When you’ve been surrounded by narcissists all your life, naturally you assume everyone thinks like them. Judges you like them. Hey! It’s self-protection. But they don’t, you know.
Holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl is renowned for saying, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
Being constantly watched is abnormal. Being chronically judged for anything and everything is abnormal. Hell, narcissism is abnormal, hence the name of this blog: Narcissism Meets Normalcy.
Unfortunately, abnormalcy breeds abnormalcy. It’s abnormal to be hyper-vigilant, but we developed it for self-preservation. Thus it’s normal…for us.
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It’s abnormal to constantly self-criticize. But we learned to self-criticize, to anticipate every possible criticism that might be hurled our way. We learned to practice clairvoyance (thinking with the narcissist’s brain.) It was simply less painful than being blind-sided. Thus it’s normal…for us.
I imagine that I’m being constantly watched, constantly judged, constantly graded on my performance. It goads me unmercifully every moment of every day. No matter what I’m doing, I “should” be doing something else. Nothing is ever good enough. There’s always something else that needs doing…and I’m late on everything. – Facebook
Being steeped in an atmosphere of criticism skews our outlook on life. Life’s no longer of a grand journey of exploration and adventure. Life isn’t about the “hedonistic” pleasures of good food, good drink, good friends, good family, good work and good hobbies.
Hell no! From narcissists, we learned that life is a J-O-B. A job. A goal. One either succeeds at it or fails at it. If one succeeds at the J-O-B of life, then one is a success as a person. And vice versa. No wonder so many of us are perfectionists and workaholics! I mean, no one wants to find out at age 92 on their deathbed that they’re a failure, a non-success, devoid of value, unworthy of the name “human being.”
Coming from hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, OCDish perfectionistic type of narcissists myself, success is analogous to a juggler keeping all the balls in the air. Dishes done? Check! Laundry done? Check! Lawn manicured? Check! House spotless? Check! Bills paid? Check! Car washed? Check! Kids on the Honor Roll? Check!
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s important to be responsible and clean. But there ‘s a difference between doing it cause we need clean dishes and clean clothes versus doing it to prove ones self-worth. To buoy one’s self-esteem. To deserve, well, life!
Oddly, narcissists seem to overlook the essence of life. The Dutch call it levenskunst: the art of living. The Italians call it Dolce Far Niente: the sweetness of doing nothing. The Bible calls it Mary (the peaceful listener) versus Martha (worried and bothered with her elaborate preparations.) (Luke 10:38-42)
The same thinking kinda’ applies to marriage. As my fourth wedding anniversary approaches, I reflect on how I saw marriage as something one did. Wife=J-O-B. What I’ve discovered is that cooking for your man is relatively easy. Daring to be totally vulnerable and intimate is a whole lot harder. I mean, when I tried to be totally honest, intimate, vulnerable in the past, unfortunately with narcissists, it just led to lectures, lectures, lectures. Yet this terrifying intimacy is the essence of marriage. Thank God I didn’t marry a narcissist!
Living is about who we are, not what we do. A damned hard lesson to learn when you’ve been immersed in how narcissists think.
At the bottom, as always, is our shredded self-esteem. The first mistake we made was believing all the negative shit the narcs told us about ourselves. So we compensated. If we couldn’t be a good person…at least we could be a good worker. It gave us placebo self-esteem in the absence of the real McCoy. Another normal reaction to an abnormal scenario.
So here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
- Reframe our self-image and self-esteem…accurately.
- Learn to live…levenskunst…dolce far niente.
You’re a precious human being, not a human doing.