Category Archives: Self Reflection

Narcissism and Masochism: The Origins of Eternal Victimhood

In my last post, How to make yourself fall out of love, I mentioned my tendency to devalue those who treat me well and idealize those who treat me poorly. It’s something I’ve done over and over again throughout my life with little awareness.

But after writing that line, it stuck with me all week. I wondered why that was.

If I feel hurt, I will express rage. I may attempt to counter-control, counter-manipulate or straight up fight. But inside, there’s this nagging feeling that says I must deserve this. I am lower than. My opinions count less. My feelings count less.

Having no empathy means having none for myself either.

I think the person doing this to me is better. I obsess over why they would hurt me. Why I’m unworthy of their love or respect.  I want to understand them, and understand why I didn’t measure up. I assume their feelings are valid, but question my own and search constantly for outside validation that tells me I am not defective. Only no amount of outside validation is ever enough.

Am I stupid? Am I ugly? Fat? Wrong? Do I have terrible taste in music? Not interesting enough? What is it? Why was I unworthy? What could I have done differently to make them love me?

Why do I do this to myself? What am I, some sort of masochist?

Well, apparently, yes. And apparently, all narcissists are. In my search, I found this abstract of a larger piece, Narcissism and masochism. The narcissistic-masochistic character:

“Developmentally and clinically, narcissistic and masochistic pathology are so intertwined that their theoretic and clinical unraveling requires specific attention to their linkage and the predictable forms of response to interpretation.

It is therefore useful to think of the narcissistic-masochistic character as a clinical entity. In this condition, pathologic narcissistic tendencies are unconscious vehicles for attaining masochistic disappointment and masochistic injuries are an affirmation of distorted narcissistic fantasies.”

The eternal victimhood of narcissists suddenly makes so much sense.

I have been getting narcissistic supply from ruminating and obsessing over past hurts. I replay the pain over and over again, dissecting every aspect of it. Going over every detail with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything I may have missed that could explain how I failed. Rinse and repeat.

I search for any slight—real or perceived—to latch on to and continue the dynamic, if only in my head.

I initially had trouble understanding the Borderline urge to self-harm. But I self-harm emotionally, by obsessing over past hurts and humiliations, and by devaluing myself.

No one remains to hurt me, so now I do it myself. With memories and a never ending series of questions I will never get answers to.

It won’t hurt anymore if I’d just stop caring. But I can’t stop myself from caring. In this way I’ve become my own abuser. The pain would have been long over by now, only I won’t let it be.

Sexually my fantasies often revolve around degradation and situations where I am controlled, humiliated, used, and where consent straddles the line. This is not an all-the-time thing for me. But every so often I play out these fantasies in my head and am satisfied by the  mistreatment.

Self-compassion is one of the first things my therapist began suggesting to me when I started therapy. It’s something I try to remind myself of, but it’s the hardest thing for me to do. Harder than any of the DBT skills I’ve learned so far. Harder than learning to feel empathy for others.

Aiden reminds me often. He says, “Are you being kind to yourself today?” That always makes me smile and reminds me to give myself some credit. I guess hearing that someone else thinks I am worthy of compassion is still more powerful than me telling myself.

I hope that’s not always the case.

I have noticed that the more emotionally connected I feel to Aiden, the less I fantasize sexually about being hurt.

I am learning to allow myself to be pleasured. Actual intimacy. It takes a level of vulnerability that before now, I’ve never allowed myself to experience. It’s like an entire erotic world has been opened up to me, that I guess I never believed I had a right to.

Maybe feeling more connected to myself emotionally can help me stop the emotional turmoil I put myself through.

How to Make Yourself Fall Out of Love

Ever been in love with someone you knew was bad for you, but couldn’t help yourself?

Cluster B’s have a tendency to idealize and devalue others. When I have idealized someone they can virtually do no wrong.

Even, and sometimes especially, if they are treating me poorly, it can be hard for me to let go. I see only the good in them, and have a tendency to internalize their bad or hurtful behavior as some fault of my own. I am defective. Unlovable. That’s why they are treating me so poorly.

At times like these my old friend, Devalue, would be really handy to have around. But I can’t control the devaluation process. Devaluing for me, is like falling out of love — it just happens.

