Brain in the blender.

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I’ve fallen even deeper into the rabbit hole and my mind feels like someone tossed it in a blender and pushed the “puree” button.  That’s how confused and conflicted I feel at this moment.  So much to process and sort out.  I don’t know if I ever can.  But I must, because failing in this would be worse than death.

I’ve been having some recurring dreams involving my NPD ex.  Each of these dreams involves him being in a new relationship and becoming wildly successful financially.   The first dream I had of its kind I blew off, thinking it couldn’t be that important.   After all, in the dream,  I felt inexplicably jealous.    Since I want nothing to do with him in real life (and have been NC or at least VLC with him for three years)  and could care less if he meets someone new, I dismissed this dream as a fluke. The second dream had me puzzled and a little bothered, but again, I dismissed it.  I can’t stand this guy — where would these jealous feelings be coming from?

But last night I had the third dream.  This one was much more vivid and seemed to be screaming at me to pay attention because it had something very important to tell me.

In the dream, I was sitting in my ex’s brand new corner office.  It was huge, with a floor to ceiling window that overlooked some city-scape far below.   The furniture was expensive  and dark and manly, lots of leather and brass.   And everywhere — on his huge empty mohagany desk, on the bookshelves, on a high credenza — were dozens of priceless glass and crystal sculptures.

He was telling me (arrogantly) his new fiancee whose father owned the company had given him this job — which paid in seven figures.   The photo on his desk showed a beautiful young brunette, smiling hugely with perfect teeth and her perfect hair flying in the wind, the ocean behind her.  Sailing?  Had he been with her on that sailboat?    Had he taken that photo?

How stereotypical: the sailboat, the model-gorgeous girl, the corner office, the perfectly manicured nails, the casual but expensive businesswear.   He looked like an advertisement in GQ.  I almost laughed.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

I was too consumed by envy and rage. I wanted to take a sledgehammer and break that picture, break all of those glittering pieces of glass that were mocking my failure of a life — and break his head while I was at it.  I wanted to go on a rampage and destroy all these things that had come so easily to him, while I still had to struggle at a dead end job to pay for the necessities and would probably remain alone until the day I died.

Hell, I felt like Betty Broderick.

I woke up upset by the dream, because of a truth I’d been avoiding that I could no longer avoid.   Even though there are no chances of this man ever becoming that successful in reality (my ex is a pathetic sociopathic bum living on disability obtained at least in part fraudulently, on my dime, but that’s another story), my intense envy indicated that I was as much of an abuser in my marriage to him as he was to me.   In some ways, perhaps I was even worse.

How could I make such a connection from a dream like that?  After all, he was the one with all the creature comforts and the world laid at his feet, while I had nothing and no one.

But that’s actually the whole point.  It’s my envy and feelings of worthlessness compared to others that fuel my narcissism.  Even during my marriage, even when things were going well for us and he actually worked, it created huge problems.  I was never my husband’s friend and partner; I was always in competition with him.   I couldn’t stand it if he was somehow “more” or got more recognition than I did.   It’s not that I wanted him to be miserable, but I only wanted him happy if I had something to do with it or if that happiness were shared with me.  I couldn’t stand it if he had outside friends, outside interests, recognition from others besides myself, money he’d earned that might not benefit me directly.  And deep down, more than anything else, I feared the possibility that he might leave, and with the means to do so….well, he could.  And why wouldn’t he? What did I have to offer?  No, I’d rather have him hobbled and dependent.

Did I cause him to sink into codependency on me and eventually become entitled and expect me to support him?  Did I make his NPD even worse than it was?   There were always red flags; I saw them in the beginning but I ignored them.  But he wasn’t that bad, not at first.  Did I send him even farther up the N spectrum, into malignancy, because of my own insecurities, my need to peck away at his self esteem so that I could feel more “equal” and less diminished?

“I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.”

 

I used to hate it whenever he’d have a success of any kind that didn’t have something to do with me or something I had done.    I remember raging and then sulking for days in self pity when he got promoted.  Most wives would have been thrilled.  But not me.  I couldn’t stand it when he got recognition at work and I hadn’t.     I couldn’t stand it when he’d be invited places by friends (even if I was invited along) because I had so few friends.  I knew this wasn’t normal behavior of a wife toward her husband, but I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.  I didn’t know where this monster came from and had no idea what to do about it.  I knew it was wrong, so wrong, but I couldn’t change the way I felt.  I had no mindfulness tools and would just take out my frustration and envy in passive aggressive and covert ways, such as making snide or cruel remarks, giving the silent treatment, making left-handed “compliments,”  or grousing about how *I* never got any recognition.

He could have left me.  He probably should have left me.   Of course, we were both abusers, abusing each other like partners in some hellish dance.   His abuse of me has been covered extensively in other blog posts, but I never acknowledged (or even realized) how much I abused him.  The abuse I inflicted though, was far more passive aggressive and covert than his was.  I used codependency and helplessness as a way to make myself look more virtuous and more like a victim than I really was.   That doesn’t mean I wasn’t codependent  and didn’t feel helpless; I did, very much so.  But I absolutely believed I was not at fault.     I told myself so many lies I believed they were the truth. I painted this man I had married out to be a monster while I was a helpless victim.  But I was doing my own share of picking away at what little self esteem he might have had.  Neither of us had much, if any at all.

He didn’t leave me because some part of him needed my codependency and helplessness, even though I was never very supportive or empathetic, toggling wildly between borderline rages and sulking, narcissistic depressions.    He knew I was “weaker” and could be forced to do his bidding due to his strength of will and more glib way of communicating.   He was codependent himself, and I think the difficulties I created for him were a convenient excuse for him to self-sabotage, since he never seemed all that interested in being successful anyway.   In many ways, we were mirror images of each other, abuse and codependency intermingling and feeding off each other and reflecting back ever-uglier images.

