It’s Narcissist Friday!
A while ago I wrote a response to an email and suggested that a relationship with a narcissist is like a tattoo. I have always chuckled at the definition of a tattoo as “a permanent record of temporary insanity.” Some would describe their relationship with the narcissist in the same way.
Sometimes you don’t get to “just walk away.” Sometimes there are children involved. Sometimes a whole extended family revolves around a narcissist. And sometimes you feel so scarred that you just can’t seem to let it go. Like a bad tattoo, the narcissist continues to define you long after you learn the truth and decide to establish some distance.
There are, of course, processes to remove tattoos. They are usually painful and imperfect, but many try to take that route. Others just wear more clothing to try to hide what they now view as a bad decision. But both of these are ways to try to hide the past from others; they do little to change what the sufferer sees in the mirror and remembers.
Today it appears to be more effective to cover a bad tattoo with something new. There are good artists who can take what you have and make it into something beautiful, something that looks different and better even to you. Imagine that heart with his name transformed into a butterfly that just emerged from its cocoon. I understand that the ink from the new art actually blends with and transforms the old. In other words, done correctly, the new art really does overcome and remove the old.
I often get the question: “How can I move on?” The answer is to take the first steps. Begin to live a new life apart from the narcissist and the pain. You are not limited to that life. Even if there are things that tie you back to it, you can begin a transformation in your life that will allow you to become a different person—perhaps the person you used to be or the person you have always wanted to be. You still can make choices.
“But I will always remember.” No, not really. Not with the intensity you feel now, at least. Those memories will fade as new ones take their place. If you go back, you will probably be able to remember the pain. Even then it will be as though it happened to someone else, facts without the same feelings. The facts will still be there, much like the old tattoo, but those facts will no longer be the focus of your heart.
How does this work, in a practical sense? Make your new home yours and have fun decorating your way. Find new friends, new people in whom you can invest your life. Join new groups, get new hobbies, serve others in a new way. Go back to school or just take some classes. Change your hair or your style of clothing. Watch different television shows. Go to different movies. Read new books. Risk new relationships and projects. And everything new that you add to your life will blend with the old to give a new and more beautiful picture.
“But what if I stay or can’t really separate?” You can still begin to build a new life. It will be harder, but you will find health in making your own decisions and separating your need for affirmation from the person who will not give it. Take the definition of your life away from the narcissist. Choose how you will respond to him/her. Choose your own interests and goals. Ignore the criticisms and manipulation as best you can. No one has the right to define you except the Lord Himself.
Yes, the past is still part of you. It will never really go away. But you don’t have to see it and think about it all the time. Eventually, your new life will have memories of its own, more recent and more clear. The old tattoo will still be there, but you won’t see it. When you look in the mirror, you will see the decision you made to become something beautiful, something free.