Worse, I have a tendency to devalue those who treat me well, and exalt those who mistreat me. I think, if they love me, there must be something wrong with them.

Or, they are trying to manipulate me.

A couple of weeks ago, someone in one of my Cluster B groups mentioned the DBT Peer Connections series on YouTube. I finally got around to checking it out and found it helpful.

The series consists of 23 episodes, ranging in length from 3 minutes to 2 hours. So, it’s a time investment. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s worth it.

In this video (below), she talks about using the DBT skill, “Opposite Action” for emotional regulation, and goes through a series of emotions including jealousy, anger, shame, guilt and even love. DBT Opposite Action Love.png

This was the first time I had seen love covered as an unhealthy emotion that requires regulation. But for a lot of us, it is.

When love doesn’t fit the facts, when the person doesn’t deserve our love or admiration, there are things we can do to change our feelings — we don’t have to be slaves to unhealthy emotions.

She gets to love at 18:00, but the entire video is worth a watch. I identified with needing help on all of the emotions, especially anger.

DBT Peer Connections Ep 4c – Emotion Regulation Opposite Action

Realizing You’re the Abuser

Shit has been really getting dire around here. Supply has been low and I’m hitting a wall. For months now I’ve been dealing with strong emotions and painful childhood memories, and trying hard to fight off emotional numbness and dissociations.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to restrict my access to unhealthy or attention-seeking forms of “supply” as I try to force myself to learn to rely on myself to regulate my own self-worth. Not. Easy.

Prolonged numbness + dissociation = rage

I’ve tried just about everything I can think of to pull myself out of this emotional wasteland I’m in. But nothing has had a strong enough impact to pull me out of it completely, or to permanently make it stop. Everything seems like a short term, temporary fix, before it’s back to the boredom and numbness.

I know it can’t last forever, but at this point I’m getting desperate. And angry.

What does that mean? I’m so desperate to feel again I’ll do anything. Positive supply isn’t coming quick enough and in abundance – so I’ve resorted to fucking shit up.  In other words: let’s stir the pot and see what bubbles to the surface.

What’s been pissing me off recently that I can bring up now and start a fight about? Who’s on my shit list that can I text something snide to, just to see how they respond? Let’s go online and troll someone obnoxious. At this point, all bets are off. Anger feels better than boredom. It’s that dire.

For the record, I am not proud of this. I’m actually quite ashamed.

I absolutely hate that I am doing this and really want to stop. These feelings are a reminder to me that self-awareness alone is not enough. Not by a long shot. But it is helpful. I thought about it last night and realized I’m essentially throwing a temper tantrum to get attention. The same thing I did as a child when nothing else worked. (Insight)

Discovering my multiple personalities

multiple-personalities-dissociationI’ve heard NPD compared to a dissociative  disorder. Sometimes I can’t seem to control which personality comes out, or turn it off. This is a prime example.

This week “Cluster B Girl” is out and she’s a royal narc. She don’t give a fuck. When Cluster B Girl is up, I see myself raging and doing other self-destructive behaviors that I know I’ll later regret.

Internally I am thinking, stop it! Why are you doing this—this behavior is not going to get you want you want, in fact just the opposite! Shut up before you make things worse. Face palm. But the words are flying out of my mouth like someone else is speaking them.

I have a front row seat, but I’m not really participating. Except the rage—I feel that full force.

Realizing I’m the abuser

The other night my husband, Aidan, did something stupid to piss me off. Add that to the pile of other stuff I’m dealing with and I exploded. I had a glass of red wine in my hand and I couldn’t help myself—I just chucked it at him.

I regretted it the second I flicked my wrist. Red wine all over the walls and the ceiling. Lesson learned: red wine stains wall paint on impact and it doesn’t come out. Now I’m going to have to repaint. As if I needed this.

I’m taking responsibility and I’m going to paint it myself, without asking for any help. In the past, I would have found a way to make this Aiden’s fault and somehow force him to do it.

That thought did cross my mind, but this time it disturbed me. It felt cruel. And degrading. This may have been the first time I ever realized how my behavior actually is “abusive” or how controlling and mean I can be.

