An Addict First? Or a Narcissist First?

The 5 questions you have to ask yourself if someone close to you lives with both

If you are in a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, and is a narcissist, you may find it difficult or impossible to figure out what, precisely, you should be doing, thinking, or feeling.

Let’s address the addiction first: It’s likely that your understanding of this individual’s addiction evolved over time because many addicts are very good at hiding their behavior. Once discovered, close friends may make an effort to see such addictive behaviors through the lens of the disease model, which requires empathy and understanding. It also calls on you, as a close partner, to be as supportive as possible to help a partner in his or her struggle to recover.

But what if you’ve come to realize that your partner is also a narcissist? Dealing with that recognition in a healthy way requires a different response than the one prompted by the disease model. In fact, empathy and support are actually not helpful in dealing with a narcissist.

Deep down, is every addict also a narcissist? And is every narcissist actually an addict? These are the difficult questions that the partner of a narcissist and addict has to explore and answer for him or herself.

The Link Between Addiction and Narcissism

In a provocative study, “Narcissism as Addiction to Esteem,” Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs argued that narcissism is, in fact, more like an addiction than a life-long personality trait. They applied the cycle of addiction—cravings, increasing tolerance, and withdrawal—to narcissism and found that, indeed, “craving to feel superior and the indulgence of those cravings may be the defining feature of narcissism,” and narcissists appear to be “constantly on the lookout for new and greater triumphs that bring them greater glory.” Finally, the authors address withdrawal: “When narcissists receive something other than the admiration they crave—indifference, criticism, disrespect—they exhibit considerable distress.”

Seeing narcissism as having the hallmarks of addiction also explains the instability of the narcissist’s relationships, which, they note, may be a function of depleting the supply of admiration he or she is getting from the source: They “tire of their partners when self-esteem benefits are no longer forthcoming.”

In his book, The Narcissist You Know, Joseph Burgo includes the “Addicted Narcissist” as one type of Extreme Narcissism. He notes that while all addicts aren’t narcissists, “addictive and narcissistic personalities have many features in common,” including a “pronounced lack of empathy for the people around them,” which is a function of the stronger relationship the addict has to his or her drug of choice, as well as relying “on their drugs to boost self-esteem at the expense of the people around them.” According to Burgo, a deep-rooted sense of shame is at the core of both narcissistic and addictive behaviors.

What should your stance be if your partner is both an addict and a narcissist? How do you balance empathy and understanding for the guy with the hidden bottles of alcohol he can’t stop drinking with your understanding of your partner’s impaired empathy, essential emotional disconnectedness, and basic disregard for your feelings?

This is where the terrain gets rocky and unstable. Burgo is careful to state that “If you’re emotionally involved with an Addicted Narcissist, you need first of all to recognize that you can’t possibly ‘save’ him on your own.” He points out the possible dangers of this dynamic:

These are tough words to read if you’ve been ensnared in the painful, horrible mess of a relationship with someone who is both an addict and narcissist. But I believe Burgo is right to underscore that you must examine your own motivations and ask yourself the tough questions: “Why am I here?” and, “Why do I continue stay?”

Impulsivity: Another Link?

There’s no question about the role impulsivity plays in addiction, although there’s disagreement about whether it’s a failure in self-regulatory processes, or a function of the drug or substance producing both a lowered sense of consequences and a heightened sense of pleasure. One thing that has intrigued researchers about narcissists is that they are ultimately playing a losing game, and prone to self-defeating behaviors.

I realize that if you are struggling with your feelings for a narcissist, you’re not seeing him or her as losing or, more directly, caring about potentially losing you, but bear with me: While it’s true that initially, narcissists make a good impression on people, it’s also true that their relationships almost always fail in time, and that the initial high regard with which they’re held will eventually turn to disdain. They win what they need—adulation, a sense of superiority, a feeling of power—but only in short bursts. Then they have to start over. Needless to say, psychologists want to know why narcissists engage in the activities that keep them from getting what they want.

Simine Vazire and David Funder decided to look into what caused these self-defeating behaviors, asking was it a function of conscious cognitive and affective processes or something else. They honed in on impulsivity and conducted a meta-analysis of the existing literature. They posited that impulsivity was the cause. If so, that seems to make the kinship ties of narcissism and addiction even more evident. But their assertion about impulsivity was taken on by another team of researchers led by Joshua Miller, W. Keith Campbell, and others whose take was different, positing that it wasn’t impulsivity per se but the fact that narcissists only pay attention to the possibility of reward, not the potential downside, aided and abetted by their antagonistic interpersonal qualities.

As a layperson who has had the misfortune of being connected to an addicted narcissist, the takeaway here isn’t pinpointing whether it’s impulsivity or something else; it’s realizing that while the addict may be able to curb their impulse to grab their drug of choice, the narcissist will remain with his or her lack of attention to consequences and impaired empathy.

What’s Possible—and What’s Unlikely

I turned to Craig Malkin, a therapist and author of Rethinking Narcissism (and a Psychology Today blogger) for answers to the question of how to deal with someone who has addiction and narcissism issues. “When someone has narcissistic personality disorder and a substance abuse problem,” he said, “it’s not enough for them to beat their drug addiction; they also have to beat their addiction to feeling special.”

That change, Malkin says, is about learning to open up to and depend on loved ones and friends in healthy ways. “To the extent that you can’t depend on people, you’ll depend on other sources to soothe yourself, like feeling special (narcissism) or watching pornography or getting drunk. But addiction makes us all more narcissistic—willing to lie, steal, cheat, and even exploit others to get our high.”

If you really want to know if your partner can change after substance-abuse treatment, Malkin says, you need to ask yourself these five questions:

As your partner overcomes his or her addiction, are the two of you still feeling distant?

Does your partner announce that they’ve made “the most progress of anyone at AA” instead of sharing with you their vulnerable feelings, like sadness, or loneliness, or fear?

Does your partner show a pattern of exploitation, entitlement, and empathy impairment (triple E), the hallmark of pathological narcissism, even after they stop using?

Does their emotional sharing feel empty or shallow, fueled largely by 12-step jargon instead of genuine remorse or sadness for the pain they’ve caused?

Are they secretive about their treatment experience, as though “you couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like unless you’ve been there?”

