(Originally published on 11-2-09. Revised & updated on 11-2-10.)
My 32-year Former Friendship with a Woman who has Early Narcissistic Injury and Many Narcissistic Traits
At what point, and why, does a friendship move from shared interests, mutual support, fun, love and respect to a cruel and destructive game? I’ve had to ponder that question many times during the past several years.
An “abusive female friend.” I had one. Had a few, actually. There are many women who have had one or more Narcissists in their personal and work lives. If you’re reading this, you probably have too.
This is my story about Narcissistic Abuse in a close friendship. The friendship began, and took place within, the context of a spiritual community and formal spiritual path. That’s why it was particularly hurtful and full of betrayal.
If you suspect or know that your friend is abusing you, I hope that you’ll write your own story, because the process is very therapeutic! This story details how my relatively harmless friendship with a narcissistic female friend turned into a destructive and malignant narcissistic relationship that nearly destroyed my life. This story also details how I was finally able to recognize the problem, cut off contact with her and move on.
I wrote this story as part of my healing journey, at the request of a therapist and support group. It began as a journaling exercise to get in touch with my feelings and let off steam. Those incidents that best portray the issues in the friendship are presented.
My intention in writing this is to not only facilitate my own healing, but help others recognize similar behaviors and patterns in their own relationships. I want them to understand that change and healing is possible even when it seems improbable or impossible. I’ve noticed that since I ended my friendship with H my life’s gotten better, especially the more time passes.
When we are intensely involved in friendships and family relationships that are highly dysfunctional and extremely difficult, we have the odd sense that something is wrong. Sometimes we are even aware that it is very wrong, but we make excuses. We rationalize their attitudes and behaviors. We hope, we pray, we bang the wall, gnash our teeth (figuratively), try in vain to make things better – all to no avail. That creates even more confusion, frustration and despair. It lowers our self-esteem and it makes us doubt ourselves. It renders us unable to flourish, and it causes failure and unhappiness throughout our lives.
I came to understand while writing this story that, at some point — usually when it seems like much too late — many of us find a way to clear our minds. We recognize that no matter what has taken place with the abusive person, no matter how bad things seem or have actually gotten, we are responsible for our own lives.
Yes, they abused us in various ways. Yes, we often reacted very badly. Yes, we were entangled in a very unhealthy dynamic that prevented us from leading a happy, fulfilling life. Yes, we said and did things we were/are not proud of. Yes, we had FLEAS. (See the link to “FLEAS” in the table of contents on this blog.) We were confused, frustrated, in despair… all brought on by our toxic relationship with the Narcissist in our life.
Yes, many people wonder about us and some have long dismissed us, even though they continue to give passes to other people who have done far worse things. (I am thinking not only of my family, but my former spiritual community in San Francisco.)
The poor choices that one makes when one is involved in any unhealthy relationship must be eliminated. We must choose and maintain healthier attitudes and behaviors. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be done.
I believe that we must first break free of the abusive person and the dysfunctional dynamic of the relationship, because only then can we truly begin to heal. (There are various ways of doing this, see my posts Cutting Ties with a Narcissist, How to Get Rid of a Narcissist, and How to Stop Attracting Abuse from a Narcissist.)
There is some anger and sarcasm in the words that follow. There is also an emerging clarity and a willingness to take responsibility for what I allowed to happen to me.
I hope that you will take the time to read this and get yourself moving about your own issues, like I finally did!
These are the Narcissistic traits and behaviors that H exhibited with me:
1. Arrogance/Air of Superiority/Elevation.
3. Setting herself up as a leader and a spiritual adept.
4. Rewriting her history to suit her self-image and her agenda (being an important person in her spiritual community).
5. Blaming her problems/situation on others in her life (stepmother; husband); ongoing refusal to engage in honest dialogue, personal therapy or marriage counseling.
6. Stonewalling (refusal to communicate; refusal to respond to concerns and innocent questioning).
7. Passive/Aggressive manipulation of situations (witnessed this a lot with respect to her marriage and living situation).
8. Defamation of me to her family and some of our mutual friends, and some people who knew me or knew of me.
9. Devalue and Discard.
10. Refusal to assist me in a medical emergency.
11. Schadenfreude (taking pleasure in my dysfunction and distress).
12. Rigid refusal or extreme reluctance to accept any viewpoint other than her own carefully-arrived-at analysis; “know-it-all.”
13. Talks “at” people instead of “with” them; also, extremely repetitive.
14. Narcissistic Rage when questioned or challenged, no matter how gently or diplomatically.
Historically, far more has been written about the Male Narcissist than the Female Narcissist. I often see statements claiming that 75% of Narcissists are men. I heartily disagree with that statistic – it doesn’t represent the present demographic in the U.S. Those of us studying the subject know – and experts no doubt agree – there are more Female Narcissists than ever before. In fact, I believe that the current numbers are staggering, especially among America’s youth and young adults. (See “The Narcissism Epidemic.”)
Unfortunately, I’ve had close relationships with several Female Narcissists. That fact dramatically altered the course of my life. The main ones are my mother, my high-school “best friend” G and my adult “closest friend” H whom I met 33 years ago as of this writing (11/2/09). There were several other Females in my life who had many Narcissistic Traits. They passed through in only a few years, but not without wreaking some serious havoc: “D,” “D,” “M,” “K,” “T” and “S” come to mind. That’s a lot of Narcissists/Highly Narcissistic People! Through research, journaling and therapy, I have come to see that for most of my life I attracted a lot of Narcissists as friends.
There have also been a fair amount of Male Narcissists in my life. Almost every man with whom I became intimately involved was highly Narcissistic, some with strong elements of Sadism. (My belief, based upon years of experience, is that most Narcissists display varying degrees of sadism, and many of them carefully conceal it.) My ex-husband is quite Narcissistic – he was very intimidating and abusive. He was focused upon his own needs and wishes to the exclusion of everyone else, except our children. He was and still is very obsessed with our children — fortunately in a mostly positive way. However, he often stated to me, “Your parents and friends are low-lives.”
After a few years of marriage, my ex-husband snarled at me several times, “I don’t care about your happiness.” I finally began facing up to the fact that I had to get out of my marriage. There had been several years of verbal abuse, intense conflict, extreme frustration and debilitating despair. It was going downhill fast. The verbal abuse was escalating into physical violence.
My brother, who was the Golden Child in the family, has also exhibited sadistic tendencies in the past, not just toward me but toward his children. Due to fear, I never reported him to the proper authorities on two separate occasions that were years apart. It leads me to believe that he has his own story related to our mother’s Narcissism-Jekyll/Hyde personality.
Having worked in the corporate legal world for three decades, I constantly had to deal with many Narcissistic alpha males. There were plenty of females who fit the “narcissist/alpha” category as well. My decades-long career in the legal field exacerbated the issues in my personal life, greatly delaying my perception of the problem and of course, the healing journey itself.
Section 1: Background
My former friendship with a woman I’ll call “H” was the longest and most intense friendship I’ve ever had. As of this initial writing (11-02-09), she’s been on my mind. Our birthdays, five days apart, were 2-1/2 weeks ago. There had been almost a year of very Little Contact (LC), and several weeks of No Contact (NC) at all. H sent me an electronic birthday card on my birthday, though I had ignored her birthday a few days earlier.
She has not contacted me since, which is the way I want it. H’s pattern of sending me emails and electronic cards had actually started 10 months previously, when she began sending me strange very brief emails. As of this writing (11-2-09) I have ignored her every contact since 3-30-09. Indeed, all of those strange emails prompted me to finally write my story and later start this blog.
I have spent the past 6 years (from 2003 to 2009) winding out of that complex, inconsistent, frustrating and challenging 30+ year friendship with H. I would not be so presumptuous as to conclude that H has classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”). That is for a qualified psychologist to evaluate and diagnose, which will probably never happen given how adept those with NPD (or simply those with several narcissistic traits) are at convincing an ineffective therapist that there is nothing wrong with them. However, I have experienced that H has many classic narcissistic traits and I therefore believe that she is a HNP (Highly Narcissistic Person).
Those with NPD usually avoid therapy altogether because there is nothing in it for them. H will likely never engage in individual therapy or marriage counseling, given how invested she is in holding on for dear life to her Narcissistic construct. For that is what Narcissists do – hold on to their inner chaos for dear life. What a painful existence it must be. Sadly, the pain that Narcissists cause others is just as bad, but in a different way.
So again, at the very least, H is what I term a HNP – Highly Narcissistic Person.
Throughout most of three decades, I knew that H was a tightly-controlled person and a control freak toward others. I gave her a pass because it seemed to me that it was a result of her childhood trauma while growing up in a privileged family and the fact that her mother died when she was young. I never considered the possibility that H’s fundamental problem might actually be many Narcissistic Traits resulting from her early Narcissistic Injury.
I’ve also wondered just when it was that H transitioned from fairly decent friend to toying with me and taking pleasure in my pain.
A Brief Background About H:
She was born when her older brother was 5 years old. According to H, her mother and brother teased and goaded her mercilessly. She was hyper-aware that something was very wrong. They did not behave in a loving way toward her. When H was about 7 years old, her mother burned down the family home because she was dying of cancer and wanted to take everyone with her. Everyone who was inside the home survived but her mother. A year later, her father remarried a woman H has termed a “clinically diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.” Whatever the case, H has described some things this woman did and if true, they were very abusive over a period of several years.
In high school, H was sent away to a nearby boarding school for a year or two. Her father was a prominent patent law attorney and she grew up in affluent neighborhoods. H probably never felt safe in the world, nor truly loved. She didn’t trust people then, and she doesn’t trust them now. That is the case for a lot of us. Her situation growing up was far worse than mine. My situation as an adult has been far worse than she ever thought about hers being. In fact, I know that H has long considered my life as an example of what not to allow to happen to her.
Because we met at age 25 through esoteric spiritual pursuits, I always gave H the benefit of the doubt, for that is what spiritual people do. That is what true friends do! (Not to mention the fact that one of the main tenets of our original spiritual teacher advised us to “cover the fault of another.” Hide it from the world and don’t complain about it.)
Finally, I realized that I could no longer afford to cut H any slack. I sensed that if I continued to excuse away her attitude and behavior toward me, it was ultimately going to destroy me – in a very big way. To tell the truth my life was already destroyed, and any attempts to fix it always fell apart. My life was already in very serious trouble. I didn’t need any more chaos and destruction.
Gradually, very slowly – literally 30 years after we met – I began to realize that my friendship with H had a lot to do with the ongoing chaos in my life.
Since going No Contact with H during the past year, my life has had no chaos. Isn’t that interesting? No longer are there the “frequent catastrophes from which she needs rescuing.” (Her words.) My life is far more peaceful, less driven, more focused. My life is resurrecting. Sometimes I don’t believe it, but I know that it’s true and I know that I must keep on believing it. My very survival depends upon it. In addition, I am no longer afraid that “Uranus is going continue to bulldoze my life.” It’s an illusion.
Soon after H sent what I call the “last straw” email (detailed further below) I met “C,” a wonderful online friend, in early April 2009. Soon after C and I became acquainted, she mentioned that she has a Malignant Narcissist mother. She described what her life has been like, and I began to realize that my mother has many of the same traits and behaviors without the physical abuse that C experienced. After a few weeks of corresponding, C told me that after a lifetime of struggle, she had finally gone No Contact with her mother several months earlier.
I began considering whether to ask C her opinion about H’s attitude and behavior toward me during the previous 6 years. Finally, I wrote it up and with some trepidation sent it to C. I was still shell-shocked by a very unfortunate experience with a group of online cyberpaths 2-3 years prior – yet another example of my former tendency to allow toxic and abusive people into my life.
As mentioned, Narcissism usually has elements of Sadism. My friend C suffered greatly – both physically and mentally – at the hands of her mother, starting in the womb (a botched self-abortion) and later through denial of essential things like proper nutrition. She has been studying NPD (“Narcissistic Personality Disorder”) for the past 11-12 years. She steered me toward some websites and discussion boards where one can read about the characteristics of Narcissism, how to deal with it, and how to disengage from its chaotic and destructive web.
Some sites about Narcissistic Abuse are much better than others. My favorites are Cosmic Walk blog (amazing!), and Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (DONM). Cosmic Walk is very articulate, straightforward and clear. DONM is excellent also, but the forum section isn’t a cure-all nor was it intended to be. Most of the women there don’t really have the patience to read your posts nor respond adequately if they even respond at all. Still, it’s a very good site and I recommend it.
Another site, The Narcissist In Your Life by Linda Martinez-Lewi, is excellent as well. Yet another site is Kellevision, an excellent blog by a woman therapist in Texas. She covers a wide range of mental health issues, including Narcissism.
There are also several very good blogs written by various daughters of narcissistic mothers. These women are my daughter’s age, and I envy them. They have resources my generation didn’t have.
One must use critical thinking with some of the Narcissistic Abuse sites. Reader beware! I would especially be wary of sites that claim Narcissism can be healed, or that Narcissists can become more “normal,” or that you just have to learn to “put up with” a Narcissist and work around them.
Beware of the voluminous material on the internet by S. Vaknin. He has been clinically diagnosed as a narcissistic psychopath by more than one qualified psychology professional. Online videos that serve to memorialize his verbal abuse and strange behavior are very disturbing. Much of his material is very good but it is voluminous, disorganized (chaotic), and often quite vague and repetitive. Some of the information is valuable, while some is very misleading. Just read everything you can, and be sure to use critical thinking in your research about Narcissism.)
Section 2: My Healing Journey Finally Begun
After meeting C online, in the Spring of 2009 I finally began the conscious, tangible journey away from Narcissistic relationships in my life and toward effective healing. As I studied the voluminous material I was researching about Narcissism, I recognized many Narcissistic Traits and behaviors in my former friend H. I also recognized my mother in what I was reading.
Soon after, I would admit to myself that I seemed to attract highly narcissistic women who seemed to have chosen me because of their need to feel better about themselves (their lives were going so much better). Indeed, 15 years ago when I was at a very low point, every single female friend in my life was highly narcissistic. (Not including the landlady I had at the time, though she was a cursory friend.)
I realized that I had to disengage from H and my mother. (Update 6-16-10: my mother passed away a week ago.) I learned why I had to disengage. I started learning how to heal. I had to face the uncomfortable fact that I unconsciously drew many Narcissists into my life. Worse, I allowed them to stay. Later I had to face the fact that I was actually addicted to having these people in my life. This is called a “trauma bond.”
I have begun the journey to understanding why I did that. Writing this story is the second stage of that process. C nailed me to the wall about H. She made me face up to the fact that H was not, and is not, my friend at all. She made me face not only that H probably has NPD (or at least is a HNP – Highly Narcissistic Person), but that my mother was the same.
Some Family Background:
My life was compromised by my mother’s Narcissism since early childhood (about 7-8 years of age). At about age 9, my mother made me The Family Scapegoat courtesy of her childhood Narcissistic Injury. More about that later. The relationship with my mother is probably how I became susceptible to the friendship with G in high school, and H in my mid-20’s. It is also probably why I married my ex-husband at age 30. It is why I have attracted and allowed and craved so many other Narcissists in my life.
I literally thought love was abuse, though I had no idea I felt that way. It was very subconscious. And I hadn’t resolved my childhood issues with a controlling, abusive mother nor my self-esteem issues caused by health problems and bullying in grade school.
We draw to us what we know. Some know alcoholism. Some know drug abuse. Some know sexual abuse. I knew Narcissism and being The Family Scapegoat. I knew scapegoating, bullying, low self-esteem and codependency.
I have a birth defect that causes severe health problems and social/employment issues. All of my vital organs are reversed. It is called “dextrocardia, situs inversus totalis” which is caused by “Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia” (“PCD”) and leads to “Kartagener Syndrome.” It is very difficult and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The dextrocardia (heart on right side instead of left) is from my father’s side of the family. It is not known what caused the PCD from a genetics standpoint.
