A relationship with a narcissist is a mind-boggling experience. Long after the entire pedestal – devaluation – discard cycle had been completed, after the narcissist’s mask fell off and you saw that ruthless enemy behind the face of your prince charming, you might still be experiencing all sorts of emotions. The love is gone, the feeling of having lost someone special is gone but there might still be occasional bursts of disbelief, disgust, contempt and anger.
Instead of longing for a peaceful closure, you now sometimes feel like you would want to press a hot iron into the narcissist’s face. This happens as all sorts of flashbacks and feelings come to the surface. It’s called delayed anger and it’s typical for those that have been subject to covert aggression and manipulation. You really experience the anger only after it all clicks and you see the behaviour for what it was. If you were involved with a covertly aggressive manipulative person for a longer period time, there will be a lot of flashbacks and the whole process will take quite a long time.
But this anger and hatred is kind of tiring. However, I don’t believe we can just let go of it. That does not work (no matter what all sorts of new-age gurus might be telling you). So how can we really move over these sudden urges to press the hot iron into the narcissist’s face? How can we let go of the occasional revenge fantasies?
Slaves to their illness?
I believe that the only way to truly forgive them is to really cultivate the awareness that they are, indeed, mentally disordered. The forgiveness comes when we cultivate the understanding that we, by making that mistake of believing that we were dealing with a normal person, were expecting from the narcissist something that he simply could not provide.
We have to cultivate the understanding that no matter how malignant and manipulative the narcissist is; he or she is not in charge of his or her actions. His disorder is in charge (and since narcissists tend to be low in the ability to self-reflect, they are in complete denial about that sad fact).
I am trying to relate to them through my own experience with a mental disorder. As I have described in other sections of this blog, there was a time in my life when I would qualify for the diagnosis of a mild borderline personality disorder (the discard by my narcissistic ex was what eventually enabled the healing, paradoxically).
If I close my eyes and travel back in time to those borderline times (which I obviously don’t enjoy revisiting), I have to admit that back then, it was not me that was in charge of my actions in times of distress. It really was my disorder. I couldn’t help it. I had to act out on those mad urges – self-harm, kick furniture, throw a tantrum, threaten my previous boyfriends with break-ups.
I am not proud of any of that behaviour but I can honestly tell you that it was stronger than me. I always had the ability to self-reflect and knew very well that my behaviour was off. I, in fact, felt deeply ashamed. But I couldn’t help it. When the urge came, it had me. Today I understand that it was all a result of my being raised by a narcissistic mother and a (probably) schizoid father, in a home as emotionally cold as ice and totally unwelcoming.
As much as I understand that I was not responsible for developing my BPD, I probably need to understand that all the narcissists that made my life miserable, were not responsible for their developing the narcissistic personality disorder.
I am trying to cultivate the understanding that the same way that I couldn’t control my self-harming urges, my narcissistic ex could not control his behaviour. He is not the master of his life, his disorder is. As hurtful as it was going through all that experience, I have to cultivate the understanding that the entire pedestal – devaluation – discard cycle, was driven by my ex’s disorder.
As difficult as it is, I have to understand that his grand final statement, as much as it clearly was intended to hurt me in the worst possible way, was a result of me expecting healthy mature behaviour from him – something he was not capable of due to the nature of his disorder.
Yes, I didn’t understand it back then. I didn’t know that the mature reasonable person I used to know was just a false self. The more I kept searching for this mature person, the more I was triggering my ex’s panic of being exposed. There was no reasonable mature person behind that mask and the disordered stump of a man simply couldn’t handle the pressure of me wanting to have an adult conversation. The manipulative lying little child couldn’t handle the fear of what would happen if the truth was found out.
I am trying to cultivate the understanding that whilst they inhabit adult bodies and possess adult intellect , on the emotional level narcissists are five-year old children.
I am trying to cultivate the understanding that by expecting the narcissist to behave in a relationship in an adult way, not even saying to have a lasting healthy relationship, I was putting on him unreasonable expectations (of course, it was him who led me to believe how dead serious he was about me with all the love-bombing madness – but this, as well, was just a product of his disorder. His hacking my Skype account? Well, I find it difficult to find an explanation for that but let’s say that he is simply a very mentally ill person). In either way, me expecting of him to be a normal human being was about as absurd as if I was asking a paralysed man to run a marathon – impossible. Yes, I didn’t know what I was dealing with. How could I have known? You can easily recognise a paralysed man. But a narcissist? Not until you have been through this entire experience and have done all the necessary learning (These communication techniques will help you establish whether someone is a narcissist).
If you like me still occasionally struggle with difficult feelings towards all sorts of narcissists in your life, join me in this exercise: From this moment on, every time I feel this vile anger rising and spilling through my veins at the memory of the narcissist’s actions, every time I feel as if I want to press a hot iron into his face, I will remind myself of this – he/she is ill. It’s his or her disorder that is in control of his behaviour. It was his disorder that made him act in those outrageous ways, play with my emotions, treat me like garbage…
There is and has never been any point in me trying to explain anything to him. There is and has never been any point in me trying to make him/her see. They don’t have it. They are not capable of that. It’s like asking a gorilla to write a novel. They are not equipped for that.
In the same way – if I ever feel triggered by any narcissist ever again, I shall remind myself that it is their disorder at play. They are not in charge. They don’t have the understanding. They are not able to see that their spitting venom at me is just a result of their projection. They are incapable of seeing me as a human being with feelings. They don’t have the ability. Perhaps it was their own abusive parents, perhaps it was them being spoiled rotten by their mothers, perhaps it’s a neurological deficit, they simply can’t and won’t get it. Their attack on me is not personal. It’s a projection. There is no point in me fighting back and trying to make them see. They won’t.
Shall this understanding bring me peace and free me forever from this toxic anger that I feel towards them for how they treated me… It’s not personal. It’s not about me. It’s about their disorder.