• jess

Narcissists. AKA - Defining "dating my father"

It was 2016, I was 26 years old. I had just gone through a major life-shittery period that stretched from 23 to the present year (and would get much worse from there). In this period, I had a mental illness explosion sparked by a non-stop schedule of achievement and desperate hustling to stay financially afloat, exacerbated by seeing a horrible free therapist who told me I had PTSD, and a boy who loved and left me… and that was it.


Then, I met a boy who turned my world upside down before rejecting me without a word. All the while, trying to figure out which grad school I would be attending while working every day in cellular research and finishing up my Chemistry minor. The next thing I knew, my body failed me - the product of immune system overload - and I was a physically sickly, mentally fucked mess.


Suddenly, my head was filled with terrible memories and unwarranted panic about the future. I was a depressed, anxious, tormented and physically unwell disaster of a human. And without any viable mental health help, the agony of it all stretched on for years.


When I got to this point - the summer of 2016, age 26 - I had one of many temporary mental health enlightenment periods. Some of the axes of trauma recovery were being upheld in my world, I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I was working my ass off to try to keep things moving forward.


I was taking care of myself. I had started jogging for the first time. I was working towards applying to law school (yep, another one of my potential graduate degrees that I considered). I was generally aware that I was in control of my mindset, and I could shift my energy to a better plane each day if I was clued-in enough to notice.


In other words, I was on a major upswing that summer. Getting over my past three years of wading through waist-high shit. Shaking off some shitty memories. Letting go of a few torturous narratives in my head. Feeling excited that a better future was possible.


What always happens when this is my mental landscape, Motherfuckers? Oh, you know I get derailed by some asshole coming in and taking over my life. Like I said, it’s what happened at age 23 when I was doing great until I fell head over heels for the boy of my dreams (There is a protected post about this if you’re interested. It’s hidden for his sake, he’s publicly semi-known.) and that’s when my head became 100% focused on him, rather than the 18 plates I had spinning in the air.


Little did I know, it was about to happen again. And this time, my shit was about to get truly scrambled. I was about to jump into bed with a tried and true narcissist. First, a wonderful love-bomber. Then, an emotional abuser. Occasionally, a physical abuser. A mental health denier. A gaslighter. A constant victim.


My shit was about to be changed forever - in every way.


Goodbye, familiar surroundings, goodbye financial security, goodbye friends, goodbye small semblance of hope and sanity that I had just cultivated. Hello, new depths of my trauma responses, depression, anxiety, self-hate, fear, and life abandonment. New physical and mental ailments were right around the corner. So was the most codependent, disempowering, confusing relationship I’ve ever been in. And that’s saying something.


This is how life goes wrong when you’re in the web of an entitled, unaccountable, self-aggrandizing idiot who can charm your deepest secrets out of you, just in time to use them all against you. This is the trite tale of getting into a relationship that wouldn’t let go. This is what happens when you fall in love with a narcissist.





When it comes to relationships, Motherfuckers, uh… have some challenges. From loose, transitive connections to can’t-live-without-you codependent partners to tumultuous roller coaster relations… there’s an intense sliding scale of the ways we fall in love with other humans. And most of them don’t benefit us or our mental health in the long term.


When it comes to PTSD and CPTSD sufferers, I think there are a lot of questions about healthy boundaries, emotional independence, and mental illness interactions. I know I’ve got them, and I’m far from the only one.


In particular, I often hear a lot of us wonder about one style of toxic partnership and the personality disorder that underlies all the drama… What’s up with the narcissists that seem to seek and destroy us, anyways?


Why do they preferentially find us? Why do we fall for them? Why is it so hard to get out? Why does it somehow seem like everything is hunky-dory the entire time… until that fateful day when you realize, “wait a minute, this shit’s fucked”? Why does it happen over and over again, when we swear that every time is the last?


I can’t explain the narcissists’ honing ability. How they can pick us Traumatized Motherfuckers out of a crowd and key into our deepest insecurities is a mystery to me. How they can pull the wool over the eyes of folks who are proudly, keenly attuned to spotting wolves. But one thing is for sure - the pairing of a narcissist with a Trauma sufferer is natural, deceitful, and difficult to escape. Not to mention, dangerous.


Today, we're getting as far as defining narcissism, because it turns out that I have too much to say on the topic. We'll pick up from there to talk about the relationship patterns, biological drivers, and behavioral reinforcements that pull us in and pull us under next time. Narcissists, you're more complex than I thought.




Narcissism, defined


Let’s get definitions out of the way. What is a narcissist, exactly? I think our culture’s overuse of the term has made it synonymous with a shallow, self-obsessed, superiority-complex-ridden human who spends too much time taking selfies. But that’s not exactly right.


I also think that it’s become old hat to describe basically every ex as a narcissist in our culture, well, because we’re dramatic and also because most humans feel like they weren’t an equal part of the relationship when the thing explodes. “They didn’t respect my feelings, so therefore they are a narcissist!” Nah, doesn’t work like that. You’re describing an asshole, not necessarily a narcissist. Keep this in mind as I talk, rather heavily, about my own shitty ex. Take my word with a grain of salt... but also realize he's been diagnosed professionally as such, several times over.


