Sith Lords In The Real World

Next week we have a very special project launching: The Narcissist: A User’s Guide. What makes this collaboration with Lori Hoeck and Betsy Wuebker so special is all of us have had past experiences with the narcissistic personality. This is a topic we all feel very strongly about and felt the need to share it with the world.

All of us shared common ground in that we never realized what was wrong with these relationships other than they were just wrong. The best example I can give is being in a relationship with a narcissist is like being in a cult; they’re charming, charismatic, they manipulate people in such subtle ways that you as an individual don’t know what hit you until the damage is done and it’s far too late.

The Phantom Menace

Before what I was going through had a name for me to hang on it I often saw many parallels between the relationship and the Star Wars series.  Anakin Skywalker (aka: Darth Vader) is a classic example of a narcissist. He had a traumatic experience early on in life that stunted his emotional growth and led him to be totally self-absorbed, even though he would never see it that way.

He would have power, he would have control, he would rule the Galaxy! It didn’t matter what he did to those who loved him, and whether or not he was actually capable of love himself is debatable.

Yoda and Obi Wan both warned young Anakin that fear lead to the dark side; that it would consume him if he wasn’t careful. Fear in any form will render a person helpless, no matter how strong they think they are.

I used to think I was a strong person.

I’ve recently discovered that the person I was never went anywhere. I’m still me. I’m still strong. But it was one night while I was watching Star Wars for the umpteenth time that I realized how much fear the Narci injected into my life.

And here we go referring back to the cult mindset. Cult leaders brainwash you into thinking you can’t do it on your own. They tear you down even though in their minds they fully believe they’re building you up. Every word out of their mouth is a carefully calculated knife meant to slice away every last shred of self-esteem and confidence you have. The cult leader wants his or her followers to be totally dependent on them – and so does the narcissist.

Attack of the Clones

Once I realized how much these fears had a hold on me, the battle was on. Leaving a narcissist isn’t easy, I will tell you that right now. Like Sith Lords they’re skilled in putting you in your place and keeping you there. Want some examples? Here is a sample straight from the Guide:

  • “You are not living up to your vows”
  • “You promised you would never leave”
  • “Your leaving will hurt others at the company. Don’t you care?”
  • “You know I have a huge job change upcoming. Why are you doing this to me?”

Oh yes, when you try to leave you may end up thinking it’s much easier to stay where you are rather than break free. You’re already at your lowest point, you’re vulnerable and chances are you no longer know which end is up.

Another side of the narcissist’s many-sided coin as you depart is a cold shoulder and withdrawal—if you are lucky. Part of them will be glad to be done with the ego-draining drama your newfound insight, confidence, and resolve are causing them.

They will always try for control and try to assume the former controls and dynamic, but part of them will realize it will only deplete them more.

Some would say that physical abuse is worse than mental or verbal abuse. In my opinion, the latter two are worse. They leave scars no surgeon can heal. And long after the physical scars are gone, chances are the mental ones will never go away.

Many of us here are writers, we understand the power of words. Words have the power to bring down whole civilizations faster than any nuclear bomb ever could. Just reduce that to a smaller individual scale and you can imagine the destruction involved.

Revenge of the Sith

What is the definition of a Sith Lord? Here’s what Wikipedia had to say:

Characterized by their single-minded pursuit of power and disdain for sentient life, they are an alliance of warrior mages who use the dark side of the Force and serve as counterparts to the Jedi Knights.

The Sith are portrayed in various Star Wars media as individuals who use the dark side to attain power at any cost. The Star Wars prequel films establish that they draw upon strong emotions, both negative and positive, as the source of their power, and care only about themselves. This is in contrast to the Jedi, who are portrayed as forsaking emotional attachment in order to serve others and the galaxy as a whole.

Starting to see the connection? Even after you’ve left your Narci it’s not over yet. Once they realize they don’t have any control over you, they’ll still try to find ways to worm back into your life.

Be prepared for a lot of massive mood swing attacks ranging from despair to all out rage. And guilt. Massive amounts of guilt. But what you have to realize through all this is – and this is very important:

It’s Not Your Fault.

