Gratitude…at great length.
I’ve always been intrigued, fascinated that art often imitates real life…or is it that real life often imitates art? It seems it’s true both ways at times.
Ignorance truly is bliss. That is until you learn you didn’t know what you didn’t know. You will likely feel regretful you didn’t pursue the flags, read every book, know every sign, but give yourself a break–that’s impossible when you don’t know what you don’t know. Education is absolutely, by far the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life, without it one can never reach that self-actualized place that everyone tries so hard to find throughout their lifetime–and without it one is also destined to make the same mistakes repeatedly, throughout their lifetime. If we are not learning, we are most assuredly making the same mistakes over and over. We’re either growing or dying, remember?
Like the lines of another familiar song by Carly Simon, “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…” And written so descriptively accurate with “that one eye on the mirror.” However, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and simply being vain are very different. People commonly confuse the two and use them incorrectly and interchangeably. Both do frequently stare at themselves in mirrors, and they do watch themselves go by but with a stand out difference. Being vain doesn’t create victims and survivors of abuse.
When the shoe fits, an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will most certainly put it on, lace it up, and wear it proudly for all to see. They rarely see the implications made through their own narcissism because it controls them. The funny thing is the experiences and behavior patterns are all the same because they accurately describe them all. What drives them. What fuels and feeds them. I have heard from numerous friends and several others whose combined and shared experiences with individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and co-occurring high-functioning alcoholism were so incredibly similar and predictable as their stories were being told that one briefly pauses to ponder if they’re the same person. Most Narcissists are (practically) indistinguishable from one another. They are extremely dependent and cannot be alone. Some are more overt while the rarer, more toxic, masterful ones are covert narcissists. These are the most dangerous of them all because you cannot detect them, especially without any previous education into the different types (or styles if you prefer) of narcissism. Their lives and traits are all so similar that these behaviors and patterns can be indistinguishable from another but keep in mind the covert ones are far more subtle. That’s why mental health professionals have the DSM-IV to follow and to connect the patterns to personality disorders and more but a non-professional must educate themselves. Just like a checklist that’s referenced for any physical disease–as a therapist you read, you learn and you match up the symptoms by required criteria, or in these cases the criteria of behavior pattens.
And that’s why they probably think this blog is about them…but it’s not. It’s about the disorders and it’s here for their victims to provide that education and much needed support. You aren’t alone, you’re not the first, and sadly you won’t be the last.
I’ve daydreamed at times that perhaps all Narcissists have a secret stamp. A semi-permanent, invisible stamp known only to them—a Narcissist only Skull and Bones if you will that they mark their victims with that cannot be seen. When they’ve moved onto the next Narcissistic supply source, it allows other Narcissists to quickly find you, like their secret code, to spot you from miles away. A stamp that stays hey, I’ve been manipulated once before by another with NPD so here I am, an unknowing target who will believe all the love bombing as real, as authentic in the idealization phase. I will inadvertently tell you all you need to know to reel me in. While I realize an invisible stamp is not real, there’s a small element of some truth to it (bare, and bear with me). Like it is said about stereotypes, they’d never stick around for very long if there wasn’t at least SOME element of truth to it.
We are most vulnerable to repeated attack from another Narcissist after getting away from one. They know this, they prey on it, and it usually works, unless you take the much needed time for yourself after getting away from an abuser. You will begin to see so much as you step away from it and begin to open your eyes and look around. They target independent (or anyone who appears to be) individuals and slowly break them, abuse them into someone who cannot and will not make their own decisions without their abuser’s approval. This is trauma bonding. The process is like the slow drip of a faucet, a slowly chiseled sculpting– like an ice sculpture–so slow it isn’t detected or seen. That’s why after leaving an abusive relationship it is crucially important to stop, reflect, distance yourself far from all unhealthy, toxic individuals. You will realize much, you will see a lot. The solutions to your questions, the answers you seek will appear, as well as the answers to all the things you never saw before as deeply running issues. As if anyone would ever dedicate that level of passion and time to learning and sharing (or as narcissists see it—time obsessed and focused on them) to those so undeserving of even the smallest drop of attentive water for their abusiveness and their self-set fire—without having a real, a higher, an important, positive purpose. It isn’t about them. The purpose is to foster empathy and much needed compassion for victims and survivors of the worst kind of insidious abuse, the abuse that is often dismissed and therefore re-traumatized by the compassionless, the abuse that leaves invisible wounds and a narcissist altered thinking process that must be undone back to the original state (but better) before the abuse. Emotional/mental/psychological abuse is legitimate trauma.
