After spending years supporting victims of narcissistic abuse and writing about narcissism I have been feeling a transformation within myself. I feel a hesitancy to label people. Although putting the label of narcissist on those difficult people in our lives helps us to understand the craziness that is happening in our lives, it doesn’t necessarily help us to get beyond the devastation that happens within us. Especially if our focus is on the narcissist rather than ourselves.
When I interviewed Therapist Robert Burney on my radio show we talked about Codependency and relationships. We talked about how we attract relationships that continue the dysfunctional patterns we have been living since our childhood.
Robert believes that Codependency affects all of us because as a society we simply don’t have healthy role models. The dysfunction of our society is passed down from generation to generation. We don’t learn how to be authentic people who grow up feeling good about ourselves, knowing who we are. Instead we end up putting our own needs aside to please those around us. We are suppressed by our parents who haven’t learned to deal with their own emotional reality let alone ours. We are taught that our success is measured by comparison to others. We are taught that physical beauty and financial gain are the greatest assets one can have. We are spiritually depleted and have lost our way.
Narcissism, like Codependency, is the result of a deep wound that has separated us from our true selves. We learn to pretend to be something we are not in order to avoid facing rejection which can feel like death. We frequently will find ourselves attracted to narcissists because of our unconscious patterns. One who grows up fearing rejection and abandonment will continue to attract someone who will reject and abandon them until such a time they become aware of their patterns and begin their healing process.
What if instead of labeling those difficult people in our lives who have strong narcissistic traits as narcissistic we simply viewed them as wounded souls? All negative behavior is a result of our woundedness and feelings of separation from ourselves and from God.
What if we stopped blaming others for what happens to us and instead really learn to take responsibility for our own part in attracting the dysfunction? This doesn’t mean blaming ourselves and it doesn’t mean blaming others. It means holding all wounded souls as blameless. “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” It doesn’t mean these wounded souls should not be held accountable for their actions. It doesn’t mean the negative behavior of a wounded soul is acceptable. It only means that we learn to view their behavior as a dysfunction stemming from a deep unconscious drive to get their needs met. The more dysfunctional one becomes the more manipulative one can learn to be in his attempt to meet those unconscious needs. We don’t have to participate in their dysfunction but we can stop taking their behavior personally.
When we are hurt, rejected and betrayed by another we often feel they are out to get us. We feel their actions towards us are intentional; that they are setting out to destroy us and pick us apart bit by bit. Although there are some very wounded souls out there who will intentionally set out to hurt and destroy others, often the wounds inflicted on us by others is unconscious and not at all having to do with us personally.
Robert and I discussed how the pain we often feel when we are betrayed, rejected and abandoned by a person in our lives usually has a lot more to do with a deep wound from our past that it does with the person we are focusing on. This is a realization I had when recovering from my painful relationships. There was a point where I realized that the pain I was feeling went far beyond the men I was hurting over. It was their behavior that re-opened a wound that had been lying dormant. I was able to see that wounded child within trying to get her aloof, distant, emotionally unavailable Father to love and approve of her. So my pattern was to continue choosing emotionally unavailable men who could not love me or approve of me and then attempt to get them to change. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I would be devastated, because I put so much hope into these men to save my wounded little girl.
I could spent all my energy crying narcissist and throwing anger at those who hurt, rejected, betrayed and abandoned me, or I could focus on getting to know that child within and finding healthy ways to meet her needs. The more aware I am of that child and her neediness the healthier choices I can make in relationships. I can now choose relationships consciously instead of unconsciously. I now understand the more intense the romantic chemistry is with a person, the more likely I am being attracted through an unconscious agenda then a healthy conscious awareness.
When we find ourselves falling in love with an idea, a hope, a promise or someone we feel we know yet we don’t really know at all, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. The quest for our soulmate is a quest to find our other half, or that part of ourselves that is missing. But the part of ourselves that is missing is not to be found outside of ourselves. It is to be found within. We must be willing to search the dark shadows of our own psyche and find where we have rejected, abandoned and betrayed ourselves.
It is the feeling of familiarity that causes us to feel that strong attraction towards another. This is the attraction we often label as “love at first sight,” a soulmate, and destiny. Most of the feelings provoked in these relationships have nothing to do with love at all. It has more to do with addiction and codependency. These feelings are based on familiar psychosis or dysfunction. We can feel very comfortable in the arms of one who provokes familiarity until the dance plays itself out and we find ourselves reliving that horrific emotional pain our new soulmate has awakened in us. We can so easily assign God like status to the one who initially made us feel so whole and complete praying that they will restore us to wholeness, even in the wake of our realization that this person is not good for us. It is not the lost love we long for in that person, but rather the lost self. Instead of seeking comfort in the arms of the one who has betrayed us we need to seek comfort from the God Source within and embrace the healing journey of our inner child.
It is important that we really give ourselves time to get to know who someone really is before building our lives around them. When we build our castle on the sand, the waters can sweep right in and destroy it. It is our responsibility to carefully examine all offers and read the small print. If we follow our heart, which is sometimes not our heart at all but rather our unconscious agenda, we may easily be mislead. Our adult mind needs to be summoned to look at the signs very closely.
Instead of focusing on the narcissism as the source of our pain, let us focus on our own codependency and need for healing. When we can find that wholeness within ourselves we will no longer be an attractive force for narcissistic or other unhealthy and addictive relationships.