Repeat this mantra over and over to yourself. Write it on a sticky note and tape it to your forehead. Carve it into stone. Whatever you do, remember it.

A New Hope

I could go on for several more pages with this, but I won’t. Not yet. Instead, I’m going to wait for you all to get this ebook in your hands on February 2nd and read for yourselves. Then when you come back, we’ll have the coffee and bagels ready.

Comments

  1. Wow. What a powerful piece of writing. Still letting it seep in…

    I’m looking forward to seeing the product – both Lori and Betsy produce great content, and I’ve heard on the grapevine they’re delighted with the design of the new book :-)
    .-= Joanna Young’s last post… Why You’d Have Found Robert Burns on Twitter =-.

  2. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole book is still seeping in – and I can’t count the number of times I’ve read it already!

    And the grapevine would be correct :)

  3. Hi Deb,
    Funny where our passion to write on something comes from, eh? Great job on this post!
    The cult analogy is so right on — like falling for a cult of the personality with even worse consequences.

    I’m glad we are getting this information out to the world!

    Hi Joanna,
    Isn’t this post great? I love the comparison.

    Now you can hear it from the horse’s mouth: The design is amazing!
    .-= Lori Hoeck’s last post… Ebook on narcissism is narcissists’ Kryptonite =-.

  4. W O W.

    Makes me want to cry it’s SO true. And emotional scars are horrible because they are easier to hide, but they continue to fester until you deal with them.

    Emotional abuse can poison your entire body.

    I just covered counseling Borderline and Narcissistic personalities for class last night. Great timing. :)
    .-= Jamie Simmerman’s last post… Streamlining Social Media: facebook Connect =-.

  5. @Jamie: When the book comes out you’ll have to do a little show and tell in class!

  6. Yoda and Obi Wan were great mentors. I liked their “teach how to fish” style.

    Jedi seems like the way to be.
    .-= J.D. Meier’s last post… Career Growth and Finding Your Way Forward =-.

  7. “They tear you down even though in their minds they fully believe they’re building you up.”

    This line of yours really got to me today.
    .-= Lori Hoeck’s last post… Ebook on narcissism is narcissists’ Kryptonite =-.

  8. I’ll be very interested to read this, because I know that it means a lot to all of you. And so, it means a lot to me, too.

    I got to thinking the other day. I thought, “I’ve never lived with a narcissist” – but then, upon further thought, I sort of do, even now.

    The corporation.

    (with my edits)

    “And here we go referring back to the corporate mindset. Corporate leaders brainwash you into thinking you can’t do it on your own. They tear you down even though in their minds they fully believe they’re building you up. Every word out of their mouth is a carefully calculated knife meant to slice away every last shred of self-esteem and confidence you have. The corporate leader wants his or her followers to be totally dependent on them – just like the narcissist.”

    I know that it is certainly not the same as living with a physically and psychologically abusive person, but I thought it was an interesting parallel.

    Corporations often want you to think that you can’t do it on your own. They often use fear to keep you where you are.

    An abuse of power and influence.
    .-= Brett Legree’s last post… the terminal man. =-.

    • Brett,

      You are very right about the fact that sometimes it isn’t just one person that makes us feel this way. Sometimes it is a person, sometimes a company, sometimes a culture or group of people that have assumed a narcissistic style of behavior toward someone or group of people.

      And while this is a bigger issue then this book addresses, it is a huge problem that is very real. When a company allows management to use power or threats of loss of employment to control and mentally abuse their fellow human beings, not only are they very wrong, but they are never going to get the full beauty of their skills, talent and creativity. They are harming themselves as well. Just as you can’t give love away without giving it back two-fold, You can’t give pain away without getting it back two-fold as well.

      Companies…and Society…would be well served to figure it out. In fact…We all should :)

  9. Brett raises an interesting perspective on the narcissist — one that I agree with completely. A large entity (cult, corporation, etc) is awash in the attitude of its leadership, and if that leadership is soaked in narcissism, you have a recipe for low morale and poor mental/emotional health throughout the culture. Unfortunately, the interests of individuals is never as important as what’s best for “the company.”

