So, *can* a narcissist love?

This is the first post in an ongoing series. At the moment I have no idea how things will pan out, but I’ll try to document my progress as honestly as possible, whatever the outcome might be.

Three or four years ago I fell in love. I still am. And it’s probably been the most disturbing, distressing experience in my life. Let me tell you more.

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I’ve been here before.

I’ve been in love before, of course. More often than I’d care to admit – in many ways, you could cite me as the poster boy for the ‘Romantic Narcissist’. I touched on the subject before:

Again and again. I meet someone, I think “This time, this is it. My soulmate. The love that will never fade, never change, an endless idyllic succession of first days”. And for a while – a month, three months, perhaps a little more, it seems that it is. My partner is caught up in a starry-eyed honeymoon of lovebombing – and we’re generally very good at creating the impression of the One True Love – until reality reasserts itself.

I don’t usually approve of what The Internet says about us, but this writer has got me more or less bang to rights. OK, she’s not writing about self-aware narcissists, and she’s definitely not writing from the narcissist’s PoV (who does? Me, that’s about it. Tudor and Vaknin are self-promoting dicks), but she seems to have a basic idea of what’s going on.

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Messrs Tudor & Vaknin

Greenberg is writing for the “Why did he love me and leave me?” crowd, but some of us stay. It shouldn’t be that surprising – however oddly we function, people with Cluster B personality disorders are still people, and we have both the need for love and the capacity to love. Our capacity to love is probably not at all what most – neurotypical – people would either understand or sympathise with, but we can and we do. We want our relationships to work out, and we’re generally nonplussed when they don’t (I’m speaking for the emotive PDs here. Others are more likely to shrug it off. But there’s still a sense of “Now I wonder where that went wrong?”).

Greenberg gives two kinds of rationalisation Romantic Narcissists use to justify why their relationships don’t follow the narrative script:

You aren’t who they thought you were: This explanation allows them to relieve themselves of any blame.  It is your fault that things did not work out, not their inability to stay committed. Now that the Narcissist knows you well enough to see your flaws (and in a Narcissist’s mind, to be flawed is to be worthless) there is no point staying with you. The truth is that they were never actually in love with you; what they were in love with was the idea of being part of a perfect couple that everyone envied.  The emphasis here is on “perfect.”

Yours is a doomed and tragic love: The relationship did not work out because tragically it was doomed from the start by forces beyond the two lovers’ control.   This version of why they are leaving is based on all the romantic and doomed lovers of literature and cinema. Think of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or Allie and Noah in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. This appeals to a Romantic Narcissist because he gets to be as romantic and sentimental about the two of you as he likes, but does not ever have to subject this love to the real tests of everyday life.  The lovers in his fantasy are always tragically parted before anyone has to buy the toilet paper.

Of course, in long-term relationships things aren’t so cut-and-dried. In my experience, both rationalisations work in parallel: the relationship was doomed by forces beyond our control, and we never overcame the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune because you didn’t cut the mustard. So, in my case, the result was usually a six month honeymoon period followed by N years of bitterly regretting the ‘foundational myth’ and obsessively brooding on why my partner refused to return to the conditions of our glorious early days. A permanent low-level dissatisfaction I palliated with the liberal application of various psychotropes (women come and go, talking – or not – of Michelangelo, but mescalin is forever). With hindsight, I realise that what was actually going on was that my partner was merely asserting her individuality as a person rather than happily accepting her role as a cardboard cutout in my (admittedly perfect) romance.

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My exes, as I remember them.

So, this pattern repeated itself for more decades, and through more broken relationships, than I care to admit to in a public forum. And then I met Anastasia;

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Anastasia, in all Her Eldritch Glory.

Anastasia is devastatingly intelligent, charming, witty, self-confident, sexy etc. etc. She’s also not-at-all neurotypical, and therefore entirely unwilling to play along with my bullshit. She fell for me because – well, if you know me, you’ll know why: at first glance, I too am devastatingly intelligent, charming, witty and so forth. So, she fell for me, decided she wanted me for herself, and set out to get me. And when she did, she found that what she’d got wasn’t what it said on the box. I do have qualities as a person, and even as a narc (I can be intoxicating when I’m on a roll), but as soon as I believe myself to be in a relationship the Romantic Narc takes over and I lose sight of the actual person.

