Self-awareness is going to be a big topic around here. Who am I, what am I, and why the hell do I keep fucking up?
It’ll also be about relationships. NPD people are notoriously bad at relationships, and tend to repeat the same patterns again and again. Not just in the short term “I’m-twenty-and-you’re-cute” things, but in the long-haul have-kids-buy-a-house-and-until-death-do-us-part kinds of thing, too. 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. This usually takes the form of some normal adult concern or requirement on the part of my partner, to which I respond by throwing a big multicoloured wobbly.
And thereafter, everything goes to the dogs. And it’s not surprising. She got dressed. She made her own coffee. We missed sex one night. The signs are unmistakable!!! She isn’t a projection of my idealised romantic fantasies, she’s a real person – and real people have no time for my shit. They expect too much, like respect and real concern. They even expect me to listen…
So, having thus shown herself to be a first-class cold selfish bitch, she begins to fall in my esteem. The honeymoon phase gives way to disappointment and devaluation. The devaluation phase can last for years, though it’s always accompanied by a nostalgic idealisation of the person she was Before She Fucked It Up. And then, across some crowded room, I see a stranger. This time, this is it. My soulmate. The love that will never fade, never change, an endless idyllic succession of first days. Eight years old and In Love. Forever.
Why? What do I get out of this, what am I looking for? Well, the payoff is supply. Those of you who have some familiarity with our kind will be well aware of the concept, but what is supply? What purpose does it serve?
It’s been said that NPD people have a hole in their self-esteem, that we can’t maintain an acceptable – even tolerable – image of ourselves and need to keep topping ourselves up with praise, admiration, adulation, adoration and lots of other lovely things that I won’t think about because I’m on the waggon now (oh yes? And what’s the real reason for this blog, Mister Badger? Shut up). In fact; we basically have no self-esteem at all, and we need to latch onto what esteem we can get from others in order to keep ourselves more-or-less upright. Supply is viagra for the soul.
When your partner is a narcissist, his moods, tantrums and crazy hours-long diatribes are about one thing and one thing only: the quality of supply. At first he wants that pure China White, the pristine white light of your unsullied admiration. But if that’s not forthcoming he’ll scrape up whatever he can, anything whatsoever to get some kind of emotional reaction, something that will prove to him that he’s not just a hole in space. At this point, any kind of reaction will do, as long as it’s strong. In situations where we can’t be sure that your image of us is the image we’d like you to have of us, provoking emotional reactions is about the only way we narcissists can prove to ourselves we still exist – or rather, that we still matter in some way, even if it’s a very unpleasant way indeed.
Is there any way out? Is a person with NPD condemned thereby to life as an emotional junky, reduced to scoring rage, resentment, sadness, and fear because their emotional credit is shot? I still don’t know. There are no 12-step programs for narcissists (“Hi, I’m Mister Badger, and I’m a bitchy motherfucker with those I love…”), and “Narcissists Anonymous” sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. I think it might be possible to overcome the craven craving for emotional supply, any emotional supply, but the right conditions must obtain.
First, we need really to care for someone. This is a rare enough occurrence for a narcissist – in general we love not you, but the image of ourselves reflected in your eyes. But we are human, however hard we might try to prove the opposite. It can happen that someone, some person with remarkable qualities above and beyond great boobs and a certain liking for us, can break through the shell and actually mean something to us because of who they are. So far, it’s happened to me 1.15 times. Second, you need to be able to say “No”. No strong emotional response, just cold annoyance at our shenanigans. Freeze the junky out. We’ll browbeat you. We’ll cry, we’ll beg, we’ll plead. Then we’ll bluster, threaten, and yell. Then we’ll collapse into guilt and self-pity. Then we’ll sulk. And all within a five minute sub-interval of a meaningless, hours-long diatribe. But if you can, stay remote. Get colder and stay cold. If we care about you, if you mean more to us than just another hypodermic syringe – and it does happen, despite everything we are human – then the coldness can eventually bring us to our senses. Be reasonable, though. An intelligent narcissist may also be a slave to his passions, but when emotion is frozen out, reason is perhaps the one thing he can grasp to haul himself back from Cloud Cuckoo Land.
It doesn’t always work, it’s in his nature to provoke strong responses because they mean he’s still alive, he still has some meaning to you, even if that meaning stinks like a rotten mackerel. But it’s not good enough for him to say “Sorry, I can’t help it”. He can. He can always catch himself before it’s too late. Such extreme provocation is never justified. And I’m not here to give lessons, I slip up with depressing regularity. But I’m lucky enough to have a partner who can and will say no, who isn’t scared to be as cold as is needed. And I hope she’ll continue doing it until the day she doesn’t need to. And for all my manifold failures and slips, I believe that day can still arrive. Strength doesn’t come overnight – it must be built up, pebble by pebble.