Whatsmore, it's interesting to me that a lot of Trauma sufferers seem to worry that they are narcissists. I know I have. I think this is due to our negative self-obsession and insecurities in the name of mental illnesses… and it’s also probably a throwback to our early Traumas. If we haven’t been directly told that we were selfish, demanding, self-centered little twats by abusers at some point in our lives, I think we’re good at internalizing those early ACEs and projecting the blame our way. We expect everything is wrong with us, why not this major personality disorder, too?


In my opinion, for what that’s worth, if you’re worrying about being a narcissist… you probably aren’t a narcissist. I feel like it shows that you care too much about other people and your impact on them. By definition, not narcissistic. Just saying.


So, what is a narcissist, by official definition? So we can all stop mis-assigning our unprofessional diagnoses.




Grandiose sense of self-importance


Self-aggrandizing thoughts and behaviors are the most prominent feature of narcissists. It isn’t just hubris or a positive self-view, so don’t feel bad about yourself on those 3 days a year that you have something positive to say about your existence. Grandiosity is a baseless sense of superiority over everyone else on the planet. Being “above it all” or more deserving of things in life than the rest of humanity.


Why? Just because that’s who they are. Not because of true accomplishment, expertise, or personal merit (although, they will spin tales of all three), but because they are inherently a more worthwhile organism than all the rest of the organisms with the audacity to breathe their air. Narcissists want to associate with impressive people, do impressive things, and project an impressive person to the world. Because they have a god-given right to or non-descriptively point to how they've "earned" it.


In their minds, they’ve probably worked magic in this world. They were born to be great and they are delivering. If they speak about their relationships, work, or families, you’d better believe that they’re going to be the shining star, the person who holds it all together, the hardest worker who’s vastly underappreciated for their fantastical abilities and expertise.


In their minds, they’ve probably worked magic in this world. They were born to be great and they are delivering. If they speak about their relationships, work, or families, you’d better believe that they’re going to be the shining star, the person who holds it all together, the hardest worker who’s vastly underappreciated for their fantastical abilities and expertise.

This exaggerated self-projection is dangerous because underneath the grandiosity is self-delusion. They aren’t just being insecure and fibbing a bit to fluff the circumstances, narcissists fucking believe what they’re saying, at least to some extent. They have to. Where the lies stop and the truths start is a blurred line, even for them. Those secretly fragile egos need their greatness to be true, and so, they adopt the narratives that they create as fact rather than self-penned fiction.


Long story short, narcissists are the best, the brightest, and the most destined for greatness, if they haven't achieved it already.


Mhmm. Sounds familiar.


I’ll never forget my first date with my ex. Soon after we met that summer of 2016, we had a day-date where we grabbed lunch to get to know each other. Well… if that was the intention, I can’t say that he got to know me at all. I remember sitting at the metal patio table, picking at a salad, and thinking “wow, this guy can really fucking talk.”


He rambled on and on about everything in his life that he was proud of, and therefore willing to share. I heard all about his education, his work in New Music, and how he was pushing the envelope for the entire musical community. I heard his thoughts on his inferior classmates and work associates. I listened to him drone on about how he was the wisest of them all for finding a tiny niche and leveraging it for his success - as, meanwhile, his peers wasted all their time playing the same old contrived classical music repertoire that they would never be able to perfect.


He rambled on and on about everything in his life that he was proud of, and therefore willing to share. I heard all about his education, his work in New Music, and how he was pushing the envelope for the entire musical community. I heard his thoughts on his inferior classmates and work associates. I listened to him drone on about how he was the wisest of them all for finding a tiny niche and leveraging it for his success - as, meanwhile, his peers wasted all their time playing the same old contrived classical music repertoire that they would never be able to perfect.

At the time, I wasn’t interested. I don't think I asked a single question to make this asshole parade start marching and I wasn't cheering it on. There was no time - I didn't have a second to speak, myself. I didn’t care about his fucking vibraphone or his New Music pride. I didn’t prompt him for a 3 hour long lecture on where music is headed and how he’s personally getting it there.


But, stupidly, I chalked up his incessant rambling about himself to being nervous and trying to make a good impression. It was a first date, afterall. Don't be too hard on him. Put yourself in his shoes. The dude likes you and he’s just trying to paint a nice picture.


Uh. Huh.


Little did I know that our entire relationship would be like this. My ex was a master self-portrait artist, apparently, because he had to run his goddamn mouth about his accomplishments, experiences, and knowledge in every situation we would ever be in. For the next three years I listened to his same old stories and boring life lectures, over and over and over again, to anyone we encountered. Family, friends, or strangers.


He often graced the room with his recollections of supporting himself, going through immense struggles, and coming out on top with his particularly astute skills and penchant for creating opportunities for himself, which he would ultimately crush to come out strides ahead of all his competition. He had been through it all, faced major setbacks, and found a new path towards a successful future - all because of his own personal merits. He had experienced and accomplished amazing things, in spite of his horrible family and ex-wife, and fancied himself a life-hardened, grounded, big-hearted musical revolutionary.