But, as I said, Anastasia is Different. From the first moment of my Badger-is-In-Love she was WTF with a vengeance. She was immune to lovebombing, she didn’t buy the trappings of starry-eyed soulmates, she treated my impassioned declarations with a kind of bemused amazement and, all in all, refused to play her role in the romantic comedy I had so painstakingly written for her. The tried-and-tested techniques just didn’t work.

I was, not to put too fine a point on it, gobsmacked. I, the Great Badger, the Most Glorious Being she had ever encountered, was not having the expected effect. She was supposed to be entirely hypnotised by the realisation that the thirty-odd years of her sad, grey, pre-Badger existence had been merely a matter of hanging around in the wings, awaiting her cue and the moment of her Apotheosis. She, on the other hand, saw me as  human being – unique, perhaps, but unique-as-a-person, not unique as the Fountainhead Of All Cosmic Glory. She was glad enough to find me – as I say, I do have some pretty awesome qualities – but she certainly hadn’t been sitting at the window, sadly and forlornly awaiting me. She wanted me for what I was – or rather, for what I seemed to be.

Now, asking a narcissist to be what he seems to be is a bit like asking a mirror to reflect itself. Anastasia is the kind of person who gets those she’s in contact with to open up. And so, in all innocence, she did it with me:

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oops…

For my part, I’d never even tried to open up before. Being a narcissist is largely a matter of keeping the howling void of selfconscious self-loathing firmly hidden. And the deeper she dug, the louder the howling. At the same time, she was immune to the various tools of narcissistic self-preservation – gaslighting, projection, emotional manipulation, reality-bending. So, not only was I unable to top up my leaky self-esteem with the adoration I read in her eyes – I also found myself in the previously-unknown situation of being unable to dictate the image of me she was supposed to have. In other words, I was powerless.

And then something strange happened. I was unable to cast her in the role of being-loved-by-Badger, and I was incapable of twisting her needs and requirements into blasphemous acts of Badger-denial. I began to see her for what she is (or rather, to see what she wasn’t, and apprehend the general contours of the phase-space of what she is capable of being, as the particular form of her neurodiversity tends towards illimitable versatility). For the first time in my life, I was trapped into caring for someone who was a person in their own right, and not merely a projection of Badger. And I did – and do – care. For her, not for what she should be. In every other long-term relationship I’d had, it had been a matter of holding onto being-in-love with a Badger-loving-variable as a palliative for having to put up with a real person (helped with liberal applications of various pharmaceuticals). Now I was slowly and painfully learning to love that real person, with all her strengths and…um…different strengths. I still am. Changing a narcissist is a long, slow process.

The results are, as far as pre-Anastasia Badger is concerned, devastating. If this post has any value at all to anyone other than myself, it lies in laying out as honestly as possible what loving someone means to a narcissist. It’s painful for the narcissist himself, it’s no picnic for the loved one, and – if you’re not already in it – I honestly can’t say that I’d recommend it. If things don’t go as expected, I have to question my expectations, not her behaviour. Being-in-love is a heady drug; loving someone is a constant requirement to strive towards being better than myself. And I’m not at all good at it. By not-being-Badger, she frequently challenges the shrivelled core of my being, which leads inexorably to the various nasty little tricks of narcissistic ego-defence. I still have a depressingly recurrent tendency of melting down whenever I feel challenged – it’s getting better, the three-hour crazies aren’t quite so commonplace, but there are still sudden explosions. And at the moment the most difficult thing of all, the thing that keeps me awake at night, is the requirement for honesty. I have decided just to stop lying. Big lies, little lies – from now on, the watchword is zero lies.

So, I’m setting myself a challenge. Not so much to become ‘a better person’, though being a better person will be an immediate result. The challenge is rather forcing myself to behave in accordance with loving someone, and recording my progress here, for all to see. It’ll give me something to live up to, a promise made not to another, but to myself.

Let’s get this show on the road…

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We’ll see. I promise to be honest…

 

 

 

 

Cougars and Hedges and Cards, Oh My!

I wrote some time ago about my ignominious yet characteristically cool departure from London. So, once I’d returned to my oxymoronically natal birthplace I was faced with a question all idle young men of good family must, at some time, address: how the hell was I going to live? My professional life up to that point had been more a matter of breach than observance and I was, not to put too fine a point upon it, up shit creek without a paddle.

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A notorious Devonian beautyspot.