Subconsciously, I was re-enacting my relationship with my mother, who would never have allowed me to outshine her on any level.    During my childhood, she constantly reminded me how much better she was at everything than everyone else, including me.  “Don’t even try to compare yourself with me,” she would gloat.  “We’re not in the same league.”  I always knew which “league” she had placed me in.   I wasn’t allowed to succeed in anything, was never given any opportunities or encouragement.  My small successes didn’t count.  Yet my failures were punished.  I couldn’t win.  I was a sitting duck.  The only skill I learned to be good at was learned helplessness.

With him, I had become my mother.  I diminished him for any successes the way she diminished me for mine.  But I thought of myself as a nicer person just because I lacked her arrogance, grandiosity, and over the top demands.

I played the learned helplessness skill well.   I learned to play the “victim” and of course I attracted bullies.  My father told me I was bullied because others were jealous of me.  I knew this was bullshit.  But I still internalized that message, and although my self esteem was non-existent, there was a part of me that felt contempt and rage toward those who refused to recognize how special and superior I really was.    I didn’t dare express this though; I hid it behind a mask of meekness and weakness.   Anger wasn’t something I dared show, but I was like a pressure cooker, and every so often I’d blow up and scare the daylights out of everyone around me, including myself.   I think the unexpectedness and intensity of my sudden rages was made them so scary.

I never developed any real skills.  I never finished college. I didn’t stick with anything for long enough to become good at it.  I never had a real career that I didn’t happen to “fall into.”   I’d give up whenever anything became too difficult or proved too much work. I know now that this wasn’t laziness; it was a real fear I had that I might fail.    My motto wasn’t “if at first you don’t succeed…,” it was, ” if you never try, you never fail.”

Even harder to admit is this.  All my life, I’ve surrounded myself with people I regarded as being “less” than myself.   I resented the hell out of anyone who was doing better and would usually avoid them to avoid feelings of envy and shame.   But at the same time, I was filled with contempt for those “underlings” for being the only people I could be around to avoid those feelings of envy and shame.  I felt like I had nothing in common with them and would pretend to be interested to get them to like me and give me the admiration I never seemed to get from anywhere else.   But they were never friends because I didn’t really care about them at all.   I know I must sound like a horrible person.   I feel like a horrible person for admitting this.   Fortunately, I don’t regard people this way anymore, but it’s still difficult for me to be around people who I know are successful in life, even if I don’t actively dislike them the way I used to.    I no longer feel contempt for those who are not successful, but I do feel more comfortable around them than with more successful people.

Narcissism–both my own and that of those closest to me–has ruined my life.   It was my narcissism that kept me from applying myself and succeeding in anything.   It was my narcissism that kept me constantly comparing myself with others, even my own husband, and feeling diminished if they outshone me in something.  Which meant they weren’t allowed to shine at all, because I didn’t shine.   It was my narcissism that kept me locked in a toxic cycle of mutual abuse and codependency.  It was my narcissism that kept me so closed off from anyone else and emotionally stunted.

“I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them…”

 

I also realized something else.  Since I’ve mostly identified myself as a victim and not as a narcissist myself, I always thought the reason I avoided relationships was to avoid the possibility of falling in with another abuser.  And while that’s true,  it’s not the whole story. I also avoid relationships because I don’t want to hurt anyone and I’m afraid I still could.

I never wanted to hurt anyone.  I never thought I was an abuser.  I was horrified at the idea I could ever be one.   Even when I knew I was hurting those I loved (and often I didn’t know), it wasn’t because I wanted to see them in pain.   It was a compulsion to relieve my own pain of “not belonging” or being “less than” by bringing them down to “my level.”  I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them, and losing anyone was the same as death to me.

Narcissism is the gift that keeps on giving.  It’s going to stop with me.  But, as much as I want to hate that part of me that brought others down to make myself feel better, I know hatred–especially toward myself–won’t work. It was self-hatred that got me here.   The only way out of this mess is fostering compassion (NOT the same as self pity!) for the wounded child within.    I’m working on it, but it’s going to take awhile.  Right now, I just feel like my brain’s been through the blender.

Absurd dream that made me angry and then laugh.

coffeemakercoffeemaker

I dreamed about my stupid narcopath ex again.   I don’t know why I keep dreaming about him because I never actually think about him and no longer care about him.  My primary “emotion” toward him is slightly annoyed indifference.  I don’t even feel much anger anymore.  Just boredom. Honestly, if he were killed in a car accident tomorrow, I doubt I’d care that much, except for the impact it would have on our kids.  He’s like a stranger to me, one I’m glad I have almost nothing to do with.

In these dreams, he’s always doing better than me and I resent the hell out of it because I think he’s so undeserving and an insufferable ass who deserves to be deprived instead of me. I know that makes me sound like the narcissist instead of him, but it’s the truth.  These feelings come out in my dreams.  Here’s the latest.

In the dream, the knob on my ancient stove (the real one I actually have) stopped working.  The white paint that spelled the numbers and the “OFF” were long rubbed off, but I had still been able to tell if it was off or on because of the little “click” when I turned it that told me it was off.  But the knob kept spinning in place and wouldn’t click.  Something seemed to be broken or loose.

I don’t know what kind of place we were in.  There were all these strange people walking around, like it was the middle of a public hallway somewhere.  So here I was, sitting on the floor in the middle of this hallway, with all these strangers walking back and forth, angrily fuming and fiddling with the broken stove knob.   I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a new stove, or even have the thing repaired.

