Having Compassion for a Covert Narcissist
When I Felt Like I Could Move On
ɪ̲ɴ̲ ̲ᴍ̲ʏ̲ ̲ᴏ̲ᴡ̲ɴ̲ ̲ᴡ̲ᴏ̲ʀ̲ᴅ̲ꜱ̲ : ɪ ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴠᴏɪᴄᴇs ᴏꜰ ᴍʏ ᴄʟɪᴇɴᴛꜱ, ᴛʜᴇ ᴠᴏɪᴄᴇs ᴏꜰ ᴛʜᴇ ʜᴜᴍᴀɴ ᴊᴏᴜʀɴᴇʏ, ᴛʜᴇ ᴠᴏɪᴄᴇs ᴏꜰ ᴛʜᴇ ᴜɴꜱᴘᴏᴋᴇɴ ᴅᴇꜱɪʀᴇ ᴛᴏ ʟɪᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ-ᴛʀᴜᴛʜ®.
I loved her 𝘥𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘺.
I have replayed in my mind so many moments we shared, questioning whether any of it was real. Were the laughs we shared real? The giddiness I felt around her when we watched movies together in bed, curled under blankets, and were so in love, was any of it 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭?
Now that I have spent time examining and turning over every interaction I ever had with her, I realized, for the first time, she was always trying to avoid pain. I wanted to see who she was without looking through the lens of narcissism. I realize that giving anything a name may, in one way, help you to make sense of things, but in another way, it reduces the context to a set of criteria. Hence, meaning is lost when it’s overlaid with a diagnosis. I wanted to understand the complexity of what makes someone split from who they are and take on a false persona. We all do this to a degree, after all, as a defense mechanism that we learned in our early childhood years.
I remember telling her I sometimes feel like our relationship is a fantasy and that we can’t have hard conversations. I can remember her befuddled expression, almost as if she was crafting a response to avoid the discomfort of the statement. Looking back, I can see that keeping things light and fluffy — what you might call the honeymoon phase — was survival to her. In the beginning, we were enamored with each other. She showed interest in everything I did; she was chameleon-like, liked what I liked, and pursued my interests. So the honeymoon phase for her was more about falling in love with the perfection of how she experienced herself in my eyes. It’s what I believe she learned to do at an early age. When she didn’t feel love from her caretakers and experienced severe emotional neglect, she protected herself by leaving herself and creating a false persona. The result is a dualistic self, where one part of you is I’ll be who the world wants me to be, and the other part of you is seething about having to be who the world wants me to be. As a result, she lost the ability to freely choose who she wanted to be, which is an expression of who you are. And when this happens, a different motivation rules your life: If I have to be who you want me to be, ʏᴏᴜ ʙᴇᴛᴛᴇʀ ɴᴏᴛɪᴄᴇ. Hence, the obsession with admiration and praise is about whether you are supplying me with what I need to fill me up inside.
The real threat to self-improvement and the ability to course-correct is that she lacked self-awareness. And this is what placed her on a different part of the spectrum than me, for example, seeking validation and praise and trying to fill the inner lack. Without self-awareness, she couldn’t see how harmful this is to herself and others. You lose the ability to see yourself and to know that you are severed from your truth. So, it’s not likely that you will change, unfortunately. This realization hurt the most because my love for her was real, in a healthy way. Knowing what I know, I understood she never felt healthy love for me. She would probably never take responsibility for the manipulative practices she had learned to get people to do what she wanted. I could see how our relationship was transactional; she couldn’t genuinely give to the relationship unless she believed there would be a return. Now I understood that she didn’t let people in, that I never knew what she was thinking or feeling. I saw how she would put her needs first and how I would normalize her rudeness. I saw her low-self esteem and learned way of being. Even when she “replaced me” with someone else and “shredded me” to the new person in her life, I saw the little girl who once felt her wholeness. I saw her own death by a thousand cuts. It was then I knew that I would be able to move on, that I would discover healthy love, and that this experience would strengthen me. However, she would continue to self-sabotage, self-destruct, and seek another shiny supply to feed the illusion. She would stay in a hellish cycle. This realization made me feel compassion for her. In a moment of silence, I flooded her with purifying energy. I sat with the little girl who was still free. I imagined her returning to the part of herself that never was hurt and feeling pure love again. I knew I wanted that for her. And I knew that this was a sign I was healing.