Mental Health Month Day #17 “Narcissism”

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Social Media has spates of trending headlines and buzz-words. Periodically, ‘Narcissism’ will be among them. We know the basic meaning, the mythological story and how a modern narcissist can hurt relationships be they friendships or otherwise. But if we were asked to clearly define the process it might be tricky. That’s because the issue with a buzz-world is we gloss over the deeper meaning, we stereotype it, until we’re using it out of context and it loses the potency of its original meaning.

Thus, you will hear many people calling out narcissists, and in truth, fewer people are true clinical definitions of narcissists than we would imagine. Equally, some of those who labor the point regarding narcissism, are in fact guilty of the very thing they decry.

A narcissist as their core, is someone with low empathy for others, high self-regard, an inflated and delusional sense of self, an entitlement and sense of superiority to others. They can be charming and appear popular and ‘normal’ in some settings, only to be a down-low narcissist, or they can be an overt example. typically a narcissist is considered to have some sociopathy and inability to care for others meaningfully, as well as a belief they deserve more than others and others should act accordingly. Likewise, a narcissist will seek adoration and forms of worship over say, maintaining a give-and-take relationship. If they do something that appears giving it is with the knowledge they will get something in return, thus it is insincere.

Narcissists can also be very successful because they have less quam about their actions, they are confident, bullish, determined and strive for what they believe they are ‘owed’ as well as not being perturbed about the cost of achieving this or the damage inflicted upon others. Some narcissists will play games with people to manipulate them, in this sense they can be also described as sadistic and cruel.

As with any mental disorder, narcissism is on the spectrum and varies a great deal. It is a personality disorder manifested often early in life, and can be controlled, hidden or overt, depending upon its specific characterization within an individual. In other words, one size does not fit all. Typically with any personality disorder, it cannot be completely ameliorated but you can lessen its outcome if you are open to that, which many narcissists will not be because they suffer the delusion of self-aggrandizement.

Most of the time if someone hurts us, and we call them a narcissist they are not. Sometimes when someone calls out narcissistic behavior they are enabling it by their reactions to it. An example would be, if you call someone narcissistic but you do much the same in your own interpersonal relationships with people. It is possible to be  narcissist and not be aware of it.

With varying degrees of personality disorders, it is very hard to definitively say someone is a narcissist because many times you can display narcissistic behavior but not have enough to qualify for the actual personality disorder. With any mental illness it is dependent upon frequency, duration and extent of (symptoms).

If you are in a relationship of any kind with someone who is a narcissist you will expect to experience some of the following;  A sense that you are not entirely worthy of the individual and they feel you are lucky to be with them, difficulty in expressing successfully your perspective and that being understood. It is not as simple as being vain, confident, or even arrogant, narcissism is at the very core of a person’s nature and decision-making process.

Likewise, those subject to the natural manipulations of a narcissist will become versed in how to respond ‘correctly’ to their needs and thus, alter their behavior accordingly. It can take years to re-train yourself out of responding this way to a figure-head such as a narcissistic parent, or lover, and the beating it gives a person’s self-worth and confidence can require a lot of work to re-balance. This is because a narcissist is so confident they convince others they are right, even in the face of common sense. A narcissist parent will rear a child who is always considering the parents needs rather than the other way around, and thus, does not develop fully because they are attuned to the needs of another and not so much, their own.

We have been discussing how judging any mental health manifestation is wrong, and should be avoided at all cost. With Narcissism it is somewhat different. Narcissism, along with Sociopathy, Psychopathy, and other extreme personality disorders and mental disorders, has a poor cure or treatment rate, it often causes a great deal of harm and pain to others, and many who are ultimately imprisoned share these traits. While no good comes from judging, it is worthwhile considering whether becoming close to someone who is unable to treat these symptoms is a good idea, given the likely outcome.

Obviously someone who is a sociopath or narcissist shouldn’t be precluded from having a relationship or a life, but unfortunately in some ways, the damage of their personality can be so bad that it does come to that. Of course I feel some compassion for this, but it is tempered by the fact that someone who is a sociopath or narcissistic does not experience compassion or empathy and simply goes through life feeling they deserve what they want at any cost. Some milder forms that are say, manifested by trauma, can be treatable, but if they are entrenched, it is often a poor prognosis.

I have met some people who repeatedly are attracted to narcissistic types, this is because they learn patterns and unconsciously respond and repeat them without meaning to, because of early exposure to that kind of behavior. You could almost say it was masochistic and it is, though not consciously. It is a little like ‘better the devil you know’ because the familiar patterns of treatment become instilled and it is hard to break the cycle. In this regard, the victims of narcissists are more likely to be seen by mental health professionals than the perpetrators.

Ultimately then when we talk of narcissists we usually refer to the damage they wrought upon others and how best to help those people.