“If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ then it’s likely your partner’s narcissism is a core problem and they’re using 12-step programs to feel special in a new way instead of turning to you for mutual care and comfort,” Malkin explained. In that case, he says, “Recovery is merely another way the narcissist self-soothes—one of many—instead enjoying true emotional intimacy.

“You should view their narcissism as you would any severe addiction,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to break an extreme addiction to feeling special, and you have to decide if you’re willing to stick around while your partner does it. In this case, ‘slips’ mean a return to arrogance, self-involvement—perhaps even emotional abuse.“

But being armed with the knowledge that your partner faces two addictions—not just one—is empowering, Malkin says. “It makes the decision about when to leave that much easier. If your partner is only getting help for their drug addiction, and not their narcissism, there’s no hope of change.”

The decision to leave an important relationship is never easy. When you learn that someone you love and care for is addicted, your first impulse may be one of empathy and support. But it’s important that you look carefully at what, precisely, your partner is addicted to: Is it a substance or activity, or feeling special, or both?

Peg Streep

Full article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201610/is-he-or-she-addict-first-or-narcissist-first%3famp

Narcissistic heterosexual men target their hostility primarily at heterosexual women, the objects of their desires, study finds

Dr. Keiller’s findings are published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

Research to date has shown that narcissists’ low empathy, feelings of entitlement, and perceptions of being deprived of ‘deserved’ admiration and gratification can make them prone to aggression and vengeance.

Dr. Keiller’s study looks at whether narcissists’ hostility is targeted at heterosexual women and men, gay men and lesbian women in the same way and with the same intensity. Each group represents a different combination of perceived conformity to traditional gender roles on the one hand, and potential for gratifying a heterosexual man on the other.A total of 104 male undergraduates, aged 21 years on average, from a large university in the Midwest US took part in the study survey. Keiller looked at measures of narcissism, sexist attitudes toward women and traditional female stereotypes, sexist attitudes toward men and heterosexual male stereotypes, and attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women.

He found that men’s narcissism was linked most strongly to hostility toward heterosexual women, more so than toward any other group including heterosexual men, gay men and lesbian women. In fact, men’s narcissism was linked to favorable attitudes toward lesbians and was unrelated to attitudes toward gay men. Narcissism was not, however, associated with greater acceptance of homosexuality in general.According to the author, these results suggest that narcissistic men believe that heterosexual relationships should be patriarchal rather than egalitarian.

Dr. Keiller concludes: “The present study suggests that heterosexual men’s narcissism is linked to an adversarial and angry stance toward heterosexual women more than toward other groups. Although narcissists may want to maintain feelings of superiority and power over all people, narcissistic heterosexual men are particularly invested in subordinating heterosexual women. The results suggest that narcissistic hostility is associated with a group’s potential to provide or withhold gratification rather than ideology about a group’s sexual orientation or conformity to heterosexual gender roles.”

Full Article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100728121329.htm

Are Male Narcissists Also Misogynists?

Are male narcissists more likely to be misogynistic? A study suggests that heterosexual narcissistic men tended to lash out more often at heterosexual women than any other group (including homosexual men and women). Dr. Keiller (2010), lead author of the study, writes:

The present study suggests that heterosexual men’s narcissism is linked to an adversarial and angry stance toward heterosexual women more than toward other groups. Although narcissists may want to maintain feelings of superiority and power over all people, narcissistic heterosexual men are particularly invested in subordinating heterosexual women.

While narcissists and their victims can be of any gender and sexual orientation and women can certainly be misogynistic as well (internalized misogyny is still well and alive), this study does seem to align with the accounts of many female victims of malignant narcissists, who have noted that their abusers tended to demonstrate patriarchal attitudes.

This link between misogyny and narcissism becomes even clearer when we consider that:

  • Misogynistic trolls who target women online are also part of the larger group of narcissists who have been shown to have high levels of psychopathy, sadism and Machiavellianism (Buckels, et. al 2014). This will not come as shocking news to any woman who has been trolled online and been subjected to violent threats, put-downs about her appearance and intelligence if she dares to speak out or basically exist on any online platform. For example, feminist writers and advocates such as Jessica Valenti and Anita Sarkeesian have been subjected to numerous threats over the course of their careers (Goldberg, 2015; Ryan, 2014). As Tory Shepherd writes, “We’re not talking about teen bullies here. We’re talking about grown men getting deviant pleasure from trying to hurt women.”
  • There is an established connection between misogynistic attitudes towards women and homicide against women (Campbell, 1981).
  • Many male mass murderers have also been shown to have a history of domestic violence against women. As Hadley Freeman (2017) writes in The Guardian:

“Paul Gill, a UCL lecturer who studies so-called lone wolf terrorists, told the New York Times last year: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.” In other words, wives and girlfriends make good target practice.”

Elliot Rodger is a prime example of what can happen when malignant narcissism and misogynistic beliefs merge in heinous acts of violence (Broogard, 2014). The 22-year-old created many disturbing videos and an entire manifesto about his entitlement to women’s bodies prior to his murderous rampage.

Are you dating a misogynistic narcissist? What to look out for:

Given the overlap between misogyny and narcissism, there are red flags that can point to the fact that you may be dating someone on the narcissistic spectrum. Common signs include:

An unwavering sense of sexual entitlement. Since male narcissists have been shown by Keiller’s study to have hostility towards women due to them being “sexual gatekeepers,” it is unsurprising that many male narcissists also display a sense of sexual entitlement as well. They feel entitled to women’s bodies and these are often the types to pressure, coerce or covertly manipulate women into fast-forwarding the physical aspects of the relationship early on and showing resentment, cold withdrawal or even forceful attempts when their advances are rejected.

TIP: Be wary of any dating partners who pressure you to get intimate with them early on. While this sense of entitlement may be more common than ever in today’s modern hookup culture, a refusal to respect your boundaries when you’ve communicated them is a sure red flag you’re dealing with someone toxic.

Stalking and harassment, especially in the face of rejection. All narcissists, regardless of gender, are capable of stalking and harassing their victims. This is because any form of rejection, even if it’s simply due to incompatibility, causes what is called a “narcissistic injury” which results in rage. You will find that male narcissists especially like to insult the women who reject them by degrading their physical attributes and sexual desirability.

Websites like Tinder Nightmares and Stop Street Harassment catalog what happens when women reject men and it seems that women disproportionately face certain types of harassment on social media, such as cyberbullying and revenge porn (Angus Reid Institute, 2016).  If a woman “dares” to refuse a second date with a narcissistic man, she will be on the receiving end of his rage or multiple attempts to change her mind.

