Why do some of the nicest, kindest and most thoughtful of us find ourselves painfully connected to narcissists? Time and time again, you see it. A sweet sympathetic person wound around a narcissistic finger. Given their personality traits, it makes sense, and even if the sensitive person knows better, their understanding nature makes them a narcissistic magnet and vice versa. The inherent problem is that their caring nature makes them want to “help”, “heal”, and “nurture” the narcissist.
So, what exactly is a narcissist? Many are familiar with the myth of Narcissus, a young demi-God who fell in love with his reflection, but the myth only tells us about one facet of narcissists. The truth is that as superior as they would like us to think they are, deep down, they are vulnerable, extremely insecure individuals. And in there lies the rub. Kind-hearted people love helping, and on some level believe that they will be able to “fix” the woundedness of the narcissist…but at what cost?
On the other hand, the narcissist loves the attention, care, and devotion they are being given, which will eventually only serve to solidify their stronghold. This makes sense, when we remember that at the base of their narcissism is deeply-rooted insecurity. Once established, the bond becomes a vicious cycle of emotional pain and manipulation. The ultimate goal is control, and once they are in a position of control, the narcissist works to maintain their power by slowly, but surely eroding their partner’s self-esteem.
This can take many forms. First, the relationship becomes all about them. They do what they want, when they want, and how they want. The needs of their prey are of little concern to them unless they have something to gain from the interest. Worse yet, as their target slowly begins to feel unfulfilled and alienated in the relationship, the narcissist will make them feel even worse by highlighting their “neediness”. Inevitably, it becomes, “something is wrong with you”, “normal people don’t act this way”. The narcissist has their partner doubting themselves, their decisions, even their very own sanity.
Sooner or later, the sensitive care-giver will come to terms with the situation and admit how unhappy and unfulfilled he/she is. This realization is key to healing because it is at this point that the decision to stay or go comes into play. Unfortunately, this tends to be a process as most caring people would rather work at improving the relationship rather than toss it. Inevitably though, as the narcissist recognizes their control slipping away, their efforts to maintain it increases, which only helps to reinforce their partner’s confusion and dissatisfaction. Sadly, this stage could take years- even a lifetime to get through, but once they do, the transformation is significant.
Sensitive and sympathetic people are likely to get into these situations when they don’t take the time to consider their needs fully. A lack of self-care leaves you vulnerable to a host of unhealthy situations. My recent PhD study on betrayal and healing from betrayal showed that the very first stage of betrayal was an imbalance between the physical/mental and the emotional/spiritual self. In other words, when there is a lack of emotional and spiritual self-awareness, we leave ourselves open to experiences that may not be in our best interest, like betrayal and narcissistic relationships. That’s often because we’ve taken on so much (because we’re so capable) that leaves our own needs on the back burner.
Is there any hope for genuinely, loving and caring people?
The answer is a resounding yes! The answer goes back to self-love and self-care.
- Get into the habit of identifying your thoughts and feelings.
- Honor yourself. If something doesn’t feel right for you, then it’s simply not right for you. No explanation necessary.
- Have the same level of expectation for both yourself and others.
- Examine your belief system. Do your beliefs still serve you? If so, great if not, it’s time for a change.
- Surround yourself with people who accept you the way you are and who make you feel good about yourself- even if they have to call you out on things from time to time.
- Lastly, be true to you.
Remember, it is not your job to fix someone else. Yes, it’s important to help others, but your primary responsibility is to take care of you. When you do that, you are able to help others in a more healthy and constructive way.
Did you have an experience with a narcissist or a betrayal that you’d like to share? Let me know- I’d love to help.