When I choose a blog topic I usually get my ideas from reader emails, research, books that I’ve read, or experiences that I’ve had. This week something interesting happened and I got to kill two birds with one stone.
It was cold and damp on Thursday evening and I decided to make my way to the local coffee house. I had a ton of reading to do and I had been stuck indoors all day, so I decided that I needed a change of scenery and a delicious, warm frothy beverage.
So, as I’m waiting in line for my Caramel Macchiato I spotted him. Sitting in a big comfy chair there he was, Max in all his handsome glory. Max is very attractive, tall, totally buff and a classic and I mean classic Somatic Narcissist.
The thing I like most about Max is that he is a self-aware Narcissist. He can read all about Narcissism and identify with it. I of course led him in that direction after witnessing the same destructive behaviors over and over again over a long period of time. I haven’t spoken to him in ages, but he knows that I write a blog on Narcissism, Self-esteem and dysfunctional relationships and we’ve had plenty of conversations about all of it.
His face lit up when he saw me and I walked over to where he was sitting. We did the perfunctory small talk and then we settled into a pretty good conversation. As he revealed some of his inner most thoughts I started to think that this would be a good opportunity to get inside a Narcissist’s head and ask some questions that consistently show up in my inbox.
With his permission I pulled out my phone and started recording. Below are the transcripts of the pertinent parts of our conversation.
Sav: So are you seeing anyone right now?
Max: Yeah I’ve been seeing someone for about 2 ½ months.
Sav: Wow that must be a record for you.
Max: Haha – No she’s amazing. She’s my best friend. I feel really comfortable being with her. But that’s not to say we haven’t broken up about 80 times already.
Sav: Oh no – here we go. Why is that?
Max: You know me. I need to have other girls in my life. My girlfriend has dumped me so many times because of this and I can’t stop. I don’t want to.
Sav: What is it you can’t stop?
Max: I don’t know. I like it when I know girls want me. I love attracting people. It’s like currency to me and I feel rich. I have so many girls talking to me right now. It’s an endless supply of wealth. It will run out one day, but until then…
Sav: So you cognitively know that the attention these other girls give you means absolutely nothing right?
Sav: I always tell people to stop seeking external validation from other people, that you and you alone are responsible for your self-esteem and your self-worth. Does that register with you at all?
Max: I don’t know. I just know I feel better when girls look at me and flirt with me. Knowing they want me makes me feel like I mean something. It’s like oxygen for me. It keeps me going. It’s a constant need. I think it would be easier to quit smoking, or crack.
Sav: How do you feel when girls aren’t paying attention to you?
Max: I feel worthless. But that hasn’t happened in a while.
Sav: Do you feel anxiety when you don’t have a woman’s attention?
Sav: And when you get attention does the anxiety go away?
Max: Yeah. But I feel the opposite way too. Like if I have no attention, or too much, I get overwhelmed and I shut down.
Sav: What do you mean you shut down?
Max: I just have to get away and be by myself. I like to be alone a lot.
Sav: So how soon after you get attention do you require more?
Max: Minutes…hours, it depends.
Sav: I guess what women, that read my blog, really want to know is that you’re doing all this hunting while you’re in a relationship with someone right?
Sav: Aren’t you at all concerned with how your girlfriend would feel if she found out, or don’t you care?
Max: She does know – sort of. That’s why she keeps breaking up with me.
Sav: But don’t you care if you hurt her?
Max: I do care. I care a lot. I just can’t stop. I hate it when she’s upset, but my need for other women supersedes any damage that I might cause. It’s not like I purposely go out of my way trying to hurt her. It’s not my intention. It’s just the result. She does keep coming back though, so she has to be okay with it somewhat. She knows what I’m like.
Sav: Why do you think she keeps coming back?
Max: Probably because I don’t let her go. I don’t want to lose her. I love her, so I say stuff, to make her stay.
Sav: What kind of stuff?
Max: I don’t know. I tell her I’ll stop and just be with her.
Sav: So every time she walks away from you, you pull her back with fake promises, knowing full well that you can never give her what she needs? That sounds pretty selfish.
Max: Yeah I guess it is selfish, but I need these other women, because she doesn’t satisfy me sexually.
Sav: Okay. Wow. Does she know this?
Max: No she has no clue.
