Thursday, July 19, 2012

Accepting Narcissism

Is it possible? I'm not sure... My head says, "Yes, you have to accept it." My heart says, "No, there is always hope." You may be wondering what I am talking about. Well. Let me tell you...

Earlier this spring, I had a painful emotional experience with someone I've come to realize suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Of course they've never been officially diagnosed with this disorder, since most people with this affliction never are, due to their narcissistic tendencies. I came to this conclusion myself, as a means of coming to terms with the emotional pain that was eating me alive. And I ran across an article (you can read it for yourself by clicking here, in case you are interested in narcissism) which greatly helped me understand the situation I found myself in. We all have narcissistic tendencies, but the difference between a "normal" person and someone afflicted with narcissism is that normal people have compassion - narcissists have none. And until I learned this useful bit of information, none of my coping skills gave me relief from the emotional turmoil I was experiencing.

Truth be told, I still have emotional pain regarding this particular situation - I probably always will. And that's okay, because it means I have the ability to care about people other than myself. That's a blessing!

The whole mess started a few years ago when this person hurt me deeply with some hateful words. Whoever said "words can never hurt me" must not have ever been the target of verbal abuse. I'll take sticks and stones over hurtful words any day. Anyway, I managed to get by on anger and resentment for a while, but I gradually came to see forgiveness. It might take me a little time, but I can always come to forgive. I know resentments only hurt the one who harbors them, and whenever I find myself struggling with the concept of forgiveness, I remember a homily one of my favorite priests gave. This Father said, "God commands us to forgive. He doesn't tell us to forgive if we want to - he commands it." He went on to say how hard this is for us as humans and that it does take time, but ultimately, we must forgive. Granted, I have a lot of character defects, but holding resentments isn't one of them.

In reaching my state of forgiveness (don't think I believe I'm perfect - I know I had a part in the whole mess, but in this instance, I can honestly say I walked the high road), I made the mistake of reaching out to the one who had hurt me. Four times, I reached out. And my efforts were met with complete resistance and, worse, contempt and criticism. Let me tell you, when you make a heartfelt effort to reach out to someone, and they essentially make fun of you for it, it hurts. Like I said, I'll take the sticks and stones, thank you very much.

In my state of heartache, I remembered something Dr. Drew said on his show, one time. He said there is no hope for narcissists, because they always think they are right, and no matter what you say, they will never relent from their position or change their mind, nor will they ever take responsibility for their actions. I remember Dr. Drew clearly saying there is absolutely no help for this kind of person.

This memory of Dr. Drew's comment inspired me to look narcissism up, and thus, I found the article I referenced above. As I read the piece, everything about the person I have been dealing with came into focus and made sense. All the craziness and mind boggling behavior finally made sense. The way I was feeling as a result made sense. And finally, for the first time in years, I felt emotional peace. Everything about the situation came into focus. I was able to look at things that had happened in the past with this person and understand what had really transpired.

I can't say learning about NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) has completely healed the hole in my heart. It is still a bitter pill to swallow. But viewing the behavior of this person as coming from a sick, damaged person is much healthier for me than trying to find a way to get through to the heart of this person, or to beat myself up trying to find a way to reconcile. That is the hardest part for me -accepting the fact there will never be a reconciliation, because narcissists are incapable of changing or of caring about anyone other than themselves. That might sound immature of me to say, but if you read about NPD, you'll find it is the hallmark of the disorder. Narcissists only care about themselves, and they will do whatever it takes to make sure they come out on top of every situation. In their minds, at least.

For now, my mind is at peace. My heart still carries an ache, and I suspect it always will. But at least I'm not wracked with unbearable emotional pain. And at least I have some insight and understanding. And maybe you, like me, have someone in your life who suffers from NPD. And if you do, I hope this information will help you, too.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry you had to go through that. But I'm glad to see education about this is spreading. It's really good that you remembered what Dr. Drew said and became aware. It took me a long time to understand conditions like this and respond more wisely to interactions with people who have them.

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