When I started this blog I didn’t have any intention as far as theme went. I just wanted to write.
It quickly became apparent that I had some unresolved anger about my relationship. Whenever I would sit down to write “first thoughts,” more things about my last relationship, more things about the Narcissist would be unpacked. Even though I’ve been No Contact since last May, he’s still with me, far more than I’d like or I feel is appropriate.
Today, he snuck up on me while I was on my way to a therapy appointment. I took a different route than usual and realized I was near the house of one of the Narcissist’s old coworkers.
Suddenly — KABLAMMO. I was mentally back in time about two and a half years, at a bar in my old neighborhood, sitting in a booth with the Narcissist, the coworker, and the coworker’s wife.
I remember it as the most awkward hangout I’ve ever experienced. The wife didn’t speak at all and the coworker stared at me blankly whenever I spoke, as if my ability to use language was something he found unbearably bizarre and inappropriate.
The Narcissist thought this behavior from his coworker was completely fine, and later, reprimanded me. He told me it had been inappropriate for me to try to join the conversation. I should have sat quietly in the booth like the coworker’s wife, and stayed silent while the two men chatted.
At the moment, I felt the usual confusion and brain fog (FOG = Fear, Obligation, Guilt). It didn’t seem right that I shouldn’t be allowed to speak, shouldn’t enjoy spending time with people, shouldn’t have opinions or want more knowledge on a subject. In the moment, though, voicing any of that would have been a very bad idea. There simply were no options except to put up with it or deal with a massively overdramatic fight. I convinced myself that I understood his feelings and that it actually hadn’t bothered me that much.
Looking back on it now, I am enraged. The rage I feel is all the rage I should have felt at the time, all the rage I didn’t process for thousands of incidents similar to this one.
Triggers like this are unanticipated. With random memories such as these, I don’t have the option of making plans with friends in order to proactively form new, more joyous memories, like I do for his birthday or holidays. I have no idea when or how something is going to jump out at me.
Any arbitrary thing can trigger an old feeling. I’ll suddenly be back in that situation, feeling all the old feelings, as well as the present-day rage that I didn’t have the luxury of addressing at the time.
During my therapy session today, we brainstormed ways I might manage this. What we came up with is something I’m rather delighted about.
With his birthday, or Christmas, or anniversaries, we’ve found I’m able to say, “I understand why I have these memories and emotions on this calendar date, and therefore I’m able to distance myself from those feelings. Because I have this knowledge, I feel sympathy for my past self but I do not need to experience belated anger now.”
Perhaps I can apply a similar tactic here.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM”), as documented on Medscape, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance
- A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- A need for excessive admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- Interpersonally exploitive behavior
- A lack of empathy
- Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
- A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
I don’t need to count to see whether there are more than five items on this list that are applicable. My ex-partner exhibited each of these standards with admirable consistency.
When I think back on the incident with his coworker, I can break this down and see the behavioral patterns or themes that cause me such rage now.
His sense of entitlement (telling me what to do and how I should behave) and lack of empathy (not caring about what I might feel) were apparent, as were the rest of the nine.
However, they don’t have to make me angry in the present moment, and recognizing that the situation was yet another example of his NPD helps me come back to the present moment and my present reality.
If I stay in the present, where I know what he is and my life has nothing to do with him, I can observe his past behavior with better emotional detachment.
This is essential for my healing and mental health.
There is no point in being angry with someone with NPD. The only person who will be hurt by it is me.
Thus, in the future when I am thrown into a memory that fills me with rage, I will try to take a step back, remember the nine criteria, and identify which one was being exhibited. I will take the opportunity to reframe the memory as one that confirms my decision to leave the relationship.
In this way, I will train my brain to identify the behavior and be able to name it moving forward. And if anyone ever again treats me in such a way, I’ll be able to articulate the issue. Right before I walk out the door.