It’s Narcissist Friday!
Suddenly, you are walking a new path. Life isn’t the same as it was recently. It sure isn’t the same as it was a long time ago. The path you are on now is different, new, and exciting. With that excitement comes a little anxiety, but that’s okay. You know that others have taken this path, but every step is new to you. Thinking back over some of the wrong decisions and the betrayals you have suffered, a certain amount of anxiety is understandable. In fact, it might help keep you safe.
Apparently only one or a very few ancient maps actually used the words: “hic sunt dracones.” “Here be dragons,” or “there be dragons here.” It’s a phrase that became popular to describe dangers on the way, whether in a project or a relationship or a journey. Consider it a little stronger than “Watch Your Step.”
Every new path has pitfalls. Every old path had pitfalls, but you learned to navigate them. It may have been from watching others or it may have been from your own experience, but you could walk the old path in your sleep. It was easier because it was familiar. This new path is different.
When the new path is navigating through relationships and life without the narcissist or the narcissistic system, many things will be different. You see relationships differently. Who do you trust? You see options differently. What will be good for you, and what will hurt you? And you see yourself differently. Have you healed enough or learned enough to be safe on this new path? Much is uncertain.
The only thing that is certain is that you are on that new path. You don’t want to go back. You know you have to move forward. Whatever that means—new job, new friends, new home, new attitude—you have to keep going. Risk is part of the process, and you are ready. You hope.
It would be nice if someone helped a little, though. Maybe some red flags. Maybe some kind warnings. Maybe a note that says, “There be Dragons Here.” It would be nice to know about the dragons.
I have seen too many people get lost on the new path. By the time they realize they have stumbled or wandered, they have hurt themselves and others. They have become something they never wanted to be. They have done things they have never wanted to do. And they have connected with even more people who have used and misled them.
As an example, it is not uncommon for those who leave an abusive relationship to stumble into another. Some become promiscuous, allowing themselves to be used or even using others in the hopes of finding salve for their hearts. And, afterward, they feel even worse.
We probably don’t talk enough about PTSD as a normal consequence of narcissistic relationships. I don’t consider myself a psychological professional, so I try not to get into the more complicated after-effects of this very real trauma. Instead, I can only offer whatever perspectives I have gathered as I have walked this path with so many over the years. I also want to offer a word or two of encouragement along the way. The long term abuse of a narcissistic relationship can open the door to unforeseen dangers on the new path. I want to talk about a few of these dangers I have seen.
But, in this post, I simply want to say that mistakes are part of the journey. The path is new. The stumbling blocks do surprise you. There is no shame in having fallen a time or two. I have had the opportunity to correspond with several people who have been in multiple narcissistic relationships. These people have doubted themselves and any hope for happiness in the future. Listen: it happens, and it happens a lot. But there is always hope.
Narcissistic people and systems are both charming and deceptive. Falling into another after getting out of one is common, no matter how much it hurts. Don’t beat yourself up! Don’t listen to others who are trying to beat you up. Your goal is to get back on the path to health and a new life. And keep your eyes open.
If you have fallen into any of these holes on the new path, if you have wandered because of the distractions, if you have found yourself becoming someone unfamiliar and undesirable, don’t despair. Again, it happens. Probably to everyone. You can make changes.
Nothing I will say in the coming weeks should bring shame or guilt to any reader. One of the blessings of this kind of communication is that I only know a handful of people who read here. There is no way for me to be referencing you or your situation. You remain anonymous no matter how much it sounds like I am telling your story. And I welcome you to disagree with me, shout at me, call me names, or whatever you need to do. You may also see pitfalls I have missed. No two paths are the same. I have collected a lot of stories, but probably not yours. And your cautions might help someone else. So please feel free to comment.
Next week: Scorching the Earth – avoiding the dragons by burning it all