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.