It’s Narcissist Friday!
He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreck that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then I could do the other; for there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me?
– Captain Ahab, “Moby Dick”
Obsession. Compulsion. These are not usually words we associate with narcissism. Unless, of course, you have actually been in a relationship with one. Even then you may have seen a very short attention span, an unwillingness to commit to an action, or a remarkable inattention to details. It may have surprised you when you saw the focus and single-mindedness for the first time.
The difference may have simply been between what was important to you and what was important to him. I remember a narcissistic leader who couldn’t sit still at any meeting. He paid little attention to what was happening, tried to disrupt others, and acted like a little child . . . unless he was leading. Then he demanded everyone’s attention. He became angry very quickly at any interruption or joking. He was this way when things were important to him.
A comment was made on a recent post about a narcissist who couldn’t reach his victim so he texted her phone repeatedly. For most people, once or twice would be enough. If she didn’t answer the phone, you might reason that she was busy. If she didn’t respond to the text, you might get the message that she didn’t want to communicate with you. Under what circumstances would it be reasonable to text over and over and over? No, that’s manipulative and obsessive.
Anyone who must have something is weak in that area. Captain Ahab was weakened in his leadership, even his reason, when it came to the white whale. An addict is weakened by his need for his supply. The narcissist must have the admiration and respect of others. It may be his “super-power” to get this, but the ability of others to withhold it is his kryptonite/ weakness.
Wives have talked about how their husbands would obsess about someone at work, trying to figure out ways to bring the person down or take their place. Some narcissists seem to get obsessive with their kids, wanting to control every part of their lives. In order to understand this, we have to try to think like the narcissist. What is important? That’s what is worth fighting for.
Young women are often very impressed with the young man who is able to fully focus on them and their interests. He brings them the flowers they like, listens to their struggles, and remembers many things about them. However, when they get married (or just further in the relationship) the young man seems to lose this ability to focus. He no longer listens carefully and doesn’t seem to remember important things. Sadly, this usually indicates that he has what he wants in the relationship. The focus is no longer necessary.
Persistence usually does pay off. Watch the hunter or the fisherman or the salesman. The ability to obsessively persist in a repeated action comes from a strong desire to see a certain result. Narcissists must win an argument, must gain approval or advantage, and must feel like they have received what they needed.
Don’t be surprised when you see this kind of persistence from your narcissist, especially when you begin to gain health and independence. It may also show you how to handle him. If he needs something so desperately, you may be able to get him to negotiate for it. It may not be worth the effort and you may not be able to trust him, but it is something to keep in mind.