So, as I was saying, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of bugger all, must be in want of a job. I signed up at the local Job Centre, but as my abilities as a boilermaker’s nut-polisher’s mate were – to say the least – scanty, I soon realised that I would have to find something more original.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, while in London I had got into a bad habit of hanging round Festivals of Mind, Body, and Spirit and, being an intelligent and enterprising young chap with an insatiable desire to amaze and impress his friends, I’d picked up the rudiments of tarot-reading and astrology. Many were the evenings when we’d draw our chairs closer to the log fire, light up our pipes & bongs, and draw the cards or plot astral charts for a bit of a laugh. As I knew my friends inside out (read “as I’d turned my friends inside out”), the results generally mixed rude accuracy with ribald hilarity, though on those occasions when some stranger joined our happy band, I was surprised to see how my native ability to read people and my skill at asking disguised leading questions gave me a certain aura of Mystical Oojamaflippery.  Whether or not I could monetise such things remained to be seen but, being as I said an enterprising mutha, I decided to give it a whirl.

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You will soon have money. And, for some reason, apples.

Practice makes perfidy, and I was soon raking in the old spondoolicks at the various country fairs, tea parties, and opium dens that so characterise Dear Old Devon. Indeed, I was so successful that I was offered the possibility of doing readings in the back room of an occult jeweller’s run by some friends of mine, an older hippy couple whose general niceness was only surpassed by their ability to believe any old codswallop as long as it was heavily laced with meretricious mysticism. As I say, despite their advanced age (they were at least 35), Susie and Dan were as nice a couple as one could wish to nominate for a Dunmow flitch.

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Susie and Dan, Dunmow, 1980.

During the summer and autumn of that year we became good friends, and at the beginning of December they invited me to dine on nuts and seeds at their home, a charming cottage in one of those little valley-locked villages that are so Devonian. As the frequency of transport services in such places start at fuck all and descend rapidly, they picked me up on Sunday evening – December 7th, as I recall – on the understanding that Susie would take me with her when she went to work on Monday morning (Dan would leave earlier to open the shop). Anyway, abstraction made of their ludicrous beliefs, Susie and Dan were good company (especially when observed through a lysergic fog). We spent a pleasant evening, much of it taken with me demonstrating my latest idea (interpreting astral charts by a tarot reading based on the mystickal correspondence between the stars and the tarot), and went to bed quite late.

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I said “fog”, dammit.

I was woken the next morning with a cup of tea brought by a dressinggown-clad, tearful Susie. I sat up and asked what was wrong. Her underlip trembled. “They’ve shot John Lennon”. She placed the cup on the bedside table and sat on the bed; wrapped as I was in a mellow cinnamonscented afterglow, I placed my arm round her shoulder and hugged her, at what time she pressed herself against me and began sobbing. Now, I’ve never been one to cry over spilt rockstars – I didn’t even sniffle when Marc Bolan wrapped his yellow mini round an old oak tree – and so I was slightly taken aback by the intensity of her grief; I was even more nonplussed when she wriggled into the bed. Despite my somewhat inopportune nudity, I held her until the sobbing subsided and, after about ten minutes, she got up with an inexplicably wistful air and proposed breakfast. For some reason she seemed loath to leave the bedroom, but with numerous backward glances she finally reached the door, allowing me to pull on my shirt and trousers, shake out my tousled locks, and make my way downstairs for a somewhat subdued breakfast. We drove into town in near silence, and parted at the door of the shop. Oddly enough, she seemed unwilling for me to stop by and say hello to Dan so, as I had no readings booked for the day, I decided to go home. Thereafter, for some reason, my relations with them cooled and I ended up doing readings from a room lent by the Glastonbury Trust.

Around that time I had several other inexplicable run-ins with ladies who, to me, seemed old enough to be my grandma (I was 23 at the time). There was the 31-year-old who spent an entire evening cradling my head in her lap and stroking my hair, or the landlady of my local who invited me to do a reading while her husband was visiting the brewery and received me in what seemed to be woefully inadequate attire (she was 45 if she was a day). This strange state of affairs reached a head with the arrival of summer, when I decided to supplement my mystical income with a more prosaic hedge-and-lawn trimming business. I started off by working for a friend of the family. It was a warm summer and I was in minimal attire; for some reason, as I was working on the part of the hedge outside the garden, ladies would stop by regularly to offer me work. I wasn’t complaining – the New Age gypsy thing was getting a bit old hat, and at least I was out in the open air in my tie-dye singlet and cutoff jeans.

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A bit like that, but with henna. And shorts.