TIP: When dating someone new, never reveal your address and avoid using your real phone number if you can. Use a Google voice number instead or message primarily through another text messaging app until you’ve met. It’s important to get a sense of who a person is before you give them full access to where you are and how you can be reached. Many stalkers take advantage of any personal information you give them to harass their victims after they’ve been rejected.

Deep-seated and harmful patriarchal beliefs that remain unquestioned. While it’s normal that both men and women have internalized gender roles to some extent in a patriarchal society, be on the lookout for harmful beliefs that any dating partners seem all too invested in defending and reinforcing. This can be overt, like a dating partner who believes women shouldn’t work or becomes enraged if you assert yourself. However, it can also be covert. Some abusive males mask themselves as feminists and “nice guys” when they are in reality simply looking to convince you of their credibility.

TIP: Rely on actions more than words. How does your dating partner react when you assert your boundaries and differing beliefs? Does he validate you or does he become contemptuous? How does he handle rejection? Does he often brag about what a “nice guy” he is and rant or rave about women who rejected him in the past or does he seem to take it in stride?

How does he respond to your accomplishments?Pathologically envious narcissists are often jealous of their partner’s achievements because it threatens their sense of superiority and their sense of control over you. Misogynistic male narcissists take it one step further: they feel deeply emasculated when they see their female partners accomplishing goals because it disrupts their stereotype of the “submissive woman.”

Such an attitude is not limited to narcissists alone: it has been shown as sadly common, even among highly educated men who may not be aware of these subconscious attitudes (Fisman et. al, 2006; Park et. al, 2015).

Another thing to note is how your dating partner approaches social justice issues. Does he dismiss or minimize the plight of women by claiming that men suffer equally or even worse horrendous treatment? It’s one thing to address the issues in society that affect men (such as expectations of toxic masculinity) but a whole other affair to continue to invalidate the systemic inequalities and realities that women worldwide face every day (everything from street harassment to honor killings). A man (or even woman) who refuses to acknowledge the unequal treatment of women in society is probably not one you will be compatible with in the long run regardless.

Narcissism isn’t exclusive to any gender, but it’s important to note that misogyny can be a trait of narcissism. It would be interesting for future research to also explore whether female narcissists possess misogynistic attitudes as well.

Shahida Arabi, M.A.

Full article: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2017/09/are-male-narcissists-also-misogynists/

What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out

Are you at the beginning of your recovery journey from narcissistic abuse? Are you learning all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and coming to grips with the abuse you’ve suffered? If so, chances are you’re waking up to the ugly truth of it: what the pathological narcissist is, and what they are capable of. And the question ‘what happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out’ is front of mind.

Understandably (and very necessarily…), with these realisations, the urge to free yourself is rising within you. Equally reasonably because of the nature of the disorder, you may be stressed, anxious and possibly also fearful about what will happen when they know you’re onto them.

Pathological narcissism exists on a spectrum, with a variety of differing profiles covering the continuum including overt, covert, malignant, and sociopathic narcissists.

Specifically how each one reacts when they know you’ve figured them out therefore varies. There are however commonalities.

In preparing to set yourself free, this article sets out for you likely responses from the narc.

The mind of the bully

Understanding what fuels the pathological narcissist is the closest a non-disordered individual can get to following the irrational thought processes that drive their behaviour.

Let’s set the scene and attempt to sketch this out with respect to what happens when they are sprung.

Where your relationships are based on connection and genuine care for those you choose to surround yourself with, this is not so for the Narcissistic Personality Disordered (NPD) person.

People to the narc, are tools that serve a distinct purpose which is to feed their beliefs about the fantasy land they have created where they rein as supreme, omnipotent, special, and perfect beings.

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This need is such that they are effectively addicted to securing corroboration that supports these beliefs, hence the term ‘supply’.

The narc’s addiction is the dependence on this external reinforcement that their false self-beliefs are based in fact, in order to keep knowledge of their true selves, at bay.

As with any addiction, withdrawal has significant repercussions for the afflicted. It is centred on the belief that without satisfying ‘supply’ needs, survival is jeopardised.

It’s therefore no surprise that faced with being unable to score their hit, your supply, the very darkest aspects of the narc take over.

The narc’s tipping point

Most of the time, their denial is (almost) bullet proof and successfully shields them from their awful truth. It is (almost) inconceivable to them that they could be flawed. This is evidenced in all the blaming you cop for their actions & behaviours, the projection, the denying irrefutable facts etc.

The construct of the disorder is such that conscious awareness of feeling threatened is infrequent. The tipping point of vulnerability for the narc, is generally a culmination of circumstances occurring when:

1 You are still useful to them as supply, and they therefore haven’t as yet, planned to discard you. In other words, feeding their addiction is at risk.

2 They are unaware that despite their relentless efforts to gaslight you into full submission, you have retained some of your autonomy, clarity of thought, self-belief, ability to question the reality they create for you, and will to be happy. This fracturing of their control over you, deeply challenges their self-concept.

3 AND, you have done something that penetrates their shield sufficiently to threaten their false perceptions of grandiosity, superiority, entitlement, and/or power (a.k.a. a narcissistic injury). This would be anything that communicates to them that they are not in control, for example, discovering you have raised your concerns about them with someone else; not complying with their directives and doing your own thing; calling them out on their disordered behaviour in an exposing way, etc.

So, what happens when the narc knows you’ve figured them out?

Power and control

The only way the pathological narcissist knows how to regain their inner equilibrium and get back to feeling safe in their make-believe world, is to re-establish control and power over you.

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And this they will do in a frenzied, manic, their ‘life depends on it kinda way’.

Control and power for the narcissist invariably involves proving you wrong. To their way of thinking, if they establish this for themselves, they also nullify the threat you pose to their false selves. (For more on the importance of invalidating you read Invalidation and Narcissism: Why they slowly erase you).

Remember that for the narc, flaws/mistakes/being wrong cannot be integrated into their view of one being due to splitting (see the Narc Wise Glossary for any term refreshers). You can be either all good, or all bad. All right, or all wrong.

To confirm your ‘wrongness’ in any department, is sufficient to cover all bases, including your suspicions about them.

And by invalidating you, and your views, they reinstate their control over you.  And ultimately, control over themselves. The threat you presented, has been eradicated.