Furthermore, why did I care about the wall more than Aiden’s feelings? Probably because the wall would affect me (having to look at it, fix it, embarrassment if people came over, etc.), whereas his feelings I could just ignore. Another eye opening and disturbing thought.

Weed really helps me when I’m raging like this. If I smoke, I can calm myself down enough to consider his perspective. We had a long conversation about everything and I made it a point to listen and empathize with him. And apologize.

Forgetting I’m unlovable

broken-heart-unloveableI got pretty down on myself and started thinking about everything that’s wrong with me, all the ways I fail as a wife and a mother, all the problems I have from my shitty childhood that I can’t get over, and started feeling like all hope is lost. Maybe my mom was right. I’m just an inherently flawed, unlovable, bad person. Why would anyone love me? Look how I act and treat people. I’m stuck in this never ending pit of nothingness. Now I’ve ruined all hope, by raging and hurting anyone who has tried to help me.

But, Aiden made some great points that immediately helped me turn around my thinking. He pointed out several positive long-lasting changes I’ve made, even through this period of dysphoria. The arc of my emotional growth is long, but it bends toward change.

Hearing him say he’s proud of me, despite my setbacks, gave me an enormous sense of pride and encouraged me to want to keep going. I want to try harder to live up to it, and keep making him proud. He didn’t give up on me, even though I may have deserved it.

We were able to connect and today I feel much calmer and a lot less angry. I really needed that with him.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when I’m raging, one thing he can do to actually help calm me down is to show me empathy. He also has been doing a great job of encouraging me to have self-compassion too, which is also incredibly helpful.

Introspection = new insights

woman personality puzzle.jpgOK, so here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Holidays and days of celebration are fucking brutal for me—apparently even silly little holidays like Valentine’s Day. I haven’t figured out exactly how yet, but I need to prepare better.
  2. I do seek negative supply, when I’m desperate. It’s definitely not my first choice, but apparently, if I’m that hard up for attention, I’ll take it over nothing.
  3. Holy shit, I am controlling. Like…. Really controlling. Things will go my way, or I will reign down terror on you, until you not only capitulate, but fucking thank me for making you do it — then apologize for ever having not listened to me in the first place. Only, after I’ve demanded all this, I look at you as weak and lose respect for you. Wow. Of all my new insights into my personality so far, this is the ugliest I’ve had to face. This says, yes Yara, you are abusive. Now that I realize this, there is no getting around it. I have to keep working toward change. This is not OK.
  4. I have to keep consciously practicing the DBT more and making it a point to stop myself when I’m acting out, no matter how hard it is. I’ve been doing things here and there, incorporating stuff where I can. But I need to start making this a part of my every day and staying on track.

Self realization is necessary for growth

I’m not always like this. My control issues seem to flare up badly when I feel I’ve lost control of my life on a larger scale. In this case I’ve lost control of my mood. If I can keep my moods more stable, I am sure I can reduce this. I just need to keep working at it. I haven’t been this way in a while, where it was more commonplace before. Aiden pointed that out too. That’s positive.

As much as all of this sucks, it has to happen. Prior to waking up, I didn’t see any of this. I believed I was the victim. I had no insight into my own behaviors and motivations—or other people’s perceptions.

Now, experiencing the full range of all of my moods and cycles, it’s like all things are being revealed. I may need to go through a few to figure things out, but Aiden helped me feel hopeful. Change is slow, but it is happening.

Learning to empathize

couple listening with empathy.jpg

When we talked, Aiden also shared with me how things have impacted him recently. Essentially he’s finding it difficult to keep up with the amount of supply I need recently. He said I’ve been more irritable and needy than usual and he’s finding it hard to maintain his calm (which then causes me to react in kind).

I really don’t know what to do about this. I was able to empathize with him—I understand how hard it is to give me what I’m asking for. And he has needs too. But I just don’t know how else to handle it all without seeking outside supply. At least right now until I’m back to “normal.”