    What an astounding and thought-provoking post Wendi. May we all be strong enough to resist the allure of narcissists who would use us to further their own personal objectives and gains.
    .-= Melissa Donovan’s last post… Why Generic Website Copywriting is Bad for Business =-.

  10. Hi Deb, Wendi and Everyone –

    I’ve been ruminating on this post for a couple of days now. Thanks to you, Deb, I may finally “get” beyond the entertainment in Star Wars to appreciate it on additional levels.

    But the idea of the institutional bureaucracy as a narcissistic entity is more intriguing at the moment. This concept does have all the parallels: Oppressive, systematic controls designed to stifle and induce conformance. Diminishing self-esteem in the co-dependent – the paid worker or subject. The “we know what’s best for you, and you couldn’t possibly, so you might as well go along with it” messages that are accompanied by consequences that include deprivation (your pay is docked, your taxes go up, your home is seized in eminent domain, you’re fired or disqualified because you’re not up to the standard) of something that you rely upon as being “yours.”

    So, yes, it’s a valid analogy. But to be honest, I’m more interested in what keeps someone in a narcissistic relationship once they’ve already identified that it is harmful to them. These are the apathetic justifications we mention in the book. “I need the money.” “I wouldn’t have health insurance if I struck out on my own.” “I don’t like jumping through all the government hoops but what can you do?” “You can’t fight City Hall.” “That’s just the way it is.” “None of the clients would go with me and I’d starve.” “I’m sticking around for the sake of the children.”

    In the book we talk about the choices we have if we are engaged with a narcissist. We can acquiesce to the dynamic, we can turn the tables on them and play them at their game, or we can stand our ground. The first two strategies deplete our soul. The third one can be the scariest option to contemplate. And so many of us just stay. Suck it up, bucko, we say. Life’s a bitch. These are the roots of fatalism and cynicism. It’s all because our destiny, we think, is doled out aqt the hands of a big, scary another.

    In my own case, I literally spent years poised on the precipice of taking positive action. I couldn’t pull the trigger on any of my plans to leave. I had listened to all the overt and subconscious messages and I was terrified that they were true – that I would be an immense failure and my dreams of emotional freedom would be dashed on the rocks far below the edge of the cliff upon which I stood.

    When I finally did take the plunge and left, I was amazed. Not only didn’t I fall to earth, but I could fly, and later, soar. The game-changer? I found a bigger reason than myself to leave. So, to anyone who knows they are in an untenable position yet can’t seem to find the resources with which to leave it, where and what/who is the thing that is bigger than you that you should do it for?
    .-= Betsy Wuebker’s last post… What Goes Around, Comes Around =-.

  11. Betsy must have been reading my thoughts when I left my comment, because she figured out one of the reasons why I am so interested to read your work.

    “I’m more interested in what keeps someone in a narcissistic relationship once they’ve already identified that it is harmful to them.”

    And that’s what I’ve struggled with for some time. I have known for many years that where I work is not good for me. I will even go so far as to say it has contributed to health problems – it certainly has not made things better, put it that way.

    And the apathetic justifications Betsy mentions – yes, I’ve heard all of those come out of my mouth.

    I have always had lots of different “escape plans”, but never acted upon them.

    And then, just before Christmas, while talking with a friend, I hit upon the idea I’ve been seeking, we spent a lot of time developing it (still are, actually) and we will be striking out on our own this year.

    And the narcissist? Well, “it” has several critical weaknesses that we can exploit to turn it into a client, once we are gone.

    The corporate narcissist is too busy looking at itself in the mirror, and it will be all too happy to give us money by the handful, to do what we could have done for it for a fraction of the price, had it only taken a moment to lift its foot off of our backs.
    .-= Brett Legree’s last post… the terminal man. =-.

  12. @Betsy & Brett: whoa, what a great conversation to wake up to! Been a long time since I’ve seen one with this kind of depth on the web.