Amplification of their ‘go to’ methods

As stated, flavours of narcissism vary. As do preferred modus operandi.

Some are fans of aggressive physical/verbal violence & bullying; some the ‘poor victim’ approach; some are gaslighters extraordinaire stealthily and steadily breaking the trust you have in yourself; some the illusion that they are, above all else, the world’s greatest giver and lover.

Whatever their primary go-to is, expect this to be amplified. They will use whatever their ‘forte’ is, full throttle.

Predictable narc mechanisms when they feel threatened

1.       Narcissistic rage

This is fury and vitriol like you’ve never witnessed before. It is the external manifestation of the narcissist’s internal short-circuiting. Their complete inability to cope with the truth of who they are.

It is the rage sparked by being unmasked as weak, out of control, and false. Their glimpse of what lies beneath their denial and their momentary understanding of being flawed to the point of being disordered. It is a snapshot of comprehension of what they spend a lifetime obsessively hiding from.

In the moment of narcissistic rage, they are completely out of control. This does not mean ‘out of control’ with respect to intentionality, awareness of actions & behaviours, nor consequently of responsibility. It means ‘out of control’ in terms of consequences be damned.

The expression of their rage will vary, however the greater the narcissistic injury, the greater the reaction, which may be verbal through to physical aggression.

2.       Cruelty

Following narcissistic rage, is the shift back to calculated manipulation and abuse. It is the return from being out of control, to fully in control and mindful of all actions and behaviours.

The malignancy the pathological narcissist is capable of, and that you experience in some forms regularly throughout devaluation, is at this point fully unleashed.

Not only to teach you a lesson about who has power and control over you, but to punish. To cause harm. Because in their minds a) they are entitled to do so, and b) you deserve it.

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So, what does this cruelty look like? Again, this will depend on the flavour & ‘go to’s’ of the narcissist.

Common strategies that leverage the knowledge they have of you based on vulnerabilities you have shared with them are:

• Baiting – deliberately provoking and antagonising you to react negatively by jabbing at your deepest wounds.

• Gaslighting – ramping up efforts to have you question your sense of reality and mental health (for more on this strategy read 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslighting).

• Withholding/Stonewalling – removing your access to information, emotional or physical resources you either depend on or value the most. Denying access to children for no valid reason, isolating you from emotional/social support, and financial abuse, are all examples.

• Smear campaigns – spreading false information and gossip, to discredit, undermine, control and isolate you further (for more on smear campaigns & how to tackle them, read Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it and What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign).

3.       Hoovering

If the narcissist believes that there is still a possibility of brainwashing you back into their make-believe world, and you retain some usefulness as supply, hoovering will hit hard. These are all the strategies used to suck you back in.

Once more employing all the knowledge they have of you, and activating the triggers they have programmed in you through their abuse, you can expect:

• Love-bombing – bombarding you with professions of love, promises of the future emotionally healthy relationship that lies before you and their forthcoming changes.

• The fauxpology – often accompanying the love-bombing, if the narcissist deems it necessary for the purpose of the hoover, is the ‘sorry not sorry’. An apology devoid of sincerity, accountability or empathy, yet rolled out much like love bombing messages to give you what you want to hear (for more on the fauxpology read The narcissist’s apology: Sorry, not sorry ).

• Using fear, guilt and obligation – tailoring pleas and demands to stimluate your deepest wounds, and elicit pre-determined reactions to pull you back in. These ones may sound like ‘how could you do this to me, after all I’ve done for you’, or ‘no one will ever love you like I do’ etc.

DO NOT BE FOOLED GORGEOUS ONE.

These ones are arguably the most difficult to withstand because they target what you want most and fear most. This is precisely why they are used on you.

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You are not a puppet. Cut those strings now.

(For more on these tactics read How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting).

4.       Discard

On the other hand, if the narc figures their game is up and you no longer represent usefulness as supply, the final phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse will be instigated: discard.

This is the follow through of all threats implicit throughout devaluation coming to fruition. It is your callous rejection and abandonment, devoid of any closure.

In most instances, the narcissist will already have alternative supplies lined up. These will often be intensified prior to your discard to ensure your awareness of replaceability as added punishment.

For more on the phases of the cycle of narcissistic abuse, read From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180? & The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it.

What to do about what happens when the narc knows you’ve figured them out

Many of the abusive tactics cited, as you know, are present throughout a relationship with an abusive narcissist.

When applied once the narc knows you’ve figured them out however, the difference is they no longer have anything to lose. Specifically, your supply. Which brings on the ‘no holds barred’, Satan rises, kinda situation.

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This may strike the fear of God into you. Clearly this isn’t without basis.

Gorgeous one, please don’t take the possibilities of what may occur and likely fear, as rationale to stay in the situation you are in.

Remember that the fear, and myriad other negative outcomes on your wellbeing and whole-of-life outcomes, that you sustain from the abuse of the narcissist, ARE the reasons you must break free.

You are not alone. There is help.

If you need support in preparing to leave your abusive situation, reach out to your local domestic violence service providers or call your national domestic violence hotline for referrals and to develop a safety plan.

For support with self-harm or suicidality, please contact your local suicide prevention service. For services near you please refer to the resources provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

If at any point you fear that you or anyone else is in imminent danger, contact emergency services immediately.

Gorgeous one, you’ve got this. A thousand times over. You’ve got this.

Wake up from this nightmare. Prepare. Plan. And set yourself free.

Full article: https://narcwise.com/2018/09/18/what-happens-when-narc-knows-you-know/amp/

People often stay in abusive relationships because of something called ‘trauma bonding’ — here are the signs it’s happening to you

People often don’t even realise they are in an abusive relationship.

It can be hard for others to understand why someone stays with an abusive partner.

It’s often because of something called “trauma bonding,” where you become addicted to the hormonal rollercoaster an abuser sends you on.

Those who have never been in an abusive relationship struggle to understand how people remain in one for so long. If somebody was mistreating you, “why did you stick around?” they ask.

For survivors, this can be a really tough question to answer. The lucky ones escape, and stumble upon articles or books that give them the terms to be able to understand what happened to them, and thus describe their experience. Other times, though, this doesn’t happen, and people might not even be aware they were in a relationship that could be classed as “abusive.”

