It’s Narcissist Friday!
What is Normal?
Recently someone asked this question in a comment and I have to admit that I was pulled up short. For those of us who have encountered narcissism at work or among friends, it is easy to forget the influence of the disorder on victims who grew up with it. It is also one of the effects of narcissism to cloud memory and fog judgment so that “normal” is lost. I have been told several times by children of narcissists , “I don’t remember much of my childhood.” This makes sense if we remember that the narcissist feeds on the identity of others. Whatever normal was there has been consumed in the narcissistic relationship.
So today I want to give an unfortunately brief picture of what “normal” might look like. These are random ideas of normal relationships in comparison to a narcissistic relationship.
- The understanding that other people are real and have value in themselves rather than only in relation to me. There is a shift in perspective that comes in early childhood where the child begins to see Mom and Dad and others as people. Narcissists have difficulty with this.
- Parents who find their identity apart from their children. This means that the success of the child is not seen as the success of the parent and the failure of the child is not a personal attack on the parent.
- Being able to state your opinion and then actually listen to the opinions of others without feeling threatened.
- Asking how the other person is feeling or doing and listening to the answer.
- Accepting blame when something is honestly your fault and giving a sincere apology.
- Being surprised and disappointed when you discover someone has been using you.
- Being a little wary of jumping into someone’s life. Caution is a good thing in relationships and most people move slowly. Beware of someone who wants your intimate details very early in the relationship. Most people want others to earn trust.
- Respecting the privacy and solitude boundaries of others.
- Not categorizing everyone in your life by usefulness.
- Feeling embarrassed when the whole room is focused on you, but not deathly afraid. Being hurt when rejected, but not obsessively angry.
- Feeling something of the pain of others. Grieving when people grieve. Opening yourself to the emotions of others.
- Having positive but not unrealistic expectations in job and life progress. Pursuing plans that don’t depend on others in ways that allow you to blame them when the plans fail.
These are just some ideas and I would add that it is normal to do these things 80% of the time. We all have narcissistic characteristics that pop up from time to time and we can give each other a break. No one is perfect and some of us aren’t even good. We want attention and have trouble handling disagreements or rejection. But, most of the time, we are “normal.”
But here’s a question to think about: Do you like normal when you see it in others? I think part of the brokenness narcissistic parents pass on to their children is a disrespect of normal. People who listen are boring. People who cry at movies are stupid and easily influenced. People who protect their boundaries are too attached to their time or their stuff. And people who don’t promote themselves will never amount to anything. See what I mean?
One of the reasons people are drawn to narcissists is because they are exciting. They live on the edge in relationships; they push traditions and limitations aside to get what they want. These are people of power and energy and focus. Narcissists are fun to be around . . . at first. The joker, the rebel, the flirt—these are great people at certain times, but their attraction wears thin after a while. That’s why they have to get their hooks in you as early as they can.
Narcissists are addicting. They may be addicts themselves, but they have ways of binding your heart to what they provide. One of the reasons people move from one narcissistic relationship to other narcissistic relationships is because this addiction is never addressed. Are you willing to be satisfied with normal? It may take time for the addiction to wear off and for you to see the value in normal relationships.
Just some thoughts on a great question. What would you add to my list?