Spoilers; I would eventually come to find that none of this was true. There are sprinklings of facts littered throughout his life narrative, but the actual details and circumstances are nothing like he describes. Shit got twisted around like he was an expert roller coaster engineer; buckle up for the wild ride you're about to whip through.

Spoilers; I would eventually come to find that none of this was true. There are sprinklings of facts littered throughout his life narrative, but the actual details and circumstances are nothing like he describes. Shit got twisted around like he was an expert roller coaster engineer; buckle up for the wild ride you're about to whip through.


But in his head, I honestly think these tales were his true account, what he really believed about himself. Especially because this is characteristic of a narcissist number two.




Lives in a fantasy world


As I’ve already described… you can’t uphold sky-high beliefs about yourself if you’re 100% realistic all the time. Eventually, something would happen to make you question your inherent knowledge that you’re god’s fucking gift to this earth.


You'd have to face facts, eventually. You would have a work failure that made you question your abilities. You would suffer a relationship failure that would cause you to rethink your natural tendency to be universally worshipped. You would miss a goalpost or overlook an important detail that could call your advanced, supremely-evolved brain into question.


But if you’re a narcissist, there’s a way around these challenging glimpses into reality. You simply make up a new story. Twist the circumstances. Change the details. Alter the texture of the entire experience. No need to acknowledge your shortcomings or potential for making a normal, human mistake. Don't be upfront about the ways that you contributed - or didn't contribute - to the issue at hand. Just rewrite history to make it someone else’s fault.


But if you’re a narcissist, there’s a way around these challenging glimpses into reality. You simply make up a new story. Twist the circumstances. Change the details. Alter the texture of the entire experience. No need to acknowledge your shortcomings or potential for making a normal, human mistake. Don't be upfront about the ways that you contributed - or didn't contribute - to the issue at hand. Just rewrite history to make it someone else’s fault.

Now, it’s important to remember that the story doesn’t have to make sense. If you're charming enough, there can be massive pieces of information missing or parts of the plotline can be totally incohesive. The point is, the narcissist has to protect their delicate inner world through dispelling any self- or other-imparted shame. They can’t fathom the thought of being out of control or incapable of maintaining the fantastical world they’ve singularly created. They'll ignore the incongruities and expect you to do the same.


If you question a narcissist on any of these details… watch the fuck out. They aren’t going to take a step back, rub their chin thoughtfully, and thank you for pointing out the glaring error in their thinking. They’re going to lash out with anger, aggression, and gaslighting.


If you question a narcissist on any of these details… watch the fuck out. They aren’t going to take a step back, rub their chin thoughtfully, and thank you for pointing out the glaring error in their thinking. They’re going to lash out with anger, aggression, and gaslighting.

They’re going to make sure that you’re as wrong as could be. Not only about this issue, but god knows what else you’re seeing through unrealistic glasses, since you could possibly manage to read them SO incorrectly. Time to explode. Time to deflect. Time to abuse others. Just keep that delusional raft afloat.


Yip.


With my ex, any sort of questions about his past or present resulted in angry outrage and attention-reversal. There was no way to talk about him without it spinning around to be a much bigger, louder, more serious argument about me.


Oh, I think he’s wrong for telling everyone that he grew up struggling to provide for himself, when in reality his family is wealthier than god and supported his every interest with their bountiful resources? He grew up in a fucking mansion, never had to work, and all his drum lessons and equipment were funded by his fam. Not to mention his - well, everything else. Spoiled beach boy, that's all you need to know.


But in light of this questioning, the bigger issue is how I’M a liar. Fuck me, because when I tell people that I grew up in poverty - well, I’m lying because he thinks that poverty should look different. If you’re not 10-people high in a tent without running water, it’s not real. You have no right to use the government-established parameters that define “poverty.”


So, actually, he’s not deceiving people with a cherry-picked recollection of his origins, I AM! And that’s a much bigger deal. Let’s spend the next several hours shaming me for my supposed struggles instead of looking at his.

So, actually, he’s not deceiving people with a cherry-picked recollection of his origins, I AM! And that’s a much bigger deal. Let’s spend the next several hours shaming me for my supposed struggles instead of looking at his.


Cool, cool. Glad we could have this talk. Thank god I have such a boot-strap-pulling, self-made genius in my life to dismiss my early life experiences and correct my thinking. I guess all that government aid we received growing up was a lie, too.


In the end, I think I got him to acknowledge once or twice that maybe his family resources and life circumstances indirectly contributed to his current achievements. Maybe all the private lessons, expensive equipment, and luxury of having free time to practice instead of working for any of it aided his development into a skilled percussionist. Maybe having financial support throughout college enabled him to get three advanced degrees without a single worry or the necessity of a real job? Maybe knowing that there was a big inheritance headed his way made a career in music possible, in the first place? Maybe there were special factors at place, besides his assertions of hard work and sacrifice.


Maybe. But acknowledging that would really retract from the next point.




Requires non stop praise and attention


How can you continue to feel amazing about yourself if, well, no one is telling you that you’re amazing minute by minute? Those self-doubting voices might start to creep in, whispering sweet nothings about the ways that your outward-projection isn’t matching your inner self-esteem today. No good. Can’t have those incohesive narratives sparking any self-doubt.