This is because we are conditioned to believe abuse is always physical. On TV and in films, we see characters who are obviously evil. They are violent to their partners, shout at them aggressively, or even murder them in a fit of rage. While this does happen, it’s not a true representation of the abuse many others experience.

According to therapist Shannon Thomas, author of “Healing from Hidden Abuse,” psychological abuse is insidious, and it occurs a over time like an IV drip of poison entering your veins.

It starts with an off-hand comment here, or an insult there, but often victims brush these moments off. This is because abusive people are great at pretending to be everything you’re looking for in a partner, and they love bomb you with affection. Victims tend to believe this is the abuser’s real self, and when the mask starts to slip more and more, they believe its “out of character” and it must be their own fault for making their partner angry.

People stay in these relationships partly because they are trying to win back the abuser’s affection. However, Thomas told Business Insider that victims also become biologically attached to their abusers through something called “trauma bonding.”

It’s like an addictive drug.

It’s a bit like becoming addicted to a drug. A psychologically abusive relationship is a rollercoaster, with punishment and then intermittent reinforcement of kindness when you “behave.” This means the body is going through its own turmoil, with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, paired with dopamine when given affection as a reward.

“You have this back and forth, and the body becomes addicted,” Thomas said. “When we’re looking for something that we want, that we once had, which is a connection with somebody, and they are playing cat and mouse where they are pulling it back and forth, then the body really does become dependent on having that approval.”

This hormonal rollercoaster really takes its toll on someone’s body. Victims might find they break out in acne, even though they’ve always had good skin. They might have chest pains. Thomas has said that in her practise she has even seen her clients develop autoimmune disorders.

“Their bodies start to shut down, and they start really struggling with chronic pain, migraines, and some arthritic type pains and conditions, and they just can’t fight infections as well,” she said. “The body really can only take so much stress.”

Victims stay in these relationships despite of the stress on their bodies, because often it isn’t clear to them what the problems really are. Through gaslighting, control, and intermittent love, the abuser has their partner backed into a corner of self-blame and desperation of trying to win back the affection of the person they love.

Unfortunately, for many people, when they try to leave these relationships they are so bonded to their abuser that they return. Others don’t try to leave at all, and are only freed from the clutches of the abuse when they are discarded.

An abusive relationship with a narcissist or psychopath tends to follow the same pattern: idealisation, devaluation, and discarding. At some point, the victim will be so broken, the abuser will no longer get any benefit from using them. They may have totally bankrupted them, or destroyed their confidence, or worse, and they move on to their next target.

However, once they are gone, the victim – or survivor as Thomas calls them at this point – can finally start coming round to the idea they were abused. They can grieve, and finally see the damage that was being done, and realise it wasn’t their fault.

That’s when the healing can really begin, Thomas says, and the survivor can realise that they were targeted not because they were weak, but because they had so much to give.

These are the signs you might be in a trauma bond with someone,according to Psych Central:

  • A constant pattern of nonperformance – your partner promises you things, but keeps behaving to the contrary.
  • Others are disturbed by something that is said or done to you in your relationship, but you brush it off.
  • You feel stuck in the relationship because you see no way out.
  • You keep having the same fights with your partner that go round in circles with no real winner.
  • You’re punished or given the silent treatment by your partner when you say or do something “wrong.”
  • You feel unable to detach from your relationship even though you don’t truly trust or even like the person you’re in it with.
  • When you try and leave, you are plagued by such longing to get back with your partner you feel it might destroy you.

Full article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/trauma-bonding-explains-why-people-often-stay-in-abusive-relationships-2017-8

How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths (A Guide for Therapists, Law Enforcement and Loved Ones)

“There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming—but always deadly—individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person’s expense. Many spend time in prison, but many do not. All take far more than they give.” – Dr. Robert Hare, The Charming Psychopath

As an author who writes for abuse survivors, I’ve communicated with thousands of people who have been affected by malignant narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths as partners, friends, family members, co-workers or even bosses. Throughout the course of my work, I’ve noticed a common theme: the societal invalidation and gaslighting of survivors.

This form of secondary gaslighting and invalidation is incredibly painful, especially when it comes from the very professionals, friends and family members who are meant to help support the survivor on their healing journey. Not only does secondary gaslighting from other people further isolate the survivor, it actually hinders the healing process. I can’t tell you the number of times a survivor has reached out to me to tell me the painful effects of being invalidated by a friend, a family member, a spiritual leader or even a therapist who dispensed ill-informed, sometimes even victim-blaming ideas.

This also contributes to a global Gaslighting Effect in which speaking out about abuse by covert manipulators is met with some form of backlash, victim-blaming, and victim-shaming by enablers of abusers and abusers themselves. Survivor Ariel Leve explains that this form of secondary gaslighting in incredibly traumatic to the survivor. As she says, “It wasn’t just that my reality was canceled, but that my perception of reality was overwritten…it wasn’t the loudest and scariest explosions that caused the most damage. It wasn’t the physical violence or the verbal abuse or the lack of boundaries and inappropriate behavior. What did the real damage was the denial that these incidents ever occurred…the erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse.”

How Have We Harmed Survivors? How Do We Help Them?

I want to preface this by saying that there are many excellent therapists, life coaches, writers and advocates who are well-informed about the effects of being with a highly manipulative, narcissistic individual. Unfortunately, there are also professionals and laypersons out there who inadvertently retraumatize survivors because of a lack of knowledge about how covert manipulation tactics work – as well as the effects of this type of trauma. Some survivors are even misdiagnosed by therapists when they are in fact suffering from PTSD or Complex PTSD from years of chronic abuse.

It’s important to learn the appropriate ways of communicating with survivors of malignant narcissists – those who lack empathy, who exploit others for their own gain, who abuse others chronically, and who lack remorse and conscience for their actions.

Here are common mistakes people make when communicating with survivors of this type of insidious violence:

1) Treating the abuse as a “compatibility” issue, a “bad break-up” or minimizing the pathological behavior of the abuser by equating it to that of the garden-variety jerk.

What we need to understand as a society is that malignant narcissism is not an “everyday” problem. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, many of the survivors who are reeling from the trauma of emotional abuse have encountered individuals on the extreme end of the spectrum. They have met predatory individuals who have systematically stripped them of their self-worth and confidence. Victims of malignant narcissists often undergo emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial and sometimes even sexual or physical abuse.

