“Everyone who hurts us becomes terrible.” Veronika’s words to me this past weekend. Apparently, my narcissist of 4-½ years, Julia, and her new husband, Arty, had just moved from our fair city in Tennessee to South Dakota. Needless to say, I was more than mildly pleased at the prospect of there no longer being any possibility of running into them when out and about. Mind you, it’s not so much that I still harbor any ardor for Julia. In fact, it’s quite the polar opposite. However, I also have no desire to see her and the person whom she was surreptitiously seeing behind my back during the final months of our relationship as it was writhing in its death throes.
Several years back I read an article about elephants. Yes, pachyderms. Specifically, it was why they don’t free themselves from captivity by simply walking away when they’re staked to the ground. Think about it. There’s no way that tiny wooden stake driven into the ground by a single man with a hammer could possibly keep a three-to-six-ton elephant in place. And yet, it does. But how? You see, when a baby elephant is brought into a circus, for example, it’s intentionally staked and shackled. At first, the baby elephant fights and pulls at the chain and stake but to no avail. Elephants are actually quite intelligent creatures and, as such, it isn’t long before the elephant understands its efforts will be fruitless. It accepts its fate and stops fighting. In that moment, it becomes a prisoner. The thing is, as the elephant grows older and larger, at some point s/he could very easily pull that stake up by simply walking away. But it doesn’t because it’s been conditioned to believe it can’t. It doesn’t know just how strong it really is.
This is a picture of me. Being a dad to the world’s most amazing 12-year old boy, I’m generally the one behind the camera. But, every so often, albeit rarely, I find myself in front of the lens. So why did I post this particular picture? Because a good friend of mine recently saw it and commented, “There’s just something about that picture. You look so…happy.” Well, truth be told, on that specific day, I was happy. Quite happy, actually. You see, on that day, I was with my narcissist.
“The sun in your eyes makes some of the lies worth believing.” I can’t begin to even count the number of times those lyrics from Alan Parsons’ Eye in the Sky silently played in my mind over the 4-½ years I spent with my narcissist, Julia. As I’m sure is the case with your narcissist, Julia had an indescribable power and control over me. And as despotic as that power was, it was nonetheless subtly executed and maintained. It was in the way she touched me, put her hand on mine, spoke, her mannerisms, her scent, the way she walked, and even in the way she looked at me – I melted every time. Some might call that love. For me, it absolutely was. But, for her? Love doesn’t abuse or manipulate to get what it wants. I used to joke with her that she was my kryptonite. The thing is, in all jest, there is a measure of truth. She was most assuredly my one weakness, my addiction, and almost my undoing.
Last week, I touched on what it was like for us, as survivors of narcissistic abuse, to try and reclaim our lost sense of identity once we were freed from our narcissist’s grip. From the outside looking in, one might postulate that no longer being subjected to the daily onslaught of gaslighting, triangulation, manipulation, and abuse would be liberating. Well, one would think so. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Today is Independence Day in the United States. And, while today is technically an “American” holiday, a multitude of other cultures and countries observe their own annual celebration of independence albeit from occupation, oppression, or regaining their culture and their freedoms. In other words, the concept of freedom is universal. But how does a person find themselves making that transition from living a life of freedom, to one of subjugation, and then back again to freedom? To be free, but subsequently subjugated, is one thing. But to be subjugated and then freed is something altogether different.
You never noticed it, did you? That subtle transfer of power from yourself to your narcissist, giving him/her almost complete control over you and the relationship. That’s because they did it so deftly, so surreptitiously, it was almost as though we gave them that power, that control, without regard for what they would do with it. Well, in effect, we did. But only because we thought they would never do what they did – we trusted them. We believed that the bond we were building with them would be one that would last a lifetime. And why wouldn’t it? I mean, every time we looked at them, talked to them, spent time with them, it was as though we were longingly leering into someone who was the other half of ourselves, wasn’t it? The more you shared with them, the more you got to know them, the more you realized you shared so many commonalities. It never dawned on us that we were handing them the knife that they would very soon repeatedly drive into our heart. You see, therein lies the foundation of a ubiquitous truth we all-too-often forget – betrayal never comes from an enemy.
“Why me?” I can’t even begin to count the number of times I wondered this whilst involved with my narcissist, Julia. Although, this why me isn’t to be confused with the self-victimizing how could this have happened to me?! I recall a couple of times I asked Julia, “If it hadn’t been me who came along, if you’d met someone else before me, someone who showed you the same affection, attention, and understanding, would we have ever been?” She just smiled and said, “You were exactly who I needed.” At the time, I took solace in her answer, feeling that I mattered, that I was needed, that I was not just loved and cherished, but cherished by the person who was paramount to me. But now, in retrospect? What she said was spot on and probably one of the very few truths she ever told me in our 4-½ years together – an empath, a fresh source of narcissistic supply, was exactly what my narcissist needed.
While there’s no denying that even after everything my narcissist did to me and to us that ensured the regrettable and unrecoverable demise of our relationship, I honestly don’t regret our time together. Don’t worry. I haven’t fallen off the wagon. And I’m most assuredly not falling into the trap of romanticizing what she and I had. I’ve sufficiently healed to the point that I will never again allow my heart or my mind to return to such a dark and damning place. I have no reservations over giving my love to her unconditionally or believing all of her lies and hollow proclamations of undying love and devotion. Although, I do wish I hadn’t fought for something and someone who saw me and the love I gave as disposable.
There’s a scientific term, spaghettification, that’s used to describe what happens when matter crosses the event horizon of a black hole. The event horizon is the point of no return wherein once something crosses that threshold, there is absolutely no escape. Even light cannot elude its eventual demise if it crosses that point. In essence, all the matter that comprises an object is simultaneously compressed and stretched, like spaghetti, to the point that it’s torn asunder on a quantum level and there is nothing left of its previously recognizable state as it is swallowed by the gravity well. And no amount of any matter or energy, of any volume, will ever fill the black hole. Without exaggeration, it’s hunger and capacity for consumption are literally endless. This scientific dynamic also runs eerie parallels to what happens when you are involved with a narcissist.