    What keeps someone in a relationship like this? A total lack of faith in self. The Narci already chose you for a reason, you were an easy target. People who give unconditionally take the Narci at face value, and that face always looks so charming it’s difficult to see past that until it’s too late. By the time the individual’s faith in self has been totally eroded and stripped away, it’s too late. That person already believes there are no other options, there is no way in hell they could possibly make it on their own, they will have no one to turn to or ask for help because they have been brain washed into believing that everyone they know would want to have nothing to do with them. Their moral has been crushed to a fine silt that blows away in the slightest breeze.

    Companies do the same thing. I’ve been through plenty of layoffs and lost many 9 to 5 jobs in my life. Each time it was the worst thing that could happen. There was the panic of knowing the axe was going to fall soon, the thought I’d never be able to find another job again, that there would be nothing out there for me, etc.

    Each and every time though, I’d survive. I’d find a job better than the last one right when I needed it. I had help. I had friends. I had family who stuck by me. The world didn’t end in a fiery Apocalyptic blaze.

    With my experience I was told I would have no one and nothing. I was told I was scum, lacked integrity, had no talent left, and that I would never make it on my own. At the time, I believed that so much that I was afraid to even reach out to anyone and perpetuated the illusion of isolation even more.

    And, I did what I always did, went about what I had to do quietly. I resolved myself to what I saw as the fact that if I had to start with nothing, then so be it. But I would start again. It wouldn’t be the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

    In a surprisingly short amount of time I managed to bounce back. The will to live was much stronger than the voice in my head telling me to lay down and die. Literally. Were there times when I wanted to go out and play chicken with a semi on a lonely stretch of desert road? You betcha. And therein lies another danger. What happens to those people who aren’t strong enough to pick themselves up again and can’t see past the illusion the Narci has woven around them? Some of us know what happens, and it’s not pretty.

    And does the Narci personality even care about any of this destruction they’ve left in their wake? No. They don’t. It’s not their fault, not their problem. In their mind it only proves that the person should have stayed with them and let the Narci take care of it all – because after all, the Narci is the one who knows what’s best for everyone.

    It’s a vicious cycle and there are no winners. Only survivors.

  13. Betsy,

    According to Freud, we all have a pattern for relationships that we develop as small children (birth to age 6). Unconsciously, we repeat these patterns for the rest of our lives. In psychodynamic group therapy, participants project or transfer their feelings from these old relational patterns onto new relationships.

    SO… unconsciously, if you had a close relationship with a narcissist as a child, you will seek those qualities in your adult relationships as well (or become a narcissist). Or, at best, project those qualities onto someone you are close to perpetuate the pattern.

    It’s your mind’s unconscious effort to resolve anxiety and issues lingering from you childhood. (According to Freud, of course.) : )
    .-= Jamie Simmerman’s last post… Streamlining Social Media: facebook Connect =-.

  14. Deb, you are so right. There is nothing in your estimation that you have to offer if the one who knows you best has deemed that, right? And Brett, I said many of those apathetic responses on many occasions, too. I was hoping you wouldn’t think I was piling on. The dynamic creates such a prison of inertia, doesn’t it? Jamie, it would stand to reason that if the narcissist’s psyche is formed in the same childhood timeframe, so would potential co-dependents, right? We have several cites in the book that isolated that observation within the clinical research.

    All great stuff. Once I began to see a glimmer of recognition for what I was dealing with, I wanted to research more. It’s sort of like realizing you are dealing with a more exotic malady than just your garden variety asshole. :)

    But I still think the most interesting thing is that I, along with many of the individuals we know, was more easily induced to do the work associated with leaving when there was a different reason than just purely for myself.
    .-= Betsy Wuebker’s last post… What Goes Around, Comes Around =-.

  15. @Betsy,

    Oh, not at all, I didn’t think you were piling on one bit. What you wrote just really rang true with me.

    What you’ve all written here is really making me think, about relationships with people of all sorts – lovers, friends, employers.

    I can’t wait to read your work. I know it is something special.

    And the end part of your comment – I agree with that too. Because I am doing this for more than just myself (I am doing it for my family – my wife and children – to give us flexibility), I know it will work this time.
    .-= Brett Legree’s last post… the terminal man. =-.