Someone who is a malignant narcissist has characteristics that go beyond selfishness, self-centeredness or vanity. They have antisocial traits such as a lack of remorse, a failure to conform to social norms, impulsivity, aggression, and a lack of conscience. This is someone who can engage in inhumane cruelty and acts of both psychological and physical violence just to get their needs met.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula (2018), an expert on relationship abuse, notes, “I’ve done research and work in that area of domestic violence or what’s also called intimate partner violence, and most people who perpetrate domestic violence are either narcissistic or psychopathic. So there is danger there, in other words, they will dispose of you if you get in their way.” 

The narcissistic or sociopathic abuser is not “just” a cheater, a player, or a “difficult” individual – and you cannot approach them as such. They tend to be chronically abusive, manipulative, deceptive and ruthless in their mind games. They can even escalate into horrific acts of violence.

When unwilling to receive or unresponsive to treatment, the malignant narcissist is someone with hardwired behavioral patterns which cause irreparable harm to others.

Whether you’re a therapist, an advocate, part of law enforcement, a family member or a friend of a survivor, be wary of giving out advice or counsel that would apply to garden-variety toxic people. For example, sometimes “direct communication” or assertiveness can actually enrage an abuser or give them information these manipulators can use as ammunition. Survivors would need strategies which are tailored to the dangerous aspects of exiting a relationship like this.

The same advice you give to someone dealing with an empathic person does not apply to someone who is empathy-impaired and intentionally and sadistically posing harm.

2) Interrupting key features of the healing process by trying to get the survivor to “heal” quickly.

While every healing journey is unique, the journeys of narcissistic abuse survivors have many similarities across the board because the same manipulation tactics are being used. A survivor of habitual gaslighting by an abuser is suffering from the extreme effects of cognitive dissonance. They are trying to reconcile their abuser’s false image which “hooked” them initially with the abuser’s true callous and cold self.

As a result of this, survivors tend to ruminate over incidents of abuse as well as the initial love-bombingthey received from their abusers. Baffled onlookers (counselors, friends, family members) may assume that the survivor is “stuck” or “can’t move forward” because they ruminate over the incidents of abuse.

What they fail to understand is that rumination and over-analysis are effects of the trauma they experienced.

Survivors of any form of abuse are always attempting to sift through the thoughts, feelings, and memories which have caused them this cognitive dissonance. That’s why they tend to tell their stories again and again – because they are attempting to provide a coherent narrative to the trauma they just experienced.

This narrative allows them to overcome the cognitive dissonance and dissociation (including the disconnect among thoughts, memories, emotions) they experienced as a result of the abuse. As Andrea Schneider, LCSW (2014), writes, “Cognitive dissonance is diffused and reduced when the survivor of narcissistic abuse is able to receive validation and confirmation of the reality of his or her circumstances.” 

To interrupt the process of rumination in a way that is judgmental and invalidating is especially harmful to a survivor who is just trying to figure out what happened to them. While you can certainly provide tips on healthier alternatives to excessive rumination, do not judge the rumination as a “defect” or “flaw” on the part of the survivor. It is a normal part of the journey to healing. A healthy way to interrupt rumination might be to ask what the survivor can do to better reconnect with the reality of the abuse they experienced and guide them to reconcile their cognitive dissonance by acknowledging the abuser’s disordered nature or tactics. This will help to decrease the gaslighting effect.

3) Making the victim responsible for the actions of the abuser and failing to recognize the impact of the trauma bond.

I understand that mental health professionals may only be treating the victim, so some feel they cannot “speak” to the actions of the abuser. Some law enforcement officials may be confused as to why the victim does not “press charges” or even defends the abuser. Friends and family members may also hesitate to “judge” a situation they themselves are not intimately involved in. However, aside from guiding the survivor to leaving the abuser safely, placing a hyper-focus on what the victim must do in the early stages of healing can be detrimental.

Asking the victim to continually “look within” in the very first weeks of recovery can even cross over the line to victim-blaming. Therapists, law enforcement officials, and loved ones must acknowledge the effects of the trauma bond that survivors developed with their abuser throughout the course of the relationship. This is a bond created by the intense, emotional experiences in the abuse cycle. Giving survivors tips and tools to gradually break what Dr. Patrick Carnes calls “the betrayal bond” is essential to their recovery journey.

Victims of malignant narcissists have heard many variations of victim-shaming statements such as the following even in the very beginning of their healing journey:

“You have to let it go.”

“You need to move forward.”

“You might be codependent.”

“Let’s talk about you, not him/her.”

“Why did you stay so long? Let’s explore that.”

These statements may come from a place of wanting the survivor to own their agency. However, when said in the early stages of recovery, they can retraumatize the survivor. A survivor at this stage is usually heavily trauma-bonded to their abusers. This means that regardless of any codependent traits (which may not even apply to them at all), they have bonded to the abuser in the abuse cycle in an effort to survive the abuse.

Dr. Joe Carver (2006) notes the dual impact of this bond and cognitive dissonance in his article, “The Small Kindness Perception”:

“The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

Importantly, both Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance develop on an involuntary basis. The victim does not purposely invent this attitude. Both develop as an attempt to exist and survive in a threatening and controlling environment and relationship…They are trying to survive. Their personality is developing the feelings and thoughts needed to survive the situation and lower their emotional and physical risks…The victim is engaged in an attempt to survive and make a relationship work. Once they decide it doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.”

This trauma bond is strong and demands attention. This was not a normal breakup. The survivor at this point has gone through a great deal of gaslighting and needs to work through what the abuser has done to them before they move onto actions which actively support their healing. They need to connect to a vocabulary of the abuse they experienced.  That is why they need to talk about their abuser first – to establish the tactics used and the effects of these tactics – before even attempting to move forward in any tangible way.

4) Mistaking the abuser as well-intentioned and communicating this to the survivor. 

Narcissistic or sociopathic abusers tend to be very charming and can hook, dupe and manipulate even the most skilled of professionals. Just ask Dr. Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist, who admits to still being duped despite his expertise!

I have heard many horror stories of what occurred when survivors of narcissists entered into couples therapy with their abusers. The National Domestic Violence Hotline actually advises against couples therapy because an abusive relationship has a severe power imbalance. To be in a therapy room with an abuser is to give the abuser access to manipulate the therapist and further gaslight the victim.