Due to my birth defects and the many symptoms and illnesses, by late grade school I was sorely in need of therapy yet I was not allowed to have it — even though it was something my parents knew that I sorely needed. I’d needed it since about 3rd grade when the bullying by boys started at school and continued all the way through 6th grade until we moved across town and I was, mercifully, able to change schools. At that time, my self-esteem and self-confidence were not very high, though I was an extrovert. The low self-esteem wasn’t readily apparent. Things got better, but the damage was done, and my birth defect continued to cause emotional and social problems. That’s why I was a perfect target for a Narcissist.
The High-School “Best Friend”
I became “best friends” with “G” in my freshman year of high school. My parents really disliked her. They both saw right through G. I was her little minion. She was always thinner, better at cheerleading jumps (and got more votes), had more boyfriends and boys interested in her, she had thicker prettier hair, she could grow hers longer… there was no end to her superiority over me, which is exactly why she wanted me as a best friend. She even coined names for us: “Twin #1 and Twin #2. (Guess who was Twin #1?)
About the time we were sophomores or juniors in high school, I confided in G that I had a crush on the same cute popular basketball player that she and several other girls had a crush on – a Big Man on Campus, as we used to say. It wasn’t like I thought I could date him, I just thought he was very appealing. She told people and it got back to him. G made sure that I knew he’d made a face when he heard it. I was hurt and humiliated. She didn’t care. When our JV cheerleading trousers arrived from the seamstress, G told me to hold mine up next to hers. A satisfied little smile came over her face. Hers were smaller. Not by much, but enough to make a difference to her. At the time, I simply thought she was strange and wondered why it mattered to her. I didn’t know then that it was an unhealthy friendship.
Of course, I didn’t realize then that I was little more than Narcissistic Supply for G.
Several years later, I didn’t understand that I had become a virtual magnet for people like G – especially H, my ex-husband, and several other people of both sexes. This happened not only in my personal life but at work too.
It is no easy task to face up to your “Victim Consciousness” and that you are actually saying and doing things that prolong your suffering. It is not easy to be a VoNPD (“Victim of Narcissistic Personality Disorder”), or face that you are an Invert Narcissist providing Narcissistic Supply to a Narcissist. It is important to realize that you are usually both Victim and Invert Narcissist. (Invert Narcissism is also called Codependency.)
“You must recognize that you are not only a victim, but that you show many qualities of Narcissism while locked into the N relationship. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are a classic Narcissist. It does mean that you are caught up in a toxic, unproductive dynamic. It does mean that you probably have FLEAS.”
(From the essay FLEAS, at Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers website)
As mentioned before, my life was compromised by my mother’s Narcissism since early childhood (about 8-9 years of age). Right up until several weeks before her death, my mother exhibited many Narcissistic Traits and Behaviors. She was a very difficult person to deal with. I learned only recently that my mother survived childhood trauma, part of which may well have been incest (father, or possibly mother). She never discussed it. She did once acknowledge that she slept in the same bed with her father, but she asserted that nothing happened.
One of her worst traumas took place at age 14 when some women in her mother’s bible study (a type of informal church, actually) found out she was “being forced” – as my mother termed it – by her mother to sleep with her father. The night before her death, I learned that my mother’s mother ruined a sister’s engagement by claiming cheating on the part of both parties. This was an important clue to my own mother’s behavior toward me and my father.
Therefore, it is no surprise to me that when I reached the age of 14 things turned very ugly in my household. As mentioned, I also became a perfect target for someone like the high school “best friend” G — and later H, the main subject of this story.
My mother had very mixed feelings about me. I knew that she did love me. However, that love was tangled up in a lot of angst, conflict and later competition on her part. She was very upset about the health problems that were caused by my birth defect. She was concerned about how it affected me physically, but she didn’t connect with the challenges it caused me socially and emotionally. Those things were far more traumatic. Still, she tried in vain for many years to “cure me.” I finally put a stop to all of it at age 17 after I had severely painful allergy scratch tests on my back which revealed a whole different set of allergies than previous test results had shown. Decades later I learned from an allergy specialist that I don’t have allergies at all. I have extreme food sensitivities which is different and not as treatable.
Many times I felt my mother’s love, and I still did periodically until her death at age 87. By that time, however, I had realized she had a Jekyll/Hyde personality and had been actively engaged in defaming and discarding me, while at the same time craving and pining for my attention. Knowing that she loved me doesn’t mitigate the fact that I was still the target of her frustrations and angst in life, and that it severely compromised me.
I was and still am The Family Scapegoat, even though I have not had contact with my extended family for many years by my choice. Therefore, our mother/daughter relationship was extremely complicated, full of negativity and conflict interspersed with what seems like a normal loving relationship. It wasn’t.
No doctor or specialist had ever been able to convince my mother that my birth defect couldn’t be cured. More likely, she doggedly refused to believe it. She never did accept that my health could only be somewhat managed. During my childhood, she kept refusing to accept that nothing was helping me. I suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, nurses, shots, surgeries, tests, experimental procedures, destructive prescription drugs – the result of all their theories and experiments on me. Some of the procedures were ridiculously primitive. Of course, none of it ever worked. I struggle with PCD/Kartagener Syndrome to this day. In fact, I am now on permanent social security disability because of it.
My mother projected her childhood traumas onto me, literally seeing me as her own mother. During the past few years, she accused me of being her mother “reincarnated to haunt and harass her.” The Family Scapegoat abuse started when I was about 8-9 years old. It escalated when I was 14, the age she was when “the church people” confronted my grandmother about my grandfather and my mother sleeping in the same bed. Word got out. My mother had to change high schools (she never admitted this; I pieced it together from various anecdotes). Her mother changed churches. Obviously, that is when my mother’s main Narcissistic Injury took place, along with the original wound – sleeping with her father in the same bed for X number of years – how many I’ll probably never know.
The above explains why I became vulnerable to Narcissists: being congenitally challenged, being bullied at school due to health problems, being the Family Scapegoat, feeling guilty about the expense to my parents of all my illnesses and medical costs, feeling unclean and repulsive because of my body’s extreme over-manufacture of mucous to combat the food sensitivities.
It takes a lot of courage to understand what the traits of Narcissism are, how they manifest, and that you have become entangled in them. It takes a lot of courage and determination to disengage from a Narcissist, which is always necessary. Finally and not least, you still have the task of becoming healthy after disengaging.
In addition, you must prevent a Narcissist from ever having power over you again. That is a tall order, but it is certainly do-able.
Section 3: Meeting H – A chance Encounter in a Marin County Coffeehouse
H and I met in February 1977 when we were 25 years old – younger than all our daughters are today. She and her two female companions recognized me as being from the city side of our spiritual community and called me over to their table. It was a pleasant enough connection with these women. I was a city type at the time, though I was raised in the ‘burbs.
They were ‘burb girls; a different vibration. I could tell that they though so. Even though I was raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, I was thriving on working and making good money in the corporate legal world in the Financial District of San Francisco. I was a spiritual hippie on my off hours. I had two costumes: my corporate outfits and my hippie clothes. I loved it.
Soon after that chance meeting, I suddenly ended up living with H and her boyfriend S.C. I had been violently assaulted by a male housemate for refusing his sexual advances. (I had been living in a large communal household of musicians.) I moved out the next day with the help of some people in my spiritual community.
H was supportive at the beginning of our friendship. She saw in me a new friend. Our birthdays were five days apart in the same year. She turned me on to things I had never studied before, books I had never read, ideas I had not yet been exposed to. These things were of an esoteric nature. She became a sort of mentor along with just plain old friendship. It all (the informal mentorship) seemed innocuous to me at the time.
I did not yet understand that from the very beginning H set me up as her minion. I couldn’t have known, and later was forced to face, that for 32 years she had adamantly refused to allow a level playing field between us.
It is precisely our lack of knowledge and understanding that gives predators their edge, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to level the playing field a little bit. – Anna C. Salter
Soon after I started hanging out with H in mid-1977, several women in our spiritual community noticed that we were friends. A number of them asked me why, because they did not like H. They felt she was haughty, standoffish, and a know-it-all, and let me know it. What did I see in her? Until several years ago I always vigorously defended H. I hadn’t experienced those things in her yet. When I did begin to experience them, I gave her a pass for many years. I remember feeling that I knew H in a way those women didn’t, and I told them so.
JLP, a woman in our spiritual community I barely knew, approached me. She ranted on about H. I thought she was a bit over the top. I didn’t get it – though I do now. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect our conversation with the first estrangement with H that took place only a few weeks later (late July 1977, only 3 months after moving in with H). It was the first of several estrangements with H. The second, third and fourth estrangements didn’t take place until 25 years later because until then we lived far away from each other, interacting mostly by telephone.
The first time I remember something being “off” with H was pretty early on. It seemed innocuous at the time, but it really wasn’t. H began teasing me about some of my “indiscretions” which were and are typical of 20-somethings, especially at that time in our society (the freewheeling 60’s and 70’s) and in that geographical location (San Francisco Bay Area).
For example, I had a brief affair with a black bus driver on my commute route into the city. One, he was black. (Quelle horreur!) Two, he was a stranger. (ick!) Three, he asked me out while on his shift. (How tacky!) Four, he was married (I didn’t know that at first).
Very soon after that, I fell under the spell of a well-known, esoterically published, drug-dealing Lothario. The man was a Malignant Narcissist. (I wonder what H would have said, had I actually agreed to become one of his international drug mules!) H would never dream of allowing herself to get into situations like that or become involved with anyone like that. She thought I was very foolish for doing so.
Soon it seemed that H did not want to let me forget those “frivolous” mis-steps. It didn’t matter that I soon went no contact with both men; the damage was done. For many years, she kept bringing up “the black bus driver” as if it were a mortal sin and an excuse for ongoing ridicule. Racism much? And let’s just say she’s committed a few sexual transgressions of her own, including allowing a leader of the community to force himself upon her, which he did with many of the women – I had managed to escape that one and another person too.)
Many years later, I realized that H was teasing me because of her need to elevate herself over me (a classic Narcissistic trait). Until the last year of our friendship, she would occasionally bring up the black bus driver in order to needle me, making sure I knew that she hadn’t forgotten something I’d done literally 30 years ago, in my youth. I had to get ugly about it a few times, ordering her to never bring up the subject again.
Of course, I was never allowed to discuss her own mistakes in judgment, including her involvement with a married man in our spiritual community. They were going to leave their spouses for each other and start their own spiritual community in another state. It was common knowledge (something she hated) and it ended quite badly although both marriages remained intact.
Until the past few years, H always held her cards very closely to her chest. She always maintained the façade of someone who was in complete control of herself and her life. Rarely did she share personal information or anything about her personal struggles. She never talked about her shortcomings, habits she’d like to break, or things she needed and wanted to improve upon. This was unusual. Most of my female friends in the spiritual community were extremely interested in discussing their challenges, and their spiritual and therapeutic process. They wanted very much to grow and change, and actively tried to do so.
Meanwhile, H was very careful to project herself as someone who “had it all together.” Her main interests in life were spiritual discipleship and the study of a certain form of singing (Indian ragas). She soon dropped the latter, which is unfortunate because she was blessed with a beautiful singing voice. She pursued these things not only because they brought personal satisfaction, but because she wanted to rise through the ranks and become a teacher in our spiritual community.
Years later, I realized that H’s proprietary demeanor was masking some very troubling issues. I noticed that H had become increasingly difficult to deal with. She was still not allowing very much conversation about her personal life or her problems, although we had been the “bosom buddy” type friends. Even though she was in a very difficult long-term marriage that caused her a great deal of conflict, frustration and disappointment, she was still maintaining the appearance of normalcy and success. She was projecting a public image of “spiritual mastery” and “wise leadership.” I knew that she was quite proud, and averse to talking about anything to do with her own shortcomings. It was simply – firmly – a verboten subject.
Returning to 1977:
Living with H and her then boyfriend S.C. didn’t last long. Due to my birth defect, I had the first of several bouts with pneumonia. I spent 3 weeks recuperating at my mother’s apartment 400 miles away. When I returned, H had turned the house into a complete disaster, even worse than before I left. We had a house meeting, during which her boyfriend S.C. and I laid down the law, but she called our bluff.
H didn’t cooperate, and she wasn’t going to. Another house meeting took place: fruitless. She had taken over the TV room and made it her own. It was a disaster field; you couldn’t walk in there. The kitchen was always a complete disaster. The living room was too, even though she never actually used it. It was outrageous. She wasn’t working, she had quit going to college although she was only a few credits short of completing an undergraduate degree. She lay around all day reading, sleeping and watching TV. Her father was paying her bills, and didn’t know that she had quit college.
As mentioned, it was during the first several months of our friendship that I became aware H viewed me as a foolish person because of my “unwise indiscretions,” “fiery personality” and “extremely Gemini” nature. (I am not a Gemini.) That was the first sign of trouble in the friendship, but it was vague and innocuous.
The second sign, much more obvious, was her refusal to behave properly as a housemate. I moved out because of the messy dirty house. I also didn’t like her stubbornness or the ugly confrontations about the disheveled house, as well as highly contentious arguments about the severe water rationing that was going on in Marin County at that time.
We were estranged for a few months, but the subsequent makeup session became only the first of several such “makeup sessions and honeymoon periods.” (The Classic Cycle of Abuse: buildup, explosion, makeup session, honeymoon period; repeat.)
Several years later, I was having many problems during and after my marriage to an abusive foreigner who was (and still is) a moody, judgmental, cynical, controlling and abusive person. I now know that this was when H began to view me as weak and incompetent. (This was also when the Narcissistic Supply she had always obtained from me – which I had handed to her – increased exponentially and continued for many years.)
I began to notice that with H, she always “knew better.” She was “smarter,” “quicker,” “more intelligent,” “more logical,” “more spiritual,” “more insightful,” “born to be a leader.” She was the “more rational” and “more reasonable” one between us.
I also noticed that H talked at people instead of with them (a Narcissistic trait). It grew worse over time, to the point where she ended up being unable to establish herself as a community spiritual teacher or maintain an enduring one-on-one relationship with a student, even though she had the level of initiation to do so. It was always “their” fault, whether it was the general community or a particular student. “They” didn’t appreciate her knowledge or wisdom. “They” were the ones with the problem. (To be fair, in a couple of cases that was true.)
Throughout the entirety of our friendship, H was always correcting me and she would often cut me off in mid-stream to do it. It was extremely irritating and frustrating. Preferring to keep the peace, I usually glossed over that. More often than I care to think about, however, I was so intimidated by H that I was literally tongue-tied and/or I would say foolish not-well-thought-out things that I had not really intended to say. (Elevation and Intimidation: Narcissistic traits.)
I was under H’s spell. I couldn’t get enough of her. I became Codependent with her. It was pathetic. No one else had that effect upon me, nor had they ever. My relationships with others were different. That isn’t to say those relationships weren’t challenging, but there was a “hypnotic and obsessive quality” to the relationship with H (strong characteristics of a codependent, dysfunctional relationship).
There were times, however, when I refused to be intimidated by H. I’m an intelligent, educated and principled person. I do have my own ideas and insights that are worth something. On the rare occasion when I would refuse to back down, discussions with H would turn ugly. That would be the point where either H would kick me out of her house or I would leave in a huff.
It was always me who went crawling back. It was always me who was contrite.
There was no winning with H — not that I was the one making it a competition… far from it. Rarely did she acknowledge that I had wisdom or insight. Occasionally we would spar when I began to push back on her superior attitude. More and more often, there were periods of estrangement, yet there was always that “makeup session” followed by a brief “honeymoon period.”
Yes, those “makeup sessions,” where everything was glossed over or more often simply ignored altogether, never to be discussed! Those “honeymoon periods,” during which our respective motives for being in the friendship were quite dissimilar — even though a trained therapist would probably conclude that at the time, I was an Invert Narcissist and Codependent – therefore possessing some of the same characteristics as H.
Recently I came across a comment on a message board: “Sometimes I believe a Narcissist can almost cause these other defects in people who fall for them.” How true that is! How insidious it is. It’s called FLEAS.
