While I was in session with someone years ago, it occurred to me that narcissistic behaviors are patterned, it was hard not to imagine that they had been rehearsed somewhere. We have our criteria for diagnosing narcissism. The criteria explain in broad brush strokes the nature and goals of people of those living defended against the reality of their harmful behavior. But in this session (probably because I was craving a moment levity), I exclaimed, “It’s like they all go to the same damn summer camp!” (And yes, I swear in session.)
Separately, I was recently looking at a photo of Harvey Weinstein being ushered into the courtroom. What made this photo laughable is that he apparently has a sudden need for a walker. Oh my. Because these miscreants who harm the trajectory and worth of other people are finally caught, we could call this hustle, “The Hysterically Injured Caught Predator.” Hysterical, by one definition is to feign sudden illness or injury. Like Bill Cosby using a cane and saying he was going blind when the fifteenth complaint had been made and his civil lawsuit payouts no longer prevented a criminal investigation. However, years before these stories made headlines, I was involved as a witness in a deposition in a civil lawsuit against a man in my family, who had spent years sexually abusing a young family member. His injury? Not sure. But he wore a neck brace through all four days of it.
The photos and memories got me thinking that this upsetting reality needs a bit of humor to create levity so that perhaps it’s easier to usher in the logic we need to apply when dealing with men and women who psychologically and physically injure good people. The darkness of narcissists is patterned and takes shape with different iterations but bear with me please while we welcome them to their Summer Camp schedule.
“Good morning, campers! This morning we have ‘How to Marry Up and Then Tear Them Down’ by the lake. Make sure to wear your sunscreen. There are many details to manage so we’ll be there a while. You’ll be learning how to oversell your abilities, resent your partner’s talents and under deliver on promises in the nick of time.
“Afterward, we head to the team building ropes course for ‘How to Fake An Injured Ego, Mental Health Problem or Harmed Body Part to Avoid Responsibility for Destroying People’s Hope.’ You’ll need flexible clothing for this one, as you may need to practice the symptoms and struggles to trick even practicing physicians.
“After snack—'cause this stuff will work up an appetite—there will be a coffee clutch Q & A in the oak grove on ‘How to Wax Empathy to Engage Emotionally Intelligent People to Support Your Scheme,’ which we always sell as being in the other person’s best interest. You’ll need recording devices and mirrors for this one just to make sure you nail your most convincing affect.
“For those already in marriages or unwanted divorces, we have alternative break-out sessions for the evening: ‘Projecting Your Poor Choices onto your Ex,’ ‘Getting Her Family (and your children) on Your Team When She Starts to Speak Out,’ and finally ‘My Rotten Childhood: 5 ways to Convert Her Love into a Reason to Blame Her for Your History of Pain and Anxiety.’ (Thank you, Kate.) Be sure to come ready to share your ideas, as we’ll ask for enactments so that all attendees have easy to apply strategies.
“In case you are wrongfully alleged for your behavior and need to appear for court-related proceedings, we will show film of various ways to use social media to rally your followers to support your version of the truth. The film is entitled, “Rally Your Social Media Followers—New Ways to Manage Your Distortion Campaign.” It is clever stuff so bring your popcorn.
“Ok campers, that’s a wrap for now. And remember, today is about using the best parts of good people to enable your addiction to control and deception. Make it a great one!”
That was cathartic. Thank you for indulging me.
The reality is that those with character disorders hold to the same goals and expressions. There’s nothing specifically smart or new about their actions or behaviors—just different details and different beautiful hearts they prey on. Their strengths are persistence and ego, not originality. If you feel like you have experienced life with a narcissist, there are many resources available to help you navigate the process of recognition and recovery.
The big idea with recovery from their tyranny is that you listen to your gut. If something feels wrong, it likely is wrong. If you are trying to negotiate with them because you’re stuck raising children with them, note that you will likely need to stick to business, quickly thank them for their ideas, and still operate with your own wisdom (unannounced). Their favorite thing is to get energy from you—negative (defending or explaining yourself) or positive (complimenting them, showing them favor or verbalizing forgiveness).
I accept that my summary is likely inadequate, but on my website www.MaryEllenMann.com there are blogs, (vlogs are coming!), pages on my website discussing trauma and abuse, resources for healing to assist your knowledge to help you learn that this confusing and often elusive abuse is not your fault. You did not bring this on yourself. Your love, your time and your resources are a gift, not a plaything.
Big hearted people, I assure you that there are good people out there who want to help you connect to your worth and dignity. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.” Never give up on who you are and the life you were designed to live. By the way, one of my top favorite movies is Darkest Hour, where you watch Churchill remain unsupported by his cabinet against the Nazis until the King, in the eleventh hour/darkest hour, stands with him against their tyranny—the psychology of which was narcissism as its most pathologic and sociopathic.