Someone just forwarded me this youtube about narcissism by Russell Brand. As much as I appreciate his idealism and admire his abilities to take big, abstract ideas and turn them into 2 minute soundbites – I think his message is a dangerous one.
* My response to Russell’s youtube is for those of you who are dealing with pathological (or malignant) narcissists. Not all narcissists are dangerous, but pathological narcissists can and will destroy people’s lives. *
On one hand YES absolutely, I wholeheartedly agree that love is the answer. If anything is going to change the darkness in this world… it is LOVE. For sure. AND… I think there are way too many people who use the cliche to allow abuse to be perpetuated.
Here’s how the flawed thinking goes. “Love is the answer,” therefore:
- minimize the reality of abuse that’s in front of you – pretend it’s not happening
- give abusers way too many chances – pretend they’ll eventually change (especially with enough love which you, of course, will give them)
- don’t set healthy boundaries – pretend it’s really not that bad and you’re strong and you can handle it
- deny the effects of narcissistic behavior, which quite frankly can destroy people’s lives – pretend it’s not “that bad”
- stay in the relationship because you’re extremely resilient and self-reliant
I have met way too many spiritual folks who are completely disconnected from their bodies. Their heads talk but I don’t feel their words. They have spiritual jargon down to a “t” and can perform energy techniques, but when you ask them to actually NAME what they’re feeling or DESCRIBE sensations in their bodies (due to emotions which flow through us constantly), they are stumped. They can’t answer the questions. They are disconnected from their true selves and therefore disconnected from their power. The spiritual cliche “love is the answer” protects them from pain. But it also persecutes them. Because it keeps them from coming fully alive.
Dissociation will protect someone who is in a crisis situation like war. Or a psychological war-zone like a relationship with a pathological narcissist. Dissociation is NOT the answer when you’re out of the war zone. Dissociation is a protective mechanism that our brain uses in order to help us navigate extreme stress. But, over time, it can cause more illness, relational problems and aborted dreams than anything else I know of.
When a person is perpetually dissociated or “out to lunch”, they’ve disconnected their head from their heart. How can you possibly have a real, intimate relationship with them? How can you trust them to be fully present for you for a real conversation? How can you trust them to protect your feelings? You can’t. They will hurt you and not even realize what they’re doing. They may mean well, and they may even be “very good people.” Spouses and children of pathological narcissists are at risk of dissociation. Ironically, it’s the dissociation which keeps the abuse alive, deepening the dysfunction. It’s a vicious cycle. Top it off with Stockholm Syndrome (trauma bonding, misplaced loyalty) and this awful situation can go on for years.
“Dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. The dissociative disorders that need professional treatment include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder and dissociative identity disorder.” – Google
If you’re in a relationship with a pathological narcissist, or if you’re healing from the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, you’ve got a few major tasks ahead of you. Here’s how you can take your power back using the beloved cliche. “Love is the answer,” therefore I will:
- get back in my body
- get back in my heart
- take back my identity
- take back my true voice
- take back my future
- learn to honor myself, be loyal to myself and keep commitments to myself
- stop abandoning myself, betraying myself, shaming myself
- stop minimizing how bad it is (or was)
- stop minimizing how capable I am
- stop magnifying my mistakes*
- start highlighting my strengths*
- trust myself
- let JOY in
I love Dr. Gabor Mate’s definition of self-love which offers a perfect ending to this post. “Self-love is self-compassion: something else is possible and you’re worth that possibility.” True Dat!
* added in an update of this post. I’m noting it for those of you who said you’d be coming back here for future good mojo!