Narcissists can’t stand to have a semblance of a question about their blessed existences. Their shining personalities and god-given talents need to shine at all times, or else, what’s the point? If they aren’t being recognized, it’s like it never happened at all (and you know, it possibly didn’t happen at all, so that’s doubly shitty to rectify). Must seek approval, must receive admiration, must prove to the world that you’re the best there’s ever been.


Narcissists can’t stand to have a semblance of a question about their blessed existences. Their shining personalities and god-given talents need to shine at all times, or else, what’s the point? If they aren’t being recognized, it’s like it never happened at all (and you know, it possibly didn’t happen at all, so that’s doubly shitty to rectify). Must seek approval, must receive admiration, must prove to the world that you’re the best there’s ever been.

And so, narcissists surround themselves with people who will provide that praise. They take on careers that lift them up for recognition. They associate with people who adore or respect them for some relevant reason. They maintain relationships with those who expect little and happily take a seat so they can absorb every photon of the spotlight. They put themselves in the public eye to detail their harrowing journeys as the hero of their story. And for self-protection, they keep most folks at an arm's-length, so there’s less of a chance of anyone seeing through the cracks.


Oh yas.


I saw this continually in my ex’s world-relations. Not only did he choose his “friends” (I use that term very lightly) based on their relative desire to suck his dick with praise and admiration for his fake stories, but he kept everyone at a safe distance. He didn’t reveal key portions of his life to them. He didn’t have close connections. He just liked to call people his best pals when he felt like throwing a self-centered event or could use them to leverage his self-perception of being a good guy. (i.e. having people over for a BBQ so they could praise his cooking and listen to his stories all night).


He also chose a career that literally included praise around every turn. As a musician and musical instructor, he was continually inundated with positive feedback. Teaching students how to play instruments was a way to show off his own chops. He basked in the moments when he would “show them up” or “blow their minds” with his further-developed skills. He lived for the parental thank-yous and took credit for his students’ achievements when they excelled. It was all about him, afterall. Where would they be without his leadership?


He also chose a career that literally included praise around every turn. As a musician and musical instructor, he was continually inundated with positive feedback. Teaching students how to play instruments was a way to show off his own chops. He basked in the moments when he would “show them up” or “blow their minds” with his further-developed skills. He lived for the parental thank-yous and took credit for his students’ achievements when they excelled. It was all about him, afterall. Where would they be without his leadership?

When he played a show, well fuck, that was one big celebration of himself. His name was in big bold print on the top of the program. All eyes were on him as he took the stage. He controlled the audience with his performances, drawing out the silences and staccatos with a flair that demanded un-split attention. At the end of his set, he was literally applauded. Think about that for a second. And after the performance people inevitably came up to shower him with attention and slaps on the back as they fawned over his fancy instrument - the only one in the United States. Whatta special guy.


Uh yeah, it hasn’t been lost on me that my ex chose his career based on the activity that earned him recognition, reputation, and respect when he was in high school. Playing drums worked, taking him from an unknown and identity-challenged kid to a “popular one,” who played in the most revered hardcore metal band at his school. Why would he ever stop?


So, WHY did he become a doctor of percussion performance? Because he loved music SO much that he needed a PhD? I never saw that. He didn’t even go to shows until we started dating. He didn't even own a stereo or a bluetooth speaker.


Because he couldn’t keep his hands off of a drum set? Nah, he literally never played at home unless he had to last-minute prepare for a performance that night.


Because he learned that was the way he could stand out in the world and continually feed his insecure ego… not to mention, because his entire family had advanced degrees and he couldn’t otherwise keep up with their accomplishments? Bingo!


Oh, hindsight.


Thanks to his family, at least in-part, he also had a vast sense of deserving the best, just as they had certain expectations for him.





Entitlement


It probably goes without saying, when you think you’re the best and you demand that the world agrees, you have a pretty strong sense of entitlement. You were put on this earth superior to the rest, and you deserve only the best, as such. Enough is never enough. Personal achievements and ability to provide for yourself, be damned. As long as they’re breathing, narcissists should be catered to, adored, and presented with every golden opportunity.


The ventures they take on should be immediately reflective of their greatness. They shouldn’t have to work hard for promotions or recognition in the field, because, fuck, they’ve already worked so hard already. Stick it out, keep my head down, and wait for the next opportunity that I’m well-equipped for? Fuck that. Sounds like what the rest of the world has to do, but not them. Just being on this planet should be proof enough - not to mention any sharply-defined struggle or occurrence of tenacity that they have spun out of the blurry details.


Narcissists insist on having one-sided relationship dynamics that build them up and support their achievements, while the other party sits quietly with wide-eyes in the wake of their wonderfulness. You’re here to shower them with compliments, pacify your own inner drivers, and tend to their mental, emotional, and physical needs every day - you know - until they’re ready to move on.

Narcissists insist on having one-sided relationship dynamics that build them up and support their achievements, while the other party sits quietly with wide-eyes in the wake of their wonderfulness. You’re here to shower them with compliments, pacify your own inner drivers, and tend to their mental, emotional, and physical needs every day - you know - until they’re ready to move on.


