I thought narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it. … It is unrequited self-love.
My people do not know how much time I have personally and professionally spent with people who you could label as narcissistic. From working in Bellevue Hospital in the Personality Disorders unit to testifying in cases where a narcissist was trying to obtain full custody of his child just because he was angry to being on dates and once having a full-fledged relationship with one, I can tell you that the fall out from such interactions can be extremely rough on your mind, body and soul. I have so much empathy for those of you who have had to deal with these interactions over the years.
I can, however, say that I have learned from all my experiences that when the narcissist shows up, it signals that you have work to do. Toxic insecurity cuts both ways and you do not have biological chemistry with someone at one end of the spectrum if you are not operating somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. So, in this article, I am going to give you some tips to begin to think about these situations from a different perspective-one that will immediately begin to trigger your soul’s desire to start on that healing journey. This journey will be the only way for you to find your authentic power and eventually the authentic love that you truly desire.
The Narcissist is Simply a Messenger in an Ugly Disguise
In the past ten years, we have thankfully had a public service announcement about what narcissism and narcissistic abuse are. Most people have read at least one article and most have read books after they have gotten out of a bad relationship. Some of you probably even had messy child custody cases with the said narcissist and were thrown into such turmoil that you became an encyclopedia of facts about narcissism. The problem is, however, you also did not receive a psychologist’s education on how to step back from the symptoms and see that person’s toxic insecurity. Trust me, when you get to the point where you can, their behavior takes on a whole new meaning and becomes the place where compassion can come in to help you heal. Narcissists have really dark stories they will never share.
Narcissism and narcissistic traits are incredibly popular in modern times, especially in romantic relationships. We got here because the very traits of narcissism are actually appealing to people who have not done their healing and personal development work. This, however, is not your fault. Dating strategies in the past have trained women to look for dominant men who seem quite charming on dates one through three. In modern times, it actually takes a healthy dose of insight to understand the dynamics transpiring in early courtship behavior and to decide whether someone is simply eager versus has ulterior motives. According to Keith Campbell, PhD, narcissists often go about manipulating early interactions because they are seeking to align themselves with someone else’s social status. Thus, the more “successful” you are, the more likely you are to attract these types of dating partners.
How does this happen? Dr. Campbell has a beautiful explanation that he calls The Chocolate Cake model. Here he basically explains that just like eating chocolate cake, it seems like a good idea for your dessert. However, if you continue to eat chocolate cake, eventually you will get sick. Research has shown that we are attracted to a narcissist’s charm and physical appearance and we fall for it every time. We fall for it because we have been raised in an immediate gratification culture and believe that love happens instantaneously. We do not know how to moderately eat our chocolate cake. We have forgotten that even the most seductive men in history (like Casanova) used to take a year to seduce a woman. We have zero understanding of what real relationships look like.
So why do these people show up in our lives? They are showing up to test your commitment to yourself. You are more likely to choose a narcissistic partner when you are unclear what type of relationship you want, are struggling with your own insecurities, and are bored with your life.
For these reasons, the narcissist is just the messenger — they show up to signal that there is internal work to be done.
How to Use your Experience with the Narcissist to Promote Self-Healing
The first step is to acknowledge that while you may have been a victim of horrendous behavior. This shock takes a while but eventually, you will be ready to move on to another level of your healing. This is where you learn to access your authentic power. THIS experience is teaching you how to do that. Through my former work in the court system, I can’t tell you how many cases, mostly women but there are men in this situation, who give up their power to their attorney, the court and anyone else involved in their cases. They are emotionally exhausted and naively believe that if someone does something wrong they will be punished for it. It is the modern-day version of waiting for the knight in shining armor to come and rescue you from a horrible situation.
The truth is that you are your own knight in shining armor. We just failed to share this secret with you. Then we failed to teach you how to regulate your sensitivities and emotions. I’m so sorry we failed you. The journey is all about learning this lesson.