My ex was over in another corner, with all his new toys, like it was Christmas morning or something.   He had TWO new coffeemakers (why?), a set of brand new dishes, an ice cream maker, a deep fryer, an espresso maker, a juicer, and an expensive food processor.   Their boxes and packaging were strewn nearby.   I went over to ask him to help me with the stove knob, and that’s when I saw all his new kitchen loot.   I was enraged and jealous.

“Where the HELL did you get all that new stuff? TWO coffee makers?  Why would you need TWO goddam coffeemakers? Who the hell NEEDS two coffeemakers?”  I yelled, outraged.

He ignored me.   That enraged me even more.

“Where did you get the money to buy all that crap, HUH? Who you freeloading off of this time?” I demanded. “I know you didn’t EARN it!”  He continued to act like I wasn’t there.

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“Maybe you STOLE it!” I accused.   I thought of all the times he had stolen money out of my wallet while I slept.  Or the time recently when he stole the money my daughter had been saving to move to her own apartment.

Blood roared in my head.  “NO ONE NEEDS TWO FRIGGIN’ COFFEEMAKERS!”  I screamed.

Did I expect him to give me one?  Maybe I did.  I wasn’t sure.   All I knew was that this injustice made my blood boil. This POS who had freeloaded off me for seven years so he could get disability and never have to work a day in his life again had two brand new coffeemakers and a bunch of other useless kitchen crap that he’d probably never use.  And I had nothing but a broken stove and bills I couldn’t pay.

I looked around.  The people walking back and forth ignored us.  They might as well have not heard me yelling.  Maybe they didn’t hear me.   I didn’t care if they did or not.  I was beyond niceties.

I fixed my gaze back on the narcopath. I imagined my eyes were two laser beams boring into his blackened soul. “Hey! I need you to help me fix my stove.  The knob is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.  And unlike YOU, I can’t afford to buy a new stove or have it fixed.  So I need your help if you can tear yourself away from your new toys long enough to come have a look.”

He continued to open his packages, pulling styrofoam out of another box.  Maybe it was a third coffeemaker.    His two coffeemakers sat side by side on the floor, taunting me.  I felt like drop kicking them into the wall.  I glared balefully at them instead.    Those innocent hunks of plastic and brushed chrome represented everything I hated about this man.

“Hey.  I’m talking to YOU.   I need you to help me with my stove.”   I had the broken knob in my hand.  I shoved it in his face so he would look.  He still ignored me.  What the hell was his problem?   I looked back to where the stove had been, but I didn’t see it.   I wasn’t too concerned.  After all, this was a dream and as far as I was concerned, the stove was still there.

I asked people around if they had seen the stove.  I showed them the knob.  No one had seen it.  Strange.  But I still knew it was there.    I walked back over to where my ex sat and continued my tirade and demands.   I wanted him to suffer.

“Well, you insufferable ass. Since you refuse to help and continue to give me the silent treatment, I want one of those damn coffeemakers,” I said.   He was still ignoring me.

I woke up and laughed.   What a ridiculous, absurd dream.  What an complete entitled bitch I had been in it too.  Narcopath or not, no one deserved to be treated the way I treated him in the dream. I would never actually behave that way in real life.   But in the dream itself, I was really mad and couldn’t control my rage and envy.  I don’t really know why, unless I’m still harboring anger toward him.  Or maybe just anger in general.

Envy and replacing shame with acceptance.

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For as long as I can remember, envy was always a huge problem for me. This is one of the reasons I think I probably have covert narcissism. Envy isn’t something usually associated with BPD (borderlines are much more likely to become codependent to those they see as “superior”). Of course, it’s possible to be both.

Envy is associated with a sense of entitlement. For a covert narcissist, the emotion of envy is a lot more complicated than it is for an grandiose narcissist. A grandiose narcissist, believing they are better than others (but only the false self actually believes this), feels entitled to be treated accordingly. They are filled with anger and resentment when they see someone else who has something they want and if they are malignant, they may try to sabotage the other person’s good fortune. They don’t try to hide behind a facade of deference to others.

Covert narcissists also have problems with entitlement, but it’s a lot more hidden. They normally do not think of themselves as superior, at least not in the overt, in your face way a grandiose narcissist does. They may even consciously suffer from low self esteem and feel worthless. Being a victim often becomes a way to obtain supply, in the form of sympathy or attention. Not all covert narcissists are like this, but many of them are. But at the same time they feel worthless, they also feel a sense of superiority or entitlement.

The dynamics of how this works are complicated, but try to stay with me here.

Emotions at war.

Covert narcissists, as opposed to grandiose narcissists, tend to be low functioning (though not always).   If, let’s say, a covert narcissist is the outcast in a group or ignored (and they are often introverted and sometimes socially awkward too, though not always), they feel victimized or unappreciated. To resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by wanting to feel superior to others but their reality indicating anything but, they take on a kind of “sour grapes” attitude. So, for example, they might pretend (or even convince themselves) their introversion or social awkwardness makes them somehow “better” than others who are more extroverted or popular.  They tell themselves the reason they’re ignored, rejected, or unappreciated is because they are actually more intelligent, more insightful, or have more “depth” than the extroverted or more popular “peons” who are ignoring or rejecting them. They tell themselves others just don’t appreciate their superior mind (or whatever) because they are too stupid (or shallow, or whatever). They believe they deserve better and resent others for treating them like they’re less. They might even go so far as to tell themselves others are jealous of them! This is actually projection, because the reality is, no one is jealous of them–they are actually deeply envious of others. Of course they will never tell you they think they’re better than you, because that would make them grandiose. They keep the feelings of superiority and entitlement to themselves and it’s still mixed with feelings of worthlessness and self hatred.