Should you ask for anything, yourself, be ready for all hell to break loose. Don’t you know that they’re already so overworked? Haven’t you realized how much they’ve already sacrificed for you? How could you put another massive pressure on their plate when they’re already so busy being important to the entire world?


It also deserves to be mentioned that when it comes to relationships, narcissists think that they deserve to be treated like gods, and it will be by the people who they deem “good enough” to be in their presence. After all, it’s not enough to be endlessly praised and attended to if the other party doesn’t equally reflect your inherent worth. It can’t just be Joe Shmoe washing your feet every night, it needs to be someone that you’re proud to have this control over. Thereby, reinforcing that you are the greatest. An ego trip on top of an ego trip.


It also deserves to be mentioned that when it comes to relationships, narcissists think that they deserve to be treated like gods, and it will be by the people who they deem “good enough” to be in their presence. After all, it’s not enough to be endlessly praised and attended to if the other party doesn’t equally reflect your inherent worth. It can’t just be Joe Shmoe washing your feet every night, it needs to be someone that you’re proud to have this control over. Thereby, reinforcing that you are the greatest. An ego trip on top of an ego trip.

Here we go again.


In my relationship, not only was I expected to play a strong supporting role in EVERYTHING my ex had on his plate, but I’d better do it looking like a movie star. From his career to his family obligations to his son to his household, I was his personal assistant, his life-manager, his trusty sidekick.


Oh, did I want to see my own framily, fulfill my own needs, or tend to my own career? No fucking way, what a selfish thing to think. If I WAS allowed to do anything, he was going to be right there with me so he could benefit from it, too. Oh, and put on a dress because I’m not as proud to be with you when you wear band shirts or comfortable clothes. “Lol” this is real.


He expected me to parent his child from a previous marriage, to entertain his family when they dropped into town every few weeks, to clean the entire house for his guests, to make every work or family-obligatory trip with him so he wasn’t alone, to pack, set up, and tear down his performance setups for every show, to care for his dog (who, for all intents and purposes, became my dog) who he neglected, to be a trendy home-maker, to financially support all of his horrific money-management mistakes, and to establish a career that he deemed “cool,” although I didn’t have the privilege of actually devoting any time or attention to it without him demanding attentional interruption.


He expected me to parent his child from a previous marriage, to entertain his family when they dropped into town every few weeks, to clean the entire house for his guests, to make every work or family-obligatory trip with him so he wasn’t alone, to pack, set up, and tear down his performance setups for every show, to care for his dog (who, for all intents and purposes, became my dog) who he neglected, to be a trendy home-maker, to financially support all of his horrific money-management mistakes, and to establish a career that he deemed “cool,” although I didn’t have the privilege of actually devoting any time or attention to it without him demanding attentional interruption.

And, again, be sure that you look pretty the entire time. Do your makeup. I don’t like when you wear your hair up. Show your legs. I’m proud to be seen with you when you’re dolled up, my ex never did that. It’s so awesome that I get to be with someone who looks the way you do.


Uhh.. yeah, his feelings for me were really more about feelings for himself. Another form of entitlement that I accepted as flattery.


Mhm.


This entitlement and expectation is why I struggled trying to build my art career after we moved to Atlanta. This is why I couldn’t get any traction with my early attempts at a mental health blog.


When I tried to focus on my own shit, he lashed out. Complained that I was ignoring him. Gave me massive grief and guilt for having something to do besides driving 8 hours each direction to see HIS son once a month or attending every concert he performed. Threw tantrums when I tried to do research on “his time.” Picked fights when I wanted to use weekends for accomplishing my goals instead of his - that way, we can scream at each other for days so NO ONE gets anything done… but hey, at least the attention was on him the whole time.


When I tried to focus on my own shit, he lashed out. Complained that I was ignoring him. Gave me massive grief and guilt for having something to do besides driving 8 hours each direction to see HIS son once a month or attending every concert he performed. Threw tantrums when I tried to do research on “his time.” Picked fights when I wanted to use weekends for accomplishing my goals instead of his - that way, we can scream at each other for days so NO ONE gets anything done… but hey, at least the attention was on him the whole time.

Oh, and did I expect that he would actually try to manage his spending, all the while? That we would have a household budget so I didn’t constantly have to bail him out thousands of dollars at a time when he fucked up, forgot something massive, and had a pressing bill to contend with? How could he, when he has fancy dinners and drinks that he needs to consume? Fun trips to go on? Big nights out so we can be seen by other humans?


He has no money, himself, but he’s entitled to everything the world had to offer his family - who actually earned the resources to support their behaviors. They ate well, drank well, and lived well… surely, he should too. Just, because.


And my money that I worked my ass off to save for the past ten years? Well, that’s as good as his. Maybe I would get a half-hearted “thank you” and an empty promise to repay me… which never happened. When we broke up he owed me something like 10 grand. I never got a fucking penny.


Yep, it’s all for you, babe. Glad I could be here to support the life you deserve.




Takes advantage of others


Well, this one goes hand in hand with the entitlement and the rest of it. How do you keep yourself living like a king without actually earning those treasures yourself? How do you secure endless attention from your meager servants? You take advantage. And you don’t let yourself feel one ounce of guilt for it.


