“The Penny Drops
The fact that you’re reading this book means you’re onto something. Maybe a particular event burst the bubble and a small gap opened up as a result. A gap in what, you’re not sure, but you felt it. It happened when a significant person in your life went that little bit too far, and you finally said to yourself: “This is not normal. Why am I tolerating this crap?””
What makes you start questioning the friendship/relationship you’re in?
Is it one-sided? When you try to express an opinion is it always side-lined as stupid or irrelevant? Does your friend twist things so that they are the focal point again? Are they able to manipulate you by putting up so many arguments or obstacles that it’s pointless carrying on? Do you get tired of walking on eggshells around the person because you know that one slip of the tongue will cause an unnecessary emotive reaction? Do they try to supress you from being yourself…to make you feel inferior? Does this person always have a drama unfolding around them that they just have to share with everybody around them? Do you actually get any real pleasure from the relationship, or are you just kidding yourself that it’s fun, fun, fun?
At the point you start asking yourselves these questions, you’re also probably trying to find an answer to them….just to make sure you haven’t actually gone insane. Google becomes your best friend as you start reading up on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the various articles make you realise that you have been trapped in a world you didn’t believe you could ever be dragged into.
Phrases like “gaslighted” are used. I’ve seen the play Gaslight from which the term derives from…surely not? I’m savvy…aren’t I? I couldn’t be manipulated like that…or could I? And why would I befriend someone like that in the first place? You read more and more, and then suddenly you see an offer on a book and you buy it and as you read it you realise just how you managed to fall down the rabbit hole so easily.
The problem is trying to establish what is normal human behaviour and what is narcissistic behaviour. This book tries to unravel this question by looking at who narcissists are and to whom they are most likely to target and why. If you can understand the core of the problem, you are better equipped at dealing with it and ensuring you are not the target of other narcissists in the future.
The book suggests that narcissists attach themselves to specific types of personalities, so understanding who you are and why you are a likely target is a good place to start. Essentially you need to cut off their “oxygen” supply, empower yourself with self-belief, get your identity back, and starve the narcissist of their power supply which drains you both physically and mentally.
The important thing that the book focuses on is that we need to view narcissism as bad, not the people themselves. There is a reason why people behave the way they do, whether that action is hurtful to others or not, and so as a victim of narcissism, it is important to get inside the head of the narcissist. If you can understand why a person does what they do, you can learn to forgive them. You don’t have to let that person enter your life again (perish the thought…the chances are their behaviour will not change and you’ll end up being sucked into that awful world again) but forgiveness allows you to move on without your shoulders sagging with the bitterness that could be eating away at you.
The Ideal Target
Who does J H Simon see as the perfect target for a narcissist?
If you have ever done a personality test and came out with the result of “Empath” I have bad news for you. You are the ideal target.
· Intuitive with high emotional intelligence.
· They experience their emotions in a manner which debilitates rational thought.
· Fully tuned into the emotions of others and can emulate them.
· Good listeners and will patiently use their time listening to other people’s problems.
· They are artistic and dreamers, inspiring others with their zest for life.
· Creative and spiritual, brightening people’s days by being their unique selves.
There is nothing wrong with feeling shame about yourself if you use that shame to your advantage. If you don’t think you are particularly good at something and feel shame that you are not as good as someone else, you have two choices, to either get better at the task, or to accept your limitations and move on with something else that you are good at. We can all look up to someone for their abilities, but it is when we allow them to become “godlike” that the narcissist will take the opportunity to twist that shame and commence a toxic relationship.
An empathetic person feels shame, a narcissist doesn’t. They are shameless and brutal. They either brush it off in a couldn’t careless manner, or they “big” themselves up…make themselves out to be more educated, more worldly-wise, cleverer than they really are…and the deluded empath welcomes them with open arms and an aura of awe. (Yes dear readers, I come out as an empath on the various personality tests I’ve taken. On the plus side, at least it shows I do have a personality.)
If a person is without shame, it means they will never feel that they are limited at anything. The impossible is always possible. I recall having a conversation with a former friend in which they said, “it won’t be long before X is inviting us to have tea with him.” I was genuinely taken aback and asked if they really believed it, because quite frankly I couldn’t fathom out why on earth our company would be considered so scintillating. I was told most emphatically that yes; they did believe it. Now it’s one thing having self-confidence, but when things have to be engineered so that the person can prove themselves right, a sour taste starts to form. But once you are enmeshed in the narcissists hold, it becomes hard to see the true picture. The narcissist is Teflon coated, nothing sticks on them, it’s always you getting the blame, always you who are wrong, their shame is reflected off you, and whilst you want to say something, you wait until there is a private moment to do so. Your shame is made public, but because you know the difference between good and bad behaviour, you don’t try to bring the narcissist down publicly…probably because you know deep down that there is no point trying…they have no shame and the words will be twisted back to you.
