Monthly Archives: June 2011

If Only Chickens Could Fly…

“If only.” Now there is some loaded words right there, I don’t care who y’are. (Ahem. Pardon me, I was just briefly taken over by my inner hick.) Those words have lots of power. The problem is, none of that power is good.

“If only I can get him to see that….” “If only he would understand that…” “If only we could communicate about…” With narcissists, the ways to complete those sentences, or mix them into new ones, is endless. This is because a narcissist is rarely BLATANTLY useless at something, or OBVIOUSLY permanently defective. From where his partner sits, it looks like they’re so close to making it work. It’s not like wishing pigs could fly, which is so clearly and ridiculously impossible. It feels more like wanting chickens to fly — they’re just so CLOSE to flying sometimes, like when they jump off a perch and flap their wings. It feels like narcissists start out a day or an hour with such promise, and then it collapses into disappointment and pain because of… something. What is it? Well, no doubt it would help, and be better, if only… If only. With a narcissist, it always seems like there’s still… hope.

Narcissists LOVE creating this feeling in their partner, because it keeps her sucked in. It ALSO keeps her believing that if SHE makes some or another change, or if SHE cobbles together a workable plan (because SHE’S the one feeling like there’s a problem), they’ll be a fabulous success as a couple. They’ll be happy, relaxed, and the model of bonding and intimacy. If only. If only we can fix this one part, things would be awesome.

“If only” is a very common and not necessarily unhealthy place for our heads to go. It turns into a problem when, with narcissists, we believe we can actually create, or wait out, or “find” those conditions that resolve the “if only” deficit. We continue struggling. Seeking. Compromising. For something that will never, ever come together, because we’re trying to play Patty-Cake with an armless puppet — he doesn’t have the equipment to bond, or be fair, or be a good guy. He couldn’t if he tried. This sounds harsh, I know, but, if only it weren’t true…

Here’s one that works: If only he weren’t a narcissist, you’d stand a chance as a couple.

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Happy Fathers’ Day!

To all the great dads out there, particularly the ones who have narcissists in their original family but went on to be great dads themselves, despite the hardships. You may or may not know who you are, but the rest of us sure know you when we see you.

Your kids thank you, their mom thanks you, and the rest of us thank you. Keep up the good work, guys! And train your sons and daughters to recognize what a good relationship is all about.

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The Aftermath — From the Narcissist’s Point of View

Only one heart gets broken
We’ve talked about this before, but it’s a huge component of the trouble with getting over these assclowns after a break-up — and that’s how easily he seems to move on. How light his step is after you break up, how easy it is for him to pretend that now, now that you’re not in his life, he is happier than ever and feels energy and radiance in every day. This is all while you feel like you’ve been hit by a logging truck and can barely form coherent sentences, so thorough and intense is your grief and pain. And it feels to you exactly how he wants it to feel to you — like he’s indispensable, unique, fun, healthy, awesome, and Mr. Right, and you’re doomed to a pit of misery, despair and depression without him.

OK, please join Aunt Alex as we take a closer look at this. Two people are together. Let’s call them Jennifer, and Assclown Narcissistic Douchebag Yakface (OK, we can call him “Andy” for short). Jennifer is a vibrant, emotionally generous woman. Andy is a narcissist who has no empathy, no ability to bond, and no burden of thinking of anyone but himself. Jennifer and Andy are going out.

Jennifer bonds. Andy only pretends to. Jennifer becomes emotionally involved. Andy only pretends to. Jennifer loves. Andy, ugh — he’d rather suck on moose mucous flavored fun pops.

Andy, because he’s an A. N. D. Y., breaks it off when he starts to feel he and Jennifer are too close, or she points out he’s not perfect, or he just feels vaguely bored one day and figures it must be the woman’s fault. Jennifer, not understanding what the heck happened, is devastated. Andy is not, because he was never truly invested in the relationship. So he carries on like things are fine.

There’s also something else happening here, and that’s Andy’s desperate need to pretend. Andy isn’t fine after the break-up. Not because he loved Jennifer and she was important to him, but because he’s a disordered trainwreck on the inside, and he’s constantly unsure how things look, what’s happening, whether he’ll get enough attention and adoration that day, and whether anyone at any time will ever actually make him decide anything or expect him to know how to pretend to feel. He’s anxious that he might not get enough worship. That’s a lot for one pathetic idiot to take on each and every day. But he’s going to pretend he’s doing fabulously, because: a) he needs to find a Jennifer replacement FAST and to do that he needs to look good, and b) it would never occur to him NOT to pretend that everything is terrific. Pretending is his life. Pretending is who he is.