When you’re self-centered to this extreme degree, what happens? You lose the capacity to even consider the position of anyone else who might be orbiting around you. If your needs are being met, fantastic. Everyone must be happy. Nothing to consider, well, outside of your own satisfaction and appearance.


Maybe this is a conscientious thought for narcissists to disrespect other human’s conditions and leverage them for their own goals on purpose, because they aren’t as crucial to the success of the planet… Maybe it’s just ignorance, because they don’t have the spare brainwaves to worry about anyone else when they’re so consumed by themselves. Either way, narcissists don’t understand - and don’t care to understand - how their actions are impacting other folks. You’re not even a blip on the radar… at least, unless you’re being impacted by how wonderful they are.


Friends, coworkers, and family members are just fortuitous fruits, ripe for their picking. There’s no true loyalty, consideracy, or empathy in their bodies. Only feigned gratitude that might flash for a split second before they’ve completely forgotten the favors or the efforts of others. The moment you aren’t serving them anymore, well you can promptly find the nearest door and fuck off right through it.

Friends, coworkers, and family members are just fortuitous fruits, ripe for their picking. There’s no true loyalty, consideracy, or empathy in their bodies. Only feigned gratitude that might flash for a split second before they’ve completely forgotten the favors or the efforts of others. The moment you aren’t serving them anymore, well you can promptly find the nearest door and fuck off right through it.


Narcissists might be able to fake a sense of empathy - but if you look closely, you’ll see that they have no real capability to put themselves in the shoes of others. They might pity others. They might look down on others with a somber attitude. But they don’t empathize with others. And no, if you ask, they won’t try to.


It takes energy to be so enamored with yourself, of course. After a lifetime of devoting so much hard work to focusing on their own delicate persona, it’s pretty impossible to take a pause and move chemicals along those outwardly-directed pathways. There’s never been a need to consider the experiences of others, so why would that be a skill they’ve practiced?


When you push for a narcissist to see your point of view, you’re fighting a losing battle. Their brain can’t begin to do the mental gymnastics required to back-flip out of their own delusions of self-aggradeur, let alone keeping steady footwork on the balance beam of comprehending another human’s experience as it relates to their own objective actions.


When you push for a narcissist to see your point of view, you’re fighting a losing battle. Their brain can’t begin to do the mental gymnastics required to back-flip out of their own delusions of self-aggradeur, let alone keeping steady footwork on the balance beam of comprehending another human’s experience as it relates to their own objective actions.

It’s dangerous, afterall, to open themselves up for the honest insight of another human, which might point towards some flaw in their personality or ways in the world. Again, to support that self-delusional dream they’ve constructed, it helps to acknowledge only one set of experiences.


Feel this.


As I already detailed, my ex was more than happy to play on the respect and kindness of others for his own gains. When it came to recognizing what they might be going through or feeling… nah. He might fake it from time to time - offering to go out for drinks with a loosely-knit buddy who was feeling down or doing a favor for someone - but at the end of the day, these actions were beneficial to him.


He got to maintain his reputation as a “good guy,” with these tiny, fleeting demonstrations of good will. He also got to go do things he enjoyed - wining and dining, or just getting out of the house to show himself off to the planet. Plus, you’d better believe that it would be plastered all over social media or finely detailed in his next conversation with someone outside of the situation, just to let everyone know what a swell fella he was.


He got to maintain his reputation as a “good guy,” with these tiny, fleeting demonstrations of good will. He also got to go do things he enjoyed - wining and dining, or just getting out of the house to show himself off to the planet. Plus, you’d better believe that it would be plastered all over social media or finely detailed in his next conversation with someone outside of the situation, just to let everyone know what a swell fella he was.

His pro-social actions were never coming from a place of emotional understanding or true interest. He was just gathering ammo for favors-in-return and public mentions of his graciousness.


It was the same with his actions towards me, his dog, his child, and his family. He never considered the experiences of any of us. We were all pawns in his larger game - presenting a caring, balanced, renaissance man to the world.


He used his son for sympathy and photographic proof of being a good man, while he stared at his phone and ignored the kid he only saw a few days a year. He used his dog for attention, while he left him in a bare crate in a dark and silent apartment without food or water for 12 hours at a time to go party. He used me up for everything I had, physically, emotionally, and financially.


Similarly, he was quick to spit garbage about his family for the ways they didn’t fully support his lifestyle, and equally prompt when he needed to beg them for money to save his ass year after year after year. After they handed over the check, do you think he ever mentioned it again to anyone? Nah. Like it never happened. Selfish asshole parents, sitting in their castle while he works his fingers to the bone. Isn’t it crazy that he’s had to build this entire life for himself? He won’t be talking to them ever again… until next month, when he needs another favor in the form of a place to stay, free child care, or direct financial support.


Similarly, he was quick to spit garbage about his family for the ways they didn’t fully support his lifestyle, and equally prompt when he needed to beg them for money to save his ass year after year after year. After they handed over the check, do you think he ever mentioned it again to anyone? Nah. Like it never happened. Selfish asshole parents, sitting in their castle while he works his fingers to the bone. Isn’t it crazy that he’s had to build this entire life for himself? He won’t be talking to them ever again… until next month, when he needs another favor in the form of a place to stay, free child care, or direct financial support.