Unfortunately, as ugly (and confusing) as this description is, I can identify all too well with it, because I’ve been this way since adolescence. Telling myself I was really better than others made the fact I was usually an outcast (or deliberately isolated myself, assuming I would be cast out) more bearable. But the truth was never far away, and the truth was: I felt absolutely worthless and hated myself.

Life as a zero-sum game.

Until very recently, it was hard for me to feel any joy when something good happened to someone else (unless there was something in it for me) because somehow another’s good fortune made me feel diminished. It was as if I regarded life as a zero-sum game. If you win, that means I must lose. I’ve been aware of this trait for many years. I always hated this about myself and tried not to be this way, but it was nearly impossible to drum up any joy for others. It was so difficult to fake being happy for someone that I compensated by changing the subject or ignoring the good news of someone else. Or sometimes, even throwing subtle barbs into a compliment or congratulations. Yes, it was very narcissistic and I’m ashamed of that.

cartoon_antidepressant

It got so bad that when I was married, when my husband got a promotion (even though the extra money we’d have DID affect me positively), I was overcome with envy and all I could do was change the subject because I found myself unable to even fake happiness. I remember thinking, “why don’t I ever get promoted? I deserve to be recognized for my hard work too.” Somehow his achievement made me feel like a failure in comparison, and I felt bitter and miserable for days after that. I tried to hide these feelings because I knew they were wrong and filled me with shame. But I couldn’t make my emotions obey my mind (which told me his promotion–or anyone else’s good news–had nothing to do with me). Because this isn’t a BPD trait, I think I developed a thin sheet of narcissism on top of my BPD.

Fortunately, this awful trait never extended to my kids. Even when I was at my worst, I always felt happy when my kids succeeded in something or were happy. I always felt sad when they were sad or hurt. I had a lot of empathy for my kids, even when that didn’t really extend to anyone else.

Learning to love your real self.

I’m happy to say that this is changing, and my empathy is starting to extend way beyond my children. I’m no longer so envious of others (though I can’t say it’s completely gone–I do have relapses, especially when triggered). I don’t always feel diminished or resentful when someone tells me their good news. More and more often, I’m actually able to feel happy for others when they tell me something good happened to them–even when there’s nothing in it for me. It sure is a lot nicer to feel happy for someone than to resent them!

I’ve written about this recently, but lately I’ve been feeling a kind of softening inside, more tender and loving emotions, like something inside me has shifted. I think this is because in therapy (and because of my faith too), I’m learning how to accept my inner child (true self). This basically means replacing shame and dislike with love and empathy for that child. When you begin to stop feeling ashamed of who you really are, and begin to see the gifts your inner child was born with but you were blind to because shame was always in the way, you begin to stop rejecting that child and allow your real self to come out more often and shine (and in so doing, you no longer have a need for a fake, false self as a shoddy replacement).

In my case, I always tried to hide my inner child’s positive traits — high sensitivity, emotionality, desire for connection, appreciation of beauty, and wanting to love and be loved — because I was programmed at an early age to believe all these traits were “weak” and that emotional vulnerability and everything that goes with it was something to be ashamed of. It was the narrative I lived that my parents (and later, bullies at school) drummed into me at a very early age. I tried to cover that over with a tough exterior for awhile, but when that didn’t work (grandiose narcissism was a very bad fit for my temperament!), I turned inward and began to isolate myself and at the same time, resent everyone else. I wouldn’t let anyone get to know the real me, and isolating myself was the easiest way for me to hide.

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Fortunately I never developed full-blown NPD (just a lot of N traits as a way to protect myself from the emotional ravages of BPD–I call this my “aluminum foil” false self because it’s so thin and easily torn), so it may be taking less time for me to be able to access my real self, and begin to replace shame with acceptance and real self-love. I’ve only been in therapy for 10 months and I can’t believe how far I’ve come already. Of course it also helps to have a therapist who is highly empathetic and skilled in getting someone like me to be able to see themselves from a different vantage point and teach me how to empathize with my inner child (and in so doing, learn to re-parent myself). I also had a head start because I was blogging about my mental and emotional state for about a year before I started therapy, and that helped me gain a high degree of insight into myself (and temperamentally, I’ve always been analytical). Prayer and meditation have helped enormously too.

I’m also highly motivated. I don’t like these traits in myself at all. I hate them so much that if I were offered a choice between being rid of them for good and a million dollars, I would choose to forgo the money but be emotionally free.  I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I really am going to win this fight.

Facebook hell.

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I haven’t had much to talk about lately (my therapist is on vacation) and this post isn’t directly related to the content of this blog, but I thought I’d throw it up here for a change of pace. Enjoy.

I’m sitting in a group therapy session for people with complex PTSD and other problems caused by childhood trauma, telling the group about the chain of events that led to my becoming the family blacksheep.   Tears trickle down my cheeks as I relate how victimized I felt by my family.  The two people on either side of me reach out to touch my shoulders.   I feel the beginning of connection, of a sense of belonging and community I never had at home, or anyplace at all.    I feel safe in this place.  I feel like my secrets will never go beyond the confines of this room.   Outside, the world may be dangerous and unfriendly, swarming with treacherous and cold-hearted people who wish me ill, but inside these walls, I feel welcomed and loved.

Suddenly the door opens.   It’s my niece, who I’ve met exactly three times in my life.  I haven’t seen her since she was a little girl.   She’s armed with an album of photos of her latest vacation and the big party the extended family threw for her on the birth of her latest child.  I wasn’t invited to this party.   She walks over to me and starts shoving the the pictures in my face, making me look.    I politely shuffle through the stack, then hand them back to her.  I feel violated and envious.  “Do you like them?” she demands.  She won’t leave until I say I do.  Apparently satisfied, she leaves.

