It’s Narcissist Friday!
Mary remembered two things about her relationship with Don that only made sense after some time of counseling. First, he was a wonderful listener who wanted to know all about her. He cared about her ideas and dreams and goals and everything else she valued. Before they were married. She didn’t know exactly when it happened, but the day came when she realized that Don no longer cared about her opinions or goals. In fact, he often did things to counter her dreams and even stopped her from sharing about her fears and concerns. When she did share something from her heart, he used it against her at a later time.
Mary also realized that she knew very little about Don’s heart. She knew his opinions on almost everything: the stupid neighbors, her interfering parents, his incompetent boss, the idiot politicians. But she knew very little about Don. Why was he angry so often? Why did he seem to hate so many people? What made him turn into this?
Intimacy and narcissism may be opposites. Of course, I am not talking about sexuality, but heart intimacy where two people share themselves with each other. Because narcissists don’t know themselves and don’t want to acknowledge who they are or what they feel, they cannot/will not open themselves in this way to another person. However, they readily receive intimacy from others.
Like bait, the narcissist dangles a sense of intimacy in front of those who need to trust someone. Most are able to project just the kind of listener or caring person the victim needs. The intimate thoughts and feelings shared with a narcissist are either discarded as unimportant or saved to be used when needed. Thus, if a co-worker tells a narcissist about her feelings of incompetence at work, she will find that the narcissist shares that information with the boss or with other co-workers. If she tells him about her children, he will appear to listen and be interested, but never remember the kids’ names or the information that has been shared.
So narcissists will not be intimate with you, but they will take advantage of your need for intimacy and appear to value you in that way. Until the truth becomes obvious.
This is why many victims of narcissism find intimacy so difficult. When they finally realize what has happened to them, they feel so betrayed that they are unable to trust others. They are often ashamed of their openness to deception and chastise themselves “for being so stupid.” Since many victims go from one narcissistic relationship to another, these folks often become distrustful and manipulative in relationships themselves.
Feelings of betrayal are common for victims of narcissism. For spouses or co-workers, the reason for this seems obvious. But what about children of narcissists? Counselors and friends will hear phrases like: “My mom never really loved me.” Or, “I never really knew my parents.” Sometimes children of narcissists actually forget significant portions of their childhood or cannot answer questions about family values and traditions. The things we use to connect ourselves to others are simply missing in these families.
I tend to be somewhat simplistic about these things because I believe most of us want to understand in simple terms what has happened in our lives. It is important for victims of narcissists to understand that the problems they faced were in the others, the narcissists. The narcissists were the ones who abused and distorted intimacy. The narcissists were the ones with the problems.
Sharing and caring are normal parts of healthy relationships. Families, friends, and lovers share from their hearts and open themselves as part of trusting the relationship. Once the victim of a narcissist understands the kind of person he or she has been connected with, finding a person who is not that way allows the need for intimacy to find expression. There are other people who need love and who are able to share.
And I believe there is a God who loves you, accepts you, values you, and opens His heart to yours.