He used everyone for his own gain with zero recognition of their perspective, inconvenience, or feelings. I guarantee he never did - and still doesn’t - see any of it this way.


And he was sure to tell the world.





Talkin’ shit


Narcissists… uh… got a lot to say about everyone else. I mean, it’s hard not to notice the downsides of everyone around you when you’re such a majestic, graceful, accomplished being. Plus, pointing out how everybody else is failing makes it even more obvious that you’re different than the rest. You’re better than them. And, anyone who is perceived as successful or attractive in ways that compete with your chosen metrics of valor? Well fuck, hasn’t anyone noticed that they’re especially flawed in a list of ways that you’d like to discuss in great detail?


Yep, narcissists love to assign and point out the negatives in everyone. That superiority complex has to present itself whenever possible. But they’re most concerned with shitting all over the folks who might be seen as competitors. It’s a threat to their lofty position if someone else can exhibit the characteristics, abilities, or knowledge that their precious ego is precariously balanced on.


Yep, narcissists love to assign and point out the negatives in everyone. That superiority complex has to present itself whenever possible. But they’re most concerned with shitting all over the folks who might be seen as competitors. It’s a threat to their lofty position if someone else can exhibit the characteristics, abilities, or knowledge that their precious ego is precariously balanced on.

To protect themselves - both externally and internally, as they evaluate the challenger with a fear of either equality or inadequacy - they get busy degrading that human before anyone can get the wrong idea about this enemy. They aren’t that good at their job. They aren’t really that smart. They actually treat their significant other like a piece of shit. They act like a hard worker, but they’re actually lying. They look good on paper, but let me tell you what I’ve noticed.


Ironically, this is a lot of narcissistic projection. They’ll go after people for the very same traits that they’re presenting, but lacking. Everyone else is a phony. No one is as righteous or inherently good as they are. They’re the TRULY successful individual, while the rest of the world just pretends to be on their level. Isn’t it obvious to everyone else? Well, buckle up, because you’re about to hear all about it.


The narcissist’s favorite defense mechanism is taking an offensive role. If you can’t beat ‘em, verbally tear them apart. Drag their reputation through the mud. Point out all their flaws and make sure no one asks any questions about you. When all else fails, pretend that you don’t even know who they are. It’s hard to keep track of all the plebeians in the kingdom, you know.


The narcissist’s favorite defense mechanism is taking an offensive role. If you can’t beat ‘em, verbally tear them apart. Drag their reputation through the mud. Point out all their flaws and make sure no one asks any questions about you. When all else fails, pretend that you don’t even know who they are. It’s hard to keep track of all the plebeians in the kingdom, you know.

Yeah.


As I’ve already mentioned, my ex was the king of talking smack about his work colleagues, classmates, family, supposed “friends,” ex-wife, ex-wife’s family, and all other social connections. Lord knows, he had and has a lot to say about me. He alternated between sucking up to everyone’s faces - fawning for their attention and any potential positives that could come from their relationship - and talking maaaad shit behind closed doors.


That professor who got him a job and consistently went out of his way to help my ex? Oh, he was a real stand up guy and a good man when they were shaking hands after a rehearsal. He’s also a belligerent asshole who doesn’t know how to teach or help his students, as soon as we're on the car ride home. He’ll never be as good of a teacher or player as my ex, even though he has 20+ years of additional experience, an international reputation, and a full-time tenured position in a competitive music program.


That friend and work colleague who plays the same circuits and helps my ex to get lucrative gigs? Oh, yeah, he’s a best buddy and a highly skilled performer when they’re sharing drinks together. When he’s out of earshot, the guy has no tenacity, lacks the polishing details to his performance, and has been floated through life by his rich parents (ha, ironic projection again). He actually only gets those gigs because he knows so-and-so and has nothing better to do, he is a desperate loser, afterall.


That friend and work colleague who plays the same circuits and helps my ex to get lucrative gigs? Oh, yeah, he’s a best buddy and a highly skilled performer when they’re sharing drinks together. When he’s out of earshot, the guy has no tenacity, lacks the polishing details to his performance, and has been floated through life by his rich parents (ha, ironic projection again). He actually only gets those gigs because he knows so-and-so and has nothing better to do, he is a desperate loser, afterall.

Uh, don’t even get me started on the brutal amount of shit-talking that went on in regard to his ex-wife, her current husband, and her entire family… to basically anyone who would listen. He spread those tales far and wide. Wouldn’t want anyone to think that he played a part in their dysfunctional relationship or the developmental delays of his son. Don’t mind the restraining order or the lack of child support that he paid. He was quick to talk about what an abusive monster she was, how little she did for their child, and how fucked up the entire clan was. All the while, uh, being an abusive asshole who gave two shits about his kid. Oh, and DID he turn around to smile and put on his father-of-the-year face while he interacted with all of them at his kid’s birthday parties? You’re goddamn right he did. Ha. Ha. Ha. So funny.


