Once in a great while, I get a comment on one of my blog posts that is so well written and pertinent to readers needs, that I ask permission of the writer and I make it an actual blog post all on its own. Let’s face it, a comment is not always going to be seen when it’s “Comment #142” on a particular post. In this case, I tried to contact the writer, but they used an invalid email address. Perhaps they will contact me again after seeing their comment as an actual post. Hope so.
I have a question which nobody ever seems to be able to answer effectively, but which is very important!
Before asking the question, a little info …
1) WHAT HAPPENED: I survived a most traumatic relationship with a narcissist.
2) WHY?: I was too naive, young and immature to understand who I was trying to relate to, plus I am an empath. (not Pollyanna though) I was wrongly taught that being patient and forgiving is natural and rational, because ‘nobody’s perfect.’
3) PTSD: I was deeply affected by him and, as a result, a year after the discard, I was still so messed up that, for the first (and only) time in my life, I even experienced one episode of dissociation, when subjected to further abuse in the working environment. I guess I just could not take any more of that, I just paralyzed there and then, unnaturally calm though, feeling nothing except my body!
I also kept dreaming about him.
4) CONSEQUENCES: I reacted by becoming the exact opposite of what I was: From TOTALLY naive to TOTALLY suspicious and terrified of people, always wondering about their words, “WHAT and WHY are they saying THIS to me? What do they expect my reaction will be?”
I even started obsessing about my own EYES and about keeping in check with an absolute blank non revealing stare HOW others are watching ME through their eyes, to instantly notice IF they are
getting my emotions and if they are making subtle sadistic smirks or smiles as a result of possibly detecting ANY kind of weak emotion, like fear, on my part; also new to me. I now can get terrible rages if I even get the feeling somebody is treating me like my exN did.
So it’s like I feel a part of him is inside me, I don’t know how else to describe it!
But still, the apparently contradictory thing is that I am enormously more empathic than I used to be, like my empathy got enhanced somehow, not lessened.
For example: I sense other people’s pain immensely to the point that I feel pain too if I see others sad. Trust me, I experienced some remarkable situations where it was like I FELT all the pain the other person was feeling, instantly, to the point that I would start crying and sobbing and feeling desperate all of a sudden just looking through their eyes! Now I feel absolutely very protective and even more totally respectful and loving towards people who suffer, more than any other time before in my life.
POSITIVE ASPECTS ABOUT the N-experience:
1) I now sincerely understand that being alone CAN be a blessing indeed, and that ANYTHING is better than being with a Narcissist, given that you RECOGNISE that you are dealing with one.
2) I now understand that my personal (human AND therefore NORMAL) fears, which all normal people have (loneliness, emptiness, finity, fear itself, sadness, not being worthy …), CAN be artfully used by others against me, and by means of myself (in other words: Ns let others be ruled by their own fears, … and when N-supply (this is what I was for him, an object) ultimately finds out, we have the additional self-blame and shame for letting Ns do this to us by our own selves!)
3) I now understand that there are people with NO EMPATHY … believe it or not! Understand it/accept it or not.
4) I am now humble, and will NEVER ever again say “it could not happen to me!” Instead I don’t judge, I shut up and think “Unless you lived through that, you cannot understand what it feels like!”
Since I want to stay away as far as possible from Narcissists … here is the question:
“When I first meet somebody, how do I know: … … if I am talking to a Narcissist …. (not again please!”)
But, what I really mean is, how would I know… for sure (no doubts, and excluding other
pathologies, if there are other pathologies which are similar or easily mistaken for N)… from the start (possibly just after a few weeks or months from meeting somebody.)
COROLLARY TO THE QUESTION:
IF you answered that only a very good psychiatrist can know, and that there is no way for me to know …would you be implying that I am condemned to either:
1) Isolate myself from ANYBODY else…
2) Or subject myself to possible Ns and ultimately find out / find out only when it is too late for me to avoid feeling abused again?
THE QUESTION IS IMPORTANT because:
1) The urge to TRUST somebody can be strong, and makes us biased when objectivity is required, … We all look for love and care, it’s human nature!
2) The ability of Ns to conceal how UNCARING, MEAN, and FALSE they are is truly excellent … and one always wonders and wonders and wonders…”Is he? isn’t he? Is he? isn’t he? … to the point of self-torture!
3) Giving a list of narcissistic traits is not useful, we who were once traumatized know only too well the traits … especially when very visible at last!
PLEASE help with some useful answer!
P.S. I understand that you are not a doctor Elisse, but maybe some doctor reading the post could try to answer; or maybe there’s someone who might know one who could ask him/her for an opinion ….
As I said above, I tried to answer your comment by email, but your email address was not valid. I am working on getting an answer for your from a professional, but while we wait for their answer, here are some thoughts from me…not a dr. and I don’t even play one on TV. (It’s a very old commercial.)
There are many wildly waving “Red Flags” that could be a clue for you (and anyone else) when you meet someone new. I am going to post these as they come to mind, so check back.
While I am driving my youngest here and there, I have ‘fabulous’ thoughts/ideas that come to mind and I can’t always stop and write them down. I also don’t mean to sound sarcastic or humorous, but my answers might come out that way. Sorry.
1. If a grown man/woman (women can be N’s too) wants to jump into a new relationship like a lovesick high school freshman, texts you constantly, shows up unexpectedly, makes you feel like you are being smothered…they could be an N or they have some other seriously, unhealthy relationship issues.
2. After being with this new person, do you feel exhausted? Ask your self this honestly and not based on the excitement of going out with a new guy/girl. I was exhausted after spending ANY amount time with the N. Very much the same way you might be feeling after being with a needy but intelligent toddler for several hours. I also felt like I had “emotional whiplash” after listening to his “double talk” for any amount of time. He’d say one thing and then say the exact opposite 5 minutes later – and then deny having said the first comment. (Gaslighting.)
3. Do you feel icky when you are with this person? Do you feel like you are being smothered? Do you feel like you are dealing with an emo teenager in an adult’s body?
4. Have you met the new person by being introduced by a friend? Ask this person what they REALLY think of the new guy/girl. Ask them why (if they are not already dating, would they date the person.) What does your family think? Listen to what they think.
5. Have you ever watched ‘The Bachelor?’ (The best season of it was the year that it was Ryan & Trista and that had a very happy ending with a wedding and so far two babies.) In the show, the guy takes a couple of girls home to met his parents. I recall seeing where the family members really let the bachelor know what they think of the prospective brides.
6. Listen to your gut. Some people don’t believe in ‘intuition’ but I do.
7. I can’t help but direct you to a post from Dr. Joseph Carver, a psychologist from Ohio. He allowed something that he wrote called “Warning Signs You’re Dating a Loser” to be freely used on the Internet. In fact, I think I have posted it during the past several years on my blog.
Check out what he wrote. You can read it as though he is giving you pre-relationship advice. It is quite long. I would advise printing it out and grabbing my favorite tool…that yellow highlighter.