On Narcissists, Social Currency and the Burgeoning Artist.
People with narcissistic personality disorder can come into your life and strip you of your voice and the confidence you have that what you know is real.
If you are lucky enough to have escaped the type of abuse that narcissists went through, please don’t insult whoever looked out for you by walking through that door or not walking out while you can.
A person who feels comfortable being around a narcissist is a person who does not feel totally comfortable owning up to their own creative potential. I used to love being around narcissists because as an artist I was an interminable observer. We were a good team. They would shine; I would describe what I saw. Now I understand that the best types of artist describe what they live.
I started speaking truths that only I knew. More importantly, I realized that there were people I could help, not feed. Any person who has been silenced is a burgeoning, if not already born, artist.
With a narcissist, you can guarantee that from early on, your head will be confused and your heart will be set. Therefore, you must steel yourself to look for warning flags in the early stages of relationships. The narcissist’s changes will be calculated. They change in small ways, as a test, and then in big ways, when they are sure that, through whatever wiles they have, they have nailed you down.
If you are materialistic, they will use money. If you are empathetic, they will use love. When you get a warning flag, it’s not a coincidence. It’s not your fault. Listen to your intuition, and run.
People with narcissistic personality disorder do not experience empathy. Due to a synergy of factors that include abuse, neglect, and brain chemistry, they don’t experience that human bond, and they are resentful of people who do. Have you ever seen an abused animal, like a dog that wouldn’t go in a certain room, even if the house was on fire? The empathy region of the narcissist’s brain is that dog.
Relationships make narcissists feel like they are being dragged into that room. They will let you burn down too, because in their world, it makes sense.
Don’t let people coast on bad behavior because they busted their balls to manufacture a tailor-made illusion. You will never get to live in that illusion, just like a junkie never gets their first fix back. It’s not your responsibility that they can’t maintain a persona that isn’t real. Everyone becomes a little less than how you idealized them.
But the narcissist will convince you that they absolutely love you, when they feel nothing at all.
Since these people can’t connect with feelings, they accumulate social currency. They need extreme validation to keep themselves going. However, a person with a healthy level of independence would be threatening to them, and a person who was co-dependent would still not be good enough. These people have to make the case of the century to draw you in.
They have to change form and wear masks to fit in with society; how could they even fathom the fact that you are good enough the way you are? The closer you are to them, the more they will want to punish you to escape their own constant, free-floating anger.
People with this personality disorder will perform micro-abandonments. They may pull back with the explicit purpose of making you anxious and insecure. They aren’t doing this for any kind of natural situation; it’s to manipulate you. These are also the characters who totally disappear from your life of their own free will, and it’s 100 percent for dramatic effect and to gain a sense of control.
If they appear again, there is nothing they will not say to brainwash you into accepting that they aren’t responsible for what they did. If they can succeed in convincing you that their love transcends space and time, they can hope you’ll blame yourself when they inevitably change or disappear.
These people are also the definition of control freaks. Deviating from what they want will be perceived by them as a deep injury. And something about their love will feel like being suffocated by a boa constrictor, even if you can’t pinpoint how. You will find yourself cautious around them from very early on.
So, tell me, if you think you have a relationship like this in your life, can you breathe? Can you say the things about yourself that you don’t want to be true? Let me put that another way: if you are brave enough to ask those difficult questions, are you allowed to?
I can tell people why they should leave any kind of relationship that is toxic. But I can’t point them to the gifts that they ignore by pouring themselves into people who will get them nowhere. Sometimes you have to chase bad people and see their darkest sides before you understand that you have something in you that is valuable.
If you think that the person you love needs to be complex, demanding, and unpredictable — if you want to dance around them until you collapse in a heap in the floor — you can do that. But the sacrifice you make will not be your constant stress and low energy. The ultimate sacrifice will be that you never find your voice. You will never be brave enough to stand alone.
Whether you are living off the highs of toxic relationships or in survival mode due to the lows, you’re just not quite you yet, darling. You’re afraid to break free. You’re terrified of the silence on the other side. But you have something in you that was not meant to be tamed. You are giving that energy free rein in a very dangerous game. You are a hawk who’s made a deal with a very poor falconer.
Love knows when to fly away and not look back.
Melissa Slayton is from Summerville, South Carolina, and has a degree in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. Her poems and stories can be found in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, San Pedro River Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Apalachee Review, Pinesong, South Carolina Yearbook, and the Artist Unleashed, among others. She is an assistant editor with Vine Leaves Press, and has attended the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and the Hub City Writing-In-Place Conference as the recipient of the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s Summer Scholarship. You could contact her via her website.