Then someone I barely know from an old job walks in the room.  He tells me his business has really started taking off and he’s raking in so much money he is having a custom vacation home built right on the beach.   He shows me pictures of the house-in-progress he and his gorgeous new wife are building.  “Oh, yes, and we just found out she’s pregnant–with twins!” he crows.  Finally, he leaves.   I turn toward the group, ready to apologize for the rude intrusion.

But I never have a chance, because then my daughter’s  BFF from her middle school days bursts through the door, crying and cussing because her babydaddy is back on drugs and hasn’t payed child support in over a year.    My polite but sympathetic nods constitute a “Like” and satisfied with that, she leaves.   My boundaries feel like they’re under siege by this point.  I turn back toward the group, but am interrupted again.

Some stranger walks in and shoves a piece of paper at me.  I look down at it,  It’s a test called  “Which Celebrity Pet Do You Look The Most Like?”  Annoyed, I crumple it up and toss it on the floor.

A guy I’ve never seen before but who calls me “Friend”  invites me to play a game.   He starts tossing game cards at me, which contain pictures of things like barrels of apples, litters of piglets, bushels of wheat, and clucking hens.

Stop, please!  I want this room to be my sanctuary again.   I feel inhibited and self conscious now, because at any moment some random person from my past, a random relative, someone from an old job, or an old classmate might invade the room again, crashing over my boundaries.  No place is safe.

I have one more visitor.    My mother enters the room, fixes me with a penetrating stare, and tells me she heard everything I said about her in this room before all the interruptions started.    I feel like the floor just dropped out from under me, leaving me stranded in mid-air.   I stare at my mother.  Her eyes are opaque and unreadable, but her small, knowing smirk tells me everything I need to know.

I made my therapist cry, but I still can’t.

I told him about the dream I described here a few days ago.   The one where we were sitting in the grass and he just held me and I felt the bliss of a newborn bonded with a loving parent and feeling merged with them, unable to tell myself apart from the other and not caring because nothing else mattered but the nurturing bond.    I was shy about telling him because I was afraid he’d be disgusted. I think I was projecting my own feelings of disgust over being that helpless and vulnerable onto him.  He wasn’t disgusted at all.  He  was touched.   He wanted to talk about it further, so we did.

Our talk about attachment and bonding led to me talking about my mother’s rejection of me.  I told him I never got over my mother kicking me out of the house when I was 17.  It scarred me badly and still haunts me to this day.  I thought I’d mentioned it before but I guess I hadn’t.  When I finally looked at him, he was wiping his eyes.  That surprised and touched me but I felt envious too because all I can do is sit there and talk about horrible things that happened to me in an unemotional and disconnected way, as if they happened to someone else.   I intellectualize everything in session and can’t really feel the emotion of the thing.   But then I go home and am flooded with feelings, when I’m all alone and have no one to share it with.   No one to hold me and make me feel safe and loved the way I did in my dream.  But at least the emotions are happening, even if the timing is all wrong.   I guess I’m just not ready to shed tears in session yet.   But I do get frustrated with myself for not being able to break down that wall any faster.

Envious of him or not, I’m glad my therapist is so empathetic.  If I ever cry in front of anyone, it will be him.

It’s the “principle of the thing!”

entitlement

I think what I’m about to describe separates covert narcissists from people with Avoidant Personality Disorder, Aspergers syndrome, or Social Anxiety Disorder (which can all seem very similar on the surface to Covert Narcissism). It’s this preoccupation with being recognized and validated, even if what we want to be recognized and validated for is something we don’t want or deserve. It ties in closely with entitlement and envy and is in fact a form of entitled thinking, which is unique to narcissism.

So many times throughout my life I’ve felt “entitled” to something I didn’t even really want and would not have pursued on my own anyway. This has happened to me at work most often, probably because for me the workplace is usually an environment I don’t feel at home in because it requires things of me I simply don’t have (the ability to play the “game,” kiss up to higher ups for recognition and promotions, be highly social, etc. I feel like in the workplace, I’m invisible, like I don’t exist. I feel offended when recognition is offered to others and not me, even if I don’t want what’s being offered. It’s always the “principle of the thing.”

At my last job, it made me angry that promotions were being offered to the younger people at the company and not older ones like myself. But it was more than just feeling discriminated against, which would be a normal reaction. I was hypervigilant about who was getting asked or recruited for the “coach track” (supervisory track) and obsessed and ruminated about it. I was envious of those who were being recruited and felt “singled out” that they didn’t ask me–even though I didn’t even want to be on the stupid coach track and might have even said no had they asked! It triggered my envy.

Stupid, right? But that’s the sort of thing a cNPD is always dealing with. This sense of entitlement even when we don’t want the thing others are being recognized for. We want the recognition because it validates us as people; it proves that we exist, gives us a dose of supply. Normal people wouldn’t care if they were overlooked for something they didn’t really want or hadn’t pursued or worked for. But covert narcissists feel injured.

i_deserve_box

I get this way about social events too, like parties and other get-togethers after work. Who’s friends with who, who is being left out. I obsess over it. I always feel slighted and incensed when I’m left out of things even though I don’t want these people as friends and would never spend time with them outside of work anyway. If invited to join them, I would probably say no. But I still want them to include me even though I want no part of it.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think people with Avoidant PD, Social Anxiety, or Aspergers experience this, even though they often feel slighted too at being left out of things and want to be included. I don’t think they experience this same sense of entitlement over things they don’t want or haven’t worked for. I don’t think they expect to be asked to be part of something they haven’t actively pursued on their own or really want.

