Why me?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

What was there about me that attracted the narcissist?

What weakness or brokenness did he/she see in me?

What did I do wrong?

Is there a sign on my forehead saying, “Here I am, ruin my life”?

 

These are normal questions from those who have found themselves in narcissistic relationships. In the midst of their struggle, they want to know why the door was open in the first place. They want to know if they should blame themselves.

If you read the literature, you will find references to schemas and schema therapy. We all develop ways of handling life, particularly the parts that hurt us. Schemas are simply the categories of those coping methods. Some hide, some react in anger, some blame, some deny. These are ways of coping that we learned as we grew up. Some call them schemas or other psychological terms; in my counseling and teaching, I refer to them as “flesh patterns.”

But schemas and flesh patterns answer the wrong questions. They don’t really answer why the narcissist hit on you in the first place. They answer why you can’t seem to let go or why you still hurt or why you weren’t strong enough to kick him out. They might answer why you were so excited to let the narcissist into your life. But they don’t answer why you were targeted.

I suspect that some counselors would disagree with me on this. They are used to seeing people as walking schemas or flesh patterns. I don’t really think the narcissist cares about your schema. He/she will use it, exploit it, adapt to it—but it isn’t why he/she focused on you.

Narcissists are predators. They need to feed, to find their narcissistic supply. They will try to get it from anyone. They are willing to knock on a hundred doors in the hopes that one will open. They have developed techniques and characteristics that make them attractive to many kinds of people, bait designed to catch and hold potential victims. But they cast their bait to almost everyone.

Yes, there are some people who project something narcissists don’t like. Perhaps an assurance or a threat that causes the narcissist to stay away. But normal people are fair game. The bait is designed for normal people.

Of course, you can also project your weakness so that the abuser is particularly attracted. The young girl sitting alone at the mall crying on a bench is almost impossible for the abuser to resist. Some people do project their pain or loneliness to others. But that isn’t necessary for the narcissist to be interested.

Let’s suppose you grew up with the admonition to save money whenever possible. You regularly put extra change into a box when you were young. Then someone stole your box and your money was gone. You still believe that it is important to save money, so you build up a nice savings account at the bank. Then someone steals your identity and drains your savings account. Remembering your earlier experience, you might be tempted to say, “Why me? Do I have a weakness that these people see?”

The answer is simply that there are predators out there who will steal whatever they can get. They hit hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people and sometimes they get their pay-off. You might do things to prevent this and you might do things to invite it, but you probably are just a normal person who got hit.

There is no sign on your forehead inviting people to take advantage of you. There is no “kick me” sign on your back. The fact that the narcissist hit on you may have nothing to do with you. Predators hunt constantly and often get lucky.

Remember that some people grow up with narcissistic parents. What did the child do to become the victim? Nothing. The fault is in the narcissist. The narcissist finds people at work, at church, in organizations, and at home. It is normal for victims to feel responsible for their own situations, especially in narcissistic relationships. There may be nothing that you did wrong and no weakness that drew the narcissist to you. In fact, it may be your positive characteristics that attracted the narcissist. It may not have been any weakness, but a strength that drew him/her.

I write this with a certain amount of caution. My concern is for those who put themselves down because they fell into the control of the narcissist. It will be very helpful for you to look into the schemas or flesh patterns of your life as you try to deal with the relationship or its aftermath. But please don’t blame yourself for causing the problem that you have faced. The abuser is responsible for his or her own actions.

When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory answered, “Because it’s there!”

Why did the narcissist hit on you? Perhaps simply because you were there.

19 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

19 responses to “Why me?

  1. Rox

    My narcissist, before I knew there even was such a thing as NPD, told me that what drew him to me was that I was what he wanted to be. I thought it was a compliment. When I saw that he was trying to plant uncertainties in my mind, I didn’t take it seriously; I knew he was envious and insecure, and I tried to help him. When he took ideas, credit, letters, honors that were mine, I made excuses for him; how could he hurt someone who was trying so hard to help him, it must be a misunderstanding? I reasoned. Then, after 20 years of friendship, when he tried to abandon me but I abandoned him (with regret that I had “allowed” him to ruin our friendship), I realized that he’d spent two decades absorbing my best traits, portraying me as the insecure one, and trying to leave me the burned-out shell of a person that he was. Again, what attracted him? I had the life he thought should be his.