So, there I was doing various garden chores for ladies who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time either monitoring my progress from behind their curtains or plying me with tea and slices of seedcake and remarking on their too-absent husbands, loneliness, and general dissatisfaction with life. I of course took it that they were angling for free tarot readings and even did a few; the readings seemed fine but for some reason they always seemed a bit disappointed when I gathered up my cards, took my gardening pay, and left.

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Would you like another slice of seedcake, dear?

And then there was Monique. Monique was 34 and more French than I had previously encountered; she had a very big house, an Old English Sheepdog called Socks, a cool black Renault 5, and two sons by a recently-deceased husband. She first employed me to cut the hedges round her house, but then seemed to find an endless succession of odd-jobs for me and ended up being my main employer – I found myself spending frequent evenings at their house drinking wine and playing cards, and got to know them very well. Monique also had a Breton au-pair girl, with whom I had a short fling which ended when the whole family left to spend the summer in France. Before they left, Monique asked me to take care of Socks while they were away; as we shared a similar hairstyle, I had a great affinity with that dog.

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People couldn’t tell us apart.

As the summer drew to a close, Monique returned from her holiday. One day I got a phone call from her saying that she’d just arrived and asking me to bring Socks. When I arrived she told me that the boys were spending a few days with their grandparents and asked me whether I could get her a few groceries from town while she unpacked the car. So I went and did the shopping. When I got back I was surprised to find that she’d changed into a bikini of the kind of skimpy cut we English folk only saw in specialised magazines; I was even more surprised when she suggested that we play a game of chess on  a blanket on a secluded part of the lawn.

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Well, it’s not a bikini but you get what I mean.

Now, I play chess like a stick-insect plays the accordion but, amazingly, I won. Three games in a row. It was getting late, and I said I ought to be getting home. Monique looked at me, shook her head sadly and, for the first time in my life I heard the now-familiar remark that she’d never met anyone who seemed at one and the same time so intelligent and so dumb. I of course put on my patent “But what on Earth do you mean?” face and so she showed me. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a revelation.

Our idyll was short-lived. She had a more-or-less full time boyfriend of her own age who gave her free seafood; I didn’t find it too hard to understand why she should prefer some rich guy who gave her crabs. But she certainly widened my horizons.

On the Fictional Reality of Worlds

I studied philosophy. That’s the only excuse I’m giving for the following. Anyway, it’s Bloomsday today.

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What am I? What is time? Is it time for lunch? BOOBS!!!

The late & much regretted Terry Pratchett had a knack for developing pretty cool ideas in a humorous & lighthearted way (unlike most philosophers, who develop tedious ideas tediously. Bear this in mind, Mr Badger). One of the most influential has been the notion of Narrativium, which was introduced more or less from the start of his Discworld books and found full development in the Science of Discworld series written with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. Narrativium is the element that ensures the correct functioning of narrative causality – that is, the hypothesis that events follow a certain course because that’s what the story requires. This is, of course, not at all true of the universe in which humanity has evolved but, with some notable exceptions, it’s certainly the universe most human beings inhabit.

What is narrativium? Well, I’ll let The Man answer for himself:

Our minds make stories, and stories make our minds. Each culture’s Make-a-Human kit is built from stories, and maintained by stories. A story can be a rule for living according to one’s culture, a useful survival trick, a clue to the grandeur of the universe, or a mental hypothesis about what might happen if we pursue a particular course. Stories map out the phase space of existence.

~Science of Discworld II

Narrativium is powerful stuff. We have always had a drive to paint stories on to the Universe. When humans first looked at the stars, which are great flaming suns an unimaginable distance away, they saw in amongst them giant bulls, dragons, and local heroes. This human trait doesn’t affect what the rules say — not much, anyway — but it does determine which rules we are willing to contemplate in the first place. Moreover, the rules of the universe have to be able to produce everything that we humans observe, which introduce a kind of narrative imperative into science, too. Humans think in stories….

~Science of Discworld I

In Discworld narrativium ensures that, for instance, if a boy goes on a quest that has previously claimed the lives of his two older brothers, he cannot possibly fail. And that million-to-one chances come up nine times out of ten. In other words, events know how to unfold because the story tells them.

In Roundworld – that is, the world of chunks of ice & rock, balls of fire, and tedious physical laws our bodies inhabit  – events don’t know what to do at all. They seemingly unfold in accordance with said “physical laws”, and don’t give a one-eyed fart for what we think should happen. Roundworld has objective reality – that is, we like to think that the universe would continue to wobble along whether or not we are there to observe it.

