I joined a group online a few years ago.
A support group for empaths dealing with the aftermath of narcissism.
It took until today for me to realize this is not a group I should belong to.
Not because I’m not an empath. I am. Not because I don’t deal with the aftermath of narcissism. I do. But because I want to get out of the goddamn swamp.
Nearly all the content are people lamenting about the behavior of the person they are in a relationship with and how they just really hope that person will change.
They are in a group, specifically geared toward narcissism, yet they’re waiting for the narcissist to treat them well?
I don’t understand any of this.
At first, I just answered people as best I could, which meant saying “Get out now. No contact is the only way.”
Of course, I realize not every situation is the same.
Nearly always, when it comes to being a in a relationship with a malignant narcissist, the best solution is to not be in a relationship with a malignant narcissist.
Then, I spent a long time just looking at the post through my fingers. Like, I knew it bothered me, but I wanted to be supportive. I couldn’t respond anymore because it was just frustrating.
I realized today, that I just had to be done with it. If a person joins a group about malignant narcissism, then one must assume they have more than a casual understanding of malignant narcissism.
So why is there post after post of people bemoaning the sad state of their relationship?
In one case, it was someone who hadn’t even been in the relationship long.
They were supposed to meet up for a date and the poster had fallen asleep and was 45 minutes late. They wrote this long post about apologizing over and over. They knew they messed up by oversleeping, but the narc in their life was just torturing them over the transgression and did they ruin the relationship forever? By oversleeping?
I read the post and read it again.
I scrolled back and read a number of other posts. Most every post was the person talking about how they bleed empathy and how hard their life is and how, oh how, can I save this broken person who belittles and hurts me? How can I salvage this relationship? Also, I am a saint.
And it dawned on me.
How many of these people are covert narcissists?
How many are getting their supply by pouring their hearts out over how selfless and loving they are, but continue to be beaten down by the narc in their life?
I’m not saying it’s all of them. Or even most of them.
I don’t think I’m becoming more cynical with this realization, I think I’m growing.
There is such a problem with narcissism in this country. We are literally surrounded by this particular mental illness.
I guess I’m always going to be learning.
Still, had to be done with that group. I got nothing from it but annoyed.
Photo courtesy of Meelimello
You were wise to get out with your sanity. You never need more anxiety in your life.
I was hoping for insight, and I guess I got it..just not from the direction I expected.
Michelle, my darling girl, you are no cynic, you see too much with your empathic bad ass side. It seems many people who are in fact empaths imperil themselves by only seeing their saintly side and refusing to acknowledge that empathy is defined as
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. That includes seeing the toxic as well as the good.
As always ❤
Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it.
There are so many groups out there as you describe, Michelle.
OTOH, there are people who cannot get out of relationships with narcissists.
It’s well known that the time of escaping is the single most dangerous time for the would-be escapee.
The best advice i have read is: “Escape, but escape SILENTLY.”
That’s very hard. Shelters for the abused have time limits, & the streets here are far more dangerous than being gaslighted. Freezing, abduction, murder & ending up dead in a dumpster.
I read a story in the local paper about an abusive man whose SO did escape. Briefly. She moved out, moved in with her sister, and got multiple restraining orders. But it’s also a saying that:
“Restraining orders do not stop bullets.”
The story began by listing the dead victims–the would-be escapee, her sister, & another innocent. The malignant narc either committed suicide by cop or shot himself, i forget.
Even being under the financial control of an MN & too disabled to earn an income effectively prevents escape except to those deadly streets.
Yes, people should get away, go no contact. If they don’t pay a worse price than staying. And that is quite possible.
I agree completely. I hope I was clear in that I certainly didn’t think the group was valid or helpful to those who need it. I just saw a lot of people bemoaning the fact that they can’t change their narc and in some cases, wore their pain like a crown. It just isn’t for me.
That being said, being in a relationship with any narc has potential for danger, including life threatening danger. I understand this.
After spending so many years studying and understanding narcissism in an effort to help myself, I find it frustrating to read things from people who just can’t or won’t see that they can NEVER change the situation, the narc won’t get better. Especially people who are entering a relationship or are in a casual relationship with a narc. Just save yourself because that shit isn’t going to get better.
You don’t need insight, you have all the insight a person can have.
You help yourself, let them be.
Do not waist your time anymore on those who
Don’t want to do the same for themselves.
Good move! I’m glad you got out.
It just wasn’t for me. I want to work on healing myself and that wasn’t helping me.
Wise choice. Sometimes it’s just better to not invite more of that into your life.
I don’t know whether I’ve told you this story before or not, but it really informs my thoughts on this subject: My mother told the story of how when she first started working in a law office she was happy for the women who came in for help getting divorced from abusive husbands. She said it was usually an event driven situation that brought them in: for example he had beaten her badly enough that she had to go to the ER and miss work, so hiding it was no ,longer an option, and in the process she met people who were supportive of her removing herself from the abusive situation.
But after working in law offices for a few years, she noticed a disturbing pattern: those same women would show up again for another divorce from another functionally identical abuser, right down to the specific kind of abuse.
She said that if it had only been a few of them she could have written it off, but that it was obviously a pattern that everyone involved was aware of.
My mom was baffled.
She said that all she could think about it was that people are creatures of habit, and any familiar situation, even violent abuse, is less frightening to them than the unknown of an unfamiliar situation.