  16. Hi Everyone.
    This is intense stuff. I believe that what keeps someone in a relationship with a narcissist, (beyond a lack of faith in self and resources), is that there is *something* in it for them. As painful as the situation may be, emotions are invisible and easy to hide away, easy to pretend otherwise.

    We can negotiate with ourselves that we’re okay. We can play the role of the victim and let the narcissist take all the responsibility for the “wrongs”. That gives them more power, enabling their pattern and allowing us to settle into the “safety” of our familiar place/pattern. At least we’re not alone right?

    I think we have to be careful to not become so immersed in “fighting” against the narcissists that we are fighting *against* something, rather than *for* ourselves. Really delicate balance here.

    What I also believe is that we all have narcissistic tendencies that we need to be on top of. There has to be a gray area here.
    .-= Davina’s last post… This Effortless Brilliance =-.

  17. Betsy,
    Yes, the co-dependents are naturally drawn to others who allow them to act their co-dependent tendencies, without even realizing it. It is the mind’s way of “replaying” events to try to correct past mistakes. We play the same roles over and over, trying to get it right. But unless we are aware of our actions and motivations, we seldom make any headway- which perpetuates the cycle.

    Dysfunction is more contagious than the flu.
    .-= Jamie Simmerman’s last post… Streamlining Social Media: facebook Connect =-.

  18. Davina,

    You bring up an excellent point and one Deb and I have been discussing behind the scenes for the past couple of days. In everyone of us, there are some narcissist tendencies. I confess, if you catch me on a day where I’ve had less then 5 hours of sleep I can get very “All about me” very fast ( and a big cry baby too). Its all I can do to try to put my best foot forward and think of others first despite my best intentions.

    I think the difference is that we are talking about a continuum here. The ones who are the issue are most likely the ones who aren’t looking in the mirror here and saying Could this be me? DO I treat people as fairly as I could? No…the ones with the problem aren’t questioning themselves at all. They are too busy blaming everyone else for all of their problems.

    Your other point is just as valid. The first step to survival is to stop seeing ourselves as victims. We ALWAYS HAVE CHOICES. The trouble comes when we have allowed ourselves to be knocked down so far that we forget that we have choices.

    I believe that in the end, people don’t usually change until the situation becomes more painful then the alternative of taking a chance to do something new and different.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make a choice because its just the right thing to do, not because its the only option left.

  19. @Davina: You’re reading my mind. I was just sitting here thinking how easy it would be to fall into vigilante mode and start crusading. There’s a fine, fine line between venting and all out bashing.

    This isn’t an us vs. them. Like I said, no one wins in a situation like this. Is it possible for a narcissist to recognize what they’re doing? Maybe, I really don’t know enough about it to say. Is it easy to fall into the role of victim? Hell yeah.

    Do the “victims” (for lack of a better term – if someone has one, let me know) get something from this too? You bet they do. I know for me it was the illusion that I was being protected, I was getting attention, and I thought I was getting encouragement. I’d always tell myself, “Oh, that’s just their way of saying [you're good, you've done well, you've got talent...fill in the blank here].” It was a bizarre way of getting confirmation, or what I thought was confirmation.

    The problem was, it was dysfunctional and extremely addicting. This is something that I can now look at from an out of body perspective and I want to see where the critical turning points were, where I gave in and gave up control of my own life, and why. I want to understand this more than anything else.

    And like anything else that finally opens your eyes or catches your attention, you start to see it clearly everywhere. Even in yourself.

    I do believe we all harbor some of these tendencies, but there are varying shades of gray. Some are at the low end of the scale and others are off the charts.

    One phrase that comes to mind is the more you go in the opposite direction, the more you become what you don’t want to be.

    Balance, people.

  20. Wendy and Deb. Right on! It hit me in the side of the head: “opens your eyes or catches your attention…” It’s about being *aware* for both parties. And sadly, I don’t think the narcissist is aware that they are on a self-destructive path. The metaphor I used the other day when I was talking to a friend about this was that these people seem to me to be like a “free radical”. An unstable cell, searching desperately for a way to survive. Even they are blinded to their plight.