As The National Domestic Violence Hotline asserts:

“The primary reason we don’t recommend couples counseling is that abuse is not a “relationship problem.” Couples counseling may imply that both partners contribute to the abusive behavior, when the choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner. Focusing on communication or other relationship issues distracts from the abusive behavior, and may actually reinforce it in some cases. Additionally, a therapist may not be aware that abuse is present and inadvertently encourage the abuse to continue or escalate.”

This is something to keep in mind when speaking about the “intentions” of an abusive individual, even if you are providing only one-on-one counseling. Attempting to divert from or detract the focus on the abusive behavior or misreading the abuser’s “intentions” can have the inadvertent effect of making the victim feel as if their reality is not worth acknowledging. For any friend or family members of survivors, communicating the idea that, “I don’t think this person meant to hurt you,” is not only harmful, but this also tends to be false.

An abuser always has an agenda of controlling the victim. Their intentions are clear in that respect. A normal “jerk” or garden-variety toxic person who is unaware may be different. However, when it’s clear that the survivor has been emotionally terrorized, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to “doubt” that the intentions of an abuser were meant to harm.

A healthier alternative to this claim could be, “This person seems to have harmed you tremendously and has not made any efforts at stopping, even when you call him or her out. Let’s explore how you can take care of yourself and detach from this toxic person.”

The Big Picture

Some abusers are more sadistic than others. Some lack empathy, while others also lack a conscience. If you want to help any survivor of psychological abuse by a malignant narcissist, you have to help them acknowledge the mindset of what it means to be a predator – not further gaslight them into believing that they are dealing with someone who possesses empathy or remorse. You have to extend empathy, compassion, and nonjudgment to the victim – not the abuser.

At the end of the day, all abusers have issues with their sense of entitlement, their need for control and their stunning lack of empathy. Rather than focusing on the victim, it’s time for society to wake up to the abusive nature of their perpetrators.

By Shahida Arabi, M.A.

Article link: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2018/10/gaslighting-survivors-of-narcissists-and-narcissistic-abuse/

Spring Forward: How I Learned You Should ALWAYS Talk to Their Ex(es)

When thinking of spring we think of newness, renewal, growth, transformation, the passing of the cold winter and the shedding of it’s dead branches and dried leaves, and the beginning of a rebirth of sorts…something that is new, young, growing, healthy and blooming into new beauty. We think of changing clocks. We think of springing forward.

As I once heard a famous former college football coach say; Much like a tree, we are only doing one of two things with this life we’ve been given. We are either growing or we’re dying. There is no in between. We are either in the act of growing or in the act of dying. We, like the tree, are never just doing nothing.

Spring forward, to avoid falling back.

Someone recently said something to me that has stayed with me for several weeks. It resonated with me in a way everyday conversations very rarely do. Her thoughts were so profound, so introspective, and so deeply thought provoking. She said to me some people go through life as if it is just one big never ending party, and anything that reminds them of the reality of their own real authentic life, their hidden pain, their regret, their fear, their guilt, their shame, is to be avoided at all costs. She said many people don’t want to feel their own pain or look deeply inside of themselves which ultimately as a result, stunts their growth. Often they’re afraid of what they’ll see if they do take a close look inside. They will quickly avoid anyone who brings reality into view for them, even if it’s not their own pain but someone else’s. Even to the point where they become toxic and cruel, and discouraging of the growth and self-awareness of others. It makes them think of their own pain. They will avoid it like the plague. In order to grow we have to feel pain. Pain of disappointment. Pain of loss, disloyalty, tragedy or betrayal. Pain of shock and sometimes pain of failure whether it be in a personal relationship or a professional one, or maybe a combination of both. It’s how we learn. We learn much more from our mistakes than from our triumphs. We all go through it but some do their best to avoid acknowledging and feeling their pain by (temporarily) convincing themselves with substance addictions and abuse that they are so very “happy.” Anything less makes most people uncomfortable. So much so no one really cares whether their happiness is genuine or fabricated, just so long as the message is there. Real or not. The life of the never ending party. Life is so good. So positive to be around. So much fun, no matter what. These types are happy alright, until they sober up. Once that party ends and the morning sunshine of reality begins to rise, it’s time to do it all over again quickly…before they actually allow themselves to truly feel anything real at all. They are as shallow as a dinner plate. A waterless pond. The depth of a straight line. You cannot feel anything real around these kinds of people, unless you too are a never ending party, feeling the same nothingness yourself. An empty, dried up well. These are the people who will continue making the same miserable mistakes in their lives over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. They never sober up long enough to be authentic with themselves, much less anyone else for that matter. Life itself, life as a whole is completely inauthentic for these kinds of people. Authenticity is far too uncomfortable and threatening. Some may even coldly watch another who may be visibly wasting away–gaunt, with a new emaciated frailty–only to absently pose for pictures with them wearing a profoundly empty, cold, disingenuous smile. For most it’s merely a morbid curiosity, as if they’re rubbernecking a tragic traffic accident so they can gossip afterwards and tell others what horrors and hilarity they witnessed. It’s sickening. Perhaps that’s the sentence, the penalty for long living an empty life and running off all the good people, leaving them with what’s left over–the users, the addicts, and the cheaters, the ones who are just like them. The disingenuous. Sometimes karma is who you end up with. This conversation has stayed with me long enough that I decided to build my April blog entry around this great and powerful conversation.