Now this was interesting passage… “In order to feel grandiose all the time, however, they need people to feed off. As a result, a narcissist lives out their grandiosity by subjugating and objectifying other people.” Hmmm, now that’s not a nice trait to have. People are people, they have feelings, even people in the public eye have feelings, they’re not a commodity, not mere objects for our delectation…that’s obviously the empath in me that sees that… but the narcissist just thinks poppycock, they’ve put themselves in this position of adoration and I’ll get what I can from it. It’s fascinating stuff.
As I read further and further through the book I was awakening to all sorts of situations and realising how badly I understand the human condition. It seems illogical to me for people to not empathise with each other, but then I see it all around me. That’s not to say I don’t have my own opinion about things, but evidently there is a time and a place to share thoughts. If someone is going through a bad time or a break up, you don’t tell them their partner is a cretin and you’re best shot of him/her (because you never really liked them) you listen, you say things to empower that person so that they can make up their own mind about a situation, you don’t go stomping in with your big feet telling them what to do. And that’s the difference, the narcissist does tell people what to do…they bestow their opinion as fact towards someone who is feeling at a low ebb, when their confidence is at its lowest and they can be easily manipulated.
The Seven Obstacles
J H Simon discusses seven obstacles that come up time and time again in relationships. It is good to be aware of them and how to counteract them. If you’re aware of them, it’s harder to fall down the rabbit hole and get entrapped in the same cycle of events with a different person or group.
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself” - Jim Morrison
Once you realise that your emotions have been hijacked, that this “fun” friendship is actually very one-sided, and that you’re not allowed a word in edgeways because you might start to stand out for all the “right” reasons, you find yourself back in the driving seat of your life. But, you cannot do things on your own. You need allies, you need real friends, ones you can trust, ones that don’t have an agenda, people who will sit, listen and empathise. Finding these people can be hard, but they do exist, and they are the folk who will give you that helping hand to become yourself once more. They will allow you to move from the depressed, powerless state the narcissist left you in, moving towards a calmer, happier, engaged personality.
Engaging with folk who have self-inflated ego’s is limiting, in that you start playing a role that is not entirely in tune with the true self…play the role for too long and it may be hard to disengage yourself from the grip of the narcissist. But, as J H Simon says “the true self never leaves you, and is always patiently waiting for you to tap into it.” That’s a nice thought and gives hope to anyone who feels trapped, but how does a person return to their inner self?
Simon’s suggestions include:
- Write a journal which focuses on your emotions rather than just going over the day’s events.
- Write poetry
- Play an Instrument
- Paint/draw etc
Essentially do things which tap into your subconscious mind and bring you the confidence you need.
Once you realise that you are not limited by those around you, you can start marching forward doing things you never thought yourself capable of:
· Travelling alone. (I know it sounds scary, but when I was made redundant a few years ago, I took a year off work and started doing things on my own because my other half still had a job to go to. I remember spending a week in Prague, it was both scary and liberating, to the extent that when I booked another week there a few months later, other half asked if he could come with me. NO – was the resounding reply…I have more tea shops to explore and you’ll ruin my “me and tea time.”
· Cookery classes (I have a friend that even takes classes abroad.)
· Wine or whisky tasting classes.
· Computer skill classes.
· Read psychology and philosophy books. (I took this one on board, purely for the reason that I had gotten the hell out of dodge, but I wanted to understand more about the behaviour of people and why they are so inclined to monopolise and use others before discarding them when they stop playing ball.)
Controlling Your Boundaries
Narcissists have little regard for people’s boundaries, they want to know EVERYTHING about you. It is their God given right to know everything you’re doing, everything you’re thinking and everything you’re feeling. Don’t forget, at the beginning of Simon’s book he explained that the narcissist sees you as a commodity, not a living, breathing, emotional individual. You are purely there to serve them…you fit in with them and what they want and even if you try to put measures into place…they still have the upper hand.