Learning to spot the signs of a narcissistic personality as well as increasing self-worth are the keys to overcoming the damaging cycle. This can include watching for people who only know how to talk of themselves, rarely show interest in others, and if they do it’s very much crafted toward gaining trust to get what you want. This is of course hard to gauge as it can be subtle and most of us have been on the losing end of a friendship with a narcissist.

There is no cure-all but the more self-respect we have, and the greater awareness of being taken advantage of, as well as looking out for people who are self-obsessed, will help us circumvent typical narcissists. This can include setting boundaries, ensuring that friendships are relatively equal (give-and-take) watching for obvious signs such as being self-obsessed, lack of empathy, lack of interest in anything but self, self-aggrandizing behavior, a need to be worshipped and/or continually praised and excessive vanity.

Just as those who are raped as children, can sometimes go on to rape children when they are adults because they are subverted into a twisted parody of their own abuse, and act it out, the same is true with narcissists. The victim of a narcissist will often exhibit narcissistic behaviors also. They will assist without knowing, the antagonism with the narcissist by responding/reacting in such a way that feeds the ego of that narcissist, they will also expect some of the same things their narcissist expects such as attention and adoration. It’s almost as if they learn from their oppressor and take on some of the traits.

This can be ‘fixed’ and is highly receptive to therapy, the first step being, admitting you have done this and wanting to stop doing it.

Breaking the cycle including your own reaction/response to narcissists is key. In some ways if you do not do this, you will aid and abet the narcissist and even attract others to treat you this way, just as you would any addiction. The behaviors are learned and highly addictive as all extreme forms of behavior are, especially if learned in childhood which they often are, such as in the case of a narcissist father and their children. The kids are literally trained into subservience, into blaming themselves as a narcissist will not take blame on themselves and are very good at displacing blame onto their victims.

Learning to be attracted to non-narcissistic people can be challenging when you are taught to be drawn to the magnetic inflated personality of a narcissist. Other people may appear ‘boring’ and ‘bland’ and not push your buttons including your sexual-desire, attraction buttons. It may seem ‘sick’ to be attracted to a narcissist but they are very adroit at becoming attractive enough to gain many followers. this is why narcissists are often in positions of power and/or lead others. They do have a magnetism and charisma that superficially impresses others. Sadly in some cases they are revered and never held to task for their less desirable traits.

It could be said our society is sick for our worship of certain narcissistic figure-heads and we should question the message we are sending by glamorizing narcissistic people in the media en mass. In many ways it is our society that creates a narcissist and certainly, we perpetuate them. What this also means is, we can change that.

Masochism

tumblr_mfrhau9jIq1s0qvy5o1_500I’m afraid again

A queer feeling

As we trace our gloves on dusty balcony

You forget you’ve told me the story before

And repeat yourself

I watch

Feeling I am a mind reader

Mouthing well-known words

But for the ball in my mouth

I want to ask

Do you think it will bounce?

If you lay me down as your eyes say they want

If you have me now

Under this awning in the frigid cold

You’ll spoil my dress and your coat

And feel later it was not worth

The dry cleaning bill

You’re a man who suits the world of before

And doesn’t know his lines after

If you could squeeze until I choked

Without consequence

You would unflinching

I see this as I see stain in drafted light

As I feel you spear me like tendered filet mignon

Right through the middle

Your eyes roll like cut glass within red flesh

The devil peers out at the culmination

Spent and angry you hurry me to pull myself back on

Leading me by the funny bone in my plastic arm

Charge through the crowd to view the art show

Impatient though you caused our double crease

Like a thief without fingers weeps for what he has not pinched

Standing by the first mounted painting you pause

With the skin of you and the drink of me

Drying irresolutely

Then I see it

So fast, a flash and burn FURY

Hot house light splintering in storm

I know

For all the love, all the cabinets of delusion

It’s a farce I lay myself before, opening my mouth

Birthing cavities for empty souls

Adoring walking pain, stilettos of disregard

Stabbing with familiar falling shards

Self-harm wrought by masochistic ardor

To break my puzzle

Like coming home

A known bewitchment

Tearing apart sound

Is this you?

quote-i-said-wouldn-t-it-be-nice-instead-of-having-these-women-fight-with-each-other-over-men-which-jennifer-beals-13767

Portrait of man and two women in orchard --- Image by © Robert Recker/Corbis

Is it you?

the girl who knows lustful eyes are on her back

is it you?

talking to your female friends

when a man enters

you reveal your choice every time

the man comes first

women only afterward

is it you?

thinking they don’t notice

when your eyes drift

from female conversation

to a man’s deeper tone

as if attention were garnered toward

the male of the species alone

don’t you see? you put down women

with every favor you give a man over

she

and whilst you may say

no that’s not true I am an equal opportunist

an observer will note

the change and variance of your attention 

you are a creature of men

owned by their regard

choosing them first in every scenario

sadly undermining

the worth of women

it is surely what lets us down most

the value we place on each other

being less than the other gender

call me an old embittered dyke

biased in her choice

if you need to

but truth speaks

louder than worship

and I must ask

is this you?