Treatment for NPD = doubt, frustration

This is why NPDs need our own treatment. Preferably something that combines DBT and another method like schema at once. I’m doing DBT (originally designed for Borderlines), which is great for identifying patterns and helping change behaviors. But until I get rid of these deeper-seated issues with something like schema therapy, I may always be cycling back and forth between these extreme highs and lows. I need to learn how to regulate my own self-esteem, so I don’t need supply. But I also need to learn to care about other people and change my behavior.

So I am waiting until I’ve learned all my DBT, then finding a new therapist and starting something else from scratch. Not only that, but no one knows for sure that any of this will even work.

Sometimes I feel like we are making it up as we go along. Throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. There are no concrete answers for NPD yet.

It’s frustrating and it’s a long process to stick with for people who already have trouble sticking with things long term. I’m used to learning something almost immediately, rocking the shit out of it, getting bored and moving on. But this takes serious long term commitment, which I’ve never done before.

You have to want this change more than anything you’ve ever wanted. It is not easy. No wonder why so many of us just give up.

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No: Narcissists don’t like “Empaths”

There’s this idea going around that’s pretty widely accepted in the “narcissistic abuse” community that narcissists are drawn to “empaths.”

Empaths are supposed to be so highly empathetic toward others they can almost read other people’s minds. Apparently narcissists love empaths because we feed off that raw empathy, which we are so lacking in.

Ironically, before realizing I was a narcissist myself, I considered myself to be a highly empathetic person and possibly even one of these empaths. Turns out I have very low empathy. Yet, I’ve heard this same sentiment among other self-aware narcissists too – all believing we were highly empathetic prior to waking up. How is that possible?

My guess is that it’s cognitive empathy at play. There are different types of empathy: cognitive and emotional/affective.

Affective empathy is an automatic drive to respond appropriately to another’s emotions. It allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes and actually feel their feelings with them. When they are sad, you feel their sadness with them. When they are happy, you share their happiness too.

Cognitive empathy is knowing how another person feels and what they might be thinking. It is also referred to as “perspective-taking”. Cognitive empathy can help in a negotiation or in motivating people.

Narcissists are low on emotional empathy, but actually very skilled at using cognitive empathy. I can “read” a person’s emotional state very quickly and then relate that back to their underlying feelings and motivations. I pick up on subtleties, nuances, voice inflections, physical movements. This can come across as me being very emotionally attuned, almost like a mind reader. And I could always feel sympathy or compassion for that person, which I had confused for affective empathy.

Until recently, I never realized there were two types of empathy. I never grew up with affective empathy – I didn’t experience or witness it at home as a child so I quite literally did not realize I was missing it. My cognitive empathy was off the charts though.

When it comes to narcissists being attracted to highly empathetic people, my experience has been quite the opposite. I tend to be attracted to other low empathy types. In my case, this is usually paths (ASPD) or other NPDers. You can’t get much more low empathy than thatI also had a strong, almost reflexive disdain for emotional weakness.

At the time I never realized this, and wondered why I always found myself the “victim” to these types of personalities. Looking back, I see how comfortable I actually felt with them, in part precisely because we could be low empathy together and not feel judged or out of place. Additionally, because we are generally more skilled in hiding our own emotions, other Cluster Bs were more interesting and even mysterious to me — they presented more of a challenge.

In my experience Cluster B’s are drawn to each other and can act as codependents to one another. In fact, the most common pairing for a narcissist is a borderline personality. The common parings are BPD/NPD and BPD/ASPD. I’d say this has to be followed by NPD/NPD and NPD/ASPD, although I haven’t found the statistics yet to back this up.

This is for all sorts of reasons, but primarily, we feel comfortable with each other. Plus “normal” people can’t stay with any of us Cluster B’s too long before jumping ship. Media tends to get this right sometimes, for example, shows such as House of Cards (NPD/ASPD couple), The Sopranos (BPD/NPD mom/ASPD dad) or even the black comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“the gang”: three narcissists and a sociopath).

I’ve also asked around about this in my Cluster B support groups, which are primarily filled with other NPDs, BPDs and ASPDs. The overwhelming consensus was that we are all generally attracted to other Cluster B’s. We tend to view each other as partners in crime — someone else we can take on the world with. Anecdotal evidence backs this up as well. 