Eventually you have a light bulb moment and anger starts to stream forth. It’s ok to be angry, but the anger needs to be controlled otherwise it becomes all consuming. That is the time to take a step back from everything, retreat from the opportunity of saying something you will later regret…go into a self-imposed lock-down in order to rationalise and set your boundaries again. It is only then that you can “kill” the narcissist (albeit not physically!) Instead, the killing comes from starving the narcissist from what they value, POWER; and the best way of doing that J H Simon explains, is by using contempt.
“In your case, you can view yourself as a person of integrity, healthy shame and healthy guilt; a person with a moral compass who plays fair. You can then view the narcissist with contempt, i.e. as a person who:
- Lacks integrity, healthy shame, healthy guilt and a moral compass
- Doesn’t play by the rules
- Has little capacity for change, self-reflection or growth”
Contempt, however, is not an ideal situation or emotion; it’s actually rather unpleasant, however, sometimes it is the only course of action that a human can use to protect themselves. We can utilise our energy more productively by side-lining one relationship with contempt and promoting a healthier attitude towards more fulfilling relationships.
So, once we have learnt how to slay the narcissistic relationships that have thwarted our lives and move on in a positive fashion, I suppose the next question is why some people become narcissistic whilst others don’t. That is explored in J H Simon’s follow-up book: Killing Narcissim – Exposing and Transcending the Narcissist Regime.
The Plight of the Narcissist
This next book seeks to look at the system that the narcissistic abuse originates from, looking at social environments, families, the workplace, spiritual and friendship groups and romantic relationships. It moves from focusing on the effect of the narcissist to narcissism in general. At some point or other the narcissist was exposed to some kind of trauma and was forced to adapt to the hostile environment in which they found themselves.
In the first book we looked at what narcissistic behaviour does to a person and how to “kill” those feelings:
“Narcissists don’t believe in mirroring emotions. That would involve the true self. Their only way of relating is to have you mirror their false self.”
If you try to have a conversation with a narcissist, you don’t get the usual emotional reaction and interaction that you would expect when two people converse. This means it is twice as hard to get your message across, therefore you try harder, but any emotion from the message is ignored, words are analysed instead and the narcissist turns those words into their point of view, thus negating any valid feelings you had at the commencement of the conversation. Overtime, you feel as those you are trapped in a loop you can’t get out of and self-esteem begins to diminish and the narcissist can be confident they are winning their battle…they now have control over both you and your feelings.
If the narcissist begins to feel that they are losing control, they will try to form some sort of emotional attachment, be it buying little gifts to make you think they care for you or going on a charm offensive. To them it is a game. They will reel you in and continue the systematic abuse. The biggest mistake you can try is to try to bring emotional balance into the relationship, it is nigh on impossible, it is something they do not understand and certainly do not care for. They are control freaks and they do not want to invest in an equal relationship. If you step back from a group of narcissistic people, enveloping yourself with other empaths, you begin to see clearly the behaviour that you are unable to view and understand coherently when in the snare of the narcissist.
Ha ha ha
“Narcissists also hide ridicule in humour. Because they say it in a playful way, and often in the presence of a group of people, you feel coerced into laughing along. When this is done long enough, you eventually start downplaying yourself and laughing at yourself in the presence of the narcissist. Over time, you can be conditioned to put yourself down and accept being put down by others.”
Don’t be misled into thinking this is the normal banter of friends and you’re being a “snowflake.” It isn’t. This is something harmful, it isn’t a bit of fun between friends who both poke fun at one another, if the joke is always at your expense and the narcissist won’t allow any jokes to be made about themselves, walk away. Don’t accept being the constant butt of someone else’s joke. Making you feel bad, makes them feel good.
In this book, the continuation of the theme explores how narcissism propagates, and how, if we change our perspective, we can empower ourselves and others to avoid behaviour that enables the narcissist to go about their daily destructive lives.
“Man, so long as he remains free, has no more constant and agonising anxiety than find as quickly as possible someone to worship.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Worship has been part of human nature since the dawn of time. Whether people worship Gods, pop stars, actors or cats, there has always been an element of looking up to someone or something else…something to aspire to, something to give us comfort, something which makes us relinquish our vulnerable self by admitting we seek the power and sanctity of something that we perceive to be greater than ourselves. We are curious by nature, which is why we are interested in art and science and exploration, but we are also frightened and overwhelmed by the possibilities put in front of us. That is why we need someone to guide or inspire us…someone we look up to.
