Some things are so deeply ingrained, so organic to the very fabric of our being that we can’t even see it! I had a rare glimpse into myself this week when I suddenly realized how intensely narcissistic abuse informed who I like and who I don’t like. Think about it. I bet the same is true for you.
As so often happens these days, this article was inspired “gastronomically.” I was watching two-Michelin-star chef Michel Roux Jr (pictured above) on his show The Craftsmen’s Dinner when I suddenly asked myself, “Why am I so drawn to this man!?”. The answer was, “Because he smiles a lot. Because his dark brown eyes are so warm and welcoming. Because he seems like a happy, kind person. Because, despite his dignified demeanor on Masterchef , the truth is he’s a bit of a tease and has an infectious giggle.” (Yes, gastronomy has met psychology yet again!)
I believe narcissistic abuse informs who we like and whom we don’t like more than we realize. Is it a help or a hindrance? Is it cheating us out of many wonderful friendships?
Smiley and Laughey
Narcissists keep you on tenterhooks. You never know where you stand. One moment you’re accepted, the next, rejected and you’re not even sure why sometimes! Will I wake up to find I’m in trouble for something when, last night, everything was hunky-dory? Why is my narcissist unhappy now? Is it me? Is it them? Is it something that happened at their place of employment? You’re stomach is perpetually clenched, twisted in knots from the stress.
No wonder then that we like smiley people who laugh a lot. I’m a smiley person and I love people who smile easily, smile warmly and smile frequently like Chef Roux. Yes, it’s my codependence showing, but I need that reassurance. A smile makes me feel accepted. That I’m okay and they’re okay. Everybody’s happy, thank goodness!
In this culture that encourages all of us to be ultra confident, I would argue that the façade of confidence is false for many of the people who don it. I am acutely aware of my own lack-of-confidence even though I may, at times, don the mask myself.
Perhaps it’s to my shame that I dislike people who seem coldly, extremely, rock-hard confident. Those who show no humility, no humor, no human foibles, no sense that there might be a chink in their ultra-confident armor. That’s not someone I would be drawn towards at all.
I prefer people who are delightfully humanly human. People who, like me, have a visible flutter of nerves. People apt to point out their own faults and foibles and laugh at themselves. People with a jolly sense of humor and irony. Humble Erma-Bombeckesque people. Kind people. People who are successful in their career while still retaining their gentleness and humanity. I proved it’s possible.
Maybe my own lack of confidence is at the root of this preference. Does it really matter?
Let’s face it: I’m a sucker for a codependent. I was raised by a codependent. I am a classic codependent and married a codependent as I wrote in A Very Codependent Marriage Indeed. It works because we respect each other’s boundaries.
A friendship between, for example, two female codependents will begin as a friendship made in Heaven. Two such women, when they meet, will get on like a house a’fire. They’ll bond quickly and intimately. Reveal too much, too fast. Much too fast.
The problems occur a bit later. I have a bad habit of always sharing my problems quite openly. Partly it comes from being raised by a codependent rescuer. I felt forced to reveal all. It felt incumbent on me to spill my guts and seek help so she could perform her role as a rescuer and rescue me.
Unfortunately, I still spill my guts. Whether I want help or not, I spill anyways. Also, I’m always open to ideas and suggestions. She who isn’t open to the wisdom of others is a fool!
The problem comes in when the other codependent slips into the rescuer role with too much passion and flair. After all, I’ve twirled the temptation before her eyes. She just can’t help but rescue, suggest, help, share, suggest, suggest, suggest with enthusiasm.
That’s when Codependent #1 (me) starts to feel irritated. I feel pushed… shoved. Codependent #2’s (her) enthusiastic suggestions feels like pressure, like I’m really missing the boat if I don’t follow her suggestions. Like I’m stupid, foolish. That’s when the irritation and resentment starts and I begin to question if this friendship is for me after all.
What a shame! Many a good friendship has been lost this way.
Let’s face it. It all comes down to vibes. Vibes are everything. Mother always told me, “Trust your feeler” but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to follow that stellar advice. Narcissistic invalidation makes you doubt yourself and ignore your gut as a matter of course.
Whom you like often comes down to nothing more than vibes. Good vibes, bad vibes, neutral vibes. Interestingly, vibes don’t just occur in person…they come through the computer screen too.
Many, many times I’ve asked my husband, who’s a pretty darn good judge of character, for his impression of so-and-so on YouTube. Our impressions were nearly always identical. The same people gave us the creeps. The same people struck us as good sorts. It all came down to vibes.
Always trust your gut.
It’s a crying shame but narcissistic abuse deeply affects who we like and who we can bond with. I say “crying shame” because it means there are many wonderful, lovely people in this world with whom we can’t feel comfortable because of the affect of narcissistic abuse. Maybe that’s why victims of narcissistic abuse are all terribly keen on cats and dogs. They don’t dominate, rescue, manipulate, shame or threaten us! As my husband says, “All dogs need to be happy is some love, a place to shit, a bowl of water and a bowl of nasty dry crap (kibble),” bless their furry hearts!
Confident people make us feel even more insecure than our usual insecure.
Non-smiley people make us feel insecure although they may actually be quite happy and quite accepting.
We drift away from wonderful people, codependent and non-codependent alike, merely because of our own narcissist-caused codependency.
Jolly friendships may never happen unless we can step outside of our abuse-informed comfort zone and risk being uncomfortable.
Me? I hate to admit it but, after many failed friendships, I don’t try anymore. I’ve been burned too many times. Yes, I’ve thrown in the towel and waved the white flag. To misquote an old cliché, “Desertion is the better part of valor.” The friends I have now are all I want. No more.
Would it have been different if narcissistic abuse hadn’t touched my life? If narcissists hadn’t forced me to dump my very first best friend at school? Yes, I’d like to think so. Chalk “friendship” up as one more casualty that died a slow, gruesome death at the hands of narcissistic abuse.