    • Jennie

      Yes, I noticed that with mine as well, Rox. I was who he wanted to be, so he married me to project that persona on others. I figured out much later that he had used my integrity, my good deeds and my passions as his by association. He was empty, but he used the reflection of “my cup” to fill himself.

    • Rox and Jennie,

      These are great comments! My primary concern in this post is for those who believe there was some failing or weakness in them that attracted the N. While N’s, like all predators, are certainly attracted to weakness, that may not have been the case and the victim shouldn’t blame herself. This is especially true for those who have been victims of N’s more than once. I could suggest, as Jennie says, that you study the issue and learn about narcs, but that still does not indicate weakness on the part of the victim.

      Besides that, we are all weak from time to time. If the N found you at a time of weakness, that’s nothing to be ashamed of or to blame yourself for.

      I really appreciate both of you pointing out that it may actually be your strengths the N desires. Because they are amazingly able to manipulate what others think about them, N’s are usually strong enough to cut through the defenses of strong people – when they want to. If the goal is worth enough, they can adapt to almost anyone.

      Sounds like a post on “life-theft” is in order. Thanks!

  2. Jennie

    In my group counselling sessions for those 3 1/2 years after I left my N, we always asked the same question. I found out that because of the broken relationships growing up, (my mom being the N in that case), I never learned to recognize “the signs” of those who wear narcissistic masks. My counselor used to tell us that our bullsh** meters were broken. 😛 False fronts were the norm growing up, and that combined with our own very giving natures, made us “weak prey” in the predators radar system. You are right though that they project these false fronts to the entire population though.

    If you can learn to recognize the difference between truthful personalities (people with honest integrity) and the personalities who rely upon changing their masks to fit the situation, you’ll be able to avoid getting entrapped by an N. There are some great books out there that help you recognize their techniques, People of the LIe, by M. Scott Peck comes to mind, but I’m sure I read a number of others as well.

    N’s are like a great dragnet, as you mentioned They cast their false fronts out there, and whomever gets trapped into the net, are their prey.

  3. Emily

    I grew up with a narcissistic parent. Recently in counseling I heard myself saying, ‘maybe my mom’s behavior had nothing to do with me.’. Ding, ding, ding. I was raised to believe that I was responsible for my mom’s happiness. And I take on this role with others. This really set me up for buying into the false reality of addicts and narcissists. It’s a crazy way of thinking. People make their own choices. I believe that it is Godly and loving to maintain my own personal emotional space and give others the opportunity to own their stuff.

    • Virginia

      Emily – I can so relate to your comment. I was also raised to be responsible for my mom’s happiness. And I definitely take on this role with others too. My husband commented to me last week that I am not very good at letting other people “swim their own laps” as if I can really swim them for them. And yet, that is what find myself gravitating towards in almost any situation where I am interacting with people who have gotten themselves into a bind. I believe that God is dealing with me on this issue and that, in a sense, I am getting in His way as He is working in people’s lives. In looking at narcissistic traits, it is hard to admit that I have some of them myself – such as grandiosity – seeing myself as a “savior” – someone who can come in and fix any situation. There is a certain element of pride in that way of thinking. I think that having a more humble view of myself, my capabilities and my responsibilities will help me to let other people “swim their own laps” and give me the freedom to allow God to help me swim mine! This is an interesting journey and I am learning a lot by reading the posts and comments on this website.

  4. …..ahhhhhhh deep breath,,,,,,,,,,

  5. (I just unapproved comments by “thenarcissistwrites” because I strongly suspect that the commenter is not being honest about who she/he is. I would discourage anyone from going to that blog. Not only does she/he not represent a narcissist’s perspective well, but many of the posts border on pornographic. I am not a prude, but I want this blog to be a safe place for those with questions. – Dave)

    • UnForsaken

      Um, I had suspected that. Thank you for the insight…..and also for this article, Pastor Dave.

