Monthly Archives: February 2011

Passion Aggression

Take the word passion. Split it up, add a handful of letters, and you get passive aggression!

Coincidence? I think not!

Narcissists have to feel like you think they’re supremely and exquisitely perfect, all of the time. (If you fail in making them feel that way, the problem is with you, not them.) They also need to punish you for slights such as wanting them to be honest and direct with you, and they devalue you so that you don’t threaten them with intimacy and healthy expectations. One wouldn’t think they could accomplish both being perfect and being punishing and devaluing at the same time, but they’re damn well going to try. What ensues is passive aggression.

Narcissists love passive aggression because they get to be cruel, sadistic and punishing without having it overtly look that way. They can pull nasty stunts and have it look like an accident or like the responsibility of someone else, most likely you. They love being “late” for dates and appointments with you. They love telling you they’ll do something and then saying later that you misunderstood. They really love sniveling little digs like, “Last night with you was fun. You were hardly critical or nagging at all.”

The most prevalent passion you’re going to get from the narcissist, far more than romantic passion and even more yet than passion for life, is passive aggression. Narcissists throw great energy and practice into their passive aggression. As a result they’re good at it, though not usually very subtle.

His favorite passive aggressive move will be ignoring you. Days without word from him, if you’re dating; days without touching you or talking to you in complete sentences, if you’re living with him.

If something is important to you or hard for you, he’ll minimize it and turn your attention to himself. If your mother is terminally ill or you just found out you can’t have children, he’ll manage to be away from you for long periods of time and when he’s with you he’ll talk about the biggest issue in his own life, usually something like his ingrown toenail or how his boss snubbed him that day.

If you’re laying in bed weak with the flu and have four or five kids galloping around needing parenting, he’ll go ahead and knock off work early on Friday and go on a four-hour kayaking trip with a couple (predominantly female) friends. Then he’ll call you from the parking lot on the way home and ask if he can pick you up some soda crackers or something, and expect to be showered with appreciation and await your tears of joy at having someone so deeply considerate as he. When you fail to do so, it will be YOU and your COLD, unloving self that is responsible for any ensuing tension.

And tension there will be, if you persist in your irrational assaults of pointing out his behavior. PLAY ALONG, DAMMIT!! He’ll be giving you a chance to make up for your lack of appreciation, your attacks on his very being, your being sick in the first place; APOLOGIZE! Then the passive aggression can eventually subside.

People with extended exposure to narcissists need intensive therapy. They’re often on anti-depressant medication and have health problems like migraines and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They’ve forgotten their purpose in life and they feel numb. They can have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder.

Coincidence?

I think not.

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The Narcissist as Master Thespian

All you idealistic young (i.e. younger than 25) whippersnappers out there might not remember this, but Jon Lovitz used to have a character on Saturday Night Live called the Master Thespian. He was a caricature of a stage actor backstage, in a silk robe and scarf, with pompous gestures and a hilariously dramatic voice. He’d act out “rage” or “anguish,” and his fellow thespian, being understandably fooled and taking him oh so seriously, would try to assuage him. Here, Master Thespian would say:

“Acting!”

His friend would cry, “Brilliant!”

Master Thespian would reply, “Thank You!”

Which brings us to your cuddly life partner, the narcissist. (You ARE still with him, aren’t you? You PROMISED to keep him, don’t forget. That way he only annoys the rest of us by flirting with us unrelentingly and making us gag with his pomposity, rather than his actually putting us at risk by pursuing us.)

No actor on earth is more the master thespian than the narcissist. Actors take breaks. Not so the narcissist. He is ALWAYS acting. His whole life is pretend. This is one of the biggest cues to most people that the narcissist has something weird and creepy about him; he can’t help but show himself as ridiculously and somewhat nauseatingly fake. He seems shallow and untrustworthy in his fakery. He seems that way because he is that way.

He feels exceedingly comfortable fantasizing because it feels like real life to him; nice, comfy and familiar. He spends a lot of time fantasizing because real life tends to let him down a lot, since all the stupid boors around him fail to see him for his true worth, and in fantasy he can revel in the worship that is his due. The trouble is, his actual presentation is so fake that it gets all mixed up with his fantasies, and so here is one thing the narcissist will never, ever say:

“Acting!”

In fact, if you EVER suggest he’s faking or playing up anything, chances are he’ll turn on you like a rabid jackal and hate your guts the rest of your life. His image of perfection means that he must be seen as authentic and credible, and that the perfect shell he projects is perfectly believable every moment. He’ll tell you you’re projecting, cruel, off-topic and totally wrong. And that HE is REAL.

This is part of the reason why nothing they say means anything. Mostly it’s because they’re forever editing their reality, and if one minute he’s going to marry you and asks you to pick out the house, he’ll likely say the opposite soon afterward and deny ever even suggesting such a thing. But another reason you can’t possibly take these guys seriously is because their whole life is a charade, a drama being read from an ever-changing script. There’s no foundation of meaning or depth of character to anything they say or do, no continuity or rhythm at all. They are truly a thin veneer of plastic personality covering an empty interior. When he seems to love you, he’s faking. When he appears to want to get closer to you, he’s acting. He’s not “exaggerating true feelings” or “especially passionate,” he’s faking. It’s all an act designed to get you to feed him attention and adoration. Yes, it really is that sick. And yes, he’ll always devalue you in the end. Every single time.

Ah, the stimulating challenge of it! You are one lucky mama– you get to play daily head games and you keep your mind sharp by second-guessing every single thing out of his mouth, AND you get drama, you get theater, you get play-acting that, admittedly, isn’t even remotely entertaining, but is all his disturbed personality can muster.

