In a previous article, we discussed how narcissists create personas (think masks or fake personalities) to gain your favours. These personas are tailor-made for you and are fabrications, they are lies. During a first phase, the narcissist will love-bomb (or friendship-bomb) you into liking them. Things change at one point and this perfect friend, this flawless lover suddenly drains your energy, your time, often your finances, diminishes your self worth. For a list of red flags, see the article.
The first step to getting over a narcissist is to realise that the good times were lies and the bad times were real. They will guilt trip us into thinking that we ruined the good times and that they are poor victimes of our evil behaviour. They will blame us for something: you let me down, you betrayed my trust, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. And their inability to accept any responsibility for situations would be comical if it wasn’t so painful.
As a result, we long for the lost good times and, if we buy in to their narrative, we feel guilty about the change. Perhaps we too view them as poor victims of our evil behaviour and thus rob them of any agency over their emotions and events.
If you need help working through this type of situation, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Sometimes we cannot take it anymore and end the relationship, whether friendship, romantic, or even a relationship with a parent. This situation is particularly difficult as they may beg us to take them back, attacking our resolve by guilt tripping us or insulting us. After all, how dare we reject them?
Other times they cut us off. This situation is particularly painful as we both suffer the loss of the persona and suffer the guilt of having “driven them away”. Sometimes they move on, very often, however, they will seek to get back into our lives, usually once their new supplies of narcissistic attention have dried up, sometimes with the promise of the return to the idyllic beginnings. A specific narcissist would regularly “break up” with his friends, only to return later, pretending remorse, only to once again create drama once accepted or when rejected.
In both cases, the temptation to give them “one more chance” can be overwhelming, nearly unbearable. We remember good times, we remember our guilt, we may blame ourselves, even when we remember the bad times, the negative times, the pain and suffering. “Perhaps this time it might be different”, we say to ourselves, with hope, in a hopeful attempt to, once again, believe a lie.
When we long to return to the honeymoon phase, it truly is helpful to remember that… it was a lie. We fell in love or became friends with a persona that was tailor-made to please us. And the only real indication we have of who that person really is is how they acted when things were difficult.
Were they respectful, understanding, supportive? Did they question themselves and take responsibility? Did they apologise and forgive?
Or were they resentful, vengeful, bitter? What emotions did we see on their face? Sadness? Maybe anger? Or contempt and disgust? Paul Ekman explains that the two emotions that signify the end of a relationship are contempt and disgust. There pretty much is no way to repair a relationship after that.
We have a very basic choice in life: do we want to live in truth or do we condone, and thus encourage, lies and deceit in our life?
Ekman writes that “lies are like hydras: cut one head off and three more grow back”. To tell a lie will require many more to cover up the lie. The person telling the lie gets exhausted from having to keep track of all of the lies and use mental acrobatics to hide the fact they are lying, usually by using more lies. The person being lied to, if they ask questions, will feel that something is off and wonder whether they are going crazy as nothing seems to add up.
Jordan Peterson writes too that “to tell lies is to create hell on Earth and to tell the truth is to create heaven on Earth”.
We have a very basic choice: do we want to live a life of truth? In this case, we attempt to be truthful regarding our feelings, to avoid misleading ourselves and others, to simply do our best to just tell the truth, regardless of how it is received.
Or would we prefer a life of lies? Will we lie to ourselves, for instance about how we feel about ourselves, about people? Will we attempt to control their perception of us, how they react to us through lies?
We can choose one or the other, there is no balance. “How can we always tell the truth?”, you might ask? Because it is not easy does not mean it is not worth aspiring to. We can aim upwards in our life, or we can accelerate downwards. Aiming upwards is an effort, it is not easy, it requires courage, success is not guaranteed. However, the alternative is to accelerate downwards. Is that alternative more appealing? For many it is. What about for us? Do we aspire to a better life? Or to a more miserable life? Do we want to spend our life covering lies with more lies, fighting new hydra heads? That is our choice.
Once we realise that the good times were a lie and that the bad times were true, once we decide if we want to aim upwards, it becomes far easier to decide how to deal with the narcissist attempting to return into our life, or with the temptation of getting them to return.
If we give in to that temptation, we are saying “I know it was a lie. Yet I want to live that lie. I know I will suffer, I know I will be lied to and manipulated, yet I do not care, I want to believe that lie.”, just like the character Cypher in the film the Matrix requesting to be returned into a pod to live in an illusion of fine wine and steak. As he says “I know it’s not real. But by brain tells me that it’s delicious.”
If we choose that, we are choosing to make our life hell. Not only our life, but that of our friends and family. We may indeed risk loosing them. “How can you let them back into your life after all they put you through?”, they may ask. Another question, more honest, may be “After all you put us through, requesting our support, help, friendship and love, how can you decide to return to a horrible state of affairs? Were you not sincere? Do you not aspire to improve you life?”. Indeed, it would take a honest and caring person to say those words. Because, indeed, by returning, you would be making their life hell too.
Yes, it is easier to believe a lie now, even though you know that you will suffer later. Perhaps consider this: perhaps you don’t care enough about your own life to look properly after yourself. But perhaps you care enough about the life of your friends and family, about their sanity, about your relationships for you to make the difficult decision to let get of a (charming) illusion, accept you were lied to and start building YOUR future.
The next article will examine how to do just that.