That conversation led me back into reflecting upon another powerful conversation I’d had months back with another group of people who said they believe everyone should always talk to the exes of someone new they’re seeing. In a normal relationship there are always two sides to a story. In a normal break up the same is true. In an unhealthy relationship where there is any form of domestic abuse for instance, there’s only the truth and the lie. There aren’t two sides to the story whenever abuse is present. Abuse is never okay. If they’re telling the truth, there should be nothing for them to fear and they should encourage you to speak to their ex(es) and if so, they’ll likely share in the blame of their relationships’ failures. They likely won’t be poisoning the well against their ex if it was a normal, amicable split between two people who tried their best. If they speak ill of someone they’ve been with for a very long time, that’s a huge red flag. Narcissists especially love to play the victim and accuse the other of doing to them what they did to the other. It’s textbook behavior. Projection. One that I can personally say I too have missed. His exes were all “narcissists” and “adulterous” even verbally abusive to in-laws only to learn afterwards, it was actually the other way around. After meeting them personally over time, it didn’t add up. Lovely, classy, well-educated, hard-working, attractive, graciously charming ladies (up until now). Nothing like they were described and there were more of them than most people knew. Another missed flag. Having now been on both sides of the fence as the new “narcissistic supply” and the ex, one learns the hard way if they will speak ill of their exes, that’s a big, huge, red flag–and one day they’ll do the same to you if given the chance. They continued suggesting that if people would talk to the exes of someone they had recently begun seeing, ask them (if they’re willing to discuss it) what happened in their relationship that brought it to an end and listen to the answers, listen for their authenticity, think of all the enormous mistakes one could avoid making by discovering things themselves through conversation instead of going through the same experiences and/or sadly believing things just because they were said, or because they shift into a higher gear of love-bombing overdrive–to distract and counteract any doubt. At the very least you’d notice the flags sooner than later with a verbal warning planted in the back of your mind. Why would an ex lie? What could they possibly have to gain from lying? They wouldn’t. There would be no point. Especially when multiple exes share the same or similar tales. How could they ALL have the same (or similar) experiences if it was not all true? After all, I think most people believe (the majority of people) are good, honest, forthright people. Lying never works long term anyway. The truth always comes out eventually, so why would anyone bother to lie? Odds are, they wouldn’t. Having learned firsthand (unfortunately much too late), that they hadn’t lied is certainly not a pleasant discovery when it’s learned in hindsight.

Supporting that theory once again was another woman going through a very sudden, unexpected break up due to infidelity. There was a parallel incident that played out on social media where a woman was discussing her ex and how she lived with years of narcissistic abuse that developed over the course of their marriage, but true to form it was not seen until after the end. She said (in hindsight), they never change. They may hide it for a while but it’s always there waiting to re-emerge. Upon looking at the last name she recognized this was the ex-wife of the man another woman had just caught cheating. Leopards truly do not change their spots she said, but can camouflage themselves successfully for years. He had done the same to three women (probably more) who all ended up talking and realizing they too had the same tales and experiences of love bombing, then to ambient abuse (also known as gaslighting), then to sudden discard years later. She began thinking, if only I had spoken to her years before and she had been candid about what she experienced, imagine how much precious time could’ve been saved. She’d likely have recognized the red flags and not shaken them off as meaningless bad days.

I believe with all my heart from then until now the ones who contacted me after my own break up had the kindest intentions. They offered me candid sharing, telling their own experiences with that same person and offered a relatable sounding board they had once needed too, but did not have for themselves. Absolute kindness. Learning that their stories were almost identical to my own experiences with that same person was numbing and shocking to hear at first. Like having a sorority sister in a sorority you didn’t realize you had pledged and where you were now a member. I had fondly (at the time) nicknamed an ex “the most interesting man in the world” which swiftly caught on with several others and became a commonly used moniker. Many jokingly referred to him as the fifth Beatle because of the self-reported vast and varied accomplishments for which he (oddly) never seemed to get much credit for, only to later learn directly from his former bosses, none of what he’d ever told me was true. Even the circumstances of his “departures” I was also later told were untrue. My “sorority sisters” shared in these experiences and others. I learned I was not the only one to experience it, not even close. Having kept my relationship’s secrets and never having shared most of my experiences with anyone (not even my closest friends), it would’ve been impossible for them to have known the things that were so specific, they had also happened to me exactly as they described them happening to themselves. It’s because they were telling me the truth. Their experiences and mine were the same. A first life lesson of its kind and assuredly, the last.

I think of my friend talking about that never ending party that some people try to perpetuate. The fear that if the party ends, reality will creep in and unwontedly look them dead in the eye if they allow themselves to sober up long enough to feel anything. It makes you wonder… are they running to something with that never ending party, or running away from something else? Perhaps the answer is a little of both. It gets to the point where they don’t even notice the damage they’ve done to so many (including themselves) and the damage they’ve recklessly caused in their lives and in their families. Interestingly, that fear is what prevents so many from facing their pain. Eventually though the never ending party will come to an end, whether we want it to or not. We mere mortal humans don’t have enough power to keep it going indefinitely. That’s why honesty and purpose is crucial to avoiding regret. One of the things I’ve learned through my experiences in palliative medicine is that so many people will die with unfulfilled wishes and unactualized dreams and much, so much sad regret. It’s heartbreaking. There won’t be time to apologize, to make amends, to perhaps tell a loved one, a child, or a friend how they really felt about them and not how they pretended to feel perhaps due of selfish pride. It sadly happens everyday to someone. Someone who was cowardly, braveless and too afraid to let their never ending party of self-denial end and authentically face their fears, face their pain, then be able let it go in order to grow. We are meant to grow through the things we go through.

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that life is very unpredictable. I hope you will strongly consider talking to their exes early on before you take their words as truth with blind faith to later potentially find yourself buried deep inside their facade of years of tightly woven fabrications. As the saying goes, what tangled webs we weave when we weave to deceive. I do wish those calls I received afterwards had come much sooner for me. Time is a valuable commodity that cannot be bought or sold. But as one couple later said to me, you wouldn’t have believed us back then and it likely would’ve ended our friendship. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have likely believed them, (he was just that good at lying), but at least I’d have had a warning to be aware and perhaps would’ve recognized the flags I’d missed much sooner. But it had been very awkward for them, and I understand their previous silence. This couple was wrong however about it ending our friendship though, it certainly wouldn’t have impacted that. We not only continue to share a close friendship and deep respect, but also a kinship from the disappointment of betrayal we received from that very same source. (I was fortunate, mine wasn’t nearly as lengthy as theirs). I am grateful, thankful and blessed to have had the truth finally revealed to me. That kind of genuineness and support is priceless. Just like time, authenticity and genuineness cannot be bought.

Avoiding that authenticity and self-reflection is literally and figuratively a dead end road. No one is getting out of here alive so truth should be the only thing that guides us and that matters, even when it’s painful. See people as they truly are and not who they tell you they are, even if their true identity is deeply disappointing. Conduct your own discovery, first. Searching for truth in our lives and in the people around us shouldn’t be avoided. Surround yourself with grounded, supportive, authentic people who live in the light of truth and honesty, who aren’t afraid to cry when they’re sad and celebrate joy when they’re happy. Otherwise one will spend each beautiful new season of their life indefinitely, continuously falling back and never ever springing forward into that glorious new season of blooming beauty. 🍂🍃