My envy.

snow_white_queen

I wrote this before I became self-aware. I have struggled with envy my entire life because I always felt defective and yet entitled at the same time (due to mixed messages I received as a child of being both “special” and “unique” but at the same time “bad” and “incompetent.”). Such parenting is a recipe for covert narcissism, in my opinion. If you do not want your child to become a narcissist, DO NOT give them messages from either extreme–your child is not perfect nor is she all bad. Have realistic expectations. I think inconsistent messages and impossible expectations are especially dangerous to the development of a growing child’s real self. At they very least she could develop BPD.

While I’ve never attempted to sabotage the good fortune of another person (at least not consciously), the bitterness of envy tends to fester inside me and colors my entire outlook on everything, most of all myself. It fosters self-hatred and ensuing overcompensation which can lead to grandiose and entitled behavior. In the past, when I envied someone, I used to do things like change the subject, pretend I didn’t hear (similar to the silent treatment), make snide or passive aggressive remarks, and one time I even flew into a BPD rage. 😳 That was a long time ago. I’ve become much more mindful when I’m envious but it’s still an emotion I struggle with and do not want in my life. It’s getting better. Besides mindfulness (to control my reactions), prayer seems to help me a lot with actually lessening the pain of envy (and it is VERY painful).

My Envy
Originally posted on Lucky Otter’s Haven on February 6, 2015

envy
“Envy” by Marta Dahlig, Deviantart

I have a trait I’m ashamed of, and I’ve been struggling with it my entire life: envy.

It’s been getting a lot better since I went No Contact and started blogging. I’m generally less envious than I used to be, but today it reared its ugly head again.

What distinguishes my envy from narcissistic envy though, is the fact I have never, no matter how much I envied someone, wanted to take away what they had or ruin it for them. Sometimes (not often enough, but sometimes) envy has a plus side: it sometimes inspires us to want to improve our own lot.

When I’m envious, I brood about it and feel resentful that I don’t have the same.

I clean houses part time (this is actually not an awful job) and some of the houses belong to very wealthy people. There’s one family whose house I clean every two weeks–it’s a damned McMansion–who seem to have everything and then some. I had to clean their house today.

The wife, Wendy, is actually very sweet, and always gives generous tips. She’s probably in her 40s and very attractive, with a perfect body and always dresssed in new designer outfits. Her husband is some kind of high level executive and obviously earns a high income. They have three very attractive daughters, one who is going to be going away to college soon. The other two are 16 and 8. This family can pay for their daughters to go to the best schools. Wendy takes lessons in Tai Kwando, and the daughters all get music and dance lessons. They are all involved in sports. Wendy drives a late model SUV and this is just one of their three cars. They go on vacations several times a year. Their Christmas tree was 12 feet tall and scattered all over the house, in every room, are photos of the three girls at different ages, on vacation, or at some sporting event, at a party, or dressed in Christmas dresses and seated under their huge tree. Wendy seems very maternal and nurturing from everything I can see.

3daughters
Grrrrr. (These aren’t Wendy’s daughters, but this picture looks like them and that looks like the type of house they live in).

I’m extremely envious of Wendy and her family. I compare myself to her, and of course I come up far shorter in just about every area: I’m not married anymore; I struggle to support myself, my daughter and my pets (I’m what most people would consider poor); my son is gay (which is not a problem for me at all but probably means he won’t ever have children); and my daughter is disordered (probably BPD) and shows no interest in getting a higher education although she is very intelligent. I drive a 13 year old car which is in need of repairs. I don’t get to take vacations or even getaway weekends. I’m attractive but Wendy is much more so. I am not athletic or particularly musical. I can’t dance. I’m uncoordinated.

I would never do anything to try to make Wendy’s life miserable though. I like her as a person. The envy I feel may not even be true envy. It’s almost an admiring, slightly awestruck feeling, that someone can be as fortunate as Wendy and her family. I marvel at how lives can turn out so vastly different.

The funny thing is, I probably would dislike living Wendy’s sort of life. It’s way too conventional for me and I can’t stand their house, which is too big, too cold, and it’s a f*cking McMansion and I would rather live in a cabin in the woods.

Of course I don’t know what may be going on behind closed doors. Wendy does seem a bit like the codependent type, and there’s a slightly sad look in her eyes. I wonder about that. Her husband doesn’t seem to be home a lot because he travels so much. In the family photos that include him, he looks a little reptilian. Sometimes I wonder if he’s a narc and Wendy might be being abused in some way. But I prefer my envy and imagine they have the perfect marriage and the family is functional and happy all the time. I like to think of them as the family I wanted to be raised in and the family I wanted to have.

Sometimes I remind myself of the late Robin Williams’ character in the 2002 psychological thriller “One Hour Photo.” Sy (played by Williams) is a pathetic, lonely photo-developing technician with no life to speak of who experiences pathological envy over a family whose photos he develops. His envy eventually turns into a dangerous obsession. It’s an interesting psychological profile of a man who is most likely a malignant covert narcissist who has become sociopathic in his envious obsession with an innocent family (I’m not as bad as he is, and would never go to these extremes, but I can relate to what he’s feeling just the same). “One Hour Photo” is a dark and creepy thriller, and is definitely worth watching for anyone interested in the way a sociopath thinks. Of course Williams’ acting is superb.

Here’s the trailer for “One Hour Photo.”

If you liked Marta Dahlig’s beautiful depiction of Envy at the beginning of this article, please check out the rest of her “Seven Deadly Sins” series in this article.

