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.