    Don’t laugh, but I’m feeling a lot of empathy about this, more for the narcissist than the other person. Those who aren’t narcissists seem to have control over their free will to make a change and help themselves. The narcissist is in a prison. There is a part of me that I don’t understand in this moment, who believes there is a way to help them. Who wants to help them.

    I just don’t know what it is yet… and in hindsight, they have to want to be helped… to believe they need help AND to care enough about themselves to want help. What’s disheartening is that only they can open the door. So I guess I’ll have sit on this for a bit before I start “banging on doors”.
    .-= Davina’s last post… This Effortless Brilliance =-.

  21. @Davina: Bingo. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped or won’t admit they have a problem. And believe me, I’m right there with you on the empathy/sympathy. It’s sad, it’s tragic and downright frustrating, especially for those of us who firmly believe that deep down there has to be a bit of good in everyone.

  22. Deb,

    You recognized your motivation was for achieving recognition and approval. That’s something that most people rarely achieve outside of therapy. It shows you have a very sharp mind and a willingness to change~ All signs of a healthy (and courageous) mentality. :)

    Victims are often termed co-dependents, because their behavior allows the narcissist to continue; they enable the person. A good book for co-dependents is “Love is a Choice” (http://bit.ly/aQYV4S) It’s a REAL eye-opener.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible to spend our entire lives trying to “get it right”, and if we ever can be truly emotionally and mentally healthy. Perhaps the search for that balance is what makes life fulfilling- despite the end result.
    .-= Jamie Simmerman’s last post… Streamlining Social Media: facebook Connect =-.

  23. This is simply a test to make sure I can finally join the party :-)
    .-= Eliza’s last post… Graceful Women: Wait! I’m Too Young to Have Osteoporosis! =-.

  24. Interesting discussion!

    As was touched on, I think the most difficult aspect of this is to put aside the tendency to feel like a victim, once one realizes what’s going on, and instead to recognize that how we choose to interpret things is really the issue.

    Because those of us who are fully mentally capable always have a choice as to how to take a certain situation, comment, or action, we choose either to be victimized or empowered. Thee narcissist never actually has any power until we assign or allow it. Power is perceived. Take away the belief that one is a victim or that one has power over you and that person is suddenly quite ineffective, just as when you stop fighting something or someone, it no longer has the impetus to continue an assault.

    These are my thoughts, anyway. I’m coming to fully realize the gravity of this only recently, and that I can no longer blame others or circumstances for how I think or behave. The why doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is how to fix the incorrect thoughts or actions (or inaction). If I change my thinking from negative to positive, if I choose to interpret things differently, life in general will become significantly different, and better.

  25. Hi Steph – What a powerful comment, filled with hard-won insight. You’re so very right when you say “power is perceived.” And you’re seemingly way ahead of where I was for so long before I realized the “why didn’t matter.” My Achilles heel is looking for the “why.” I think women in particular have been trained to try and understand, then adapt. This ingrained tendency can be deadly when you’re dealing with a narcissistic influence. There is no quid pro quo. Consequently, your needs are diminished and ultimately ignored. And you’re right again, what matters is how to fix things and move forward, purposefully with good values. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments.
    .-= Betsy Wuebker’s last post… Laying the Keel =-.

  26. This is such a coincidence. I spent all afternoon with talking with a good friend, she and I left a destructive cult a year ago and the emotional and mental scars are still deep and have not healed.
    We talked about the narcissistic personality of the cult leader and his charisma, his perfection, he always had the perfect answer for everything, the perfect smile, perfection all over.
    As soon as I arrived home, I saw someone tweeting about your book!
    This article describes the people who damaged the hearts and souls of so many innocent people whose only crime was to want to change the world.
    There is a blog that some of the ex-cult members created so that people can start to speak up, we still are afraid of using our own names, and many still don’t dare to write anything.
    .-= Shekinahp’s last post… Divide and Conquer =-.