Neither of us understood the extent of our dysfunctional relationship, nor did we want to. We had many things in common. We had a history together that was unique. We had many long and deep discussions about spirituality, various esoteric methods, and the history and intricacies of our spiritual community. We had similar music tastes. We had children the same age. We were both married to men who eschewed the spiritual life. We needed each other (she would probably deny that). Still, there was an ever-present undercurrent of tension and conflict.
Whenever H and I would talk, there was always some reason why H would proclaim that I didn’t have “it” just quite right. It didn’t matter what “it” was – I was usually just slightly off base about whatever “it” was. There was always some adjustment that I should make regarding my perception of “it” and she would proceed to do it for me.
A glaring example: during the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign a few years ago, something ridiculous happened in the campaign and I started talking about it. We were driving to a nearby restaurant. H suddenly barked that she “didn’t want to talk about it.” (As usual, she just knew that she would not respect my take on things and she didn’t have the patience to listen to me.) She was quite forceful, so I clammed up.
Suddenly, after less than 10-15 seconds, she started talking about the very same issue I had tried to discuss! She yammered on, all the way to the restaurant – for 15 straight minutes – making the very same points I was going to make before she shut me up. I remained quiet, wanting to see just how long she would blather on after “not wanting to talk about it.” It was amazing to me!
H obviously had no clue what she was doing – which was behaving like an entitled ass. There were many times like that, when I should have just told H to fuck off, but I never did. Anything to keep the peace! Anything to keep the friendship – which by that point (late 2004) I still desperately needed and wanted. However, I was beginning to get a glimmer that I actually might not want her friendship. What a concept!
As time went on, I stopped keeping the peace with H quite so much. We had many political discussions (we have the same viewpoint and political party). I would try to share what I had heard on various radio talk shows. Instead of listening to the ideas or checking out the shows, H dismissed them and informed me several times that I was “listening to too much talk radio.” H told me that her cousin had committed suicide and she was certain that it was because he listened to too much talk radio. She was “in fear of my mental state.” She was also convinced that talk radio was not as reliable as cable news.
Those radio show hosts I tried to tell her about are now nationally known TV hosts and guests on the same cable news shows she watches. But of course, that doesn’t count! Listening to them before they got on TV makes people suicidal! I must have no discernment, no boundaries, no wisdom or critical thinking skills if I listened to them!
I reminded H that these hosts and guests on TV – these new interests of hers – were people I’d been listening to for several years. That infuriated her. Out came the set jaw and the indignant words hissed through clenched teeth.
I could tell that H thought I was insulting her, when I was merely pointing something out – nicely, I might add. It would have been pointless to go on to remind her that I had been summarily dismissed by her regarding these people. Things would have turned very ugly. Most definitely I would have been thrown out of her house that time!
Soon afterward, H became interested in voting machine fraud and election reform. I’d been there/done that, even having attended a large 3-day convention in our city the year before. She got into campaign finance reform – I’d been there/done that. Had tried to tell her at the time; she had adamantly refused to listen.
I was amazed that I could not even say something as simple as “I know” or “I’ve already heard about/been involved in those things.” She would ignore me and keep trying to hammer certain points she’d recently learned, points of which I was already aware. If I reminded her, I was being insulting and smug. Of course, H was the only one allowed to be smug – something she often was, and tried unsuccessfully to hide.
(For the record, a note about radio talk shows: over several years’ time I have noticed that radio covers it first, and cable news follows – badly, I might add. I listen to radio, she watches cable news. Progressive radio is far more in-depth and committed to the truth than corporate-sponsored cable news no matter what side of the issue they fall on: Corporate News Network or FauxNews.)
As already mentioned, from the beginning H set herself up as my superior in various ways. She had concluded that I was “hers to do,” as she was so fond of saying. H was my superior with regard to just about everything, even things she actually knew very little about. Whatever subject it was, H knew more than I did. She had more insight. She had more wisdom. She just “knew better.”
The methods H used to elevate herself over me were covert as well as overt. A few years ago she told me that in a past life she was my older sister. Supposedly, she fell off an ocean cliff to her death while she was standing near the edge with me and my small children. I was married and had children (she was unmarried and not a mother). She said that had I pined for her after her death until my own death many years later.
This story was the setting up of what is called a trauma bond.
At the time, the past life story made sense due to the intense need I had for H’s friendship, which she never quite seemed to reciprocate and of which I was quite well aware. H rarely called me. It was mostly because she’s a huge miser. I also rarely gave her the chance to call, always calling first, and far too often. It wasn’t just about her being a miser, though. When I finally moved to her local calling area, she still didn’t call much. Sometimes I decided to wait a couple of weeks just to see what would happen – she would finally call. I sensed at the time that the main reason for those calls was merely boredom. (Narcissists need an ongoing, if intermittent, stream of Narcissistic Supply.)
Thinking back to that past life story, I realize the agenda: H was setting herself up as my superior, and as someone I couldn’t do without. I already knew – like those women who questioned me early on – that H could be an ice queen. I already knew that when it suited her, H could be curt and cold with nary a thought, and then just as easily turn on the warmth and the lilting charm. I knew that H usually masked her persona in carefully calculated spiritualized caring and concern, with that lilting musical voice to match – a voice that would turn into a belligerent snarl if she were ever challenged.
This article describes her quite well: Pathological Narcissism – A Spiritual Disorder
Much later, H would shout at me even though I had done nothing to provoke her – at least nothing that would provoke a normal person. That was something new, and I sensed that it was going to continue. The truth was, I hadn’t provoked her. I had merely begun being politely assertive, because I was getting stronger. I was getting tired of being intimidated and invalidated, but I was still in fear of offending her and being dumped. It was exhausting to be meek and codependent. It was also exhausting to try and be politely assertive with someone who was hair-trigger reactionary.
There is yet another story which illustrates H’s need to be superior (better than). I had recently reconnected with a Western Sufism order I’d been involved with many years before, mostly with inner plane beings who have passed on. I was having some profound dreams, experiences and insights, and finding meaning and satisfaction in the reconnection with certain aspects of my spiritual life.
One day after I had been reconnected with the path for several weeks (this was in early 2008), H informed me that she’d had an amazing dream about my main dervish teacher who passed on in 1985. (NOT to be confused with an earlier Western Sufism teacher.) She was standing in a circle of dervishes and he was going around the circle facing each dervish individually. When he came to her, the tesbih (beads) he was holding broke, and three beads fell off into her hands. They turned into pearls. Everything was glittering with light and energy.
So I said, “hmmm, that’s a pretty profound dream, and since you’ve now told it to me, I’m supposed to interpret it.” She denied that, stating she needed to run it by her current spiritual guide (my lowly insights didn’t count, though she always had an opinion about my own dreams). I said to her, “so you don’t think it means you have something to learn from him?” “Oh no,” she replied. “It was only a blessing.”
Whatever. Suit yourself. I’m not convinced she even had the dream. It may have simply been made up out of her imagination. And I’m only thinking that because of all the rewritten history and other narcissistic behaviors. She needed to compete with me and maintain her spiritual superiority. I was once again having profound experiences; she had to start having them too. Within a few months, she admitted to me (without coaxing from me) that she was stuck – her doing that was a first, and very surprising.
Until 6 years ago, I didn’t challenge H very much. I had learned that it just wasn’t worth it. Conflict with her was very distressing, never properly resolved, and I still wanted her friendship. Something had changed in me, though: I had not gone through a lifelong dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship; endured long-term marital abuse and a horrible divorce; lost almost everything material; most importantly, lost my children; endured and survived almost three decades of working in the vicious legal field; been pursued by myriad usury men and a whole host of other ridiculous human scenarios without learning something!
I just wasn’t going to take it any more – not from H, nor anyone else. That was when I began to feel stronger. That was when the fog in my mind started to clear, not just about H but also about many things in life. It was a step in the right direction, but I still had much to learn. And the process of actually staying strong takes time. It takes commitment. It takes fortitude.
I didn’t fully realize it then, but I had begun to face facts: H had many Narcissistic Traits and it appeared that I was her main source of Narcissistic Supply.
There were many signs that H’s outward caring and concern were actually a veil for her cavalier attitude toward me, yet it still didn’t occur to me that she was actually feeding off of my confusion, misery and despair. It was unthinkable, so the idea simply never entered my head. I was too busy being codependent with her, and embroiled in whatever personal crisis was at hand (which was almost constant).
After reading up about Narcissism, I was floored. I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t realized how much in denial I was about H for so many years. Little had I realized the truth and the intensity of our completely dysfunctional friendship. Little did I know how devastating it would be to face up to it. Little did I know that I would finally do something about it. Little did I expect that when I finally became assertive with H and didn’t back down, she would simply devalue and discard me (a trait of the Narcissist).
Most importantly, little did I suspect that I would cease to care.
Section 4: H “Rewrites History” (A Narcissistic Trait)
In our late twenties, H and I lost contact for a few years. One day in October 1981, she called me out of the blue to announce the birth of her first child, which had taken place the day before. I was a little surprised, but I welcomed the call. It did make sense to reconnect since she had just given birth and I had just gotten married 9 days before.
Many years later, H told me that she had felt abandoned by many of the women in our spiritual community after she moved 2200 miles away, and that it had deeply hurt her. I pointed out that I had felt the very same way, having moved away myself. I suggested to her that it was just modern life. While not always intentional, it happens more often than we would like.
As I probed deeper, however, I discovered that H had expected them to keep in touch with her, even though she was the one who moved away. In my experience, the one who moves away usually has to make the effort to stay in contact. It’s pretty much “out of sight-out of mind,” especially when your friends are part of a large spiritual community in a very large metro area and they are busy with who and what is right in their own environment.
A little over a year ago, I discovered that in her own mind H has rewritten parts of her personal history about things that were going on in her life when we first met. I’m sure there is more rewritten history. (Rewriting History: a significant tactic of the Narcissist.)
Case in point: One day in 2008 while we were hanging out, H suddenly brought up her ex-boyfriend, S.C., with whom we both lived in the same house for a few months (described earlier). She said that he had been “ganged-up-on by his entire family.” They had “forced him to break up” with her because she “was lazy.” They felt that she “would not be a responsible mother.” I acknowledged the statements, but it didn’t sound quite right.
I called the ex-boyfriend. I asked S.C. if it were true, because that is not how I remembered it. He reminded me that he alone had decided to break up with H, because he could not trust her to make joint decisions about their future together while he was still in school. He had asked her to wait to have children. He said that soon after he made that request, there had been a pregnancy scare after an abortion she’d had within a couple months after they got together.
Hmm. All those years we’d had so many deep conversations about different subjects, and she had never once mentioned the second pregnancy. She knew some things about my life that were just as negative and private, yet she didn’t reveal that. I had known about the first pregnancy, having just moved in with them. I had even helped her through the abortion because she had chosen to do it herself using an herb. Why did H feel the need to hide the pregnancy scare? Why had she led me to believe for 30 years that she had broken up with S.C. instead of the other way around, only to change the story decades later to something made up about his siblings that put them in a bad light?
After the relationship with S.C. ended, H began living in Sonoma County in one of the main spiritual households of our community. Her main role was as a member of the team taking care of her spiritual teacher during his terminal illness. During that time, someone auditioned H for the role of his girlfriend. This man, a reclusive high-roller, was a longtime student/member of the community. He stayed hidden except with his close friends. H had the outer qualities and circumstances that a high roller usually requires. Later, H would not talk about it except to say that she had been very uncomfortable. Clearly, she had not passed his test. (To be fair, I doubt that 90% of the women in the community could have passed muster with him.)
A couple of years after H’s relationship with S.C. ended, she left the region to start living with B.D., a former college boyfriend with whom she had again begun communicating. Only recently did it dawn on me that she probably trapped him into marriage by becoming pregnant. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I see that H was determined to be pregnant by someone.
The reason was, H had become convinced that at age 29 she was not going to be able to find a spiritual man to marry. Not only that, she had been supported by her father. Certainly she felt she wasn’t going to find a man in our spiritual community. Many of them were wusses, slackers and fly boys. They were not mature men. (This was a view set forth by H’s spiritual teacher, and a view I shared along with many other women.) H chose B.D. for various reasons, including the fact that he would be (and has been) a consistently good provider. When she arrived at B.D.’s house after driving 2200 miles, she found him about to go out on a date with another woman, who was present in the room.
Interestingly, I called a man named “A” after the split between me and H. I informed A that my friendship with H was finished, even though she seemed to be trying to keep things going. It was my way of doing preliminary damage control, because I was preparing to go completely No Contact with H. I knew how she referred to me with her family and friends, and it wasn’t nice. I knew that she was still friendly with A and I was quite certain she had complained to him about me in the past.
A told me that H almost went back to him after finding B.D. with the other woman. I told A that H had never told me she was involved with him, just that they were good friends. A made an offhand comment about “public appearances because it wasn’t a committed relationship.” I remarked to A that he had probably avoided being trapped into fatherhood. He left that remark alone. (What did I expect? He’s an attorney!) As the conversation wound down, A stated that that he felt I would reconsider my decision after some time had passed. It seemed A felt that’s what I should do. I told him it would never happen because I was 100% done with H and I was quite sure of it.
I suspect that as a longtime member of and leader in our former spiritual community, A thought I was being “unspiritual” and “unforgiving” and “too harsh.” No matter. He has no idea what I have been through with H. A still nurtures (along with several other men) his long-held fantasies about her, which will probably never die seeing how most men are about female physical beauty, unattainable women, the “one that got away,” and their fantasy lives in general.
Section 5: The Pot Heats Up
In late 2003, I moved to H’s area to be near my aging mother who was 80 at the time and becoming more frail. (She soon became more difficult, needy and developed sight and memory issues.) I also wanted to make a fresh start in the city of my birth after the 14 devastating years since my marriage had ended. It was a long drive, during which I thought a lot about H and how it might be between us since we would be living near each other.
I concluded that H and I might not get along very well because I recognized that I had become much more assertive. I wasn’t in a mood to back down as I always had. After many trials, I was now much less like the codependent wuss that H had always conveniently had at her disposal. I had begun privately referring to it as my being her “puppy dog.” Even though I felt we wouldn’t get along due to my increasing assertiveness, I still had not realized how dysfunctional and harmful our friendship was to my mental health. That realization was still a long way off.
Therefore, a lot of damage was done in the ensuing years (2003-2008). Little did I know that my initial assertiveness with H (healthy intentions) would not be able to transform my extreme codependency with her (status quo). It quickly degenerated into Invert Narcissism – also known as FLEAS.
Since I was now living near the two main Narcissists in my life, my mother and H, my life went from bad to horrible instead of improving, which was my main reason for moving there. (“Surely being near my mother and my close friend will make things better.” How wrong that was!)
After I arrived, H seemed pleased that I was there but I soon noticed that she kept me away from her other friends. I had already suspected she would, so I wasn’t really surprised. I also suspected that she had some trepidation about my living close to her. (“What will that bring? I need her for my Narcissistic Supply but she’s just so ‘over the top!’ ”) I knew that H continued to complain and snark about me to her daughters and her husband, as well as offhanded comments to members of our spiritual community and a few of her secular friends. That was something she’d always done, judging by the way they treated me. It was clear they were all convinced I was a wacko. (Devalue and Discard – a Narcissistic Trait. Also, Defamation.)
H seemed a bit agoraphobic and was definitely a miser. She never wanted to go anywhere or do anything – not even take a very short walk around her very nice neighborhood. She was even reluctant to sit outside on her lovely deck under the cedar trees. It was very frustrating. All we would ever do is sit around her house talking endlessly with the TV on (always cable news) and working on computers. When we did infrequently do something away from her home, it always had to be what she wanted to do and when she wanted to do it, or it simply didn’t happen. She didn’t want to do anything spontaneous unless it was under her control. (That’s a paradox, I know!) And it was always her home where we got together – never mine.
H was a control freak and seemed agoraphobic, but I was willing to overlook those things. Here is a nutty example: one time I needed to use her computer briefly for a job connection that had come up. H cleared out all of her open browser windows, then opened several empty ones for me to use. She was so pleased with herself. She had “cut my meat” for me, as if I was completely unable to do it myself. It was strange. I knew not to tease her about it, so I just let it go.