As a child we look to our parents for inspiration and guidance until such time as we have been allowed to grow and mature into making rational decisions for ourselves. There is however the “terrible twos” to get through first. A child’s attitude changes around this age as its ego begins to emerge and develop. Now by ego I mean that the child has begun to think and feel for itself, moving away from the thoughts of its parents and siblings as it creates its own identity. This is when you start to hear the use of “I”. I want this, I want that…the demanding tantrum age! Whilst this is annoying and sometimes embarrassing for the parent, it is an important part of the child’s development and it allows them to begin to understand who they are. It is a hard thing to allow though; the urge to scream and tell the child it is bad is overwhelming, but it can have repercussions in the future.
This stage of the child’s life is the narcissistic stage…the stage where it only considers itself and is not aware of empathy and the thoughts and feelings of others. As the child throws a tantrum, it delivers its anger towards its parent(s), if the parent shouts back, the child experiences fear and turns inward on itself. Fear puts a stop on the child creating its own thoughts and feelings in fear of the repercussions, it sees itself as the “bad child” and in an attempt to cope it internalises its thoughts as it is still too young to find the words it needs to explain itself. This coping mechanism begins to eat at the child and a self-hatred is then born which only gets worse as the child grows and develops. The older the child gets, the more destructive the feelings become and there is an unawareness to other people’s feelings as the adult child can still only see things from its own point of view.
Compare these actions to the parent who allows both the “good” and “bad” child to develop, so that rather than the child internalising hatred, they internalise both good and bad feelings about themselves…this behaviour gives them the structure to understand themselves and as they grow older, to understand the behaviour, thoughts and feelings of others. It is a difficult process for the parent to go through, to allow a child to feel various emotions without losing their temper, but patience and tolerance can allow the child to mature with a healthier attitude towards others and self-sooth any uncomfortable thoughts away. The child has learnt that it can have both positive and negative feelings towards the parent who reacts in a controlled manner when they are delivering both reward or punishment. As the child matures, the family unit becomes secondary and the adult should have developed the skills to go out in the world with confidence and empathy towards others.
In order for a child to thrive it needs love and power. It projects its love onto another being in the hope that that being (usually the parent) mirrors that love back, giving them a feeling of connection with someone. The power required is having control over their environment to realise their actions with confidence. But power can be split into personal power, where you decide how to think/feel/act and social power, where you influence how others think/feel/act. Children are fantastically equipped to manipulate social power by shaming their parent if it feels it is being neglected; it is a primitive form of garnering power, but one that appears to work well.
The bond between parent and child is a complex one featuring four powerful emotions, love/hate/power and shame. To love someone and to be loved empowers the soul, if this is missing in a child’s life it can have consequences in the future. Hate is used to reclaim boundaries, to reclaim power and rebel and restore power back to the hater. Power is the feeling of confidence and invulnerability and can be found in equal, loving relationships…it is the exchange of life energy in a stable relationship. Shame can limit a person’s power to achieve that stable relationship and so the scales stop balancing and swing in favour of the person who feels they have a higher importance than anyone else.
As Simon says:
· Love enables power through vulnerability and surrender.
· Love and hate temper our power over each other.
· If a person does not have enough power in the relationship and cannot express their hatred, they experience shame to compensate.
If the four emotional forces become unbalanced, then that is how narcissism can develop from childhood and blight those who get sucked into the narcissist’s talons in adulthood.
Those who grow up content with themselves own a unique source of power
Before reading these books I genuinely believed (forgive my naivete) that narcissistic behaviour was the person who sauntered down the high street, unable to walk past a shop window or mirror without stealing a glance at themselves, being buoyed by what they saw, giving them that bit more swagger! These books show that it goes far deeper than that. Whether you have been the victim of narcissistic behaviour or not, both books offer a fascinating insight into the narcissist’s world.
My only issue with the two books is that they can be a bit repetitive. The information contained in both books could have been condensed into one book, however, I did find the books engaging and also provocative. It shed light onto why a person might feel the need to dominate their power over someone they hardly know.
In my own life, I have felt extreme anger towards those who have abused their friendships with me, when they tried to gain an element of control over me. But those feelings changed from anger, to contempt, to feeling sorrow towards to them. Sympathy would probably be the emotion they would least like people to feel towards them, but as these books try to explain, various elements have obviously been lacking during these people’s informative years. Those who grow up content with themselves own a unique source of power that make those without jealous, but those who are desperately unhappy with themselves and their life choices feel the need to source their power by belittling those who are content. The “content” just need to remember to believe in themselves and not the monsters that lurk in the shadows.