My point here is this: Jennifer’s response to the break-up is real. It’s deep, and affects her, and it’s complex and emotionally strong. Andy’s reaction is just another narcissistic song and dance. 100% fake, totally meaningless, and utterly devoid of value. It doesn’t mean anything because it’s not tied to actual feelings, empathy and events. It’s only reflective of his need to bust his narcissist moves. It’s only about his desperation and his shallowness. It’s only about him, right this second, and what he wants, where he is, and what he’s doing right this second. What he can get out of someone this second, and who might be nearby from whom he can get it.

He eventually gets in touch with Jennifer again, because he wants some attention and adoration and remembers she gave it before. Now that they’ve been apart for a while, she’s not “regular” anymore — and “regular” is a very, very noxious concept to the garden-variety narcissist. He also wants to see that she’s been having a hard time without him; this makes him feel special. So, he looks her up, and he pours on the charm to try to get another fix of love from her. And if she’s been listening to Aunt Alex, she’ll do us the sweet, sweet favor of taking him back in without a hitch. Please, Jennifer. Get him away from us. Take one for the team.

OW! Hey, watch it with the rolled-up newspaper! Man, social workers can have surprising upper body strength……..

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What We Can Learn From Sheldon


There’s a popular TV sitcom on CBS called The Big Bang Theory. It’s about a group of super-nerdy friends, one of whom is Sheldon. The writers of the show appear to write Sheldon as someone with Asperger Syndrome, but whether or not this is the case, Sheldon is a tremendous example of detachment from the emotions of others. He’s socially inept, but does sometimes take his friends’ advice on how to interact with others. So, he wants to function in society, but has a hard time doing so considering he’s OCD, anxious, thinks he’s globally superior in intellect, has next to zero empathic instincts, and is so wonderfully and incurably awkward and nerdy.

Anyway, this isn’t a paid pitch for a TV show. I wish. No, we’re talking about this because Sheldon, while certainly fragile, wounded and even unstable, also has a certain, precise trait that we can all benefit from studying. It’s the ability to just say no to getting emotionally involved first and thinking later.

Sheldon is the only one to portray this for us, because true, real people with no empathic ability just plain don’t care about other people, how they feel, or what happens to them. But the Sheldon character is different. Purely for the plot of the show, and for the “pacing” comfort of the audience, Sheldon’s been given a unique mannerism: When confronted with a setting where it would be appropriate to respond to someone emotionally on some level, Sheldon seems to stop, and, for a split second, to ponder whether or not he wants to get involved in the emotional complexity of the situation. He invariably decides against it, and goes on his merry, nerdy way.

That split second of apparent analysis of the circumstances is where I’d like to start seeing us spend some more time. If you’re reading this, and you’ve been emotionally mauled by a narcissist, then chances are you’re an emotionally generous person. You’re someone who feels easily, empathizes very easily, and reaches out to connect with others easily. You do it all the time. You’re very giving, very loving, and very trusting. Why do I feel I can say this with all confidence? Because these are the very people, and indeed the only people, that narcissists seek out like a weasel seeks out prey. Emotionally generous people are the only ones who can give them the huge volume of unearned adoration and attention they so desperately need, and emotionally generous people are the ones who are most devastated by the devaluation, the empty aftermath, and the realization that life with a narcissist is one big lie.

So, back to Sheldon. Sheldon is not even remotely emotionally generous. But watch (or, alternatively, just take my word for it) how he, albeit fictionally, stops for that split second to decide whether to get emotionally involved. Truly emotionally defective people don’t do this; they just don’t have the equipment to even consider connecting as an option, and so they don’t get truly involved, ever. But emotionally generous people don’t often stop to decide either (though they CAN, and have the ABILITY to do so — BIG difference there). Emotionally generous people give themselves and get involved and connect very easily, because it’s their nature. Would an ounce of detachment be a great thing when getting to know new people, especially those that seem a teensy bit “off”? Or when confronted with a “bad feeling” situation with someone you know? Yes. Yes it would. And would this ounce of detachment feel very uncomfortable, and wrong, and even unfair to an untrained person who is emotionally generous? Oh, yes. It would. Big time.

We’re going to talk a lot more about this; my social worker pal is writing a book about it, and I said I’d help. She’s also helping to gussy up the blog a little. But she has GOT to stop hitting me with a rolled-up newspaper whenever I boost the idea of people keeping their narcissists and sparing the rest of us their narcissistic assclowning. Stay tuned for who wins the Skirmish of the Ideologies….

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Narcissists In the News

It can seem like narcissists are everywhere and there’s a critical infestation of them in modern society. It can seem that way for two reasons — one, some of us seem to suck them toward us like moths to light, and so we can end up surrounded by them with only a few good people mixed in. And two, narcissists end up in the news more frequently than good people, and so it seems like they’re in every important office, story, and crisis in the world. And that’s a lot of narcissists.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I recognize that there are way, WAY too many narcissists in the world. But maybe not as many as it seems, since they do tend to be represented disproportionately in the news. Why is this? Glad you asked. This is because narcissists SCREW UP, they GET CAUGHT, and they’re SO RIDICULOUS THAT THE MEDIA SHOWCASES THEM BECAUSE IT’S FUN TO WATCH THE ABSURD SELF-DESTRUCTION.