I knew from experience that H would check my browser history (she always checked her husband’s history) so I was careful not to do anything she would take issue with (that’s just about anything since I’m “such a frivolous person”). I also didn’t want anything personal revealed. Years later, however, with my permission she copied my entire music folder from my external drive. Though I cannot prove it, I wouldn’t be surprised if she also copied my Word archives since I wasn’t supervising her actions. She set up the copying from her drive to mine (music) but I allowed her to set up the copying from my drive to hers (music and who knows what else). I didn’t dare question her by mentioning privacy concerns. That would have been too obvious and offensive. It would have created problems.
After I moved to H’s area, entirely new ways presented themselves for H to criticize and intimidate me. Just a few examples of many: “You drink too much coffee.” “Your homemade chicken soup is too greasy/unhealthy.” (She made her proclamation and took over fixing it before giving me a chance to explain that it wasn’t cooled and skimmed yet.) “I’m not interested in the TV shows you watch.” “You pay too much attention to my cats.” “You don’t understand how to handle my cats.”
Shortly after my arrival, the job interview I’d been promised beforehand fizzled out. It turned out the person who offered it had engaged in some delusional thinking about her employer. (She had rented a room to me and was a recovering meth addict/ex-convict who traveled with an open bottle of brandy wherever she went – things I learned only after moving in – a bad sign of things to come.)
Second Estrangement with H: The Nasty Former Radio Personality
I was certified in therapeutic massage and had practiced for 10 years, so in early 2004 H put me together with a long ago former acquaintance of hers. His name was J. They had very recently reconnected (she found out he was living in our area). According to H, J was “disabled and terminally ill with cancer, and could use some therapeutic massage due to being wheelchair-bound.” He was a former radio personality from the Midwest. He was a difficult client. He was very sarcastic and passive-aggressive. He made promises he didn’t keep. He denied saying things. He would often keep me waiting up to an hour, without communicating the reason. (I suspected that had I gone into the other room to check on him I would have found him in his birthday suit, so I always waited for him to decide to appear.)
J never took responsibility for his words and actions. He was very snarky about “spiritual types” (namely me, and he was conflicted about H too, although he was fond of her). He mocked anyone who was not exactly like him or who did not impress him – which was pretty much everyone since he had a lot of money. He mocked people online too (this was before the term “cyberbully” was coined), while frequenting many nice restaurants where he made sure that everyone from employees to patrons knew him as the “hail fellow well met.”
Not surprisingly, I soon became exasperated by the chaos and negativity with J. Finally, I wrote him a letter. I called him politely but firmly on several of his broken promises, his denials, and his changing things up at the last minute which was an inconvenience and sometimes an unnecessary expense for me. I asked him to take care of that so we could have a proper business relationship.
My letter to J was polite but firm. His response – or should I say reaction – was to immediately attempt suicide. He was in the hospital for several days on the brink of death. I learned from H that J had attempted suicide several times in the past. I wasn’t surprised. J was a “cry wolf” type of person, and I had already experienced him as a vituperative pathological liar and bully. Very likely he was a Malignant Narcissist or a sociopath. (I wasn’t familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the time.)
It was easy to see right through J, even though we had just met. He knew that I was struggling financially, and he held me in contempt for it, calling me a loser. I should have walked away, but I needed the money. True to my usual M.O., I just had to try to convince J of how badly he was behaving, as if that would somehow magically solve the problem – something Victims of Narcissists (VoNPD’s) do all too often.
H learned of my letter to J. Clearly he had subsequently used my letter as an excuse for his suicide attempt and made sure she knew it. H wrote me a ferocious dismissive email accusing me of “making J attempt suicide.”
I have worked in suicide prevention. No one “makes someone” attempt suicide. It was J’s own choice to do what he did. H had even told me that J had done it more than once before. Clearly it was an act of spite, and an excuse to garner sympathy.
The ploy sure worked on H, though. She blasted me for how she “just couldn’t believe what I had done.” She “thought she knew me” and accused me of “changing beyond belief,” stating “I don’t know you anymore.” (That’s right sweetie, it’s called healthy assertiveness: something you have never tolerated from me nor apparently anyone.)
What?! I had asserted myself thoughtfully and politely to a master manipulator. J made a personal choice out of his own free will. There was nothing mean-spirited at all in my letter. He simply didn’t like being called out for what he’d been doing. No doubt he was accustomed to getting away with his games, because he’d had cancer for a long time and had a lot of people sympathizing with him.
The incident with J became the first estrangement with H within months of my moving here. The estrangement lasted just under 2 years, until we ran into each other at a spiritual meeting. I had known I might run in to her and had planned to avoid her. Unfortunately, when I walked in there was no place to sit except directly behind her.
Of course, we simply picked up where we had left off. Nothing was ever said about the suicide incident, and H never went near the subject again. (Cycle of Abuse: sweeping things under the carpet.)
H never admitted that suicide is a personal choice, which is common knowledge if one knows anything at all about suicide. In my estimation, H made herself look foolish while pretending to be knowledgeable about suicide and human psychology. She claims to know so much about life and people, and thinks she is so adept at guiding people spiritually, but she didn’t know that basic fact about suicide.
Of course, I thought about calling H out on her vitriolic accusations. She didn’t apologize and I knew she never would, so I left it alone. After all, friendships survive such things all the time. However, if you had said such awful things to someone and you really believed them, would you let the friend (me) back into your life? I wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t say them unless I had strong evidence the accusations were true. However, Narcissists do let the people they abuse return. It’s all a part of the game. They need their Narcissistic Supply. I was far too easy. She wasn’t going to let that go.
Also, would you let someone back into your life after they said those things to you and didn’t offer an apology or a retraction? Well, I did. Why? Because I was a codependent Invert Narcissist entangled in a very dysfunctional relationship.
I found out much later from someone else that J succumbed to the cancer within months of the suicide attempt.
Section 6: The Pot Boils Over
3rd Estrangement: The Living Arrangement with S
This came 2 years later (2006) when my house mate was getting married suddenly. I needed a new place to live. I was attending university near H’s home, so H put me together with “S” a close-by friend of hers. S was one of the friends H had kept me away from when I first moved to her area.
S was in financial trouble due to a sharp downsizing of her salary. She needed to rent a room to save her house from foreclosure. I didn’t know just how unhappy and dysfunctional and stubborn S was, though she is basically a good person.
The housing arrangement with S ended up being an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, from the beginning the signs of failure were obvious, though it was too late: I’d already moved in and spent quite a few resources to do so. S and I had very different personalities, lifestyles, schedules and viewpoints about cohabitation. It just wasn’t going to work, but S needed money so badly that to save her mortgage she played her part well when we initially met to discuss the arrangement. I did not see any overt signs that there would be a problem. Everything seemed on the up and up. She was very nice, I trusted her as H’s friend, and I had no reason to think S would be a complete disaster as a housemate.
Before moving in, I had told S about my piano and she had told me I could put it in her family room. She later denied ever saying that, going so far as to claim that I had not even told her about the piano. Soon afterward, she came home from work late one night to find the front door wide open. She and H were absolutely convinced that I had left the door open. Another night, S came home at midnight and found the toaster oven on at full blast. She insinuated that I had left it on.
I rarely used her filthy cluttered kitchen. I avoided it as much as possible. She had 6 cats and there were 3-4 litter boxes with cheap clay in them sitting underfoot in the kitchen along with several water bowls and food dishes scattered around underfoot. (Is your jaw dropping??) All of my staples and kitchen items were still stored in boxes downstairs in a storage room near my bedroom. She had two refrigerators. Both were jam-packed with her stuff. There was only space for a very few of my things. And I certainly hadn’t been using her toaster oven late at night – I had my own toaster oven in a makeshift space in my bathroom which I used regularly. I had no need or desire to use hers.
S never did make a place for me in either of her two refrigerators nor in her many cupboards, until I finally confided in H about it. H then mentioned it to S. S didn’t understand that is what you do when you rent a room to someone. It was weird. It seemed to me that S just wanted my money so she wouldn’t lose her house. She expected me to abide by all of her cockamamie paranoid rules. The 6 cats alone were extremely high-maintenance. They were lying in wait everywhere, and I couldn’t move about the house without having to constantly open and close doors to make sure they didn’t get into certain rooms or out the front or back door. It was extremely stressful.
And of course, the 6 extremely aged cats came first! My pecking order was at the very bottom. One would think S would show more consideration for someone who was literally helping her save her house from foreclosure. It ended up costing me thousands of dollars I could not afford; I was a student on financial aid at the time.
I kept quiet for several weeks until H finally approached S about the refrigerator and the cupboards. Only then did something sort of get done about it. 95% of my kitchen things still remained in boxes. How had S not realized how I felt? How, as a landlord, had S thought she didn’t need to provide space for my food and staples? I had been very reluctant to approach her about it. She was under a great deal of stress and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or embarrass her.
Unfortunately, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. Finally, after 4 months of all the clutter, filth and chaos in the house, I blew up. There were other issues too (such as the fact that she was convinced the house had a ghost, and told me a spooky story involving a ghost in the neighbor’s backyard, and haunted things her sister had experienced after buying antiques.) It was not a home. It was not comfortable at all. Although it had once been a beautiful house where S often entertained, it was now a mess (though not as bad as H’s house) and there was actually a tall metal ladder standing open in the middle of of the living room! It was parked there for months.
The last straw came when I asked S, “If I had talked to you about all these things I’m concerned about within the first few weeks, would it have made a difference?” She actually said no! I was absolutely floored. It made no sense at all. As I had suspected, she didn’t care about my needs or my feelings, or my level of comfort. I became enraged and I “lost it.” I could not understand how someone who is such a wonderful artist and a seemingly nice person so compassionate toward animals could be so incredibly selfish and short-sighted toward someone paying them a lot of money, saving their mortgage, and living right in their own home.
Of course, S ran to H and told her that I had blown up at her. S never took responsibility for failing at the sheer basics of being a landlord with a tenant. I knew that H would blame me for everything that happened with S, and she did. H never even asked for my side of the story. She didn’t want to hear it. She had zero sympathy for my plight. I felt betrayed and abandoned. H adamantly refused to discuss it, saying that she was taking “the high road” and refused to “come between us.”
I knew from experience that H was discussing it with S, and I knew that H was siding with S because according to H’s way of thinking, I was always in the wrong. I knew that H wanted the gory details from S so she could stroke herself yet again about how much better a person she was than me.
I began to suspect that H actually set me up with S knowing that it would probably not work out. Was she not thinking about our many differences? She knew us both very well. Did she not understand that S didn’t really want anyone living in her home and only did it because she had to? That is a recipe for failure, and the tenant is always the loser. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was. Unfortunately, it was me.
Once again I cut off contact with H, but the damage was done. By then, I had begun to realize that I was really getting screwed by H. This was no friend at all. It didn’t matter what the situation was, I was in the wrong, because I was… (insert one of H’s various negative terms for me). Moreover, it didn’t matter what was going on, H refused listen to my side of the story in difficult situations. She was always convinced I was the one in the wrong. For the last 4 months out of the 7 months I lived with S, I had No Contact with H. I spent the last 2-3 weeks avoiding contact with S before I moved out.
It cost a lot of money to get away from the madness of S’s house — money I didn’t really have. I had to ask for money from a family member because I was living on student loans and a couple of tiny Pell grants. Incredibly, the new landlady (H.S.) turned out to be a Malignant Narcissist and she just happened to know S through her husband’s career. The story is too long to tell here. Basically, H.S. and her husband were in violation of city code. It wasn’t a legal apartment. I couldn’t get hot water or pressure in my shower. They entered my apartment without prior notice (I set a booby trap that proved it.) They refused to do anything about the water situation. They rarely addressed valid concerns effectively; she would simply scream at me. I hadn’t been able get them to put the rental contract in writing, which they had promised to do.
Much later I heard from H, during one of our reconciliations, that H.S. told people I caused her husband to have a heart attack which was not true. He did not have a heart attack. That was totally made up. He had a work-related snow-sledding accident while on a video shoot. I realized that they never intended it to be a long-term rental – they only wanted to make a few thousand dollars before the summer season and then probably kick me out.
At the same time, without my knowledge, H.S. started backbiting about me to people I’d never met: S’s sister and brother-in-law who worked with H.S.’s husband. S heard all about it, and therefore so did H. In addition, my cousin’s boyfriend knew my landlords through his photography career, so my cousin heard all about it too – without my knowledge. It was all so karmic, if you will.
So it was that many lies were told about my alleged actions and words, all to my discredit. And since by that time I was really losing my cool and the landlords knew it, I knew that H thought I was in the wrong. But of course! Case closed!
Part 7: The Beginning of the End with H
It is difficult to say exactly when I began to realize that my “friendship” with H had to end. There had been so many signs. It was certainly long overdue. There are many signposts along our journey, but we don’t heed them until the last straw because we are too entangled in the Chaotic Codependent Dysfunction. (The Narcissistic Web.).
- Certainly, the first major sign was when H accused me of “making someone attempt suicide.”
- Certainly, it was the betrayal of our friendship during my impossible living situation with S, which H played a direct part in facilitating, then refused to listen to my concerns while listening to and siding with S’s version of the story.
- Certainly, it was when H refused to drive 13 miles and aid me in a medical emergency (described below).
- Certainly, it was when H made it clear that she did not want me calling her in any kind of emergency – not even a medical one. Any type of need or request was snidely characterized by H as one of “many catastrophes from which she (me) needs rescuing.” She later claimed that it was someone else who’d said it.
- Certainly, it was when H re-wrote a few chapters of her personal history and tried to pass it all off as truth. I’m certain there were many omissions as well.
- Certainly, it was when H did not bother to read an important email from me which would have prevented her from jumping to the wrong conclusion about something important. Indeed, she rarely even read or answered my emails.
- Certainly, it was when H moved out of state without saying goodbye, even though she broke her silence to inform me of it, and I had politely stated it would be good to say farewell in person.
- Certainly, it was when H suddenly began contacting me with creepy one-line email hooks after I had for months respected her need for “a break.”
- Certainly, it was when H asked after the fact whether I had gone to hear Harry Manx instead of inquiring beforehand to make sure I didn’t miss it – which any true friend would have done. We had shared our love of his music on many occasions.
A Cruel Blow – The Pleurisy Incident
In the Spring of 2008, H and I had yet again band-aided our friendship without discussing or resolving anything (classic Narcissist M.O.) We’d been hanging out again for about 4 months when I had my first bout with pleurisy. I was terrified and in agonizing pain, not able to drive anywhere due to the contractions from the pleurisy. H refused to drive 13 miles to be with and help me during that frightening episode. Instead, she called a mutual friend of ours from our spiritual community, B, and asked him to check on me. B was on a date at a sports event several miles away without his vehicle. He couldn’t just drop everything right then. Even with that, H didn’t come to help me. She just blew it off.
The next day I learned from Urgent Care that I had pleurisy, and early pneumonia. I went on antibiotics. It took B a few days to call and see how I was. I was surprised he had waited that long. I am certain that H minimized my symptoms while speaking with B on the night of the incident. I told B that H had not come to help me. B remarked sarcastically,”Why didn’t she just get up off her ass and drive up there to help you“? I knew why: she couldn’t be bothered. She’s also a miser. It was during the $5/gallon summer of 2008.
The trip would have cost her $5 in gas, which I would have gladly given to her. Not only that, I regularly spent 5 times that amount every month to visit her. H regularly spent hundreds of dollars on computer equipment and other items for herself (such as clothing from expensive boutiques and high-end stores like J Jill, and high quality toiletries). She also managed to fly different places 2-3 times a year, even to South America. She didn’t even need the five bucks.
The above incident and H’s obvious spending habits shows where her values and priorities lie: with herself.
Another time, at the beginning of a school term I was out of money until my student loan funds came through. The check was being released by the university in 3 days. H refused to front me the $50 I needed to buy gas to drive to school and buy food, saying she didn’t have it. I know H very well, and I know that she would never allow herself to have less than $50 on hand. I knew she had it. I knew damn well she had it.