Quite frankly, people who exude lots of empathy have always made me uncomfortable. First, I have never gotten used to having anyone really support me or care about my feelings. Vulnerability is extremely hard for me. So when someone shows me a high level of empathy, I clam up and become incredibly uncomfortable. Like, I have to get out of here pronto, level discomfort.

I have a friend who is very empathetic. Once we had just come from hanging out and she was dropping me off at my house. We sat in the car talking. I started sharing with her how I had recently had two back-to-back miscarriages and was very depressed about it, worrying if I would ever have a full term pregnancy again. As I spoke, her eyes welled up with tears and by the time I finished she was full on crying. She seemed more upset about it than I was!

Far from being comforted, I felt trapped and panicked. On an intellectual level I appreciated her concern for me but I didn’t know what to say or do. I looked at her like she was some type of alien whose actions were completely foreign to me – because they were. I remember thinking, great, I just wanted to get this off my chest, now she’s crying and I have to deal with this. And I never know how to respond when others cry or show vulnerability around me.

It was so incredibly uncomfortable for me, I had a hard time not registering my shock and confusion. I clammed up and struggled to continue with the conversation. She never said anything to me about it, but I don’t think I pulled it off. I definitely registered a flash of confusion on her face as well. It was weird. I made an excuse to get the hell out of her car. 

Based on the evidence, my own experience, and the anecdotal stuff I’ve gathered from other awake Cluster B’s, I can’t imagine any narcissist purposely choosing or seeking to be around highly empathetic people. That’s just not how it works.

For those of you with Cluster B personality disorders, who do you find you’re most attracted to?

How to communicate with a narcissist

I’m really lucky to have a husband who is fully supporting me as I try to overcome my personality disorder. But he doesn’t always know how, and that’s incredibly frustrating for both of us.

A huge downside to having such a stigmatized PD is that it’s nearly impossible to find any helpful advice among the mountains of hate, shaming, misinformation, outright lies and general vitriol for people unlucky enough to be stuck with my disorder.

One of my husband’s chief complaints is that whenever he searches for anything having to do with NPD all he gets are narcissist hate sites. He can’t find anything on how to help me manage my disorder, how to more effectively talk to me, or how to support me in my recovery. He has searched and searched and the only advice he says he can find is, “get away from them.” Nice.

“I’m not giving up on you. I’m not leaving you,” he tells me. “I love you unconditionally.” For me that’s pretty hard to hear or accept, in part because vulnerability is still so fucking hard for me. I am still struggling to believe anyone can really love me at all, let alone unconditionally. But he’s trying to show me and I’m trying to learn to believe him. So, how can we help each other out?

Where’s the practical advice for those who aren’t ready to give up on their spouse or loved one with NPD, who is trying to change? I don’t have all the answers, but when I find something useful, I will pass it along — because it’s quite literally like finding a needle in haystack.

I came across this article the other day, and I think it had some decent, practical advice for people like my husband, on how to more effectively communicate with a narcissist:

How can you effectively communicate with someone who is generally only able to process what’s going on in their own lives and minds?

  • Let them think you are focusing on them, but really divert their attention to the emotions and thoughts of others. Giving them outside perspective. When they try to bring their feelings or thoughts back to center, acknowledge, then divert again.
  • Remind them of their responsibility in the causes and consequences of their actions. Not everything is someone else’s fault. Although they will try to make it seem that way. And they cannot complain about the choices they made freely and willingly.
  • Remind them of their responsibility to care for their own ego, and boost their own self-esteem. While encouraging them to support others’ emotional needs, as well. Not necessarily by making someone feel good, or feel anything for that matter, but by providing an open, welcoming, gentle atmosphere for others to dwell.
  • Remind them of the difference between caring for others and trying to control them. What they think isn’t always best. Support and show affection to others. Don’t just peddle advice.
  • Ask them to really listen, not just talk. Think how what is being said affects them as they’re listening. Focus on how the topic of conversation affects others.
  • Be sure to note direct comparisons of their lives, attitudes and actions to those they deem inferior or incorrect in others’ lives. They easily notice flaws in others but rarely notice, acknowledge or take responsibility for their own flaws. If they are doing these things, they probably will put forth a lackluster effort to change them, if any at all.

Read the rest of the article at Familyshare.