But, as Pratchett et al remark, even the physical laws we choose in order to explain our universe are determined by our particular, human perspective – our bodies might exist on Roundworld, but our minds generally inhabit something more like Discworld. We cut the universe up into sequences of discrete events, and generally impose “beginnings” and “endings” on these sequences (indeed, there’s a current of philosophical thought that holds that events are nothing but beginnings, endings, and changes). Even causation, that stalking horse of empirical observation, is ambiguous: do we describe events as linked in causal chains because that is the way the universe functions, or do we impose causal chains on the universe because that is the way our narrative imperatives function? Humans think in stories…

Narrativium shapes our understanding of even the most basic of “objective” physical realities. The cup broke ‘because’ it fell and hit the floor. The volcano erupted ‘because’ the magma pressure grew too high. We can say that such stories “carve the world at the joints”, but then this is a metanarrative – a story about how stories work. The pragmatic value of such tales is self-evident (“put the cup somewhere safe”, “stay the fuck away from volcanoes”), but their metaphysical value remains dubious. Do our ways of talking about the world reflect the way the world is, or do they impose structure on the world? There’s probably no point in asking (a point Wittgenstein made), though the narrative imperative of ‘being human’ means that we still tend to ask (a point Wittgenstein also made).

Setting aside metaphysical or ontological issues, our apprehension of the world – that is, the stories we tell about the world – are generally positioned on a kind of continuum, stretching from the ‘objective’ to the ‘subjective’:

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This is reality. It’s small. Suck it up, bitches.

As narration is a linguistic activity, there are evident grammatical bases to such a view: the world is the realm of the object; the self, the realm of the subject. The upper line in my diagram is, of course, what we say about the world when we’re doing science, psychology, sadomasochistic origami, or the washing up. There is a real world, of which I am a part, and there’s a fucking end ont’. The lower line is slightly more philosophical: our shared descriptions of ‘reality’ break down the closer we get either to “the real physical world” (just think quantum mechanics) or to our private experience (just think beetles in boxes). All everyday human experience – one could say, all shared human experience of any kind – takes place on the lower continuum.

If we take my diagram to the letter (as we should do – I’m brilliant), then the implication is that all human reality is social reality. But this is only trivially the case: whatever we say about things, we say; and whatever we have to say is determined by and polluted with language (“the ineluctable mode of the linguistic”). Going beyond this is, to my eyes, one big fuckin’ error, but just about everyone makes it. People really do hold desperately on to the idea that there is some extralinguistic reality that they can actually meaningfully talk about (just think about it a second. See what I mean? Sheesh, people…).

Anyway (it’s taken me God knows how many lines to get to the point – but fear not, Gentle Reader, the point has been reached), we share a certain number of stories about the physical world: generally speaking, those who diverge on things like gravity, the inflammatory properties of fire, and the toxic properties of certain substances aren’t going to last very long so those narratives tend to get weeded out (a caveat should be made for religion, which tends to deny certain physical realities and show toxic properties, but human beings are pretty damn’ thick at times). However, the kinds of story we tell ourselves and others to make sense of our individual and social lives tend to vary according to the kind of person in question.

The vast majority of people – those we can designate as “neurotypical” – tend to adopt whatever generally-accepted narrative is … er …. generally accepted in their particular social milieu (if we want to be posh, we can say that their reality is sociolectal). Hence, of course, everything from history to fairytales to the kinds of series we watch on Netflix. Their lives are shaped, measured, and punctuated by stories. Big things like “falling in love” or “having kids” or “choosing a career”. Little things like “not being late for work” or “not shocking the neighbours” or “being seen as a respectable person”. Shit things like “destiny” and “karma”. As Pratchett et al remark, you can get on really well with your boss yet be stressed out about being late for work because of the narrative imperative of “the person who was fired for being late”.

Such stories ensure social cohesion and social conformity. And we should make no mistake: for such people, the rules and precepts of social life constitute a reality – and, for most of them, this is more real even than the physical reality around them (ever wondered why people believe such stupid things? It’s because the stories tell them to…). If one hangs around certain kinds of chat servers, one gets used to seeing folk bitching over the stupidity of those who take things like social and emotional norms as having real value. This is why: it’s because the only stories they have access to dictate that they take such things as having real value. Just go on The Internet and look up just about anything, and you’ll find that the vast majority of remarks and comments are determined by groupthink, by collective stories about how the world is and how it should be..