I asked this of her knowing full well that she is a huge miser. I had only once before asked her for a $5 loan (which she refused), but this time it was sorely needed and for a very good reason. True friends help each other out – especially during emergencies and legitimate times of need.
B’s sarcastic remark was the most B has ever admitted to me that something is very wrong with H. B has absolutely refused to discuss it. The only other thing B would ever admit was this statement: “H needs to learn that if she asks for feedback during a dance class, she has to actually listen to the response.” B knew better, I suspect, than to deny that there is something very wrong with H. B is not stupid, but he is delusional (I won’t go into that here). Still, I understand why he downplayed it. I am convinced that B is very conflicted about H, even though he is obsessed with her. He didn’t want to come between us, or have any of his words used against her.
B was and still is very emotionally attached to H, who was like a big sister to him for many years. He’s long been convinced that H should have married him and not B.D., her long time husband. He still rants about it. B doesn’t seem to understand that H is actually very angry with him, and for various reasons she does not respect him, but she still keeps him tied in. (“Elevation,” a Narcissistic Trait.)
(Another example of H rewriting history: when she first moved to our (former) city 20 years ago, B as a real estate agent had shown her a huge funky old house that she had described to me in detail on the telephone at the time. I clearly remember her spoken desire to turn it into a livable spiritual community house. 20 years ago she conveyed to me her wish that they had bought it instead of the house they did buy.
Just two years ago, H completely rewrote that history during a conversation we were having. I mentioned the big old house with 8-9 small bedrooms that she had wanted to buy. She had no recollection of ever seeing it. She “forgot” she’d described it to me in detail many years ago. Instead, she railed on about how B had refused to show her that house and had he done so, she would have bought it. She was furious and felt utterly betrayed. She hoisted the blame on B, instead of taking responsibility for her own decision not to buy it (it was likely a joint decision with her husband). B clearly recalls showing her the house; I clearly remember hearing a description of it many years ago.
Another example of probable rewritten history: H was project manager for the archives of commentaries for our spiritual community. Apparently, the project was taken away from her. She claimed that it was done in an impersonal and cold manner by someone who was “power-trippy.” Perhaps it was. I think however, it may have been that they wanted to take the project in a different direction with a different approach than that of H. There is more to the story, but that is what I will say here.)
That’s how H operates. She thinks people are too stupid to realize it.
A few weeks after my bout with pleurisy and pneumonia, H told me that B had said something to her about my “latest crisis” from which I “needed rescuing.” I pressed H about it. She started hemming and hawing, as if she had been caught out. She was obviously trying to bail herself out of a jam. I asked her if B had really said that. She was sure he had. Knowing her all too well by that time, I suspected it was actually her idea and she was passing it off on B.
I confronted B. He told me that H was the one who had said it. I believed him, but I also knew that B did actually think I was a calamity case – and he hadn’t believed that the medical emergency was serious. (Pleurisy is serious and it is extremely painful.) Of course, H probably had herself convinced that I was crying wolf and could handle it by myself.
Did H even stop to think that I would have dropped whatever I was doing had I received the same type of phone call from her? I doubt it.
I had moved 3 times in 11 months. I was still recovering from the pleurisy and staving off pneumonia. Those unfortunate housing incidents caused severe emotional and financial issues. As if that were not enough, I soon learned that my latest landlords were verbally abusive. Fortunately they were off-site so the situation was easier to deal with. I also had to start dealing more often with my mother, because she was deteriorating in very challenging ways. She became even more difficult than she’d always been.
I was trying to carry a full academic load in my last year of school. I had just moved a couple months before (away from the Malignant Narcissist’s illegal apartment). I was still trying to get settled. I moved 3 times in 11 months! Two of those times I’d had to move during the last 2 weeks of school term, when final papers and oral projects are due. It was absolute chaos, and it ruined me financially.
I knew that in the wake of all that incredible stress, H had made the derogatory comment and that B had agreed with her.
You the reader might be thinking to yourself: “Did she confront H about that comment?” I ask you: Would it have done any good?? I had to face that H was letting me know, in an indirect manner, that she didn’t consider me the kind of friend she would help in an emergency – not even a medical one. She didn’t consider me a friend at all, only baggage necessary for her Narcissistic Supply.
I knew that H believed I was a catastrophe-type person and I had begun to suspect that she actually got off on it. (More about that later.)
After 30 years of knowing both H and B through our spiritual community, that was where things were.
With that, and with everything I had been through for the previous 20 years since my divorce, I fell apart mentally and emotionally.
I had actually begun to fall apart in the late Spring of 2007 (a year before the pleurisy incident.) For more than two years, without a break, I had carried a full load of 4 strongly academic classes year round and had maintained a 3.87 grade point average. I was within a year of graduation. Suddenly, I became unable to handle my last year of classes.
I had known that I was losing my grip, but I thought it was temporary and that I could reel it in. Now, I had simply lost the ability to read a full page in a book. I couldn’t even read a paragraph. I forgot how to do academic research. I forgot how to write an outline for a paper, or how to write a thesis statement. I literally forgot how to write a paper, even though I’d been an excellent student and had written many high quality papers.
I’d never experienced the phenomenon in my life, and it was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, or why I couldn’t seem to “snap out of it.” I’d had extreme stress in my life for more than 20 years. I’d always been able to “hold it together,” but I had simply lost the ability to do so. Yet I still thought it was simply due to aging more than a result of stress.
I was unable to recognize that it was the disastrous codependent Narcissist relationships with my mother and with H that were the root cause of my ongoing difficulties. All the conflict, the chaos, the low-balling, the criticism, the lack of true support, the low self-esteem, the constant undercurrent of tension and conflict – it had all finally taken a devastating toll on me.
My Narcissist mother by this time had frontal lobe dementia (although I didn’t know it yet), while losing part of her eyesight and hearing. She became even more needy and demanding. She had already turned me into the Family Scapegoat with her side of the family in this area. (She had already done that in a different region, during my childhood with my father’s side of the family.)
Relatives here became unsupportive, although they had liked me just fine when I first arrived. We’d had a fair amount of contact and we were developing nice relationships. My mother put a stop to that by frequently creating conflict with me, then whining about me, often telling falsehoods or simply exaggerating things. (Character Assassination and Rewriting History: Narcissistic Traits.) The damage was done; my mother’s relatives withdrew from me. (Update: we did have some good contact recently due to her recent health issues and death.)
Worse, I simply could not believe that H and B – whom I thought were good friends, whom I’d known for 30 years – would not think of themselves as a good friend – someone I could call in a medical emergency. I hadn’t lived here that long. It is difficult and time-consuming to make close friends of that type in this fast-moving technological world where we have the paradox of constantly staying in touch while actually being more isolated from each other.
During 2007 and 2008, I fell into a protracted period of disorientation and despondency. I lost interest in almost everything and everyone. I just didn’t care about much of anything anymore. It was a hopeless feeling. The harsh reality that my mother was going senile and losing her eyesight… the harsh reality that she was telling everyone my personal business and claiming that I abused her, the harsh reality that I meant so little to H and B… it was all too much to bear, especially after the trauma of recent years before I had moved to that area.
I could now only go through the basic motions of everyday life. I could only garden and make things grow, which was somewhat reassuring. It kept me sane and more peaceful. But the reality was, I was flunking out of university because of incomplete classes.
Even though the comment about my medical emergency – which to H was simply an irritating non-crisis – should have been the absolute last straw, I still wanted her friendship. (Is your jaw dropping incredulously?)
I still would not face what a sick, dysfunctional, toxic friendship I was locked into with H. Incredibly though, the friendship continued.
In the Fall of 2008, I made what H considered an outrageous request. I had just moved yet again, to be closer to a new job. (That’s 4 moves in less than 2 years.) Once again, I had spent all of my resources accomplishing the move. Not a month later, my new landlord (who is a great person and a wonderful landlord) was suddenly laid off from his long-term professional job. He warned me that he might need to take back my apartment – a wonderful in-law apartment with a gorgeous view of Mt. Hood – so he could rent out the main house. Fortunately, the situation quickly resolved in my favor and I am still living there as of this writing (11-2-09). Ultimately — mercifully — I ended up being there for two whole years.
The situation having resolved itself quickly, I notified H by email. As usual, she couldn’t be bothered to read it. She frequently ignored my emails, only opening them when she felt like it, usually long after the information was outdated and useless. Instead of reading my email, in the middle of the night she took it upon herself to send me a scathing email accusing me of being unethical, immoral, unspiritual and opportunistic. She implied that I was unworthy of her friendship. “How dare I” ask her to “violate her spiritual principles” to help me think up something to get me safely from point A to point B in a potentially disastrous situation.
The email was cold and acerbic. At the end, H informed me that she “needed a break” from me. It was clear to me that H had absolutely no concept that I needed a break from her too. I had needed a break from her long before this situation! Of course, she would never realize that. She’d never deigned to listen to any of my other considerations: my requests for frank talks… nothing… yet I was so codependent with H that I didn’t even consider taking a break from her except when things were so egregious that we periodically became estranged.
What I had asked H to do was similar to other ideas she herself has come up with in the past for her own purposes, but she conveniently forgot all that, believing that she was entitled to do whatever she felt like doing. As a matter of fact, H does many self-serving things without taking into consideration the feelings of others, especially her husband. (Entitlement: a Narcissistic Trait.)
H thinks nothing of being calculating, manipulative and deceptive when it comes to her own needs. For example, I had long known that H was being very calculating about what she was doing to prepare her house for sale (read: next to nothing at a snail’s pace). I saw how long she was dragging it out (several years). So did other people. The truth was, she didn’t want to sell the house and move to the city where her husband had been employed for years. She was stalling and bluffing. We all learned to tiptoe around the issue with her or avoid it altogether, lest we meet with a clenched jaw, tight lips or shouting.
There she was, being devious and calculating in her marriage over a period of several years, while judging me for one situation that was far more innocuous and potentially disastrous to my finances.
By this time, I knew that I was getting close to being completely done with H. She didn’t know it, though. She thought I was still addicted to her. I was – but at that point, I finally knew that I wanted out. I just didn’t know how I was going to go about it.
Little did I know how easy it would be.
The Last Straw: The 4th and Final Estrangement
Any healthy person would have long since dumped this “friend,” especially after the pleurisy incident, but there was yet more. In the Spring of 2009, I sent news via email that my daughter was doing her first triathlon in Hawaii. She’d trained for months with her team while raising $5100 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society on her personal fund-raising page.
H did not acknowledge the news. Instead, a day or two later she shot back a reply containing a poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer entitled “The Invitation.”
There was no other comment. No greeting, no closing. Just the poem.
When I opened that email, I was stunned. I felt kicked in the stomach, and I had been. I had simply shared my daughter’s good news, yet clearly H had perceived it as bragging, and she was going to “sock it to me” for that. It was a jaw-droppingly self-righteous and hurtful thing to do.
What was H trying to do? Bully me into being completely self-effacing about my daughter, after I had enthusiastically supported her daughter not once but several times? Make me so incensed that I would blister her with a “how dare you?” She would have loved that – further evidence of my “bad character,” my “confrontational attitude” and my “impossible personality.” (No one but H is entitled to ask “how dare you?”)
Am I not allowed to be proud of and share my daughter’s accomplishments? Apparently not. Do I deserve to be punished because I share my parental joy with my friends and family? Apparently so. Did H really feel I was “lording it over” her? Obviously, because that is what H would do – what she ‘d always done – while feeling completely entitled to do so. (Elevation, Superiority, Entitlement – all Narcissistic Traits.)
Had H forgotten that I’d supported her own daughter’s adventures during the previous year? Obviously. Over several weeks’ time, I had supported her daughter’s journey with her boyfriend on The Appalachian Trail. I had even followed it on the internet with H. I showed an ongoing interest. I cared, and I praised it. I said prayers for their safety and health.
If ever there were a sign that this woman was not my friend, this was finally it. Especially since the email contained no personal greeting, no acknowledgment of my good news, and no closing. (And she never inquired later how my daughter’s triathlon went, not even in one of her several subsequent one-liner emails.)
H’s preachy, self-righteous, offensive response was the last straw. It was the death blow to the friendship. What more evidence did I possibly need?
I did not respond. I have not responded to H’s subsequent emails and I never will.
Several weeks later, I traveled out of state to visit my daughter. One day while we were ironically visiting a former prison – Alcatraz Island – on a gloriously beautiful day, I told my daughter about H’s response to her triathlon news. She just looked at me and said “Mommy, that is really f-d up. That is obnoxious. That is psycho. Just ignore her. I never felt comfortable around her anyway. She’s weird.”
Not 30 minutes later, we returned to my daughter’s apartment. I checked my email. There was an electronic Easter greeting card from H, sent while I was having that conversation with my daughter. It was a “puppies, bunnies and kitties” type of card. Not surprisingly, H is not at all a “puppies, bunnies and kitties” type of person, but she well knows that I am.
What a ploy. I ignored it.
Section 8: The Turning Point – A Fortunate Online Meeting
Four months after H “needed a break” from me, during which time she moved away without saying a word, during which time I did not contact her, she began emailing vague one or two-line hooks. They started arriving in February 2009.
In April 2009, the fortunate meeting came with my online friend C – right after the “poem” incident. It was C who reached out to me. She had written privately to compliment me on challenging an entrenched foolish poster on some message board. (Some idiot was taking issue with Obama bowing to a Saudi prince, while conveniently ignoring that Bush holds hands with and kisses his Saudi bedfellows on the mouth. “Oh, but bowing is different than kissing” – but I digress!)
Over the months, my online friendship with C has blossomed into something greater than simply discussing Narcissism and its effect upon our lives. Narcissistic Drama is exceedingly tedious and boring. There is LIFE to be lived out there!
After a few weeks of getting to know C via emails, she told me about her Malignant Narcissist mother, who was physically as well as psychologically abusive. I began thinking it might be a good idea to tell C my story about H. It was a few weeks before I finally took the risk of revealing myself via the story. However, I really wanted to know what C thought, so I took a chance. My intuition and logic were working well: it was a fortuitous decision.
At that point I still thought I could get through to H. I actually thought I could still see an improvement in our friendship. I wrote out part of the story, touching only on the highlights, and hit send. Writing it helped me to really connect with how tired I was of being intimidated, tired of being corrected, tired of being watched like a hawk in H’s home for no good reason, tired of being told to do this and not do that, tired of being told to do this a certain way and that a certain way, tired of being treated “less than,” tired of being made out a fool to her family and friends and a few members of our spiritual community. She thought I didn’t know she was doing all these things. (Believing they are smarter than their victims – a Narcissistic Trait.)
Yes, I was tired of being H’s minion. I was tired of feeling like a little puppy dog or a 5-year-old. I was tired of hearing that my tastes, interests and activities were silly or frivolous. I was tired of gritted teeth, clenched jaws and barks whenever I would bring up a subject she wasn’t interested in or my views differed from hers. If I pushed anything, in even the most gentle diplomatic way, she would jump up and leave the room while exhaling derisively. After a few minutes of quiet, she would re-enter the room shouting. Her anger was excessive in relation to the “infraction.”
Heinz Kohut was the first to coin the idea of Narcissistic Rage. His book “The Analysis of the Self” in 1972 introduced the psychoanalytic concept pertaining to narcissistic rage. His explanation of narcissistic rage and depression stated, “depressions are interrupted by rages because things are not going their way, because responses are not forthcoming in the way they expected and needed”.
Kohut went further to say that narcissists may even search for conflict to find a way to alleviate pain or suffering. (My mother and H did that, and during the time I was an Invert Narcissist with them, I did it too.)
I was tired of being dismissed if I brought up something H considered unworthy of her time. (Whatever happened to: “oh, Bob and I will talk about anything for a few minutes, we’ve both got a lot of air!”?) I had long acquiesced to what she would actually listen to or talk about (Self-Absorbed and Controlling – Narcissistic Traits). Not only that, I was required to sit quietly and politely while she drove points home endlessly, often repeating them 5 times or more.