We have long seen the sad trends of tolerance and indifference to abuse, manipulation and to evil. When it hits you firsthand, it’s an absolute game changer. Women especially (and occasionally men too) are often labeled by abusers as crazy, oversensitive, they can’t take a joke, they’re thin skinned, they’re users (self-projection), they need to just let it go (of course they should since someone might actually believe the truth), you’re overreacting, you’re too sensitive, I’m just kidding, I’m just teasing, it was a joke, I never said that, etc., for reacting in a very normal way to abnormal emotional abuse. Most anyone who has been abused when asked which is worse, the physical or emotional abuse, will tell you unequivocally the emotional abuse is far worse and leaves a longer lasting impact. Studies have shown that long term emotional abuse actually re-wires your brain to think very much like your abuser and how they have conditioned you to think and to believe. It takes a long while to heal from long term C-PTSD from exposure to abuse, manipulation, and trauma. Much like presbyopia, we must step back, pull away from being too close to it to properly see things clearly as they are. Not to intentionally use another cliched ocular reference, but once you’re away and no longer being abused and it’s in your hindsight view, that’s when your wounds begin to heal. You will develop 20/20 vision and begin to see things, see them as they truly were and how it always will be–abusive and manipulative and masterfully disguised and presented as love.
Here we go again with the life and art connection…I’m reminded now of the Neil Diamond/Barbra Streisand duet from years ago with the line, “You don’t bring me flowers, you don’t sing me love songs…” In the beginning, for a long while they (Narcissists in Phase 1 of the abuse cycle) do bring you flowers, they sing you love songs, are extremely clingy and physically affectionate, purchase expensive jewelry, purchase properties and other land to build a home on one day, they take you on the same trips they’ve taken all the other ones before, they will take you on the same business trips that they can expense, the same restaurants, you name it. Why? Because it always worked before. Why change or complicate things? And heck, they know me here after all and it makes me look important and impressive that they call me by name. Meanwhile, in reality staff of such places walk away shaking their heads, (much like their old friends do) at the flurry of the numerous ins and the outs and repeated patterns of behavior. Many are horribly indifferent to these patterns of abuse, and it’s tolerated. The warnings will not come to you from their supporters who may appear to be your friends. You will not hear about their past behavior and treatment of others before you. Tolerance and indifference surrounds you by their enablers. Many who do care simply keep quiet for fear that you won’t believe them. It can be quite unbelievable, without that education.
When one obtains freedom from the immense control of an abusive, emotionally needy, demanding, manipulating individual to again begin pursuing their endeavors and goals, it’s not a simple, easy road. Just getting away from an abuser does not undo the traumatic effects of abuse. Afterwards, you may begin to be contacted by those you knew (and some you probably didn’t) with stories and tales from many who’d known your abuser for many years longer than you (some whose silence was likely due to fearing you wouldn’t have believed them, and sadly then you wouldn’t have). He may once again strategically choose his new targeted supply (or paramour this time as some will call it), one perhaps with a brand new zip code and such low scruples (and even less sense) –so that he can easily shape and mold this individual into his vicious attack dog where he can feed her fabrications while cowardly crouching down and hiding behind her–allowing his hands to stay squeaky clean while she fights his perceived battles of defending him and his abusive past. (Love? right…) Inner battles he will likely be too much of a coward to address or approach himself because the truth is likely far too black and white for him to do so. It’s much safer, smarter to get someone easily manipulated and mailable who knows nothing to fight his battles for him. It keeps him out of trouble and the new supply can take the fall. After all, what would–what could he himself say in response to the truth? It likely won’t be until after experiencing many long months of vile threats and bullying, late night under the influence call attempts, bizarre incoherent rants of inaccurate nonsense from a person who you’d never seen or met that you will finally have no choice but to file an injunction. The entire experience will be awful and terrifying, because you will know she is capable of just about anything from the stories you’ve been told from many describing her long standing pattern of lack of self-control, impulsiveness, substance abuse, instability, unpredictable and unstable behaviors and previous injunctions. Frightening stories of a lifestyle you could not imagine. You will have no choice. It will have to stop. Injunctions will hopefully permanently stop the obsessive stalking and threats of violence–but most assuredly if it does not, do not hesitate again to take further action for any additional protection you may need, as anyone should. No one should ever have to put up with months and months of relentless threats of violence, trashy language, bizarre harassment and stalking from anyone, known or unknown. Laws are there to protect law abiding citizens and to keep them from harm and further victimization.