Infinity

img_7094Life

don’t you think

should come with a disclaimer

do not read as literal

wash on gentle cycle no spin

use bleach sparingly or often

depending upon situation

leave to dry outdoors

don’t put in the tumbler on hot

iron gently or not

 

I like my coffee black and mornings silent

but for the licorice dogs bark at fleeing squirrel

or jackdaw hammering out his concert

and when the day draws to a close

I like my light diffused and close

leaving darkness to itself

and all the wanderings the mind shall make

haunting this house in repose

to read of worlds you’ll never go

for travel is not as it used to be

stripping shoes and facing x-ray’s indignity

nor indeed our imagined futures it seems

requiring new needles to play favorite song

 

they say as you age your circle reduces

with regret behind those words

I have no regret of this, life is like a purse

pulled together by string to keep it taut

once filled with coins of many colors

gradually emptying its burden

I find the reduction a balm

within less there is more

time to consider and become still

further into the briar and gallop

you’re never lost if you’re seeking

you’re never found if you don’t let

a hand pluck you from the notion

you’re alone

 

she turns her warmth across my own

we hold on tightly as we head toward our door

the last to open

the last to close

she is me I am her

we may not be here tomorrow

but still the silver lines of existence shine

like exclamations in claiming dew

drenching our run further

toward the echo of our beginning

No iron

If you said

I am cold

stitch me something to wear

out of moments

choose the pieces with inside pockets

we can lean closest to

before we let go

bidding adieu

those memories

treasured pieces

lain flat and held

by tremulous hand

one swathe for our life

cut down like barley lying golden

he made his absolution

arching windows cast the tiles mirage of eastern colors against stucco

fabric whispers a song

furnishing breath

as two red throttled birds

will roost

their ease

filling silence

with comfort

everyone sees him through your eyes now

astonishing

a kind of mosaic peace

two minutes

stretching like feeble light

can reach further than possibility

they say you marry your father

my father thinks of himself and fits what he can next to him

in a boat for one purpose

alone

and I see

how many times that was echoed

where I wondered at the empty feeling in my hands

after you made no effect

and expectation became a sore word

lost in tumble-dryer

set to spin on

no iron

Three prongs

pluto_and_persephoneSHE

hasn’t shared a bed with a man

two decades

nor smelt the tenor of his hands weighing

on her sleep

place telescope by the moon

stare at what you do not find familiar

all those girls who wake

next to, wrapped in, rubbed up against

the arms of another species it seems

no reflection of themselves

she has only seen

her own reflection

in the curl of her neck to her shoulder

honeyed wisp of them as they cover

rounded buttocks on the way to dimpled shower

girls instinctively know

what to hide and what to reveal

as cats will roll on their belly in trust

giving just enough

holding a claw in the air just incase

she unclenched herself to the water spirit

when the river found its surge she fell

tumbling below surface

where hands that are both small and strong

loins of silver, mouths of tangerine

kiss her delirious

do you think as you draw your pastiche

of a woman with a phallus mounting a girl wearing cherries on her cheeks

do you contemplate wife-beaters and bound breasts

considering the ugliness of plastic stand-ins

and Kerry who came from Nova Scotia said

I’d be gay if I didn’t have to perform oral sex

that disgusts me

but imagine, I could have some rest

my boyfriend he is hard as driftwood

every morning at six

her legs closed to dynamite

squeezing residue of clichés between her thighs

they who are not us, live in an underwater world

you only know when you hold your breath and let go

At ten it was not apparent

though if you consider how much you enjoyed

lying on ladies fur coats and

smelling their perfume

what isn’t known glitters in the gloom

they said poor child, poor motherless urchin

and in their arms you felt

that longing to place a moonstone in a set of gold

translated later the shape and curve

men were all angles and hard

softness is the drift of sand

lapsing back into water

you tried being like everyone else

nobody really wants to wear a red mark

telling them apart

but the hot skin of men as they lay

clumsy and ill-fitting in your hollows

always reminded you of a plug

with two prongs when

three were needed

Remember

The words that pass between them

pressing hot arms

Absolute

in funny angles

smell it on her wrist, a divinity of trivia and

rolled secrets, ready to inhale

death curling the corners

Approach

touch fevered forehead to clay floor womb

all the footsteps regressed

We are too late to undo

our indentation

it presses down

like dowel swinging thickly against undertow

will measure weight of air

and your truth

offered by word

Ask me

where is the mark?

repeated on inside wrist

past pulse, circling back upon itself

infinity you said

mine the arms wound around

soft value

memories taking form in brief coats of ice

a sorcerers palace

to divine

Remember

Forever

is no promise ever

kept