It’s Narcissist Friday!
Imagine walking into a room full of people and beginning to categorize them by their usefulness. Imagine pursuing a relationship with a person with energy and persistence and then abandoning that person just a few months later. Imagine every relationship in your life having a certain purpose and plan.
What? You can’t imagine living like that? The narcissist can.
It seems important to re-examine this thing called “de-personalization” once in a while. It is so foreign to the way most of us were raised or grew up that it is just plain hard to believe.
The narcissist either cannot see or has trouble remembering that other people are real. They are, as we have said before, “tools, toys, or obstacles.” Because life is all about building and maintaining the great image of self, the narcissist only sees people according to their usefulness.
For example, I have known narcissists who viewed their children as either useful or not useful. The children might have a certain place in the narcissist’s mind almost from the beginning, or might fall into one spot or the other as they grow. The oldest daughter might be useful because she carries part of the load. The oldest son might be useful because he proves dad is a man. The second child, however, may not be so useful. The obedient child is useful, while the rebellious child is not. Or, and this may surprise you, the obedient child may be seen as less than useful. Notice that the child does nothing wrong, but is simply less useful.
Some readers will identify immediately with this. They were the useless child, the one who received little admiration or attention, while their sibling seemed to receive everything. There may have been useful times which gave hope to a real relationship, but those times passed and so did the usefulness. When the useful child leaves home (if he ever does) there is great turmoil. When the non-useful child leaves home no one seems to care. Narcissistic parents sometimes simply write off less than useful children.
This is incredibly sad and very hard for most of us to understand. But if you realize that relationships are only for certain purposes in the narcissist’s life, you can see how this works. The girl who gushes admiration and submission may be lifted up by the narcissist because she is so useful to his image or his feelings about himself. But when she begins to see the truth and holds back, she becomes less useful and the narcissist simply looks for another. The church leader courts people on the basis of their usefulness to his goals, but when they become burdens or ask difficult questions, he pushes them aside as he reaches out to new people. The co-worker is a friend and confidante while you are working on the project together, but can’t remember your name afterward. The relationship had a purpose and you were useful.
It can be very hard to be the one deemed less than useful. To be pushed aside while another is lifted up hurts deeply. No wonder people who grow up in narcissistic homes struggle with their feelings about themselves.
This is part of why I believe it is so important to give a message of love to those who have suffered in narcissistic relationships. I believe that understanding the real love of Jesus will bring some wonderful healing. To know that you are valued just because you are you, rather than because of what you can do for someone, is an important revelation and blessing.
Listen: the narcissist is broken. The most basic aspect of human relationship is far from him or her. It is not right to view others according to their usefulness. Others are people, too. That’s one of the first things love teaches us.