Sav: I read somewhere that Narcissists have this Saint/Whore complex where women are concerned. They have a hard time being sexual with women they care about and they can’t care about those that they are sexual with.
Max: I guess.
Sav: You said that you love her and yet you continue to cause her pain, lie to her, mislead her, cheat on her. How can you love someone and still behave that way?
Max: I don’t know. I don’t want her to go. What I’d love to do is be with her, have a family with her and still date other girls. (laughs)
Sav: Ha. Good luck with that. But I want to get back on this topic of love. Some people define love as wanting the other person’s happiness more than you want your own. Under this definition you couldn’t call what you have love.
Max: No I guess not. But love is a feeling and I do feel love for her.
Sav: Explain what you feel. What is love?
Max: I don’t know. I care about her. I don’t want to lose her.
Sav: Some say that the closest a Narcissist gets to love are feelings of obsession.
Max: I don’t know.
Sav: Don’t you think she will get tired of this rollercoaster ride eventually and leave? Then how would you feel?
Max: To be honest. I’d feel sad and relieved.
Sav: Relieved? Explain.
Max: I’d feel relieved, because then all the fighting would be over, and then I could do what I want.
Sav: You mean all the expectations of you having to act like a decent human being would be over and it sounds like you do what you want anyway.
Max: I know I must sound like an asshole, but what can I do? I wish my brain would shut off. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I can’t stop it. I can’t turn this off. When other women give me compliments and attention they’re like trophies I can collect. The more I have, the better I feel. It fills me up. You told me I’m a Narcissist and I read all about it and I don’t disagree with you. I fit all of it, then it says there is nothing you can do about it, no cure. So what am I supposed to do, die? Sometimes believe me I wish I could. I’ve always felt different. I’ve never fit in and I’m always unhappy. Nothing satisfies me. Who the hell wants to live like this? I’ve already been on medication for anxiety and depression. I have no interest in being on anything. It kills my sex drive and I don’t feel like myself. I’d rather be this guy (pats his chest) than some weird clone of myself.
I thought it was important to post this because it’s easy to get caught up in text book definitions of Narcissism, but there’s a totally different perspective out there in the real world. On paper Narcissists can appear to be so evil and it seems so clear cut like it’s all black and white, but there is so much grey in a Narcissistic relationship and that’s what keeps countless people hanging on.
It’s hard not to like Max. He’s charming, good looking, a shameless flirt, funny and intense. When we see a Narcissist and we listen they do seem compelling, completely human and even logical at times. It’s easy to believe them, trust them and even feel sorry for them.
Even as Max was talking about his needs and his inability to stop his compulsive behavior I could see from his point of view how all of it makes perfect sense to him. It is very easy for him to brush aside the feelings of others, because his compulsion is the biggest thing in his life. It’s all he sees and all that matters to him. Feeding it is the only thing that makes him feel his brand of ‘normal.’
It is often very hard for me to bite my tongue when we speak. On the one hand, I do feel sympathy for him, because I know he wishes he could be different. But on the other hand, I have to look at it in the same vein as if he was a serial killer, or a child molester. These people have compulsive thoughts and behaviors that they can’t control too. It’s your life or your innocence for their gratification. For a Narcissist it’s your pain and anguish for their gratification. This is a sickness and no amount of understanding, or sympathy makes it hurt any less for their victims.
Hurting people, lying and manipulating for personal gain is evil, regardless of the circumstances, face, body and charm that goes along with it. When I was in University I wrote a 40 page paper on Psychopaths in my senior year and I got to interview a clinically diagnosed Psychopath in prison for my research. He wasn’t a killer, but he was a thief. He was arrested for breaking into someone’s home and trying to steal their valuables. I’ll never forget two of the answers he gave me.
Sav: What was going through your mind when you started thinking about breaking into that house?
Inmate: The theme from Mission Impossible.
Sav: Didn’t you think about the people whose home it was? What this would do to them? How much it would hurt them?
Inmate: Hurt them? I wasn’t going to hurt them. I was just going to take their stuff.
Just like a Psychopath, the emotional anguish a Narcissist puts his victims through doesn’t even register to them. It’s not even on their radar and even if they do see it – it’s of little concern. Their entire focus is always on feeding the monster inside.
So, if you are looking at your mate wondering are you, or aren’t you a Narcissist? Strip away everything that is superficial and really look at what’s left. You don’t need to be a forensic expert to see where the emotional residue will lead.
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