How does this happen? How do these people with ugly personalities sneak into our lives?
I should give this post more framework, but I'm just so "blah" when
thinking about this subject, so let's just start...together.
What is a narcissist?
The medical definition says narcissism is a personality disorder, but as a person who's lived through their torture, a narcissist is a person with a serious, dark void in their life. Sure, there's that weird co-worker who makes everything about them, but a narcissist takes it further by manipulating the emotions of others to feed that dark void.
If an addict uses drugs to get high, a narcissist uses the control of others to fill their vacuum—it's built into their survival.
Narcissists can use your friends, material possessions, or a job to appear well-adjusted, then be controlling savages behind closed doors. And when you bring up their aggressive ways, it's your problem and it's you who's in the wrong! By that time, they're two steps ahead of you and have already molded your surroundings to justify their actions.
How do they sneak into our lives?
Narcissists (and abusive people in general) have a way of combining their abuse with love. "But he loves me!" What abused person hasn't said that?
Their behavior is slick, sly, and gross, but effective. If that skill set was applied to something worthwhile, they could build Amazon 2.0.
They're masters at driving the roller coaster of your emotions. When you're down, they say, "I have your back. I believe in you." Great, right? Not really. There's a strong emphasis on the "I" in those sentences, which positions them as the source of your strength so they can chop you down when you succeed.
"I did it! I got the job! I got into college! I published a book!"
"Oh...well, that's great, but don't get too excited. Things don't always work out."
What? When I was down you supported me. Now you're questioning how it's going to work? I just did it.
The narcissist just slipped themselves into the driver's seat of your emotions, discarding your self-propelled accomplishment to make it about them. This can leave you confused and feeling like you have to do more to appease them, while screwing with your self worth. "Even with this job promotion, I'm still not enough."
In some cases, the sicko just left your emotions hungry for more of the roller coaster they're driving, while sliding a few more grimy fingers around the pulse of your self-worth.
It's messed up.
Why didn't I see this coming?
Narcissists hide their intentions and shower you with praise, gifts, and all the honeymoon stuff (even in friendships or roommate situations) during the early phases of a relationship.
Healthy relationships build gradually, with checkpoints at each stage where everyone can decide if they'd like to keep going.
Once again, the narcissist is a couple steps ahead of you. They've got those checkpoints flowered with roses, champagne, and a clean house. Then once they've got you hooked via emotions, a child, a lease contract, or countless other ways normal people don't think about, out comes the torment that hurts you and feeds them.
We can't close ourselves off from life to avoid these kooks, but we can make conscious choices not to look past the warning signs. It's so easy to be like, "That's a little weird, but he/she is cool. We have things in common."
I mean, they prey on kind, sincere, and genuine people.
What's my escape if I get in one of their cages?
First off: this is a blog post meant for support, awareness, and encouragement. It may be best to reach out to a community center that can handle your unique situation.
An escape can be done, but it takes some maneuvering.
In a way, and again this is opinion based, you might have to build a world where you're secretly accumulating money, friends, and the tools for your own life. This isn't being deceptive or hurting anyone's feelings, it's survival! This is a time when it's okay to put yourself first!
The accumulation of money, education, friends, your own accounts, or a stronger credit score is key. Then, when you're ready, you make the escape.
When I was 18 in 2001 and my dad talked me out of going to college, I made a decision to climb that self-made mountain with as little help from him as possible. At each stage of my escape from his wrath, there was a fight—climaxing during a 2017 mini-vacation to San Diego (I was 34 and he talked me into driving him and his stepdaughter from Phoenix, where I live, to San Diego).
After several days of this "vacation" where I was ignored, dismissed, and called names, I'd had enough. During the final night in our hotel room, an unreasonable request from my father was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Brandon, why didn't you..."
A geyser of brewing emotions—the suppressed feelings of missed opportunities, the pain from years of passive aggressive putdowns, and the confusion about being exposed to trauma-producing events —broke my quiet demeanor and the courage just came.
I stood up and screamed from the bottom of my gut, "Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up! Shut...the fuck...up!"
I turned to his stepdaughter, who'd been calling me a little bitch the whole vacation, and screamed, "Am I still a little bitch?! Your boyfriend is the little bitch and all the things you're saying to me, you wish you were saying to him! What have I done to be treated like this?!"
In a life-changing (more like lineage-changing) moment, my dad lifted his arms above his head, let out a super villain laugh, and growled, "I must be a god; I have this much control over people."
This really happened.
I instantly knew it was over. Everyone's true intentions had been revealed; lies couldn't conceal this one and manipulation couldn't bring me back. My body produced a weight-lifting calmness and I knew, even with the indescribable awkwardness that lingered in the room, that I was free.
I went to a bar by the ocean, watched the Cubs, and called my mommy.
I don't know where the courage to stick up for myself in that way came from—the courage to break those patterns, the courage to snap those mental chains that had suffocated me for decades. Rap songs? Accomplishments? Stories of successful people who'd fought the battles? No. It came from Brandon's steady, honest, and healthy growth. It came from fighting, and making one decision at a time, to live in line with that beam of life that glows inside me.
I drove my father and his stepdaughter back to their Phoenix hotel the next day, walked to my apartment, and deleted them from my life.
I guess I digressed...
Anyway, the escape. I believe in you.
All for now.
Brandon Mullan is the author of Entrepreneurship for the Cool Kids, the ultimate guidebook on reinventing your life. He's currently building a business model to get this book to the world, and is involved with literacy, youth programs, and the small business community.