Whoops, there comes your man the narcissist.

Lights.

Camera.

ACTION!

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The Narcissist as Editor-in-Chief

Ever wonder how the narcissist you know can live with himself? Well, the best weapon in his self-love arsenal is something I like to call Selective Editing.

The narcissist edits the past. He edits the present. He’ll tell himself things are exactly the way they need to be for him to have an unblemished, sterling image of himself, even if that involves saying you started an argument when you hadn’t even opened your mouth, or saying he was hurt that you avoided him yesterday when actually he’d told you a week ago he needed a break from you and not to call, or telling you he loves going out with you and that he loved the opera when the fact is he bitched about the opera from before you left until long after you got home. All with a straight face, a level eye and sometimes a clenched jaw.

If the two of you have a conflict, he’ll tweak the facts as much as he has to to make it all your fault. He’ll tell you how you feel and if, later in the day, he needs you to have felt different, he’ll tweak it again. He shapeshifts to suit his mood (remember the roiling chaos in his head?) and to appear the star of any moment, and any tiny or not-so-tiny adjustments to the facts that need to be made for him to be the star are fine. The facts are incidental. Your feelings are of no import. What truly counts is his thinking he’s perfect.

Some people call this “lying,” but there is actually a nuance of a difference in that as the words are leaving his mouth the narcissist actually believes what he’s saying. He not only thinks it’s true, he’ll defend it to the death.

Until he forgets it twenty seconds later.

Then, whatever is leaving his mouth THEN is the inviolable truth.

If he contradicts himself? Point this out to him. Some of the best narcissist lines ever uttered can come next.

“I know it can seem that way sometimes to you. It’s inevitable.”
“You weren’t listening the first time.”
“Not at all. Both are true, just in different ways.”
“I don’t have to be consistent to be right. Everyone knows that.”
“What, are you calling me a liar? Aren’t you projecting a little here?”

One can only watch in speechless wonder as the narcissist, endowed with the powers of the Great and Wonderful Oz, knits and weaves such fanciful fiction, such utter animal excrement, out of nowhere to “explain” his behavior, mood or inclination of the moment. If he needs you to have been inexplicably distant in the recent past, you were. If he needs to have been gushingly attentive while you were so distant, he was. He’ll take the tiniest, most unrelated detail and inflate it into an event of such import as to direct the rest of your future together. He’ll take a response on your part to his selfishness or manipulation (You: “I’m sorry, but if you’re going to always pull away from me like this when I need you the most, then I think we need to reassess our relationship”), and create a story around it that has him the victim of your senseless wrath, your fickle and arbitrary abuse. (Him, later, about the words above: “Like that time you broke us up– and, I’d like you to admit you did break us up– because of your unrealistic expectations of me, and blindsiding me when I needed you the most?”)

Reality is highly malleable in Narcissist World. What can’t be messed with is his pathological idea of his own unique perfection. And he needs YOU to reassure him of that perfection with a neverending flow of attention, adoration and praise. If you’re hopelessly stuck in reality like the boring boorish masses (that is, good, cool people with no psychiatric disorders to hide) and can’t spend your life in his world where it’s a privilege to help distort the truth to accommodate his self-image and worship his magnificent being, then there’s gonna be a problem.

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So. You’re in Love With a Narcissist. Part 3

OK. On a less acerbic note.

Now, we know love is a good thing. Good love involves exchanging respect, affection, time and support with someone special. It feels good and when it has rough spots the two parties work them through.

But the harsh truth is that there are those among us who don’t love. And when they pretend to, at our expense, that’s a painful thing for the rest of us. They pretend to love because they know we’ll love them back and they like the way it feels when we adore them and struggle to make a relationship with them work. It makes them feel special.

But one day we look up and we see that we’re the one putting in all the respect, affection, time and support, and they’re taking it as well-deserved worship and hold out their hands for more.

We try to work through rough spots. And with a narcissist that’s where the REAL ouchies kick in.

In rough spots good people look at the matter and review their own role in it as well as that of their partner. Narcissists are so desperate to always look perfect to themselves that the chances are zero of them ever considering they might have caused someone discomfort. So, if the two of you have a problem, guess whose fault it is?

In rough spots good people look toward the goal of working it out and going on in better understanding. Narcissists would rather dump the whole thing and start fresh with someone else. If you’re with a narcissist, your purpose in life is to reassure them that they’re as perfect as they want to be. So, if you find that there’s something imperfect about them and show it, as in your saying, “You hurt my feelings,” “But you said you’d call. I needed to hear from you,” or “Why did you spend our whole night at the party talking to the pretty woman from work?”, then you aren’t doing your job and may need to be replaced with someone much weaker or more troubled. (Healthy, strong people defend their due and their boundaries in relationships. Narcissists hate that.)

In rough spots, good people engage in logical though maybe passionate debates about the issues. They ask each other what they want and use that information to make each other and themselves happy and fulfilled. A narcissist may very well ask you what you want; they’ll then use that information to manipulate you by threatening to withhold what you need and try to extract more attention and reassurance from you. And this is what you’ll get in return: punishment for having challenged their perfection in the first place. Threats of abandonment. Accusations. Contempt.

Does all this sound far-fetched and like a lame made-for-TV movie? Then you’ve never had an encounter with a narcissist.

If you’re with a narcissist, do research. Write your feelings down. Get some therapy. Do whatever helps, but before you do anything, get out. Just get out. And don’t look back. The view ain’t pretty.

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