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Thoughts and prayers.

And of course, these shared stories also determine how such people think of themselves, how they make sense of their own, subjective realities. In other words, shared narrative conventions determine the kinds of story they’ll tell about themselves and about their own lives. Such stories are clearly individuated – they have a clear beginning and a clear end – and their internal cohesion and external sequence are determined by identifiable causal explanations (“John left his wife and then went to live with his mistress; he left his wife because she was cheating on him with a donkey”).  Most of all, they provide socially-sanctioned justification for action: “John’s with Mary now because his ex-wife was the kind of socially-degenerate bitch who has sex with donkeys and all his friends think it was the only reasonable thing to do – and of course I agree because I’m normal”. And then there are those judgemental souls who will point out that sucking off a donkey is wrong because it’s non-consensual and anyway they’re vegans, and they too will find a subset of ‘normal people’ who will nod their heads wisely and agree with them.

Normal people like normal stories, incidents that have internal consistency and episodic value in the overarching ‘story of their lives’. But what of those who have a less normative or conventional way of seeing the world – what kinds of story do they tell about the world and their place in it? I’ve recently been following a number of blogs by folk who have – to take the neuroconventional narrative for an instant – “personality disorders” (yes, I do read myself; but there are others).

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Starting with the Me (of course. I am the Source of All That Is, the One-In-All and All-In-One). Narcissists tell very very compelling stories about their lives. If there were a style particular to all narcissists, it would be a stream-of-consciousness in which external events and actors are invariably bent to the service of an ongoing and intensely dramatic first-person narrative. It is all about “me” in a way that makes the narrator the patient of his own life – narcissists are grammatically and psychologically passive folk to whom things “happen”, including the things they do themselves. A narcissist’s life is to him a grandiose story in which every event tends inescapably towards some remarkable, unique dénouement (yes, we are well aware we’re going to die. We’re OK with that as long as it’s grandiose and dramatically satisfying, like being eaten by tigers while crashlanding on Mars. Or funny, like dying on the pooper in Harrods). To a narcissist, everything has meaning, and that meaning ineluctably tends towards the moment in which His Glory will be Revealed.

The Others – sociopaths, psychopaths, ASPD folk – are totally different. Their narratives tend towards bald, episodic statements of fact (“this happened then that happened and then that happened, there’s a basic physical causation underlying it, but don’t get your knickers in a twist, things just happen, OK?”) and are generally not linked to any overall trend or tendency. While one can try and analyse a sociopath’s present state on the basis of their past experience, this is generally inadvisable because a slap in the face often offends. What happens to them isn’t linked by any cosmic narrative tending towards their individual self-realisation as This Particular Person. As I’ve said elsewhere, ASPD people don’t consider it necessary to assign ontological status to a vantage point. There are very few whys and wherefores (ASPD folk tend to be very chary of “why”. They’re perfectly OK with “how”, but “why” annoys them). Their narratives stick closely to the left side of our representation of reality – they have great faith in physical reality, and very little faith in social reality. Indeed, this is perhaps the clearest manifestation of the ‘antisocial’ element in their personality – not that they are in “conflict” with society and its rules, but simply that they do not recognise social occurrences as having any ‘reality’ in the way physical occurrences have reality. Granny Weatherwax is highly suspicious of stories.

This, perhaps, is the biggest distinction between sociopaths and we non-sociopaths (NPDs and NTs confounded). We have a strong sense of the ‘reality’ of social occurrences, and can indeed think and behave as if social occurrence was more real than physical occurrences (this is particularly true of the NPD, I think). For folks with ASPD, social interactions and strictures are at best games that people play, and very often it’s hard for them even to grasp how ‘real’ social things are to the rest of us.

As for me, I’m well aware that social interactions are no more real than physical interactions. I’m also aware that they’re no less real than physical interactions. But then I’m an antirealist fictionalist, though this is more generally referred to as “raving loony”.

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Me, contemplating reality.

I nearly became a solicitor, you know.

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My dears, such elegance!

As my faithful fans have certainly realised by now, when I was a lad my vestimentary  style tended to veer between the excessively flamboyant and the downright irrational. At one time, I had a thing for Tibetan clothes – like this, but with full makeup, an onyx cigarette holder, and a feather boa:

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Even then I was a bit thin.