Portrait of a non-disordered HSP.

authenticity

It’s a sad fact that many HSPs (highly sensitive persons) develop personality disorders and elaborate defense mechanisms like NPD or BPD just to cope with the world because they feel like they have no normal defenses against being hurt or abused. The double whammy is that so many HSPs have disordered parents who scapegoated or abused them, just because they can see the truth about their parents’ malignancy through their mask of sanity. Of course, this makes it even more likely for an HSP to develop a disorder where they successfully or unsucessfully attempt to hide their high sensitivity (true self). High sensitivity/vulnerability is a wonderful quality and is needed in this unfeeling world, but is not well understood or accepted in a narcissistic, materialistic society. HSPs who have developed NPD or BPD or some other personality disorder are not happy people.

Having the gift of high sensitivity is especially hard on children, who tend to be easily bullied at school, even if their parents are accepting and loving, because these qualities are seen as “weak” or uncool by other kids and sometimes teachers too. Also, since children are naturally narcissistic, HSP qualities in a child tend to manifest as being easily offended or hurt. A child hasn’t yet learned to use their gift of sensitivity for good purposes or to help others. So an HSP child can easily develop a personality disorder, even if it’s less severe than a child who has been abused from early childhood.

But there are rare people who are highly sensitive who seem to come through childhood and adolescence unscathed. I’d like to talk about one such person. It was a young woman I knew at one of my old jobs. Her name was Meghann. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person so attuned to life, so in touch with her emotions, so accepting of others, and so joyful.

Meghann was physically beautiful but never seemed that conscious of her appearance. She dressed casually and wore very little make-up, but she didn’t need it. While not classically beautiful or what most would call sexy, Meghann’s beauty came from within. Enhancing her natural beauty with cosmetics or baubles would be like gilding the lily (although I did see her dressed up on occasion and thought she was equally stunning).

I trained Meghann when she was a new employee at a call center I used to work for. I liked her immediately; so did everyone else. She learned quickly and was quick to laugh but never AT anyone. She just laughed because she found humor in just about anything it was possible to find humor in, and that included herself.

Meghann had a way of attracting people to her. Both men and women loved being in her presence, because it was so loving and positive. Not obnoxious-positive, in the sense of fake-perky “positivity nazis” that pervade our society, but she had a subdued optimism and there was a kind of glow that seemed to emanate from her whenever she walked into a room.

Meghann was one of those rare nice people who rises quickly through the corporate ranks. I’ve found in most places I’ve worked, the most narcissistic and cold people seem to get ahead, but Meghann was so smart, likeable and good at her job that she was promoted to a supervisory position within 6 months of my training her.

As a covert narcissist, I was envious at first. What was this? I had trained her! As it always seems to be for me, I was still stuck in my low level job; no one would promote me there, and this–girl–who was young enough to be my daughter had moved way ahead of me and in such a short time. In fact, she was to be my new supervisor!

But it was strange too–I really didn’t mind. Somehow I was able to forget about my envy because she was just such a genuinely sweet person and I loved her too. You just couldn’t stay angry or envious of someone like that for long. And, I had to admit, she had done everything to deserve her promotion. I realized I was actually happy to be working under her and I told her so. I was rewarded with a dose of supply because she told me that if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have been where she was,because I had been such a great and patient trainer.

authenticity2

Meghann laughed a lot but it was always a musical, natural laugh, never forced or fake, and she never laughed at people in pain or at tragedies. She laughed at herself as well as at all the absurdities the world has to offer if you just look for them. When Meghann laughed, people gathered around her to feel her joyful presence and be touched by it.

But Meghann was also very emotional. She was often in tears, not because she was sad or depressed, but because she felt everything so deeply. It wasn’t unusual for her eyes to become damp when she listened to you talk about some sad thing that happened to you, or even tear up when she was happy. I remember when she had her 26th birthday, and the department had all gone out on gifts and a cake (and we really meant it), she was smiling radiantly and wiping away tears at the same time. Even I felt myself responding and wanted to run up and hug her (I didn’t). She just had that effect on people. I don’t know one person who disliked her. She could tame even the nastiest, most envious people because of her joyful and accepting presence.

Meghann had many artistic talents where she freely expressed who she was. She could sing, paint, and take beautiful pictures. She made a lot of her own clothing which was original and beautiful. She was a person who knew exactly who she was and wasn’t ashamed to show it. You could tell she had enormous self confidence, but it never came off as arrogance, entitlement or grandiosity. In fact, most of the time Meghann was very humble. Not self-flagellating or fake-humble–she just never acted like she was somehow better than you or more deserving. She even blushed adorably whenever she was the center of attention (which was a lot) because she couldn’t hide her true feelings and didn’t try to either.

Meghann wasn’t happy every day. As a sensitive person, she felt everything, and sometimes the things she felt made her cry. When she was sad, everyone knew because she was quieter than usual and stayed in her office. But she was still approachable and never took out her depressed moods on other employees. You knew she’d been crying because her eyes and nose were pink, but she was never over the top about it and never sank into self pity or whining. She just felt her emotions and moved on.

I was in awe of Meghann. I couldn’t stay envious of her, although I had every reason to be (especially because she had been raised in a happy, normal family by loving parents–and I tend to be envious of people who had that). When she finally quit to move to another state, I almost cried along with everyone else. I couldn’t hate Meghann because in her, I saw the kind of person I think I could have been had my high sensitivity not been used against me as a young child and forced me to turn against it and try to be someone I never was.
My memory of Meghann still inspires me, because I want to be like that. I think I’m already halfway there.

True self vs. false self.

wolf

Like the wolf graphic above shows, all human beings have a good self and a bad (Jung’s shadow) self. But in a narcissist, the good (true) self is dissociated and split off from the bad (false) one, where in normal people all these feelings are integrated into One Self.