I don’t really know, but I do know that some mental illness is behaviorally contagious, and some abusers require the complicity of their victims, and narcissists are famously adept at acquiring that complicity.
And I, personally, have no standing to criticize anyone for staying in an unhealthy situation. My own stubbornness on that score nearly killed me. I like to tell myself that I am better at that now, but the truth is probably closer to my having simply upgraded to healthier habits, and not any more mobility between them and anything new.
Hope you are doing well in this end of the goddamn apocalypse.
No, this is the first time you told me this. And I get it. I made bad choice after bad choice for years. My mental health was not good. I mean, it’d be a stretch to say I’m mentally healthy now, but I am better. It’s just that once I started learning, then I started making changes. I adjusted my thinking. I let go of a lot. It’s hard for me to see people working against themselves. And I do believe that there are some people getting their supply from groups like this. Probably not a lot, but I do believe they are there.
Holy shit. You’ve hit on something really major here. There is a serious problem with narcissism in this country, and I wonder how much of it stems from the fact that we see it modeled. We see it in politicians–not just the one who’s on his way out but others as well. You’re probably much more conscious of it because of your experience, and because, even if it didn’t end well, you were very noble in trying to help others.
I don’t mean to sound harsh. I know most of the people in that group are struggling and I am so sorry that they are. But I do think some of them are there for attention/supply. I just can’t get over the person who was STARTING a relationship with a narcissist. Just why?
I guess like Doug’s story, sometimes abused people look for abusers. I truly understand that.
It’s just that if you have gotten as far to join a group, I would think you’d understand better about what you’re dealing with and at least try to avoid it.
I really liked this
Thank you! XOXOX
I hear that, I’ve also exited from any groups of that ilk for the same reason. I guess I’m lucky to have the strength of character to have left, but I do understand that it isn’t an easy choice when it’s your partner. I do know I should have left a lot sooner, but I didn’t actually understand that he was a narcissist until after I did, and then began to understand the horrible undermining damage that had been done to me as a person.
I just feel sorry for every survivor who has had to witness the orange nightmare for the last few years. He reminds me every day of the spoilt man toddler behaviour I dealt with for so long, and I can’t wait until I never have to see his stupid embittered twisted face again, or hear his whining, so I can put all that to rest again. I’m so glad I was already much better when he got into power, as I would have found him much more triggering than I do now, but seeing and hearing him brings back those memories and makes me feel anxious. May he disappear into the obscurity he so richly deserves, or preferably prison.
Thank you for this, sister. I was feeling bad about this post because I don’t want to be harsh. We all deal the way we deal. I understand that. I understand that it can be very hard to leave. But for me and where I am, it wasn’t helpful to be a part of that group.
And yes, I can’t wait until the stupid president is out of sight. He sickens me.
Very good post, Michelle, and no, not harsh. Two things – I see people in need of the 12 step mantra in that group you were in. One of the first, and most helpful things I learned years ago in Al-Anon is that you can’t change the other person. You can only change yourself. In so many of these unhealthy relationships we keep thinking we change the other person. It never happens.
The other thing is , you are absolutely right, we are literally surrounded by narcissists in this country. They are the ones who refuse to mask and follow other protocol. The are the ones who, when a reporter sticks a mic in their face, whine about how much they want – “I want to see my family; I want to go to restaurants; I want to have my big fat whatever wedding.” They are all narcissists, and to them the rest of us don’t even exist, except when we get in their way.
When I was freshly out of an abusive relationship that had lasted 16 years, I got hired to work at a shelter for battered women. Since I hadn’t been beaten, I thought I could handle it. I thought I got out, and I want to help others get out. Three quarters of the way through my training we were watching an informative video about a female politician who had been trapped in domestic violence for some time, and then statistics flashed up on the screen. 1% of the women who are brought to the shelter are saved the first time. Most return to their abusers. It was at that moment that I realized I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t processed or done the work to even make myself whole yet. Knowing that I’m an em-path who would undoubtedly become emotionally connected, I knew it would crush me to see women return to abuse, and some even end up dead. Abuse is abuse. Be it physical, psychological, verbal, it causes the same kinds of harm to the psyche. Sometimes we just have to get out and stay out. Surround ourselves with the kind of people who help us heal, not hold us back. You were right to leave that particular group. I couldn’t be around women who couldn’t/wouldn’t get out when I had just barely gotten out myself.
My ex-husband was (he past 9 years ago) a self medicating bi polar manic depressive person. even after the divorce, it was hard to stay away. He was very good at drawing me back into the crazy, particularly since the kids were little when we split. And then at one point, maybe 1 1years ago I just stopped playing the game, dropped out of the group so to speak. And not just with him, with everyone toxic in my life.
It was very freeing, and so much less frustrating.
Now my youngest is 18 and showing all signs of the same behavior. The toxicity is just as bad as when I was completely immersed in it. Yet, he’s my son and I can’t leave his group. Maybe the people in the group are in the same situation, knowing that while they can’t change them, they can’t leave them either.
You are absolutely right. Narcissism is not just a disease of arrogance and abuse; it’s also one of self-pity for some. Narcissists are not always grandiose. Sometimes they are someone who is downtrodden and needs affirmation in a different way. It’s still attention seeking though.