One evening I was out in Soho with a group of friends. We’d been, I think, to a private view – we were so Arty, my dears, such discerning sophisticates – and perhaps had a cocktail or too, so it was quite late, half eleven perhaps, and we were on the way home. I was walking on ahead with one of my straighter-looking friends, Andy (the kind of guy you get to carry the gear when you’re going to a party, because the police will be too busy harassing you to pick on him).

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Like this, but without a skirt.

We had to go through one of those underpasses, near Piccadilly Circus I think, and my friend spotted a public toilet and decided he’d do best to go before we went. So there I was, hanging around outside a public convenience at nearly midnight dressed like an extra from Velvet Goldmine, puffing nervously on my pastel Ziganov and brushing my hennaed locks aside with a carmine-tipped bejewelled hand when – as is only to be expected – the local constabulary appeared. The usual thing – couple of uniformed plods, one thin, one fat. Unsurprisingly, they made a beeline for me, asked me my name address and reasons for breathing the pure (if piss-scented) air otherwise reserved for more normal members of society at this time and in this place. I of course replied that I was awaiting a dear dear friend of mine who had been taken with a sudden and urgent call of nature. They seemed less than convinced of the veracity of my account, and – sarcasm dripping from every word like gravy off a jellied eel – suggested that we wait together until my “friend” should return. If, of course, he returned…

So, we waited five minutes in not-too-companionable silence until Andy reappeared. Fat Plod beckoned him over, touched his helmet, indicated me with a backwards jab of his thumb and said “Excuse me, Sir, do you know this… gentleman …?”. Andy took one look at me, answered “I’ve never seen him before in my life”, and walked off.

I was lucky – a couple more of our friends caught up with us just as Andy was disappearing up the stairs and vouched for me (much to the disappointment of Thin Plod, who had That Look in his eyes). We found Andy leaning against the railing at the top of the stairs, laughing his black traitorous heart out. My face, he said, had been such a picture that his artistic soul could not bear the idea of destroying such a tableau.

I forgave him, of course. He did, after all, make such a useful mule.

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A little cottage in town. Every young man’s dream.

 

Here are a few of my favourite things.

I was feeling a bit dull this morning. So I decided to do a Julie Andrews.

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I like freesias. Whenever I came home for the holidays, my grandmother would place a bunch of freesias in my bedroom. The smell of them will always be “coming home”.

Although I tend to choose dark, brooding colours and a general sense of Sturm und Drang, I secretly really like pastels. As my header probably suggests, I like Royal Albert teasets:

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I like thatched cottages and English country gardens:

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I grew up by the sea. I love the sea. I love water in general.

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I like birdsong in the early morning, the hot sizzling of crickets in the afternoon, the symphony of frogs at night. I like the sound of thunder over the mountains, of wind in the trees, of those sudden tropical downpours:

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I love the calm of lying on the bed in the afternoon with all the doors and windows open, with the sun slanting in from the west, feeling the soft breeze playing over my chest.

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I love the feel of clean sheets, of warm water, of my wife’s hand on my arm. I love the sound of her breathing as I’m falling asleep. I love the colour of her eyes.

I like scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream:

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…and full English breakfasts:

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Me I funk. But I don’t care.

I’ve always loved being on stage. Music, theatre, academic lecturing – as soon as I have the attention of an admiring crowd, I come alive. This is perhaps one of the few positives about being NPD – we’re attention whores and we thrive on limelight; if we have even the merest scrap of talent our brazen self-exposure can at times persuade our audience that they are in the presence of Genius.  Or of Extreme Weirdness, which in the world of late seventies rock music amounted to much the same thing.

I’ve been in several bands in my life, though rarely in anything more than the most nebulous of semi-pro statuses – not that I cared, I was in it for the Glory. The only one that got anywhere near success (“near success” in the way that Scotland is “near Spain”) was back in the days of independent labels & post-new wave “what the fuck can we dream up now?”, just before New Romantics and grindingly awful 80s synthpop. Bands sprung up like mushrooms (bands mostly fuelled by mushrooms, for that matter). It was a time of lunacy, of whimsy, of listening to Syd Barrett and dressing like Brian Eno; and if you wanted to get known, your band needed some sort of charming madcap gimmick.