We’re not going to name names here, at least not in my soapbox part — you guys can go wild in the comments if you like. But whether it’s a politician who embezzles money and molests the receptionist because he thinks he can get away with it, or the real estate amateur who buys properties by lying on the mortgage applications, and defaults on the mortgages and says “no one was hurt, so it’s OK”; or the scammer, the abuser, the shooter or the fallen clergyman who is found to be neck-deep in the very same crimes he’d rail against on the pulpit — all in the news, all creeps, and all basking us in their narcissistic glory. Drunk driving arrests for the narcissistic General can be rampant, while he talks publicly about how law-abiding he is. As Governor, the narcissist will genuflect himself and his ideas about how he’ll perform miracles of social conscience, while taking bribes and lying on his taxes and not doing a thing for the people. The assclown star athlete sexually assaults his fans, because he thinks he can get away with it. The certain actor picks fights, has tantrums, and starts ruckuses that get him arrested, because he’s a narcissist behaving like a spoiled brat. Sometimes the news can look like a Parade of Narcissistic Idiots — and sometimes it IS a Parade of Narcissistic Idiots.

There may be lots of narcissists around, and some of them may be popular to the masses, but that is NOT a justification for being with one. It’s not cool to get entangled with them because they seem like the “new normal”, or because you’re pretty sure you can tame and help and change this one because he’s not so glaring in his traits as some others you’ve heard about. Hone your detection skills, Friends, get good at recognizing and avoiding, and try not to be standing next to one of them when he finds his butt on the evening news.

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On Other People

Being normal folk, you, my friends, no doubt look to other people for something called validation. Validation is when other people support or value something that you do, or think or feel, and in this way they provide a reality check of sorts. We’re social creatures, we humans, very much like the apes (some of us more like them than others), and it’s healthy and nurturing that we do this. It keeps us grounded and connected.

Accordingly, you, my friends, have no doubt looked to other people to see what they think of the narcissist. This also is good, because when the assclown starts ramping up the confusion, manipulation and lies, healthy people get a “what the hell?” look on their face and look for a reality check. You do this by checking to see if other people think he’s a fabulous guy, or if this is normal exciting relationship stuff and you just don’t get it, or else if they roll their eyes at his crap and inch away from him at parties. Validation isn’t and shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of a person’s confidence in their opinions and decisions, but it’s a big part of how we deal with things that are stressing us out.

Which can be a problem when it comes to being with narcissists. A big problem. Narcissists have been honing their bullsh*tting craft for years, maybe decades, and sometimes they’re really good at it. They’re good at conning other people into believing the narcissist is something he isn’t, whether it’s “honest”, or “deep”, or successful or hard-working or loving. They’re not nearly as good at pretending these things as they think they are, but they can fool some pretty smart, savvy people who are good at critical thinking, especially if those people aren’t paying particularly close attention. And so, when you look to others for what they think of the narcissist and his behavior, you may — or may not — get a good reality check. Some people you trust might think he’s an OK guy, just a little “insecure” or “needy” or “moody”. Some might buy into his self-aggrandizement and think you should keep him at all costs, he’s the catch of the year. Some might say all relationships are flawed, and you either work with it, or cut bait and move on. Some misguided best friends, parents, therapists, objective third parties, and celebrities say this kind of stuff. But that doesn’t make it true.

Now, pay attention here: These people are not saying these things because they’re true. They’re saying them because, well, God knows why, whether it’s because they don’t see it, or don’t care, or want to give out advice even if it’s bad. But they are NOT saying these things because they’re true.

Some people will tell you the narcissist is bad news and you should get away and stay away. These people care about you, they’re right, and you should listen. It’s good validation.

If you’re with someone who lies, is shallow, is fake and showy and manipulative and sometimes, if you’re honest you’ll admit it, sometimes just plain creeps you out, go ahead and seek out validation, because that kind of support feels good when life feels wobbly. But if some other people are telling you it’s all OK, he’s OK, and what’s going on isn’t a big deal and you should hang in there, take that as validation that they are fooled too, just like you were, that many people are fooled. But you — unlike those other people — see the deeper layers of dysfunction and destruction, and are smart and resourceful and self-loving enough to get far, far away.

A tip: If you run into these “I’m OK, he’s OK, suck it up” people later on and they ask about the narcissist, just tell them you had to unload him because you found out he was cheating. Everybody gets that. And since he’s a narcissist, even if you never really caught him at it, it probably isn’t even a fib. Narcissists can be kind of skanky that way.

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