      There have been times when I wondered why it seems as if Everyone I meet is like an N or has N traits. I eventually had to conclude that if the trouble isn’t me it is A. my N attracts them, or B. this area is full of them . I believe it is a combination of things . However, there Is hope. Once I figured out it would happen everywhere I go, I tried to think out tactics for dealing with them and making myself look less friendly and useful. It has worked to a point . I now Know my own N wouldn’t like me on sight if we weren’t related – only a benefit if I’m being ignored by him while dealing with other Ns! I don’t know why, but when I’m not cringing, it is an amusing irony. I’ve tried to look well because they hit on the weak, but that plays into his insinuating I’m perfectly O.K. and people believing what they see and want to believe. But you have to choose your battles, and while he feels he is winning, I am able to keep my self respect.

      Emily, to be raised with the belief we have to be our parent’s happiness is very real to me! Talk about having to smile all the time! But it wasn’t expected out of my brother, because they never thought much of his abilities/usefulness. I’ve noticed people fron traditional backgrounds also have a similar issue of expectation out of their girls, but Ns really seem to swallow this handy cultural tool. I had smiled automatically to please my parents before, but finding grief can take time and energy to overcome, I also found out why I had never thought of grief as permissable. I had to be Their good cheer. Eventually I was able to coach myself back into smiling, but long after I was happy inside again. We need to be responsive to what God is doing in our hearts and not forced into a behavior just because of outward expectations. Thank God !!! I’m so glad you have come to the conclusions you have and are making your own choices too!

  6. I’ve thought a lot about this. Did I do anything to attract him?
    I don’t think I did anything WRONG to draw him to me. I don’t think I would change anything about how I was then. I was just real, and I did happen to be in the path while he was looking.
    I am naturally optimistic about people, open, willing to engage. I like anyone until he or she gives me reason not to. I am empathetic (maybe a little too much so), and I am generally an energetic, vivacious personality.
    I think my N saw the energy and subconsciously thought he would harness it to fuel himself. I think he saw my confidence and vivaciousness and subconsciously thought that there was a lot of fuel to work with. He has admitted now that it gave him a sense of energy and a sense of existence to harm me, to see me cry, hurt, frightened, diminished at his hand. (Not at anyone else’s–because that would leave less of me for him to destroy.) He may be an N. He may be a sociopath. He shows signs of both. The thing is, though, I don’t think he consciously set out to do any of this to me. It’s just what naturally, automatically comes from him. He’s been in therapy for about 7 months now, and he knows he’s not right. He just can’t seem to do anything much about it. Deep in his core, he needs to hurt the one individual closest to him in order to feel alive.
    I see now that I contributed to how long it went on. I was committed to staying married. I wanted to be a submissive wife. I didn’t want to increase the problem, be the “contentious” woman. I set NO boundaries. I let him run right over me, over and over again.
    I should have called the police. I never did. I should have left him or made him leave me many, many times. I didn’t. At first, I just couldn’t believe it was real. Then I was ashamed of being such a bad judge of character. Then I was prideful about simply not wanting to be the one whose marriage didn’t work out. I thought if I worked harder, I could make him happy eventually–but that might work with rational people; not in this case. I worked so very hard to have a happy little family and marriage. I became a top-notch co-dependent.
    Nothing worked, though. Nothing but honesty. Calling it what it really is. I finally got church support, and they are fully behind me now. I am finally breaking free, and my sound mind is coming back. I couldn’t fix it. And I stayed too long trying. But that’s my story. N’s often somehow end up with co-dependents. They push and take and destroy, and co-dependents keep giving and managing and covering up for them. I am breaking that cycle now, though. Learning about boundaries; learning to trust God with the whole truth; giving up on people-pleasing.
    The truth is good enough.

    • UnForsaken

      Repol, I’m SOOO glad for you. It takes courage to mentally recover from codependancy, and time, but you can do it. He has a wonderful plan for you!

      The truth Is good enough, and painful but healing. The past is something we all would like to change – maybe esp. our own choices – but I believe God just wants us to hand Him the mess now, and He will give us a hope and a future. ( I speak from the viewpoint of someone who has mostly licked codependancy with His good grace, but have to really trust Him about physical dependancy and the future.) The stages of feeling you went through are right on. What I had to realize was that I wasn’t dealing with rational people – like you said! And I also needed to see that We have rational minds, instead of discounting every doubt. I am not a trusting person yet he still could manipulate my feelings, and that made me more blind to the people like him.

      Blessings as you seek the truth. I will continue to pray for you, Sister!