So, me and me mate Richard started a group. He was a pretty good guitarist & songwriter; I had locks, sang, and made bleep bleep noises. We had a drum machine called Eric Wotherby. Richard wrote romantic little ditties about necrophilia, knitting, and Jane Austen that we eked out with long drug-infused improvisations around classic popsongs (I remember a twenty-five minute funk version of Gary Glitter’s “Leader of the Gang” – innocent days, indeed). As far as sound went, we were distinctive. Not necessarily good, but distinctive. However, our visual image left a little to be desired. I was cute but hidden behind synthesisers, echo boxes, and tape machines; Richard was cute but desperately shy and therefore played hidden behind a white sheet with a spot on him, just appearing as a silhouette.

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Cool dude.

We needed a frontperson, and a cool name.

Around that time – the beginning of New Age fuckery – there were a lot of “Festivals of Mind Body & Spirit”. We used to hang around them to pick up hippy chicks & get a few cheap laughs at the earnest nonsense being peddled. Then, at one, we picked up a little device that could “perceive the electromagnetic variations from the surface of plant leaves to the root system and translate them into sound”. Basically, it went squeak whistle blip but it had 1/4″ jacks and could therefore be interfaced with my MS20:

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It made weird noises and was cuddly.

So, we bought an aspidistra which we called Sal, and Sal became our frontplant, with its own little wooden table in the centre of the stage.

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Sal (publicity image, circa 1979)

When Sal was hooked up to the device the voltage variations could be used to trigger the synth, and the whistles and bleeps could be treated, echoed, tapelooped, and fed back to create strange soundscapes. It even inspired our stage name – the aspidistra conspiracy (note the fashionable lowercase). This being the time when anyone could get gigs just about anywhere in London,

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He got a gig.  So did they.

 the aspidistra conspiracy was soon playing two or three nights a week and getting a small but vocal following. We’d drop acid and do three hour gigs, making sure that Sal got a glass of water after every hour or so under the hot lights. And at the end of the gig, we’d give Sal a tot of beer. Of course, as tended to happen in those days when everyone and their Mum were setting up indie record companies, we were Approached. While I was only too avid for fame, fortune, and more hot chicks than you can shake a stick at

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hot chicks chillin’ to the cosmic sounds of the aspidistra conspiracy, c. 1980

Richard was getting cold feet. His chronic shyness was far from being a gimmick, and there were evenings when we couldn’t even get him behind his screen. But anyway, I browbeat him into cutting our unique single, with his necrophiliac lovesong on the A-side and a live version of Georges Brassens Non demande en mariage as the B. We did the live at the end of a gig at the Hope & Anchor; the take was so successful and we (I) were so elated that, instead of its usual tot of beer, I poured a full glass of single malt into Sal’s pot, killing it on the spot.

And when the booze had killed the man we had to break up the band.

Sal was 27.

Not in my name.

I’m sure you’ve seen them. If you’re following this blog “because of what I am“, then you’ve certainly seen them. Warning signs:

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The Surgeon General Has Determined…

OK, nobody’s denying that, of Cluster B disorders, narcissists are the PD most likely to leave you in need of therapy. Narcissistic abuse is, as they say, “a thing”. We’re Everyday Monsters, and while the “Narcissists are Evil Sex Demons who WILL suck out your brains and cum in your Empty Skull” kind of thing is perhaps a little shrill & hysterical, we can’t deny that we tend to screw people up.

But the kind of first-person claim quoted above does nothing but disservice both to the victims of abuse and to narcissists themselves. It implies conscious agency, a decision-based approach deliberately identifying and targeting the innocent with the intention of harming them. While such things might happen, I really do believe that a very large number of people with NPD are entirely unaware of what they are and of how their behaviour constitutes and perpetuates abuse. And I think it’s highly unlikely that an unaware narc reading HG Tudor’s “message to an empath” above would self-identify with the putative “abuser”. Not recognising him or herself in Tudor’s characterisation, he or she would be far more likely to reject the matter lock, stock, and barrel – maybe even turning his or her back on the whole issue of NPD.

Indeed, while such “I am a conscious monster” communications probably represent a good short-term marketing ploy on the “survivor market” (a market that HG Tudor exploits with ruthless self-interest, by the way), they are destructive and counterproductive when it comes to developing any kind of long-term dialogue in which those of us with NPD can learn to recognise what we are, understand in what way our behaviour harms those around us, and develop efficient behavioural strategies to mitigate such harm. If you want a poster that will actually speak to us, try this:

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Well, I am. And I do. Doesn’t mean I *have* to, though.

Tudor and Vaknin have no interest in furthering any real understanding of what we are and how we can change. They have a vested interest in maintaining the myth of the monster.

But not in my name.