I was especially tired of H blocking all of my attempts at improving our friendship. Just plain frustrated, angry and by then, bitter. I had also become creeped out by the vague emails H had started sending me in February 2009. I realized that I was growing colder and more determined each day to end the friendship, while still struggling to accept the crashing realizations I was having.
When I received C’s response to my description of H, I was initially floored. I had never considered Narcissism with respect to H. I knew that H had some serious issues (as did I, see FLEAS), and childhood trauma, but I’d never put a definition or a description on it. She was “too nice, too much of a committed spiritual seeker, she had been good to me through the years, blah blah blah” – even though it was frequently intermixed with what I could no longer deny was Abuse.
C directed me to some websites and message boards about Narcissism. I spent several full days reading them. I recognized H in so many of the stories that were posted online, in the DSM-IV, and in other professional and blog resources detailing Narcissistic Traits and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (I also recognized my mother, my high school friend, my ex-husband, my brother and a couple of other former female friends.)
I wanted to deny it, but I could no longer: H was likely a Narcissist (or an HNP – Highly Narcissistic Person) and I was her Narcissistic Supply. It explained why H hadn’t just banished me from her life, even though she didn’t really like or approve of me. She found it too enjoyable to get her own way, and also watch me suffer, whether by her own actions or as a spectator in general.
As mentioned, 2-3 months after H told me she “needed a break” from me, she moved to the Midwest without notice. She had emailed that she was leaving. I responded with “good luck, it would be good to say our goodbyes in person over tea since you are moving so far away.” I was simply trying to use proper etiquette and social graces. She never responded. I wasn’t surprised, but tossed it off. It was nothing new. Our mutual friend B had also had recently moved out of state to help an elderly relative. Not surprisingly, I found out recently that they simultaneously returned to visit a couple months after their moves. Neither one bothered to contact me, though he later told me they had gotten together for a visit.
Within a few weeks after H moved away to finally resume living with her husband – after No Contact from my end – she started sending me a few strangely vague, very brief emails. (This was in early 2009.) At first, I didn’t realize that the reason for those emails was not that she truly missed me.
Narcissists convince themselves they miss you, and they do miss you, but for all the wrong reasons. The main reason a Narcissist “misses you” is that when you go No Contact, their Narcissistic Supply vanishes. They literally start needing a fix. Then they reel you back in, and try to keep you tied in.
It’s very important to remember that with a Narcissist, it’s all about them while they are usually accusing you of being the self-absorbed, crazy, paranoid, unreasonable one – the loser, the catastrophe addict, the nutcase, the low intelligence drama queen, etc. etc. etc. (After all, you are usually not handling life well, and you are understandably self-absorbed while trying to fix things, and certainly codependent – all of which makes you seem self-centered, needy, histrionic and crazy.)
If you’re involved with a Narcissist (which most of us are, in some way) it’s very important to educate yourself about Narcissistic Supply. It is very real, though some try to deny it. If you’ve ever been a pawn or a victim of a Narcissist, you will immediately recognize and understand the dynamic.
Providing Narcissistic Supply is different than enabling an addict. Narcissists do not change. They cannot change. Many addicts and enablers can change if they address the underlying causes, but many addicts are also a Narcissist.
Here H was, emailing me out of the blue like nothing happened. No explanation. No “hey, I’m here, got settled, sorry I had no time to get together before I took off, how are you, what’s going on?” Somewhere in the recesses of her mind this is what she was probably thinking: “This will be so easy! Let’s see what kind of idiocy and foolishness my best source of Narcissistic Supply will provide to me now! It’s past time for a fix since my husband always gives me a run for my money.”
A few weeks after I sent the polite reply “let’s say our goodbyes in person,” which she ignored, H emailed me again with a one-liner (no greeting, no ending), wanting to know if I had gone to hear Harry Manx, who had played my city the previous week. H knew me well – she knew I probably wouldn’t have known about it because she knew I often forget to check that sort of thing.
H could have sent that email the week before the concert. She well knew about it – she is vigilant about the concert schedules of her favorite artists. I wasn’t quick enough to catch the theme of her “innocuous” email, though. I wrote back with frowning smilies and an OMG! She never responded.
It took me a day or two to realize that H was probably gloating – something she would never admit. She’s too “spiritual!” She’s such a “good person!” “She’s not manipulative!” ”She’s not passive-aggressive!” I am convinced that H was triumphant I’d missed the concert (especially since she couldn’t go due to moving far away) while thinking something like this: “typical… of course that silly space cadet loser missed the Harry Manx concert!”
(Note: Sarcasm is often how VoNPD’s initially react after we first wake up about the Narcissist who is affecting our life. Sarcasm can be a good protective shield. It’s a necessary stage in the process of healing, helping us to disengage from abusers and avoid potential new abusers. Ultimately, however, one arrives at the point of no emotional reaction. If the Narcissist has the power to provoke emotions in you, then you are still a Source of Supply to them, regardless of which emotions are provoked.)
Another couple of months passed with No Contact. There was yet another one-liner from H. I responded cursorily; there was no reply. This was starting to be a pattern. Every few weeks, it was some hook or other from H. My cursory replies never received a response. She simply needed to know whether she could keep me tied in. Surely, I would give in eventually! Surely, those trusty old floodgates would fly open at some point! Surely, it would be so entertaining to scorn my latest “pathetic silliness.” (I have never once seen H spontaneously jump for joy. Whenever I jumped for joy, I would see a tight-lipped frown and a disapproving expression that suggested “that’s not dignified.”)
Thereafter, H refrained from emailing me for about 3 months. I thought she had finally gotten a clue. However, she contacted me again on my birthday by sending me an electronic birthday card, which I did not pick up. I kept getting reminders from American Greetings. I did not pick up the e-card.
I wanted H to know that it was over. I no longer want her in my life. I am no longer H’s – or anyone’s – Narcissistic Supply. I am not interested in such a difficult, unrewarding friendship.
What I want – what most people want – is a balanced, open, flowing, loving friendship that successfully navigates periodic rough spots, and the difficulties of life as well as one that revels in the good times. A friendship without unhealthy patterns and agendas. I am starting to have that. It’s early days, but it’s working. I have a protective shield around me while I look – and really see – who and what I am dealing with.
Once you get it, you get it. Until you do, you just don’t. It’s sad but true. So many shattered pieces to pick up and discard, or somehow put back together. So much wasted time, and so many lost experiences. So much healing to do. (A common circumstance of VoNPD’s.)
I no longer play into the hands of people who hold me in contempt for simply being human. Instead, I hold my cards close to my chest and I do not play them unless necessary. The old saying is true: Most people can count the true friends they make in the period of a lifetime on the fingers of one hand. I am no exception, and I am at peace with that.
Therefore, with the help of C – my wonderful, insightful, generous online friend – ultimately I decided to go No Contact with H. That is the best way to handle someone like her.
If I wrote and told H, as C has suggested, “Please do not contact me again” I have no doubt that H would find a way to spin it and make me look bad – especially to those in our former spiritual community. Not worth it. I already have to deal with my mother’s enablers (family), and that is difficult enough.
In that regard, I found something very relevant on a website:
“With my twisted family, there is no forgiveness because according to their thinking, there is never anything to forgive. After a particularly outrageous incident of abuse, our family narcissist always makes a pre-emptive strike against my credibility. He complains to the rest of the family (he makes the rounds with lightning speed) about my “latest” aggression and injury to him! Naturally, that always leaves me with the choice of refusing to defend myself (implying guilt) or telling the real story. They ask me to explain myself! In the end, it will be thought, at best, that there has been a misunderstanding, mostly on my part. Forgiveness? No need! No harm, no foul. I have clearly overreacted and “shouldn’t let it bother” me. You see, this black-hearted monster carries a family- issued “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.
The funny thing is, after abusing you and then lying to the world about it, the Narcissist expects you to be grateful that HE has forgiven YOU and is willing to let bygones be bygones! Of course, the rest of the family is quite put out when you refuse this magnanimous gesture.” (Source: What Makes Narcissists Tick?)
The above passage is chilling to those who have lived through it, whether with family or with friends (usually both).
Section 9: Narcissists Are Incorrigible
Never once in 32 years did H respond to my requests for a healthy discussion about our friendship, nor did she ever offer any apology or take responsibility for her attitude and behavior toward me. She has never entertained nor offered any ideas about how things between us could improve. H didn’t want things to improve! To her, things were just fine the way they were. She has also not acknowledged her betrayals and abandonments, nor has she apologized for them.
H and I had the kind of issues and disagreements that take place in every long-term friendship, but communicating about resolving them was verboten. The message was silent and clear: shut up and put up. Her body language and facial expressions told me she felt my requests were outrageous and unwarranted. I learned never to ask again because if I had, the tension in the room would soar off the charts, and there would be an indignant outburst from her.
H also never responded to letters or emails about the issue. She never even read them. It was not as if I were sending them frequently. There were only 2 letters, and 1 maybe 2 emails over a period of 3-5 years. I never stopped to consider what H’s stonewalling truly meant. (Stonewalling: a tactic of the Narcissist.)
The fact is, H never responded to reason, logic, common sense, or heartfelt pleas for truthful effective dialogue between us. Looking back, it was actually clear from the beginning that compromise was never an option. It was just shouting (Narcissistic Rage) or The Silent Treatment (tactics of the Narcissist).
H simply wouldn’t go there. She once shouted (while towering over me) “Your mother just can’t. She just CAN’T” while I was bitterly complaining that my mother had never agreed to therapy or co-counseling with me, though I had asked her many times.
Methinks thou doth protest too much, H.
When H wanted to control a situation or hold her cards to her chest (which was all the time), she would often simply go silent. She would simply not respond. She actually believes that people don’t deserve an answer; in fact, her silence serves as their punishment for what she considered prying into her life and for challenging her.
For example, her husband’s sister once emailed to tell H about her home renovations and redecoration. The sister-in-law then inquired about those that H was supposed to be engaged in. H saw it as an underhanded ploy to get her moving on her stalled projects. She ignored the email. Instead of welcoming the gentle prod, she became angry and dug her heels in further.
H ignored her sister-in-law, and she ignored me. No doubt, she ignores anyone who dares to question her. One thing is certain, she ignores whoever dares to question her motives or get in her way. I wonder if H has anyone remaining in her life – beside her husband – who stands up to her. I seriously doubt it. H does still have her long-term trusty stable of supporters – both healthy and not so healthy – she makes very sure of that, just like my Narcissist mother always did. Most of her supporters are from the spiritual community where we first met. Those friendships are preserved by H’s carefully constructed public persona, not the truth of her many narcissistic traits and possible personality disorder. Only those who live or work with a Narcissist get the treatment (excluding for superiors, enablers and the Golden Child).
“The thing about this type of abuse is that it robs you of your Self. It’s slow and insidious. You don’t know that it’s happening until the devalue and discard is taking place. It causes you to want more than anything to make things right, and in any NORMAL relationship, the other partner would want to make things right. And therein lies the problem. Narcissists don’t want to make it right because they don’t see that anything they have done is wrong. They feel the need to do what is best for them no matter what the consequences to the other might be. They are the most important. What they want, think, and feel is the most important.” (from blog ByeByeJekyllandHyde, quote available via google cache)
The above describes H, it describes my mother, it describes my brother, and it describes my ex-husband/father of my children.
Section 10: What I Would Say To H Now
(Of course, she would never deign to listen!)
“I’m not dancin’ anymore. We are done. It still hurts sometimes, but it’s mostly about what could have been – what should have been, and what should be. I know you thought it was going to be easy to suck me back in these past several months. Why wouldn’t you? I always made it so easy for you!
Thanks to the vast amount of resources on the internet and well-written books, I know now what I was involved in – your tangled Narcissistic web. Elevating yourself over me time and again, controlling me, maligning me inside your head and outwardly to your family and some of our mutual acquaintances and friends, rewriting history, and so much more. It is what I allowed for so many years… what I actually did to myself for too long.
Well, no longer. There was so much potential for a wonderful, fulfilling friendship between us. But I look back now, and I see that it never could have happened. I fell into your trap and I stayed there for over 30 years. Because of my childhood trauma and my Narcissistic mother, I couldn’t get out of that trap until cultural trends finally caused Narcissism to be widely experienced, named, and discussed on the Internet, on talk shows as well as in academic and popular books.
Finally, someone approached me and made me see what I could not and would not see until it was far too late. At least it happened. Better late than never. Better than being your tool for the rest of my life. Better than letting you jerk my chain for the next however many years.
Go and find yourself another incredibly convenient source of Narcissistic Supply. Better yet, get into therapy!
Since you’re new in town, the Narcissistic Supply might be more difficult to find at first. You’ll have to work people harder. But honey, you’re up to it! Why? Because you are so “spiritual!” You are so “wise and insightful!” You are such a “born leader!”
For you, it is always “someone else” who has it wrong, someone else who needs correcting, someone else who is not as accurate or incisive as you are. You drive people crazy with never ending repetitions during the course of any discussion (How many thousands of dollars in phone bills over many, many years did I waste on that alone, because I did not want to hurt your feelings or incur your wrath?)
Only recently did you mention that your youngest daughter called you on the constant irritating repetitions. That finally emboldened me to do something I’d long wanted to do: gently remind you that you were repeating yourself too much. The first time I tried it, however, you gave me a withering look that communicated, “How dare you insult me? How dare you ask me to change?” (An intrinsic trait of the Narcissist – “I’m perfect, nothing is wrong with me.”) I never bothered again.
It took me a long time to face the truth about you – just as it took my father 20 years to finally face that there was something very wrong with my mother, and that she wasn’t going to get better. Such a long time… a long time to accept that you would never change and because of your Narcissistic Traits, probably never can change. I had to accept that you would never flow, never really grow, and you would never really work things out with me over our various differences – differences that come up in any friendship.
What you don’t realize, H, is that some of your friends and associates have you figured out. Some of them have told me so. They have told me interesting things about your marriage and how they have experienced you in different situations. Things you don’t cop to: jealousy and feeling threatened by things you won’t do that they love doing, things your husband wishes you would do, like keep a clean house and get a job. I found it quite interesting that they saw many of the same things I did. I found it even more interesting that they were actually willing to share it with me (go on record).
I also find it very interesting that you are the one who first pointed out to me – all the way back in early 1983 – that a member of my family was endlessly pushing me away just so much, then beckoning me to come hither when I went a bit too far away… very interesting, H. Very interesting indeed, because that is exactly what you do. (Jerking Chains: a Tactic of the Narcissist.)
No longer, H, will you get your Narcissistic Supply from me. I am no longer your toy; no longer your victim. I am no longer codependent with you. Through the years you never would admit that you were also codependent with me. You nixed and stonewalled that idea every time I mentioned it. However, I know that you believed I was codependent with you.
Codependency involves two people, H.
As I write this, I am surprised by my coldness and lack of emotion toward you. I am perfectly calm. It comes from not caring anymore.
I never dreamed I would arrive at this place. Occasionally I feel a slight twinge of compassion because of the childhood trauma you experienced, and because of how blocked and unfulfilled you are. Yes, I am still caught up in “being loving” and “being spiritual” – whatever that means – not to mention a whole host of other “spiritual” things like permitting verbal abuse and other types of abuse from fellow students and certain leaders in the general and extended community.
I know this means that there must be absolutely No Contact between us, because every time I invite you back into my life, the minute I let my guard down – indeed no matter what I do – the vicious cycle with you repeats itself.
I keep reminding myself that there is no remedy for Narcissism. I checked an online source: you have 3 perhaps even all 4 of the risk factors for Narcissism, while I have 2. That is the difference between us.
You remarked during the summer of 2008 that you were “stuck” and that you were “trying to figure out how to get unstuck.” I believed you. There was no reason not to; I’d already known it for years. The remark seemed sincere. It was sincere. Your shell was starting to crack, and I still thought you might actually be “help-able,” but I know better now. It might just be too late.
