyfriend or girlfriend who comes on very strong, overwhelming you with what appears to be genuine love and affection. But then you realize that what seemed like love was actually nothing but empty flattery designed to appeal to your ego and sweep you into an abusive trap where your lifeblood and self-respect gets sucked away. It can be very difficult to get out of these kinds of situations, particularly because the abusers will usually try to “Hoover” their victims back into the relationship. You can read more about the “Hoover” concept, as it pertains to emotional abuse, here.
This morning, I received a message from someone I once thought of as a friend. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re on bad terms now. We no longer live in the same community, so we’ve stopped engaging very much. But while I once thought of her as someone I liked, after awhile, I started noticing that what had seemed to be genuine friendship had turned into something that seemed less genuine to me. I started to think perhaps this person was a bit untrustworthy, so I withdrew. I didn’t get the sense that she missed me, either.
Anyway, about two years ago, I was in a Facebook group with this person. Things got very toxic because of a charismatic male member in our group who had managed to impress everyone with his creatively crafted verbal abuse. He was the type of person who would stoop to very low levels to humiliate other people. A lot of people thought he was hilarious. When I first encountered him, I also thought he was clever and funny. It was all fine and good for those who thought he was funny, and a lot of people did. But if you found yourself on the receiving end of his abuse– the butt of his jokes– it was not funny at all. He would not hesitate to go way below the belt in order to appear to “win”.
Once I saw his uglier side, I mostly tried not to engage this man. In fact, for a long time, I had him blocked. I unblocked him when one of the group leaders suggested that my impressions of him were false. She convinced me to give him another chance. It’s too bad I listened to her, because my instincts about him turned out to be dead on.
One day, this verbally abusive guy turned his attentions to me. Rather than stay and try to fight with him, I opted to leave the group. I got a lot of shit from people for doing so, and I’m sure I was the butt of a lot of jokes for awhile. I could hardly blame them for making fun of me, since I had engaged in that behavior myself. Sure, it hurt, but I probably deserved it on some level. I resolved to do better in the future.
I eventually got over this big drama and moved on, even though it pained me to know that people I thought could be real friends, really weren’t real friends. Still, I wasn’t surprised at this outcome. I got to thinking that eventually, the people who thought Mr. Verbal Abuse was so funny would someday realize what he really is when he turned on them, too. I don’t think he picked on me because I was “special”. I think he eventually treats everyone– particularly women and men who defend women– in this way. Perhaps they’ve finally had their turn.
So this morning, my friend said that some people in the old group would love to have me come back. They felt nostalgic for the old days, and realized that, even though they’d allegedly thought of me as a “snowflake” when I opted out of the group, I wasn’t all that bad. My old friend wrote that the group was a lot smaller than it once was, but still quite active. And they supposedly miss me.
I have to admit that for a fleeting moment, I was flattered that I had been missed. My initial instinct was to let bygones be bygones. But then I remembered that I had actually left that group on two occasions, mainly due to ugliness that went too far and got way too personal. I realized that it’s been nice not being involved in the drama that erupted within that group. And, while there are people in it who are funny and genuinely likable, I don’t need any more toxic crap in my life now. I’ve got my hands full dealing with other, major, residual toxic crap that resulted from our four years of living in the Stuttgart area.
So I told my friend “thanks, but no thanks”, and offered my regards to those who “miss” me. I mostly feel good about that decision, even though I, too, miss the good times we had. We especially had fun barbecues, but since most of us have left Stuttgart, even the barbecues are in the past now.
In some ways, this situation seems a little like what Bill went through when he and his ex wife split. She very dramatically demanded a divorce. When he agreed to it, she saved face by going to the notary public she had arranged. But then she later had second thoughts. She tried to “Hoover” him back into the relationship.
Bill said that after their split, Ex would call him and sigh on the phone, whining about the “good old days”. She then tried to entice him back into her “parlor”, reminding him of the children she was holding hostage. Bill was tempted, because he really missed his kids and his paycheck… but then he realized that she’d drawn a line and he’d crossed it. One day, she’d draw another line and he would cross it again. They’d be right back where they started, but probably worse off. He also realized that being away from her made him feel much better, the same way anyone feels better after getting away from something toxic.
After awhile, once the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) fades, you start to realize you’re much better off without the seductive narcissist or any groups that employ abusive, narcissistic techniques to keep people entrenched. Moreover, once people show you who they are and what they are capable of, it’s best to pay attention and learn from it. Leopards don’t change their spots. Alligators don’t suddenly turn into peace loving vegans. Scorpions don’t give up their stingers for friendship with frogs. And those who don’t learn from mistakes made in the past are doomed to repeat them.