I’m beginning to see the woman I can become. The woman I would have been had I not been so abused and allowed myself to fall under the thrall of a malignant narcissist/ASPD man for 27 years.
That woman is taking shape in my mind and all I need to do is find a way to reconcile this new vision with my reality.
She’s someone I like very much–the adult version of the sensitive little girl that brought me so much shame and humiliation because no one mirrored her positively.

My True Self…

Enjoying the sun
Enjoying the sun

–Is in touch with her feelings but doesn’t fly into BPD rages or seethe with envy, bitterness and resentment. She’s in control but can feel appropriate emotions at appropriate times, and isn’t ashamed to show them.

–Is naturally introverted (INFJ) but not shy. People don’t intimidate her but as an inward-looking person, she often prefers solitude to pursue activities and interests she loves. (I’m already halfway there).

–Is creative–she uses her ability to write to purge her past and her emotions (I’m already doing this) and sometimes just for fun (my other blog has a lot of silly or humorous posts). She also loves photography, art, music and wants to learn to play the guitar to accompany herself singing. She’s not a talented singer, but sings for the joy of it. Music feeds her soul.

–Is quietly confident and not afraid to let someone know when her boundaries or rights are being violated.

–Is able to make and keep close friends, not just acquaintances she keeps at arm’s length.

–Is an HSP with possible empathic abilities. (I’m not there yet as far as empathy goes).

–Is authentic and nurturing, and truly wants to help others discover who they are (I actually do want this now, but I’m mainly doing it for myself. If I help others along the way though, it makes me feel good).

–She feels attractive and even sexy, but appreciates the beauty in others and in the world around her too. She feels beautiful by knowingly and mindfully being a part of beauty (and almost everything has a certain beauty).

–Is able to parlay her love for writing into a career as a published author. No feelings of, “but I’d fail at it.” She isn’t afraid to take smart risks to turn her desire to express her insights and emotions into her life’s work.

My False Self…

false_self

–Is selfish and demanding, always complaining about how badly she’s treated or disrespected.

–Always thinks everything’s about her. If someone looks at her the wrong way, she lets that ruin her entire day and thinks everyone hates her. If she walks into a room and everyone smiles, she focuses and ruminates about the one person who is scowling.

–Overreacts to slights and occasionally flies into rages (this may be more due to BPD; my DBT skills have mostly got this under control though the rage is still present).

–Is envious; can’t be genuinely happy for someone else’s good fortune (except for my kids).

–Sometimes secretly gets a thrill on hearing someone else’s bad news (I’m really ashamed of this and it’s really hard to admit this). I don’t feel that way all the time though. I don’t try to cause pain to others. I hate being the perpetrator and have a lot of guilt and shame when I know I’ve caused someone pain. I’m a passive sadist, I guess. Isn’t schadenfreude the term for this? I’ve read that everyone experiences it, but I think I have it more than most people.

–Feels secretly superior under a self-loathing exterior. Of course I loathed myself to the core (not so much now), but to correct the cognitive dissonance between what I was and what I wanted to be, I’d denigrate others and put my own actions on a pedestal. For example, when I thought I had Aspergers, I felt “superior” for not being a neurotypical and used to feel contempt for people who had a lot of friends or an active social life, or the ability to feel comfortable in a group setting. I actually envied their ability to connect with and not fear the judgment of others , but I convinced myself I was somehow “better” because I didn’t have to engage in stupid small talk and my mind was probably superior to their anyway.

–No matter what the situation, I always think about how it’s going to affect *me* first.

–Fearful of getting involved in a romantic relationship, yet at the same time I long for one. (This is probably more due to my BPD).

I’m happy to say a lot of these FS behaviors are diminishing, just through the self-discovery I’ve achieved through blogging for the past year. A couple of my FS traits have nearly disappeared. I seem nice now, and I am nice (I don’t think I present my false self on this blog), but I wasn’t always so.

I just noticed I wrote most of this list in the third person–isn’t that something narcissists are known to do? :/

My scarlet letter.

kick_me

I told my son about my disordered mind
he didn’t argue with that
I think he always knew
and it’s okay
It really is

What isn’t okay is this

He told me
his father got disability backpay
a lot of money
much more than I ever had
obtained on the back of my labor for years
while he refused to even look for work
complained about everything
gaslighted me
turned his flying monkeys on me like a pack of hungry wolves
tried to turn my kids against me
called me a crazy stupid whore
laughed loudly at his own jokes at my expense
especially when he saw how much they hurt
oh, he was so funny
I can’t stop laughing

I’m allowed to say nothing
I won’t throw my kid under the bus
I was lied to again but I could figure things out
I’m left out of the bonanza earned on my sweat and tears and pain
new cars, new furniture and knowing smiles
tell me all I need to know
All I get is more grinding poverty
an old car I can’t get fixed
a life of uncertainty and insecurity
and all those endless bitter comparisons
always the comparisons

My abuser gets to live the high life
new car, new TV, and lots of pot and tea
until he squanders it all
I want to slap his stupid smug face
He doesn’t deserve to be happy
he ruined my life
and gave me his disease

I hate him

This bitterness of which I’m so aware
this envy and this rage
these scorched earth feelings of entitlement
are never far away
forever making me compare myself
and never measuring up
because I’m the loser they tell me I am
and I was born to suffer

this really isn’t fair
I know life isn’t supposed to be fair
but it’s always those with normal lives who need to
santimoniously remind me of that.

Left out and ostracized
over and over again
like a carousel from hell
round and round and round we go
and I can’t get off
there’s nowhere to go

…and no one cares when I scream…

I hate what I become when things go like this
Rage overrides self control
I’m horrified by my childishness
Why can’t I just be happy he’s gone?
My scarlet letter is the “kick me” sign I wear.

Narcissism: the gift that keeps on giving.