“What would They think?” “They say that XYZ.” They, they, they. It’s been my observation that people suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are overly concerned with what They think. It’s a kind of tyranny. The Tyranny of They.
Who Are They?
They can be anyone. The relatives. The neighbors. Total strangers.
They are also the so-called experts. You know the kind. On Tuesday, they announce that supplementing with calcium is vital for your health. On Wednesday, they announce that supplementing merely makes for expensive urine.
On Thursday, they announce that eating fruit, red meat, wheat, sugar, butter, and dairy will kill you and we should all subsist on a diet of beetroot, chia seeds, and cabbage leaves. On Friday, they announce that it’s okay to eat like a normal human after all.
Why They Matter
Well, they don’t. But They and Their opinions matter intensely to individuals with NPD. As Sam Vaknin puts it, an individual with NPD “exists ONLY as a reflection. Since he is forbidden to love his self – he chooses to have no self at all.” Mr. Vaknin also refers to “the tremendous, insatiable need of the narcissist for external approval.”
As long as They approve, the narcissist’s false ego soars. As long as They are impressed, the narcissist’s world remains intact.
Hence the pseudo-importance of They.
Passing It Down
Unfortunately, those with NPD tend to pass down this unhealthy They obsession to their family members.
NPDs may pressure their spouse to look amazing at all times. Dress in the height of fashion. Wear the latest hairstyle. Have the house perfect at all times. Go deeply into debt to own the hottest car and the largest McMansion.
Their children pick it up too. What kids aren’t actively taught, they absorb like an airborne pathogen. Keep the family secrets. Act perfect. Look perfect. Make the family look good. We have a reputation to uphold!
Naturally, to the spouses, children and relatives of those with NPD, the person with NPD becomes one of Them. As narcissists tend to be hyper critical of others, the role of They is tailor-made for them.
We survivors of narcissistic abuse learn to care more about what They think, than what we think. If this goes on long enough, we don’t even know what we think. They become the sun around which we orbit.
And it’s crazy-making.
The trick to impressing Them, is to know what they’re thinking. That requires what I call clairvoyance. Guessing what others are thinking and behaving accordingly.
Unfortunately, it’s a doomed guessing game. As my husband says, “When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” Cute, huh.
Oh, but there’s more. Clairvoyance results in paranoia. It’s not something that gets talked about a lot, but narcissists tend to have a certain flavor of paranoia. Their obsession with what They are thinking and saying about them plays right into their innate paranoia. It’s a stressful, nerve-wracking way to live.
What About Me!?
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick-and-tired of the Tyranny of They. Sick of caring more about what They think, than what I think.
After a lifetime of learning at the knees of narcissists, They matter way too much to me. There’s only one person excluded from the Tyranny of They: Me. Or, in your case, You.
No one seems to care what I think. Not even me. I don’t exist. There’s no room for authenticity. The habit of deferring to what They think becomes ingrained to such an extent that we don’t know what we feel, what we think, what we want, or even what we enjoy. Often, we cope by becoming workaholics.
It’s a habit I’m trying hard to unlearn. I’m sure you’re trying to unlearn it, too. Good for us. It’s about darn time They were deposed. It’s high time we smash their scepter, steal their crown, and ascend to the throne of our own minds.