I began this blog to share many eerily similar stories with the hope that something good could come from something bad, and as an outlet for healing from abuse to anyone who has experienced it. I hope these compiled stories in The Last Chardonnay will help others connect their dots. The good that you’ll receive once you’re free is being able to finally put yourself first once again, and your now keen discernment of others that has been and continues to become more finely tuned every day that you’re safely away from abuse. You will never again have to hang up the phone when he walks in for fear of a jealous reaction. You’ll be so deeply grateful to God for giving you the unknowing protection, the good sense and inner strength to what was at the time a temporary postponement of a destination wedding before making an even bigger mistake than you’ve already made. You’d have easily gone through with it–until seeing some red flags, (fabricated stories of his past trauma) if your motives and intentions were not true, and he’d certainly have too, had you not hit the brakes back then to give him time to heal from “his abuse”–and your life would’ve been an even bigger hell than it was. One woman before you might call and kindly laugh and say she thought you were the smartest one of all because he never got any money out of you like he had gotten from others. You always paid your own expenses and bills, but thankfully never got roped into picking up his as well, like she said she and the others had done over the years. Several friends may later confirm this story, and tell you they knew him well enough that if you’d had a regular, steady income right after your degree that you have now, he’d not have been as easy to agree to postponing marriage. You’ll be grateful beyond words that marriage never happened, and for so much more. You were lead to believe that he was the one with the deep trauma from his countless failed relationships with awful, cheating, lying, deceitful, abusive women. In actuality (projection again) he’d been the one causing trauma to others for years, and eventually to you.
It’s amazing how many of these stories parallel. Knowledge, others shared experiences and clinical research has changed me as a person, a therapist, and as a woman. I’m no longer one who overlooks the faults and flaws of another to focus on what appears to be their good qualities instead because it’s the right thing to do–one who no longer believes everything she’s told without VERY deeply checking into it beyond just the surface and what appears to be proof and evidence from supporters that will confirm the tall tales. You will have likely never heard of the tongue biters and enablers who openly support known abusers while silently riding the coattails of them, if they can. When you look back at photos of yourself, you can now see the stress on your face, in your eyes–the consuming, unending exhaustion that you unknowingly carried with you daily that no amount of catch-up sleep could correct. You somehow managed to put a smile on your face each day and no one, not even your closest friends really knew any different—or did they? You didn’t see what you now see. You are now unapologetically judgmental as to who you allow into your close inner circle, even though you have many casual/social acquaintances and friends. You are blessed to not be tolerant or indifferent to what is blatantly wrong and to have quickly removed a few small invasive weeds whose intentions and purpose in your life that you did not see, were not honest and good ones. Those weeds were ever-present and supportive until they were exposed as tolerant to known abuse. Narcissists will always keep a small group of supporters who are most likely aware, tolerant and indifferent to their abuse. They may change their supporters at times, but they will always have some by nature of their ability to manipulate others. Fortunately these types of occurrences either bring forth people’s exceptional character, or quickly show their absence of it. That’s one of the greatest goods that comes from the bad.
I tell my college students that being self-aware and finding self-actualization is a constant, daily, lifelong journey–as is the discernment of others and their real, true intentions. While I do realize a covert Narcissist cannot typically be spotted for many years no matter how much education you have on it, I’m now aware and well-seasoned to hidden purposes, agendas, and what those passive-aggressive, gaslighting phrases are meant to accomplish. They’re meant to control and destroy all sense of self in their targeted victims (Narcissistic supply) for their own complete control and manipulation toward their secretly hidden/disguised agendas. Sadly, there are many cowards and sheeple who are tolerant and indifferent to many forms of abuse, evil, and manipulation of others. These sheeple are as I have repeatedly said, tolerant of it and indifferent to it. They move forward with the abuser onto the next supply target without ever batting an eye and will continue to keep the abusers secrets from the next one to come.
I hope this blog helps instill courage and renew any lost faith to anyone reading it who has been emotionally or physically abused long term. Take much time for yourself. You need it. Time and reflection truly does give life-changing clarity and the manipulative, subtle thought process re-wiring that was done begins to slowly unravel and reform itself back to its original state–you, prior to the abuse, only educated and wiser to their ways.
I hope too that I’m able to help loved ones of abuse victims grow their compassion and patience, and help as many people as possible who’ve been through similar experiences. If it does, then my blog’s purpose is well served and my terrible experience was not—as Ms. Simon sang, so (in) VAIN.
…Gratitude, at length.
For T, P, K, L, S, D, N, M. Thank you for your trust, faith, inspiration, strength and candor. You are beautiful inside and out, and truly amazing. ❤️