It’s Narcissist Friday!
Don’t they ever die?
There I said it. I said it so you don’t have to. It seems like such a terrible thing to think, so hard to admit. So unloving, so unkind, so uncaring. But the thought comes anyway. And the narcissist just keeps going.
I would normally ignore statements like this when I hear them because I understand how people struggle against these feelings. But I have heard this one several times, particularly from people whose aging parent is a malignant narcissist. I have heard it from people stuck giving care to invalid or dying narcissists. In those special situations, where it is so difficult to walk away, people have to deal with their own negative emotions.
Please hear me: You are not a terrible person for thinking this or even for wishing it would happen. Anyone who carries a burden will wish for it to be lifted, and you carry a heavy burden. You get tired. It takes over your life. It is constantly negative. You are discouraged and depressed and worn out. The thoughts come even when you don’t want them.
I think it is normal for any caregiver or sufferer to wish that the burden was lifted. Even if the one you care for is not a narcissist, but a kind and grateful person. Part of the struggle after the death of someone you have cared for is the mixture of emotions. On one hand you are grieved that they have passed; on the other, you are relieved. As you heal, you will find that you are able to look forward in life again. The guilt that comes then is natural, but unnecessary. Being thankful that the burden is gone is a normal, but usually unspoken, part of grief.
Obviously, it is a whole different thing to take action that leads to a person’s death. I know I don’t have to say that here; and, yet, perhaps I do. Wishing a person would die and helping them die is not the same. Trust God for the timing, but allow yourself the dignity of real feelings in the struggle. The person of integrity accepts the negative thought and does what is right anyway.
So here’s the question: “Do narcissists live longer than others?” I suppose I should add, “or does it just seem longer?” Well, I have never heard of any study on that topic, nor do I expect one. I have heard of many narcissists who have lived into their nineties. I have known of narcissists who live well past the expectations of their doctors. Perhaps there is a longevity aspect to orneriness.
I do know that narcissists are particularly tenacious. They seem to be able to hang onto attitudes and situations longer than others. What they lack in commitment to relationships, they seem to have in commitment to goals and grudges. They tend to remember everything, at least everything they want to remember. They can put up with a great deal of negative to accomplish a plan. Perhaps they are also able to hang onto life longer than others.
There are corollaries to the “Don’t they ever die” question. The adulterous spouses who criticize and complain about the marriage: “Don’t they ever leave?” The co-worker or boss who hates the job and the rest of the employees and can’t seem to actually do the work: “Don’t they ever move on?” The church members or leaders who only criticize and undercut plans and projects or who never seem to get enough attention: “Don’t they ever find another church?” We long for the day when these folks choose to get out of our lives. I suspect that those situations that are about relationships are just that much easier for the narcissists to leave than those that are about the image.
And the more we long for that day, the longer it seems to take. Narcissists I thought would move through leadership positions quickly have often stayed much longer than I expected. But maybe it seemed longer because I was watching and waiting. If you dread going to work every morning and long for the day the narcissist retires or finds a new job, you will probably feel like you wait a long time. If you hate for the phone to ring with another word of criticism or complaint or expectation, then it will seem like the phone rings way too often. We set ourselves up for the negative feelings by focusing on the pain.
Now, I am not saying that you should just ignore the struggle and be happy. What I am saying is that you must not allow your life to revolve around the negative relationship or circumstances. The more you wish your parent would die, the longer he/she will live. That’s not true, of course, but it will seem that way. So acknowledge the feelings and move forward with your life. Focus on the things that make you happy. If you are a caregiver, carve out some time for yourself. The only price you will pay is more complaining, but you will get that anyway. Just tell yourself that you are worth it.
Negative thoughts are part of life. Embrace them and move toward the positive. When you find yourself wishing the narcissist would just die, understand that you are struggling under a burden and it is natural for you to want out. Then just do the next right thing—which might be to take a break, or a walk, or a bath. Pray for yourself, but don’t be ashamed of your feelings. Just use them to know yourself and your needs a little better.
I have found that God does not usually take troubling people out of my life. No matter how much I blamed them for my problems and my pain, God seemed to leave them in place. No amount of good reasoning (and I had some great arguments) was enough to get Him to remove them. And, every time, I have grown from the struggle. I have learned more of how to find good in a situation or to look past what I saw as an obstacle. I have found a great deal of peace even when the situation hasn’t changed. Little by little, I am learning to trust Him. But listen: He doesn’t scold me or shame me for asking. He understands my pain and desire. He just knows better than I do what is good for me.
As always, we understand that situations are different. Sometimes you can move on, distance yourself from the narcissist and the pain. Sometimes you can’t. When you can’t, you have to find ways to affirm and care for yourself. Let your negative feelings, especially the strong ones, tell you that you need a break. To put it bluntly: when you find yourself wishing grandma would just die, call a friend and go out for a cup of coffee or find a hiding place and read a good book for a while. Give yourself something special. Don’t beat yourself up. You probably just need a break.
A BONUS TIP:
I want to say something about the telephone. I have needed to take a lesson from my kids on this. My kids might be odd in this world, but they can sit right next to a ringing phone without answering it. That’s not the way I was raised. We would run across the yard to get to the house before the phone stopped ringing. But today we have caller ID and answering systems. If the call comes at an inconvenient time, we can know who called and what they wanted. Then we can call them back at our convenience.
Here’s what I have told many people: Let the phone ring! If it is your narcissist on the other end, you don’t have to jump or scramble. Turn on the television and find the remote, get a cup of coffee, sit down in your most relaxing chair, and then call the narcissist back when you are ready. One more thing: When you are finished, hang up. If you need to make up an excuse, have it ready before you call. Put a loud teapot on the stove. Have someone call you. Walk over and push the doorbell. You don’t have to lie, just say that you have to go.
Someone is thinking: But what if it is an emergency? Has it ever been a real emergency? Every situation is an emergency in the mind of the narcissist. Every situation demands that you (not they) jump to action. Think it through. Most of the time you know what they are calling about. Besides, you can listen to the message as they leave it.
Neither the telephone nor the narcissist is in charge of your life.