Part of me feels sad for you, but that is dangerous territory for me. Mostly, I feel coldness and a lack of compassion. Finally, I have strong boundaries.
To varying degrees, everyone has a childhood trauma to overcome. You’ve always been convinced that your particular trauma was worse than what others have experienced. It isn’t. From what I have read and studied about childhood trauma and PTSD, and after reading hundreds of personal stories online, the trauma you experienced is about middle-of-the-road. Not horribly horrific… but yes, severe trauma. I do not deny that fact. I agree with you that it was not harmless. However, in my estimation your trauma was middle of the road.
That is not to diminish your pain and suffering, but to put it into proper perspective. That is the realistic and healthy thing to do. You were wronged. Badly wronged. But so were millions of others. You don’t get a special pass to behave however you want, while denying there is nothing wrong with your attitude and behavior.
What immediately comes to mind is: Why are you allowed to act out due to your childhood narcissistic-injury-trauma-stress-betrayal-despair-agony-anguish while no one else is, especially me? Why are others ridiculed-maligned-punished-devalued-discarded-toyed-with for acting out due to their own trauma-disorientation-despair, while you somehow deserve a pass?
I’m still working accepting that some people don’t recover from early Narcissistic Injury. I’m still working on accepting that entrenched Narcissistic Traits are usually untreatable. I do believe in miracles, but I have learned to be more realistic and pragmatic about Narcissism. That is why I’m writing this. It’s mainly for me – but also because I still somehow feel you might be “help-able.” That help, that improvement if any, is up to you alone.
I think your spiritual teacher got it wrong. I think that one dissenting voice got it right. That level of initiation of yours, the one you wanted so badly for so long… I believe it was unwarranted. I believe that while you have a certain degree of realization, you are not qualified to have students. In the modern spiritual arena, far too many high initiations are completely unwarranted. The whole concept of assigning levels of spiritual attainment is a very slippery slope indeed, and your case is no exception.
Last year (2008) you kept asking me why W.A. had kept delaying your final initiation years ago. What brought on that question submitted to me? What exactly was it about you that W.A. took issue with? Did you really want to know what it was? Did you suspect that W.A. had seen right through you and you wanted to know if I knew? W.A.’s not always correct, you know. No one is, but I believe he had it right that time. Finally, was it validation you were seeking from me? Of course. What exactly did you expect me to say, other than the words I did end up saying?
Like any good little minion, I said that you deserved that initiation from M and W.A., even though I wanted to say that there were things W.A. saw that I saw…that many people saw.
There is something else: you have not forgiven me for being a flawed human being – something we all are. You haven’t forgiven B either, who is just as traumatized and wounded as we are. You will probably never forgive B or me for things that happened which are normal occurrences in any decades-long friendship. Stuff happens. That’s life. I forgave you during all those years, but clearly you didn’t – and haven’t – forgiven me.
For example, the time I involuntarily lost something of yours, something you lent to me many years ago. It was during a tragic, convoluted time in my life when I was completely shattered, disoriented, almost penniless and essentially homeless. But no, that was no excuse. You actually thought I should have known better. You thought I should have somehow been able to keep coping well. Don’t deny it: you think that if I had been a normal human being, I would never have allowed myself to get into the mess I was in (results of divorce from abusive man making death threats).
I have apologized to you many times for various things through the years. How many times have you apologized to me? I have asked your forgiveness, and I have told you I would somehow make it up to you. You acted as though it was all right, but I knew that wasn’t really the case. You made sure that I had my Payback these past few years (yet another Narcissistic Trait), along with all of your other reasons for carrying on with your love/hate relationship with me. You expect me to forgive you for treating me the way you have, but I don’t deserve the same courtesy from you.
Another time in the mid-90’s, you cried publicly on M.B.’s shoulder when you thought I had revealed something personal about your marriage in public (something about the possibility of your marriage breaking up). It was stated offhandedly in a vague way, and no one had overheard it. You made sure that everyone – especially M.B. – knew I had committed a horrible gaffe against you, and you humiliated me in front of him and others at dinner. (More traits of the Narcissist: payback for perceived slights; public humiliation for perceived slights; hanging on to excuses for committing character assassination.)
I do respect that you stood up to so many other Narcissists in the higher levels of our (now only your) spiritual community at periodic meetings, calling them on their arrogance and blind spots. Certainly they needed it, and no doubt they still do. You’ve long patted yourself on the back for being so insightful and so courageous about doing that. But what is sorely missing is your own unfailingly honest self-introspection. (“I’m Perfect” – another trait of the Narcissist.) Without that, my former friend, you have nothing. You know it, but you aren’t willing to face it. You still believe you are somehow deserving of a pass.
Narcissism is a mystifying thing, H. Some people – even those with Narcissistic Traits – can face their Shadow (á la Carl Jung). Apparently though, true Narcissists cannot. So which category do you fall in, hmm? You have continually refused to acknowledge your inner demons. You think you can bypass that process by posing as a “together” person and a “spiritual” teacher. That posing is going to fail you someday. Indeed, I believe it already has.
The price for facing your inner demons seems to be too heavy to pay. You don’t have the desire or the courage to face what is there. Many people with far worse childhood trauma than yours do it… why won’t you? What are you afraid of… the original Narcissistic Injury, or letting go of your comfortable patterns by which you get to be in control?
I’m not convinced that you have full-blown NPD. I’m not convinced that it would cause a psychotic break for you to submit to intensive therapy. Perhaps it would, but in that event a trained psychologist would skillfully guide you through it. Therapy is what you need now, not setting yourself up as a spiritual teacher in yet another city, as you have expressed you want to do. You do have the resources to do the therapy, so there is no excuse. Spend some of that computer money on therapy. Stop waiting until the husband is out of the picture so you can continue right on the way you have been for so many years. (You think people don’t realize that’s what you’ve been doing?)
There is yet something else I have finally realized: your need to be in competition with me – for what reason, I still do not understand. You always had a better body than I did until you completely let yourself go and even made yourself look like a bull dyke. Why did you ruin your good looks? To keep convincing yourself what a lofty spiritual person you are because you no longer aspire to physical beauty?
You had a better figure, a better education while growing up, a more analytical, razor-sharp mind, and your father had lots of money. You had privileges and opportunities I never had. You still have men waxing poetic about how ethereally beautiful you were, and what a gorgeous body and singing voice you had, and they still wax poetic about what they meant to you, as if it could still somehow be true. (Eyeroll: that’s men for you.)
Still, you feel resentment because I blossomed later than you did and I enjoyed it for a while. I ask you: what good did it do me? Remember, you were the one who “threw it all away” because at age 29 you became convinced you weren’t going to be able to find a spiritual husband. You went and trapped a guy you went to college with. It isn’t fair to take out your unhappiness on someone else – especially not me, someone who truly cared about you – simply because that didn’t work out so well. Forget about the fact that I was flawed. I still had worth, and I cared about you. But you felt I wasn’t worthy of your respect. You devalued and discarded me. You kept me tied in for your own purposes, and that was very destructive to me.
Did you not realize that even though I always felt your disdain, I still kept coming back for more? You didn’t respect me for that because it’s something you’d never do. Did you not realize that I was willing to overlook everything, if you would just relax, open up, and somehow be different?
I don’t like the person you have become after all the years you’ve been married. Whatever magic there was about you has been lost in the mire of your complicated marriage, your control freak ways, your arrogance and your rewritten history. The last thing you need to do now is set yourself up as a spiritual teacher. Instead, you belong in intensive therapy. Maybe, just maybe, some of those entrenched Narcissistic Traits can be mitigated.
Like so many other VONPD’s, I feel very frustrated with the personality disorder called Narcissism. So many people have it. Too many. It is destroying our society and our world. Moreover, it seems we are powerless to do anything about it except lock them all up and throw away the key. At the very least avoid them, but that is difficult to do.
As far as I am concerned, H, you have made your own bed. Now you’re lying in it, and you’ve been taking out your frustration and despair on the people who cared about you, and those who are still willing, or required to allow it. I now see your husband so much differently. You told me in 2008 that I “do not tolerate men’s foibles and that is why I am alone.” Oh really, now? What do you know about why I do things?
So, let’s see: You would tolerate an abusive husband who destroyed your life, took everything, including the children and threatened to kill you more than once and continued to stalk you after the divorce?? You would tolerate a bilking con artist you met on an internet dating site?? You assert to me that I’m the one who is intolerant?!
Wow, that’s a new one considering the dynamic of our “friendship!” You contributed to the intolerable behavior in our friendship so that you could get to say you tolerated it. What a mind game. I dare you to have handled my situations any better than I did. I’ll live single for the rest of my life before I’ll tolerate that kind of treatment from a man again.
I stand by my personal standards. What about that “requirement list” your friend in Eugene had on her refrigerator years ago, and the right guy eventually appeared? Am I not entitled to do that?? What you call Intolerance, I call Caution. I call it boundaries. I call it healthy discrimination. I call it proper standards.
Keep denying to yourself that you hold me to different standards than everyone else (except for B), I know you will anyway.
Keep living in your fantasy world that everything is OK with your marriage, while knowing it is at the very least a travesty and at best curiously unfulfilling amidst a few laughs, some shared history and a shared interest in music and news. I just know there is so much more to that story – his story: Living with a wife with many deeply entrenched, self-serving Narcissistic Traits. Have you ever even thought about what the marriage has done to him? I wonder. Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to give him true choice and true compromise – not only at the beginning, but also during your entire marriage?? It’s not just about you – it’s a marriage.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t see you doing much compromise. You thought you were compromising; I saw resistance. I saw manipulative delay tactics while you were calculating how to make things go your way. And the fact is, H, you do to your husband what I did to mine: you call him “unspiritual” which is tantamount to telling him he’s no good. And you use him to hide from the world – a world you can’t really deal with because you are so rigid. And you do all that in the name of spirituality.
To be fair, you have dealt with things many husbands challenge their wives with. I know it hasn’t been easy, and I do have compassion for that. But for whatever reason – and there are many – you cannot, and you actually do not, want to leave your husband or your marriage. I figured that out decades ago. You have the benefit of not having to work out in the world, and you’re willing to pay the price. You are trapped, and you are actually dependent upon him. I will not go into all the reasons why – you know what they are. Some of them were avoidable and some were not.
Nevertheless, if people want to change their lives, they can. They do it all the time. So if you decide you really can’t or don’t want leave, don’t take your unhappiness out on other people. (I am sure you are getting some sort of Narcissistic Supply from somewhere now that I am absent.)
The sad fact is that you have probably been a Narcissist all these years. Not necessarily an intensely Malignant Narcissist, but enough to hurt and completely frustrate those who most care for you or once cared about you. From my intermediate understanding, there is no cure for Narcissism. Even if you do not have NPD, there is certainly some sort of intense problem going on.
You’ll do all right, though. You’ll keep playing your cards right, and you’ll have a roof over your head, you’ll have food, you’ll have money, you’ll have your children and your husband, you’ll be reasonably happy – as happy as someone in your situation can be.
I will not be there, however. Outwardly, I’m sure you have professed to others that you are happy I’m gone. You might even say that you don’t know why I’m gone – that one day I just cut you off. That is the face you will show to the world. Inwardly however, you will long for that sweet nectar called Narcissistic Supply, which was so easy to get from me all those years. When my name comes up, you’ll probably tell certain people that you dumped me (i.e., “What a terrible shame it is that K is so screwed up! She will probably never learn!”)
I know the truth: I dumped you, and that takes away your power.
There is no joy or smugness in that statement, only relief. I should have done it years ago instead of writing those well-thought-out, carefully worded, diplomatic-yet-firm letters, which went unread and ignored. You didn’t even read them.
And I will never forget how you alternately stonewalled, blasted, undermined, betrayed, defamed, devalued and discarded me for simply trying to be your friend and wanting improve our friendship.”
Section 11: A Warning to Victims of Narcissists (VoNPD’s)
Be wary of those who set themselves up as an authority in any field or pursuit. Be wary of any authority figure, especially one who claims to be adept at teaching spiritual principles and practices, or who simply claims to be qualified as a spiritual teacher or guide.
The self-help and spiritual world is full of pathologically wounded people who set themselves up as experts. In too many cases, these people have very serious issues. Many times their underlying motivation is to obtain never-ending sources of Narcissistic Supply along with the power, wealth and status. Check them out thoroughly first.
At the first sign of Narcissistic Behavior in anyone you know or meet, leave. Do not engage. Just nip it in the bud.
If you are already entangled – disentangle. It really is just as simple as that. You don’t have to give a reason or get sucked back in by explaining your reasons.
These days there are many resources – even in this economy – for leaving a relationship with an abuser. You can do it if you want to. You really can. If you are addicted or simply caught up in the maddening, fruitless scenario of Narcissistic Abuse – stop. (Especially if you are a Codependent/Invert Narcissist like I was for so many years, which is usually the case.)
That’s right. JUST STOP. Cut it off. Do not look back.
You must take the first steps so that you can feel how it works. I was terrified, but I did it. I was heartbroken to end a three-decade friendship but I did. (What a pathetic delusion: H never considered me her best friend!) I was heartbroken to look at the pieces of my shattered fantasy. Now I am incredulous that I was ever convinced I had a best friend in her — or even a friend at all in the final years.
“If we are really honest with ourselves we have to ask – what is it really that we are scared of losing? The answer, if you choose to base it on reality that is supported by evidence – is that we are scared of losing something that does not exist to begin with.” Source: Cosmic Walk blog
Get rid of people who feed on your anxiety, your despair, your disorientation, your low self-esteem, your subservience, your poor choices, your failures, your never-ending crises… just put a stop to it. You will be amazed at how your life changes. The progress might be slow, but it is steady if you are resolute.
If you have even a slight suspicion that someone does not have your best interests at heart, heed this warning and do something about it.
As VoNPD’s we must make sure that we don’t play into the agenda of a Narcissist. That’s no small feat, because they are cunning. Do not play your hand, do not give out unnecessary information. Do not allow them to see you as vulnerable. They don’t have the normal capacity for sympathy. Do not let them take advantage of any vulnerability you might be experiencing in your life.
If you look back over your life, you will realize that you were probably warned – no doubt more than once. I certainly was! There are signs, and there are people who love you who have warned you.
For me the first warning came from J.L.P., the woman who approached me all the way back in 1977 ranting about H. I just didn’t realize at the time that H had so many Narcissistic Traits. Back in 1977, our society didn’t have the awareness of mental illness and personality disorders that it does now. We didn’t use such words at that time. Heck, the word “stress” had hardly even come into common usage – incredible as that seems now.
We didn’t know much about such things as Narcissism or Narcissistic Injury or Narcissistic Supply. Even those of us who were studying human nature and pursuing spiritual ideals and methods were not aware of the disorder. We sure had plenty of Narcissists in our spiritual arena, though – both male and female. In reality, of course, they were everywhere in society.
Therefore, back in 1977 I thought J.L.P. was over the top. Nevertheless, she did try to warn me. If she were still alive, I’d thank her. I’d apologize to her for thinking she was so unspiritual for her harsh words about H. I know now that J.L.P. saw that I needed to hear it. She was a hardscrabble survivor. She was a smart, strong and beautiful woman who became an extremely successful businesswoman before she died much too young of cancer. She knew when something was questionable.
Since I have had to deal with so many Narcissists in my life, I no longer give people the benefit of the doubt nearly as much as I once did. My ex-husband was right about some things. From the very beginning of our relationship, he told me that I was too gullible, too forgiving, too naïve, too quick to give too many people the benefit of the doubt. He saw very clearly – even though he was very young – that people often took advantage of me in both social situations and at work.
Section 12: Moving On
There have been many Narcissists in my life: H, my mother, my ex-husband, the high school “best” friend, members of my extended family, people I knew socially, in my spiritual community, romantic partners, and co-workers.
I am not asserting that any one person is responsible for all my challenges. The friendship with H most definitely exacerbated them. However, we are ultimately responsible for our own lives and I am no exception.