  27. Recurring theme: “None of this is my fault.”

    To paraphrase Darth Vader; interesting. Most interesting.
    .-= Marc’s last post… Why You Shouldn’t Work for Your Friends, Family or Yourself =-.

  28. Possibly against good judgment, I’m going to share my thoughts here, because I feel quite strongly about the subject. I’ve shared my thoughts at the guest post at Writer Dad’s as well, for those interested in reading.

    The problem is that I have to say I’m quite surprised by this seeming epidemic of narcissism. Let’s be honest, here. Narcissism is a psychological disorder that has a prevalence of about 1% of the population – possibly up to 2.5% if studies are stretched. There are a lot of people in the United States and around the world.

    And yet, so many people seem to be tumbling out of the woodwork claiming they’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist that this could overturn decades of medical research. It’s extremely unlikely, though, if we consider statistics, and this is making me wonder about the credibility of the claims.

    Sometimes, people just behave badly. We have all been victims of that at various times, and we have all also been people who act out in poor ways. This does not mean that we all have disorders. Making a claim does not create truth.

    I also find statments I’m seeing around the web quite serious ones, and I do have to wonder on their truth. Yes, dysfunctional relationships are quite confusing and can be mentally straining, but as intelligent human beings, we have to be very, very careful about pointing fingers and tacking names to people in self-defence. It’s very easy to call a strong-willed and ambitious person a narcissist – just as easy as it is to label a meek person who does nothing someone with an avoidance disorder or a passive-aggressive individual, two states of mind that are just as damaging to others as narcissists might be.

    So my questions begin with, were the narcissists in these relationships diagnosed by professionals? Or just labelled so by their “victims”? And what of the victims’ responsibilities? It takes two to tango in a relationship, after all. As Marc has said, I’m also seeing a lot of “It’s not my fault,” and “I’m not to blame,” but that’s a dangerous mindset to have. In any relationship, there is always two people involved and two sets of behaviour at play. Only when we acknowledge our contribution, accept it and work to change our behaviours can we truly say we’re on the road to being a better person.

    I don’t mean to undermine people’s experiences. We’ve all had bad relationships and they do hurt. They do leave scars, sometimes very deep ones that take years of effort to get over and heal. But the answer is not to suddenly assume that we’re qualified enough to write self-help psychology ebooks or make statements about who has a certain disorder and who doesn’t.

    I’ve read the ebook. And frankly, what I read in it is that every person I know can be easily labelled as having a serious psychological disorder. Sweeping generalizations and twisted interpretations serve no one any good, and following the guidelines in the book may result in labelling all the people we know as narcissists. Any parent fits in the definition. Teachers. World leaders. Seminar speakers. Policemen. The lady next door, for goodness sake. That’s frightening.

    A last point. When we point the finger and say, “The narcissist did this to me,” (as was said in this post and others around the web) versus “I allowed this to happen in my life,” we are not healing or changing our behaviours. We are externalizing our issues instead of looking within to change ourselves and become better people. Yes, people treat people badly, but we have a responsibility to accept our part in the situation and work to change it. Psychological healing is a bio-psycho-social change, involving more than just moving people in and out of our lives.

    Again, I’m not making light of anyone’s experience. That is your experience and your perception of the situation, and it is valid. But I am speaking out against this generalized use of a psychological disorder to label people and thus avoid our own issues. I think that’s a very unhealthy manner of dealing with any situation.

  29. Hello James,

    Welcome to LLI. Thank you for taking the time to share your well articulated thoughts on the subject. I must say, this may be the longest comment we have ever had on LLI! Perhaps we should have had you do a guest post!

    Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinions and viewpoints on the subject. Mine are shared in the post Take Two in the Mirror where I talk about the fact that it is absolutely a dance between two people- in fact it always is in any relationship.

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  1. [...] AWESOME GIFT In the “things just keep getting better” category, Betsy and I were blessed to have our ebook professionally designed by Deborah Dorchak of Sirius Graphix at no cost to us. Deb writes about this wonderful and serendipitous collaboration at the Sirius Graphix website. (And you must read her take on narcissists: “Sith Lords in the Real World.”) [...]

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