As for me? I was the most wonderful, caring, giving, intelligent, and loving human being on the planet when he was trying to get something from me or impress someone else with his new trophy. When we were alone together? I was an anxious disaster, a mentally broken human, a selfish asshole, and a condescending know-it-all who wasn’t actually as smart as I thought. I was tough, gritty, and determined… until five minutes later when I was being called weak, needy, and damaged. I was a legit force to be reckoned with, a genuine person, just myself through-and-through... until it was just him and I in the house and he was facetiously calling me “punk rock Jess” and using physical intimidation for standing up to him.


Telling me I cared about no one but myself and I was obsessed entirely with my appearance - again, followed by saying that I needed to start wearing dresses again, because my band shirts didn’t do it for him. Also, telling me that I only wore my well-worn, decade-old band shirts because I wanted to impress the people I newly worked with. Okkkay? Which is it?


So who was I in his eyes? Depended on the time of day, and how much his ego was being challenged.


So who was I in his eyes? Depended on the time of day, and how much his ego was being challenged.

Fucking insane, yeah? This was while we were dating. I can’t even imagine what he’s been saying about me since… but, actually, I can, because it’s probably eerily similar to what he relayed about his strangely parallel relationship with his ex-wife.


Weird, how he’s always “being taken advantage” of by the same sort of person, huh?


Huh.


Guess his shit-talking isn't very creative, as you'd expect from an artist-for-recognition's sake. Boom, gotcha, fucker.





Wrap up


Alright Motherfuckers, I was actually going to get into a deep discussion of how narcissists and Trauma interact… but uh… there was too much to say, just in describing narcissists. I guess I’m feeling nostalgic today, wanting to relive all the fun times.


Of course, as always, there is incredible clarity in hindsight. At the time, I never considered him to be a narcissist. In fact, when other people called him narcissistic, I was the first to stand up with indigence to tell them how wrong they had it. I was blind to the secret, sneaky behaviors that characterized him - rather obviously - as a narcissist.


Of course, as always, there is incredible clarity in hindsight. At the time, I never considered him to be a narcissist. In fact, when other people called him narcissistic, I was the first to stand up with indignance to tell them how wrong they had it. I was blind to the secret, sneaky behaviors that characterized him - rather obviously - as a narcissist.

Admittedly, I didn’t want to believe he was one. That would challenge the life we were building together. It would mean I was bad at spotting people’s true character - something I pride myself on. AND, most importantly, it would indicate that I was falling for someone like my dad. Which, clearly, made me uncomfortable to believe that my daddy issues and pre-programmed penchant for inviting abuse into my life could be real.


So, I made up excuses for him. I looked the other way when things didn’t align. I voiced my questions about his stories once - but learned not to do it ever again after the punishment that came my way.


I trusted that he was as much of a happy-go-lucky “good guy” as he presented himself to be, because that’s what I wanted him to be. I thought he was truthful with his accounts of growing up, getting by, and accomplishing things by himself, because I respected that we had those similarities. I definitely didn’t want him to be an abusive asshole like his ex-wife claimed, so I was happy to believe that he was just married to a “crazy” woman (now, this assertion makes me fucking cringe).


I trusted that he was as much of a happy-go-lucky “good guy” as he presented himself to be, because that’s what I wanted him to be. I thought he was truthful with his accounts of growing up, getting by, and accomplishing things by himself, because I respected that we had those similarities. I definitely didn’t want him to be an abusive asshole like his ex-wife claimed, so I was happy to believe that he was just married to a “crazy” woman (now, this assertion makes me fucking cringe).

I didn’t realize until I heard everyone else’s conflicting accounts that he was, uh, skimming some of the details. Even then, I didn’t patch together all of the subtle warning signs to construct a large enough red flag. Everyone who knew him from a distance knew him to be a good man - I was probably just overreacting and being too sensitive, like he said.


Truthfully, I didn’t believe he was a narcissist until my therapist saw it herself in our couples’ sessions and all the subsequent insane-person emails he sent her. After our breakup, a few "friends" (again, loose term) of his contacted me supportively to say, "I actually always wondered how you fared dating him - I mean, he is a classic narcissist." Uh, that one made me stop and question why the fuck I hadn't seen it so clearly.


I’m still a bit pissed at myself for falling into this trap. For falling in love with someone who was the exact thing I tried to escape at the age of 12 when I cut my dad out of my life. For failing to trust my gut instincts, which were fucking crawling with discomfort for most of our relationship as new details continued to emerge and his personality continued to change behind closed doors.


I’m still a bit pissed at myself for falling into this trap. For falling in love with someone who was the exact thing I tried to escape at the age of 12 when I cut my dad out of my life. For failing to trust my gut instincts, which were fucking crawling with discomfort for most of our relationship as new details continued to emerge and his personality continued to change behind closed doors.

But, hey, at least I understand how it happened now. Big surprise, it all goes back to those early learning experiences.


More on that soon.


Next time, I’m going to jump in to talk about the cycle of narcissistic abuse and how Traumatized Motherfuckers are biologically primed to fall for the same breed of monsters that created many of us in the first place. It’s all about that cycle of highs and lows.


We’ll be talkin’ trauma bonding, reconciliation, and intermittent reinforcement when I get my head away from fondly remembering the past.


Hope you can catch your breath before this wild, broken-brained, crazy woman - AKA Punk Rock Jess - comes back to give you more troubling information.



Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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