It’s Narcissist Friday!
You open the door of your house and walk outside into the dark. It’s one of those nights when clouds cover the moon and stars and even the street lights are subdued. You don’t have far to walk, but the bushes and trees and parked cars present an ominous gathering of places for someone to hide. What do you feel?
You are supposed to meet a friend at the corner. As you approach the corner, you hear laughter and you see your friend talking with another person. When they see you, they stop talking and the other person walks quickly away. Your friend stands and waits for you to get there. What do you feel?
Feelings come from deep places within us. Memories, shadows of memories, suspicions, doubts, weaknesses—all contribute to our feelings in certain situations. There are classic triggers to our feelings: darkness, unexplained silence, sudden anger, secrecy, lies. These bring out negative feelings in us. And all of this is normal.
The fact that we have feelings is simple. At least it should be. To deny our feelings is to attempt to lie to ourselves. For others to deny our feelings is just plain mean.
Narcissistic relationships abound with feelings. I wish I could say that stronger. Narcissistic relationships bombard us with feelings. Conflicting, confusing, intense, weird, unwelcome, inexpressible feelings. Feelings others find hard to understand or accept. Feelings you find hard to understand or accept. But they are there.
Something about a narcissist causes people to experience unfamiliar and often unwelcome feelings. Those feelings are real. Narcissists can be secretive, manipulative, angry, deceitful, and insensitive. It is natural for us to have certain negative feelings when we encounter such a person. Yes, there are times when the narcissist makes us feel good, but those feelings are often accompanied by a confusing fear or suspicion.
It may be that the narcissist has a desire to produce these feelings in us, perhaps to manipulate or just to experience our emotions. It may be that the narcissist is so out of touch with the feelings of others that he/she doesn’t understand how words or actions produce those feelings. Or it may be that the narcissist simply doesn’t care.
But it doesn’t help to say, “Don’t feel that way.” Listen: no one has the right to tell you not to feel a certain way! You feel what you feel.
I know that feelings can be unfounded. The dark street may hold no danger. The secretive conversation may be completely innocent. Your suspicions may be off base. But denying the feeling is not the way to make it disappear. Shine the light in the dark place. Look behind the bushes. Let the truth be revealed. Then the feeling can go away.
And sometimes there’s a reason for your feelings. Maybe something is wrong. You may not know what it is, but you feel something isn’t right. If you can, shine some light on the situation. See if you can find out what’s happening. Or just keep your eyes open to see what is revealed when the light does shine.
A good counselor will help you find ways to shine light on your feelings. Maybe they are unfounded and triggered by memories or pains from the past. Maybe they are right on and you need to see the truth. But a counselor shouldn’t try to talk you out of your feelings. If a counselor tells you not to feel a certain way, find another counselor.
A good friend will walk with you through the feelings. He/she might walk into the darkness with you, stand with you in the place of your fear, give words of courage and love in times of pain, and offer affirmation and assurance in the midst of worry. A friend doesn’t deny your feelings.
And, in your own heart, embrace your feelings. Fear is in you for a reason. It doesn’t have to control you, but you can use it to stay alert. Suspicion doesn’t have to destroy a relationship, but it might help to prepare you for something. And it might move you to seek the truth you need to know. Your feelings are important, a part of you that has been developed to guide you through life. No, they are not always trustworthy, but they shouldn’t be denied.
When I struggle with my feelings, it helps to pray. There is One who knows the truth. He may be warning me. Or He may help me to see that my feelings come from another place and my current situation is okay. In the darkness, I look to Him and tell Him of my feelings. Then I can let Him shine His light into my life.
David said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” So don’t deny my feelings. They might be moving me closer to my Lord.
I feel what I feel.