It’s Narcissist Friday!
The new land offers rest. During your fight with the dragon, the danger seemed to be everywhere. Now, you are tired, so tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of having to jump at every sound and word. Tired of chasing and hiding and crying and flinching and arguing and apologizing and all the rest.
And when the offer comes to trade freedom for comfort, that comfort looks so good. It feels good to let someone else make the decisions, reason through the questions, and run interference with the world. Because the cage has a warm bed and three meals a day, it doesn’t feel so bad.
Every once in a while I get an email from someone who is a caregiver for a narcissist. It is hard to imagine a more difficult position! Because narcissists usually try to attach to someone who is kind and empathic, these caregivers can be quite conflicted. On one hand, they see the struggle the hurting person is going through, and they want to have compassion. On the other hand, in a far more secret place of the heart, they look forward to the day the narcissist either dies or has to go somewhere else. There is no judgment here. The rest of us can only imagine the daily pain.
That’s just one draining narcissistic relationship. Perhaps one of the worst, but all of them are wearing. When the narcissistic relationship is finally over, however it ends, many victims are exhausted and hurting. Some have picked up very real health issues along the way, directly or indirectly from the stress of the relationship. Their primary need is rest.
Several times I have heard stories of kind and generous people who offer support for victims of narcissistic and abusive relationships but tie strings to their kindness. Even those who are ready to avoid or battle the dragon in the form of another narcissistic lover or friend may find themselves deceived by those who “just want to help.”
As in almost all adult narcissistic relationships, the beginning is wonderful. Not just good, but wonderful. The people are so friendly, so welcoming, so charming. They listen; they care; they truly want to help. Most of them offer practical help. A truck for moving, a place to stay, money for rent or food, child care, clothing, and on and on. Many people come out of narcissistic relationships with real needs.
There are people and organizations who will help with those needs. Some of them are willing to help a lot. Some of them honestly care. But some help you to help themselves.
Not all narcissists are loud and cruel and abusive. At least not at first. Some see helping you as a way to further their own goals. Sometimes you are a number to add to their “kindness count.” When they help you, they tell others and use your story to raise more money. You are important to them, but not in the way you think. You make them look good. They will care for your needs as long as you do what they need.
This is true for both organizations and for individuals. I have known “helpers” who generously take on victims as projects. They see these victims as a way to show their own superior spirituality. They give real help, but insert their own teachings or expectations. They have an agenda, and you are helping them achieve it.
Now, I am not talking about the helper husband who expects special favors from the single woman he and his wife have allowed to stay in their guest room. That type of re-victimization does happen, but is not subtle. No, I am thinking more of the couple who expect their guest to become part of their church and submit to hovering oversight. Those who want to control someone under the pretense of caring.
When you give up your freedom for the sake of protection and comfort, you might find yourself in a cage of expectations. You might discover that the generous provision that seemed to come so freely has strings to a type of submission you never expected.
So, how do you protect yourself from this? How do you avoid these subtle representatives of the dragon, especially when you really do need help?
First, I have to say that you might not be able to avoid them. These relationships are predatory. You are vulnerable, and they need you that way. They look for victims, and you look for help. If you get tricked into this kind of relationship, don’t blame yourself.
On the other hand, there are some things you can do. First, recognize that you have needs that open you to being used. That should put you on your guard. Knowing that the predators are out there should make you more careful. And, watch for red flags. Don’t be afraid to ask why someone is willing to help you. Ask if there are strings attached. You might be surprised at how bold some of the narcissistic helpers are. Some will tell you up front that they will expect you to be grateful or to let them manage your life. Certainly, if you see expectations tied to the help, you should watch for an exit.
In general, narcissists want information. In the early days of almost all narcissistic intimate relationships, the abuser appears to be a great listener. If you find that a helper wants information, especially personal information, be alert. I have found that many “Christian helpers” have a great desire to hear the sordid details of abuse. If their questions lead you into uncomfortable areas or if you notice that they become angry when you stop sharing, you might be with these wrong helpers. If an organization needs a lot of information about you, don’t hesitate to ask why or to deny the requests. Do they need your phone number or address or age or the name of your ex? Why? Are you comfortable with them having that information?
Watch for the signs of narcissism that you have learned. These helpers might want to separate you from other support. They might find subtle ways to make you feel like the abuse was your fault. You may experience gaslighting, projection, lying, and other things that you saw in the narcissistic relationship you left.
One more thing. If you are in what we could call “a manipulative helping relationship,” it’s okay to get out. The conflict you feel between your obligation to be thankful and your need to get out from under the control is exactly what has been planted to keep you in line. If you can’t leave, you are not free. Say thanks for all the help and mean it. Then leave.
Even when you are tired and hurting, you have to be in control. Giving up that control for comfort is not the answer. My advice is to always enter this kind of relationship with an exit strategy. You don’t have to be unkind or cold, but you have to stay alert. If someone offers you a place to stay, continue to watch for another place. If someone offers you a job, keep looking for another job. Having a way out will help you feel free and give you options the abusers would not want you to have.
It’s ready! Listed on Amazon!
Those who read here know that I believe the greatest expression of God’s grace is found in Jesus. So, when Jesus taught the people, what do you suppose He wanted them to understand? He wanted them to know the power and the desire of the love of God for them. His message was not about what they should do for God, but what God had done and was willing to do for them. His offer of salvation and Heaven could be summarized in two words: “Follow Me!”
The Sermon on the Mount is an amazing message of God’s practical grace for the lives of His people. It presents an offer, a free gift, of everything God wants His people to have. It all is found in Jesus.
This is a big book, over 450 pages, all for the purpose of showing that the Sermon on the Mount was a message of love. Rather than a list of new rules given by Jesus, the Sermon reveals the heart of God.
This is not a Bible commentary. It is written in the same conversational style you know from this blog. The theology may be deep, but the reading is straightforward and simple. I believe you will enjoy this book!
Listen: get the ebook if you have a Kindle. It’s only $10. My guess is that this is the best $10 book you will get for your Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you should be able to read it on any computer or tablet or even phone with the Kindle app. And, if it doesn’t work for you, just send it back!
The book is a chunk, but the print is clear and large enough to enjoy. The cover photo is one I took from a boat on the Sea of Galilee to show the approximate place the Sermon was delivered.
And let me know what you think! Leave a review for others. Reviews are important for Amazon sales. Send me a note with your thoughts or questions. You know how to reach me.
While you are on Amazon, type in my name to see the other books I have listed. You might be surprised!