  7. Penny

    ah—“because it’s there”! Pastor Dave, this reminds me of the fable about the turtle and the scorpion: the scorpion convinces the turtle to give him a ride across the river (promising no harm), so the turtle eventually agrees b/c the scorpion promises it will be mutually beneficial; as they reach the other side the scorpion stings the turtle & as the turtle arrives wounded & dying, he asks “why did you do that, Scorpion? You promised you wouldn’t sting me!” and the scorpion replies “Because I am a scorpion”.

    Ns are scorpions: they will always lie & sting you, b/c you are there, and they are a a scorpion.

  8. Joy

    I think that is so true, that they use your best qualities against you. After LOTS of wondering what I did to attract him, I realize that what I did was be a nice, trusting, loyal, creative, loving person. I have my faults too, but he exploited my best traits….used them to get away with his narcissistic ways. A nice person will not suspect or catch on to narcissist behavior quickly because nice people don’t expect or imagine that someone could be so devious and selfish. Truly nice people are the ones who will stay and work on a relationship, give the narcissist the benefit of the doubt over and over, and try to love unconditionally. A nice person will look past the subtle but outrageous selfish behavior and tune into the good things the narcissist projects with his/her image making.

    Does that mean I shouldn’t be a nice person, a trusting person, a loving person? I’ve decided no…it just means that hopefully I can recognize the signs next time. My sister-in-law (we married narcissist brothers) and I have said often, “We could turn into suspicious, bossy, withholding people, but that is not us. It’s not who we really are. We don’t want to be more like the narcissist. We are nice people and we married people who use that to hurt us and feed themselves We want to stay nice.” For me, I decided to leave after a decades long marriage, when I finally figured out what was going on. She is still in her marriage, being a nice, loving person, working on her marriage, and hoping for a miracle, but realizing daily that the narcissist will most likely never allow that miracle….as he sees it things are working the way he likes it.

    • Rox

      I agree, Joy. I think we try to model “acceptable” behavior for our Ns, hoping they will see that they get better results from being good people rather than bad. But being a good person takes thinking about other people’s needs, wants, and goals, something the N can’t tolerate doing. I stayed in this friendship for 20 years, taking the increasing bad over the shrinking good. When he could not have cared less when my 6-year-old foster son was dying, I had to face facts: my N was a bad person who didn’t want to make the effort to be good, even in the face of a child’s demise.

    • Virginia

      Joy – I really like your perspective. As I have prayed about my difficult relationship, the phrase “have high boundaries and a soft heart” has come to my mind. Allowing my heart to become hardened as a result of getting hurt will only hurt me in the long run.

  9. bex

    I wanted to cry with relief when I read this post. Since leaving my controlling boyfriend (who I didn’t realise was narcissistic until AFTER the break-up), I’ve been feeling so alone and gullible for not recognising the signs of emotional abuse, etc. Now I can see that I should stop blaming myself. Thank you for writing.

  10. I left a marriage of 38 years to be with my soulmate, later to find out she is a narcissist who sucked me and my parents into her sphere of influence with love bombing and smoke and mirrors. Now I am facing a second divorce, from the narcissist, in four years. My soul feels like it has been placed on a meat slicer and sliced into thin slices until nothing is left. My first wife is dating a missionary and I am happy for her. But I feel so alone. I loved the narc wife so much, she has dumped me for her career, which now gives her the supply she needs, and all her professional friends. I have lost my home and retirement account, my son and my respect in the church in the community. Yet I realize I was seriously depressed due to a pile of losses and hurts when she “found” me and soon declared us to be best friends. I often want to commit suicide because I am 62 and see no hope, only loneliness and shame. I am so afraid of another divorce and the loss and pain of it. I have gone no contact, but I know she will show up one day and I will try to re-connect believing she will give me a crumb of the love that I once had. My mind spins with all the lies she told me, the lack of empathy and her phony Christian persona.
    When I had nothing left to surrender to her control, she left me. Has been gone for a year but won’t sign divorce papers. I suppose I still supply her from time to time. I feel so alone, so wasted, so ashamed.

  11. Teresa Dexter

    Dear Carl
    Such a sad story. I left a Narcissistic type marriage after ,28 , years….am now alone at age ,72 ,after giving everything I had to make my marriage work. ..Yes it sucks…but you will recover and our Wonderful God will recycle your pain…these things are never wasted.
    You can now help others …do not despair.

    Tess

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