Last week, I asked the question Did Our Narcissist Every Really Know Us? The consensus was a resounding NO!
But there was an interest codicil to the story. A self-professing narcissist emailed me and, in part, said this:
“…as a narcissist I always get a bad rep from everywhere. But we do pay attention- a lot of attention or we wouldn’t be able to manipulate so easy. Just my thoughts.
I disagree, the narcissist knows you better than you know yourself. …if they can convince you of the opposite of everything you think you know, if they can convince you to question you -they won. Take it from a narcissist.”
His comments remind me of my father’s oft-repeated and gloatingly spoken mantra:
“I’m ahead of you by five minutes, five hours, five days,
five weeks, five months, five years…”
But I digress. Frequently.
The flip side of the original question is this: Did we ever know our narcissist? I mean, really know them. As people. Genuine, authentic, vulnerable people. Do we / did we ever know the real person underneath the narcissism?
Who was my narcissist? Was he the angry, raging person who traumatized the family he claimed to love and cherish? Did he make a conscious choice to rage at us or does he suffer from undiagnosed CTE from multiple sports injuries that leave him unable to control his temper? Did he realize how much he was traumatizing us and not care? Did he mean to traumatize us in order to control us? Did he regret leaving me with PTSD or pooh-pooh my diagnosis? Was the raging narcissist the authentic man?
Or was he the penitent, tear-stained man who begged for forgiveness and acceptance after one of his blackout rages? Was that the real man?
Was the overtly religious man the real man? The one who spent years trying to convert everyone he knew and the world at large to his way of thinking and believing, but who I was told wouldn’t pray with his own wife? The man who would joke around in almost every prayer and then solemnly apologize to God for his joking. The man who threatened to tear Song of Solomon out of my Bible and accused me of being in league with the forces of evil? Was that he?
Was the overtly kind, caring, loving man the real man? The one who seemed to be really trying to be pleasant. But even the word “trying” implies it wasn’t completely authentic and indeed, it never felt quite real. Was that the real man?
Was the morose man the real man? The one who seemed perpetually depressed and claimed to be “suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder” from August through April, was that he? Blue. Silent. A shadow man. Was that the real man?
Was he the man who loved to play music but did so with jaw clenched in effort and frustration, striking the strings of my mandolin so hard, they snapped off at the (rough) bridge. Was that he?
What about the funny man? His well-rehearsed public persona. The man who described himself in his book as “light-hearted, quick-with-the-quip, humor-loving self.” The in-your-face, aren’t-I-funny smart-ass who thought it was humorous to contort his features into facial expressions I can only describe as “hideous.” Was that he?
Or was the real man the one who liked to be alone. The one who seemed most at peace in his own society pursuing his own interests. This face of my narcissist’s many faces seems to me to be the most real.
We all have many faces. I’ve come to believe that the most healthy person is the one who changes the least, regardless of the scenario in which they find themselves. The person whose public persona (and we all have one) is the most similar, contiguous with their private persona.
The narcissist is not that person. In my experience, their public persona is wildly different from their private one. Wow. Wildly different!
Who is my narcissist? Who is your narcissist? Really.
I haven’t got a clue!