In order for all of us to heal toxic insecurity — which can come from bad breakups, divorces, childhood trauma AND trauma you may no know about either side of your family, we have to be able to see the opportunities in these horrible situations. The worse the situation, the more we need to heal but so is the potential to change the lives of other people once we are on the other side. We are definitely all more Lady Gaga than we believe we are. We might not feel that way but we need to choose to act that way.
The first step in healing is recognizing you can’t do it alone. This may mean hiring an attorney (even when you don’t like conflict and actively avoid it), it may mean going to therapy to understand what just happened, or it may mean leaving your current environment to try to clear your head enough to make healthy decisions. The end of these relationships are opportunities for advocacy and personal growth.
Healing is a long term process and happens across a multitude of domains. It really is NOT enough to go to talk therapy and join a Facebook support group. You have to start thinking of your healing as an IRL Bootcamp and build a TEAM of support around you. Until you can stand on your own two feet, your team will need to energetically support you to get back to your warrior self or for you to realize you are, in fact, a true warrior (and true warriors do not use their anger to tear down and disparage others).
Your Team, Your Relationships: Why It All Matters
These relationships often limit your social interactions and cut off the very things that would help you heal. The only way to heal from such horrible relationships is to carefully surround yourself with the energy of the RIGHT people. Being around healthy individuals who are not angry and exude love, is healing. However, we all have a tendency to seek out others “who have been through it” as part of the journey. This can be helpful in the beginning but if you spend too much time in this state talking about how horrible your narcissist was, you will never heal. You are actually repeating the same behaviors that got you in that relationship, to begin with. You are choosing to incubate yourself in negativity. This is why a team approach will be your best friend as you do your emotional healing work.
The right relationships promote emotional safety, security and exploration. The narcissist shows up for you to unabashedly claim your biological right to experience this. You have to, at the deepest level of your soul, honor all relationships to such a high level that you believe that there are other people capable of meeting you in a healthy relationship. These magical people will show up as your Starbucks barista, a friend in your yoga class, or a stranger on the street until you have to rebuild your social circle. The trick is that you have to believe in relationships. When you don’t, the wrong people show up to confirm your negativity.
In a previous article, I wrote about why getting angry with narcissists is waste of time. It is. They simply show up to test your resolve so you can decide what is important in your life. They show up for you to do your personal development work. They show up so you can clear the karma from your past that has kept you silent and unable to speak your truth. They also show up because they need a lot of help and you need to learn to make a referral rather than interact with them on a personal level. Narcissists may be the Universe’s greatest invention on how to kick you in the butt to do your personal growth work. The trick is, you have to be willing to leave your own toxic insecurity and start the journey. Their behavior is wrong but you choosing to not try to heal hurts other people too. The next generation needs warriors who have healed to help them learn more quickly than you had to. Eventually, narcissism will not be a rewarded set of personality traits but that will only be determined by how hard you work on yourself to heal every aspect of your being that used to be attracted to those traits. You have more power than you think you do!
I wish that people would stop destroying other people just because they were once destroyed.
— Karen Salmansohn
Concrete Things to Try at Home
- Restorative Yoga: Your nervous system will need to be recalibrated over time. It is time to take care of yourself and restorative yoga may be the only thing you feel capable of doing. If you need to practice at home, you can follow Ankh Body for a free 7-day trial and follow Salma through a restorative class or a yoga class specifically for Anxiety.
- Self-Help Podcasts: You are not alone in having these experiences but it will feel that way. You need to surround yourself with positivity and a good podcast that talks about healing will help. Oprah did an interview with Lady Gaga recently on her trauma and, at least for me, helped me feel like I was not alone in a much more productive manner. The episode talks about how to heal through kindness.
- Social Media Cleanse: Lock down your social media accounts. Stop reading the news. You will be very sensitive to all information and you need to give yourself some space to heal. Stay off of online dating until you feel stronger.
- Take a Dance Class: Moving your body will help release toxic energy that you picked up from your narcissist. You have to get your body moving and dance/music can be very helpful.
- Write: Keeping a daily journal can help you process your emotions so that they do not stay in your head or your body.
Previously published on Medium.com.
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