For many years – at least 15-20 – I lost my way. I was once a long-term highly functioning person. Even amidst long-term severe challenges and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I managed to be highly functional. I was a responsible employee in a stressful career, I handled my finances, I had many friends and activities. Most importantly, I was a loving mother and guide to my children, who supported me 100%. Everyone, though, has his or her breaking point. I learned in very devastating ways what mine was.
I never had drug, alcohol, or any other addiction issue. (Well OK… coffee and too much “stinking thinking!”) There were simply too many traumatic experiences, due to both luck of the draw and poor choices arising out of despair and confusion. I had lost the ability to cope. I was in too much pain, too much chaos, too much confusion, and importantly, I had too many concepts and preconceived notions to perceive things clearly. Moreover, someone I held dear (H) was creating a large part of – indeed, feeding off – my ongoing misery and dysfunction.
An important question: If H detested me so much, why did she allow me to stay in her life? Why did she keep me around?
I have asked myself that question many times through the years, always deluding myself about the answer.
Finally, I allowed it into my conscious mind: I was her Narcissistic Supply. There really is no other answer.
Through many years, both prayer and positive affirmations have served as palliative care, but their use had never brought me full healing or even a minimal degree of healing. And not least, I was still involved with H. Unbeknownst to me, it was keeping me in low self-esteem, frustration, chaos, confusion and dysfunction. I was simply treading water until the next disaster. Those disasters had started coming fast and furious until I cried “uncle” and began to look for ways to effectively, truly heal.
Healing meant letting go of many so-called friendships, concepts, material possessions and old habits. The thought of it was painful. Actually doing it was far easier.
I strongly believe in the power of faith and positive thought, and I use it often. I use something called Scientific Prayer Treatment, and I talk to my angels/guides and to God. I also repeat certain Bible passages like Psalm 23 or 91. I have begun to use the Emotional Freedom Technique. All of those things work for me, in both clear and subtle ways. Each person has to find what works for them, and these things are part of what works for me.
We must quiet our mind and emotions and ask what we need to do to improve our lives. It is only when the dust begins to settle that the answers can start to reveal themselves. Only when we have a quiet mind can we hear those answers.
At first, I didn’t like those answers. I denied them. I rationalized them. I fought them. I thought I could help people change. I thought I could help my former friend H change. I thought I could “make her see” the error of her ways. I thought that I could somehow improve our friendship.
I carried that concept over into other relationships as well. I know now what a delusional idea that is, and how utterly futile it is. Now, I just walk away from those types of people. That may seem cold, but it’s better than entanglement in something larger than I can handle, let alone bother with. I have noticed in recent years that many people in our society now simply dismiss others at the first sign of trouble or stress. They even misperceive people – far too much, I believe. There are far too many knee-jerk responses. Life is not the movies, nor is it television. Still, I can certainly understand why people do it. I do it myself. It is a new feeling for someone who is as outgoing and sympathetic as I am.
I have changed — in very fundamental ways. It’s a relief, and it’s gratifying. Even though this story is quite long, there is so much that I did not write here.
I do miss the good stuff with H. I do have some fond memories of our friendship, but those memories are fading. I do have a lot of gratitude for the nice things H did for me through the years, and I always will. I would have liked to be more in a position to reciprocate than I was capable of, or allowed to by her. However, I now see that part of the Narcissistic construct means preventing people from reciprocating (“I don’t need your help, I’m all together/I have things under control”).
I know now that the friendship never would have been healthy.
H could only see what she perceived as my betrayals of her, which she blew out of proportion. While she was completely blind to her betrayals of me, she forgot about my apologies and my requests for forgiveness. Her betrayals were far more egregious than anything I’ve ever “done to” her. I am not saying that from a place of denial. I know what happened. I don’t rewrite history.
H believed that she was justified in everything she ever said or did with respect to me. It was as if I somehow deserved whatever I got – either directly from her or indirectly by her complicit silence. (She did “complicit silence” a lot, under the guise of “not interfering” or being “wise.”)
Whatever compassion she had for me degenerated into a game for her. It was as if she had decided that I was stupid, ill-fated and deserving of abuse.
As a so-called spiritual adept (her level of initiation), H needs to go back to the drawing board if she cannot forgive someone’s mistakes even after they apologize more than once. She needs to muster up her own apologies.
Why, then, did H keep our friendship going? The answer does go beyond Narcissistic Supply. We did have several important things in common. We enjoyed them, but there were far more things we did not have in common: our basic lifestyles (hers sedentary, mine active). Our television tastes (I don’t watch 7-10 television dramas weekly). Our drastic differences in housekeeping (she’s a complete messy, I am the opposite). Gardening (no interest for her, avid interest for me). Approach to politics (I listen to several radio hosts, she refuses to listen to any talk radio, preferring corporate-sponsored cable news).
The list goes on. Those were things that created tension, but we both seemed willing to overlook them for the things we did have in common. Yet, H behaved as though my friendship was not really welcome. At the same time it was clear to me that H was either unwilling to end it decisively or just let it fade. I knew she felt that I “couldn’t handle the truth.”
I had actually known the truth for years: H didn’t really want my friendship, and she certainly didn’t want a healthy one.
But even though a part of me knew the truth, I was in huge denial. I kept trying to make things better between us, because I was uncomfortable. Doing something like that is codependency. Inverted Narcissism. FLEAS.
I believe that H is the one who can’t handle the truth. In recent years I‘ve discovered that just like long ago in 1977, more people agree with that statement than I thought. (More people than H would be comfortable with.)
The bottom line is that I couldn’t continue to wade through the escalated negativity with H to try to salvage whatever good remained between us. We were past the point of no return. I wish it were not true and would still like to deny that it’s true. Part of me would still like to change it – for both me and for H. However, I know with every fiber of my being that H and I have now parted ways.
I hope that she will never have to experience the many horrible things I have experienced in my life. She knows my life, she knows what those things are. Those events in my life, albeit very different from hers, are cumulatively just as traumatic as what H experienced as a child. Neurological shock comes in many forms – it’s still neurological shock, still devastating.
While I am a flawed human being – something I have fully admitted – to myself, to H and to others in my life, I don’t have an untreatable personality disorder. After spending a lot of time writing this, it is now clear to me that H might very well have narcissistic personality disorder which has been exacerbated by her unhappy marriage.
Risk Factors for Personality Disorder:
- A family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
- Verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood, especially sexual abuse as a child
- An unstable or chaotic family life during childhood
- Loss of parents through death or divorce during childhood
Is it any wonder there are so many people with a personality disorder? Too many people have three or more of the above risk factors. For those with these risk factors, therapy is strongly recommended (and medications should only be used in conjunction with therapy).
H has the last three risk factors, I have the first two. My mother had the first three. H’s family may also have the first risk factor. I am unaware of any full-blown mental illness in her family of origin. Importantly though, her father married someone H refers to as a “clinically diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic” one year after her mother died, when she was under the age of 10.
I’ve wondered whether H would ever seek professional therapy. I’ve wondered whether she could get better if she really cared about getting better. Unfortunately, I doubt she will ever submit to intensive therapy, but circumstances could force her to.
It is actually no longer my business what H does, and vice versa. All I needed to do was disengage from her, maintain No Contact and start healing. As H was always so fond of saying, “she is not mine to do.” I used to wonder why H felt I was “hers to do” for so long, until I finally realized her need for Narcissistic Supply.
Like most people, especially those recovering from abuse and codependency, I still feel depressed periodically. Periodic depression is normal. Healing takes time. I’m still recovering from being The Family Scapegoat from an early age. I’m still recovering from being bullied and humiliated at elementary school because of my health problems. I’m still recovering from the trauma of being abused by my former spouse and father of my children. I’m still feeling the pain and rejection of being codependent with Narcissistic friends. (There were others beside H – she is the most long-term one.)
All the experiences I’ve had since 1989 when I was kicked out of my home by my ex-husband when the children were toddlers – for which I was vilified by certain members of my own spiritual community – finally led me to the realization that I needed to find a way to truly heal. Healing begins by eliminating the Narcissists.
Though I have had many dark times, I have true compassion for others. I have no need for power over others. I only have a need for effective communication and compromise in situations. Of course, many people don’t want true communication and they deliberately play games, reveling in the process. I have no need to be better than or appear better than others. I have no need to be a revered leader or an authority figure of some kind. After a lifetime of struggle, I just want to live in peace.
I don’t live in the dark place that Narcissism seems to be – a place that H might well live in. I’m thankful for that, because life is hard enough. If anything, I’ve always engaged in too much self-introspection. It is something I must guard against.
I hope that I never lose the capacity for self-examination. I hope that I never lose the ability to take responsibility for my weaknesses and improving my life. Many people have told me, though, that I am far too hard on myself – to my detriment. Getting rid of Narcissists is one step toward being much kinder and gentler with myself.
Section 13: Ending Comments
It is difficult to accept that a relationship with a Narcissist cannot thrive or grow. I still don’t understand Narcissism – not many people do, not even experts. Nevertheless, we can and must educate ourselves about it. We may not as a society ever understand Narcissism, or how Narcissistic Injury manifests later in life. We may not ever be able to solve the unfortunate dilemma of NPD. For the sake of so many suffering people, I hope we can.
I know that H is convinced she was coping well for many years. I also know that she was becoming less and less convinced that was so, because of comments like: “I’m stuck and I can’t seem to get unstuck.” Hopefully, that comment – giving voice to the impasse – will give her the momentum to seek help. True help. True psychological therapy by a highly trained therapist – not some pie-in-the-sky spiritual ideal or illogical concept that is somehow going to magically solve things. (Magical Thinking, a trait of the Narcissist.)
I knew that I was often the object of H’s scorn all those years. I knew it! All the while – no matter what I did – while involved with H I couldn’t seem to get back to a sustained level of coping well with life. Coping was something I’d done well for many years even under severe stress.
H does not realize – and would hotly deny – that she contributed to my not coping well, and that she actually enjoyed it.
I am sure that H still does feel scorn for me, as do others, i.e. her family. I’ll bet that after 32 years, her brother and some of her friends don’t even know my name or that we were friends for over 3 decades. I just didn’t – and don’t – really matter to H beyond her Narcissistic agenda. At one time long ago I probably did matter to her, but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time.
The morning I decided to start writing this story, I woke up thinking that never once during our friendship (or any of our several estrangements) did H say to me “I am wondering why we are not in contact, let’s talk.” Or, “I’m sorry we’re not speaking, let’s get in touch and talk things over. I miss you.” Never once. I was always the one who did that.
Finally, I began to wonder… just what is really going on here??
Since that “Invitation” email in March 2009, H has never once written to ask “Anything wrong? Anything we need to discuss?” She knows very well what’s wrong. She just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it. She also knows that I won’t take her crap anymore.
All through the years, H’s many other female friends were far more important to her than I ever was, or ever would be. The fact that she hasn’t made an attempt to repair the chasm between us is proof that (1) she doesn’t care, and (2) she knows that she can no longer get away with her attitude and behavior toward me. That is why I do not want her idea of “friendship.” What disturbs me most of all is that H thought I deserved her attitude and treatment of me.
There is no way to describe her attitude and behavior toward me as anything other than classic Narcissistic Abuse.
I am certain that H would feel betrayed by this account of our “friendship.” I’ve thought about that for several months. Some people say that we need to hold our abusers accountable. When I tried to do that with another abuser in a separate but closely related spiritual community, I was simply chastised, maligned and/or shunned by those I chose to inform. That person’s transgressions were far worse than those of H. He is still given a pass, even by those who know how he is.
What I have come to is this: if H can dole it out, she bloody well should take responsibility for it. She shouldn’t be hiding behind a calculated innocent image or expect people not to start defending themselves.
I used to care what people in my former spiritual community thought about me. I cared too much. Then I realized they don’t care about me and haven’t for many years – even as they saw the hardships I was going through 15 years ago. Our spiritual bond meant nothing to them. Through the years they’ve given passes to many other people – including former leaders – who have done far FAR worse things than I ever did.
The reason? They liked those people. Those people were somebody “important in the community.” I wasn’t in the “In Crowd” and didn’t want to be. It was unacceptable to like me or be my friend, or have compassion or understand why I was making very poor choices. They think I don’t know about the gossip. They think I don’t acknowledge or regret my mistakes. So no, I no longer care what they think.
If you’re in the “In Crowd” you’re given a pass. If you aren’t, you’re vilified and ostracized. It’s as simple as that.
I used to believe it was “unspiritual” to call people on their b.s. Now I don’t. I used to see the faces of my spiritual teachers before me when I thought of exposing H. Now I know that abusers should not be allowed to get away with their behavior. I don’t go around busting people all the time, but if people don’t fight back, abusers take it as carte blanche to continue abusing.
Being a dervish, or a student of Western Sufism or ANY religious activity — doesn’t mean allowing people to abuse you or destroy your reputation. As I recall, being a dervish means “burning for the Truth.” That is what one of my spiritual guides told me when he gave me a certain spiritual name. It doesn’t mean completely annihilating your ego and allowing other spiritual seekers (or people in general) to walk all over you and destroy your spirit.
Many spiritual seekers do believe that’s what it means, though. It’s a dangerous concept, one which I bought into for many, many years. To be honest, I still have a hard time with it. More than a few leaders use that concept to manipulate and control people. (Fortunately, mine didn’t.)
Certain personality types should not get involved in annihilation-types of spiritual methods or training. It can cause issues like mine, and even psychotic breaks in weaker people. Now I know why people always told me I was so strong. I didn’t go insane. I screwed up lot, but I didn’t go insane. There were rapes, death threats, crushing poverty, sleeping in my vehicle, stooping to nude massage during periods of poverty (which backfired because I was terrible at it and hated it with a passion), inability to handle any kind of stress, family scapegoating. But I didn’t go insane. I didn’t lose my humanity or my perspective. It didn’t destroy me, though it nearly did.
H is convinced, I am certain, that I probably won’t ever be able to have a better life because of my “bad karma” and my “birth chart.” That is yet one more reason why I cannot continue with her, because I believe in Free Will. I believe in Transformation.
Now that I’m on the other side of the brick wall upon which I banged my head for over three decades, I find it quite “interesting” that I no longer have those “cataclysms” in my life from which I “need rescuing.” You know, those times when it became necessary to “inconvenience” people who didn’t really care about me but didn’t have the balls to just let me go.
“Funny” how that works… funny how that works.
I’m not perfect. I fall down – all the time. I’m not always capable of prayer or positivity, but I try – with a healthy, laser view of myself and my shortcomings.
I have some severe battle scars, but I’m still standing. Not only am I still standing, I’m still sane in spite of the many Narcissists I’ve tangled with in my family, spiritual community and the workplace. I am still vibrant and energetic, though less so as I age. I can build on that. I believe in possibilities – heck, probabilities. I believe in resurrection and rebirth. I believe in fulfillment, and fulfilling my destiny.
I am better for these experiences, though sometimes it does not feel that way. It’s been a long road, and at this writing there is still a long way to go. If one looks at the odds, the pure facts, the odds seem against me. Nevertheless, I have greater insight and strength to deal with the journey, and I still believe in miracles. Miracles have happened to me, and they’re still happening.
I now have only wonderful, supportive friends. They aren’t passive aggressive. They aren’t arrogant. They don’t haughtily correct me all the time. They discuss and debate rationally on a level playing field. They don’t talk me down behind my back to their families or other people who know me. They don’t play destructive games. They don’t spout cockamamie spiritual concepts or worse yet, try to live by them. They don’t refuse to facilitate a truly healthy friendship. They support me. They have my best interests at heart, and I gratefully reciprocate.
Because of No Contact with H, because of the support of my current friends, because of journaling, prayer, gentle self-examination and discipline there is no more chaos in my life. There are no more frequent “crises” from which I need “rescuing” by a recalcitrant scornful friend who keeps me around for the wrong reasons.
There really is no other choice but to create a better life, with determination, with courage, with patience and tenacity. Yes, there is no other choice for this flawed, human, intelligent, vibrant and dynamic woman – me – who lost her way so many years ago.
Joyful Alive Woman
Read the story about my mother here