The roots of narcissism in my family
I grew up in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and I was an only child. I experienced narcissistic abuse from my cerebral pathologically narcissistic father. From as young as I can remember, I was always very afraid of him. I found him to be angry and rageful, controlling, self centred, lacking in genuine empathy, emotionally distant, mean and without any authentic concern for either me or my mother. Everything was always about him. I could never understand why I have always been such a fearful, anxious and distrustful man.
Now that I am aware of the effects and mechanisms of narcissistic abuse, I understand why I have always felt this way. I felt very unsafe around him as I was always on my guard, waiting for the next onslaught, the next outburst of rage, the next act of him shaming me, his dire and ongoing disapproval of me and the terrible tension that was ever present at the house when he was there. He would come back from his studio at five o’clock each day and I remember the huge knot in my stomach as I anticipated him arriving at the back door.I always wanted to get away from him and the family house that I lived in. I could never understand this either. Again, now I do.I recall being around six years old when I first and successfully ran away from my house.It was on an early evening as I climbed through the burglar bars of my bedroom and, in my lady bird pyjamas, walked through the streets of the southern suburbs to my grandmothers flat quite a few kilometres away. I wanted to get away from him, you see. Always.
As I look back, I can see that this was the first sign of what I now call my fury. My absolute intent of will. My strong intuition and my sense of survival. This is the very determination that has saved my life so, so many times.
I fought a lot with my father and only had the courage to confront him when I was drunk. He was never physically abusive but he had a strong, commanding and deeply frightening presence.
A deeply entrenched pattern is emerging
My first lover was a narcissist and she used to physically and verbally assault me, break up with me often, sleep with other men and then come back to me. This is very typical of the pathological, promiscuous and physically abusive somatic narcissist. I was only sixteen then. I was to attract and be attracted to a great deal of pathological narcissists throughout the course of my life and these include: many more lovers, friends, staff and three therapists.
My father died when I was in my early thirties and I could never understand why I did not care when he died. Now I do. It was at this time that I decided to enter psychotherapy. My natural curiosity and enquiring mind wanted to dig deep and to explore all of the parts of me that I felt needed this and that needed to change.
That was almost twenty years ago.
None of the therapy that I did had ever pointed towards my father having narcissistic personality disorder and the resulting narcissistic abuse that I suffered. Had I found the right clinical psychotherapist and support a long time ago, I would have saved myself an enormous amount of suffering.
Now I know that the vast majority of counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches, attorneys, advocates and social workers are not trained at all in this very specialised field.
I believe that it is absolutely imperative to find professionals that are highly skilled, versed and trained in narcissistic abuse in order to get the support, validation and sincere understanding of narcissistic victim syndrome. Untrained professionals will have little to no comprehension of this pervasive epidemic and will therefore often re-traumatise the victim. I have had this experience and I chose to move rapidly away from unsupportive people, narcissistic therapists and to find all the right support.
The final awakening
The final illuminator was my last narcissistic lover and she was a covert somatic narcissist. Covert narcissists are extremely dangerous as they cunningly and craftily hide who they really are. Somatic narcissists use their bodies to attract their victims and to get them addicted at great speed. It’s a powerful and heroin like effect. The combination of these two was a lethal and perniciously effective cocktail.
She seduced me very quickly and very powerfully. She wore a mask of empathy, kindness, compassion, a wonderful and unusual sense of humour, a love of beautiful music, sensitivity, a capacity for joy and fun and a high work ethic. I did not realise at the time that she was merely mirroring me. Narcissists have no inner core, they are without personalities and so they have to reflect back to the other in order to achieve the fraud and the forgery. Pathological narcissists are the ultimate confidence tricksters.
I fell in love with a ghost, an empty vessel, a haunted house and a mere image that was being masked so well. And that image was me of course. I fell in love with my very own qualities that she was mirroring back to me with a remarkable and deadly accuracy. I was well and truly fooled, captivated and deceived by the mask.
What lies behind every narcissistic mask has no empathy, does not know what love is, has no morals, always blames others, is a pathological liar, is an horrendous child abuser, is ruthless and cruel, always wants to take from others, is never wrong, is sadistic, has no accountability, is a manipulator, uses others for narcissistic supply, is not able to make an authentic and emotional connection with anyone and spreads lies and rumours to hurt people.
Narcissists are undoubtedly the worst nightmare imaginable as the fact that their behaviour lacks the very core of humanity, empathy and compassion is incomprehensible to authentic, kind and caring people. It is important to remember that narcissists are very specific in the choosing and selection of their prey. They choose people that are essentially kind, strong, capable of self-reflection, empathic, and authentic but also vulnerable in terms of lower self-esteem. Narcissists use their highly developed sense of cold or cognitive empathy to assess the personality types that they will be able to manipulate, control and destroy. They read our user manuals carefully and they view us as interchangeable units or appliances to be used and discarded as they see fit. They are not able to see our humanity for they have none themselves.
I was to spend three years with this younger woman that I originally saw as a beautiful, highly sensitive and kindly angel. It turns out that she was the she wolf in sheep’s clothing. I experienced her ruthless passive aggressive rage, cruelty, gaslighting, blame shifting, lying, emotional, psychological and financial exploitation, verbal abuse, projection, control and punishment as an insidious and ongoing process. As we progressed, she stealthily turned up the gas and for most of the relationship, I believed that there was something very, very wrong with me. I saw her as being so kind and true, that it had to be me. I had her, her therapist and my therapist against me. Three narcissists against one. But I won.
She employed the use of a narcissistic strategy known as intermittent reinforcement to keep me trapped in her web of dark love. I would be thrown the occasional stale breadcrumbs of her purported and portrayed love for me. The problem was that her words did not match her actions.
I began to experience extreme depression, confusion, the loss of my creativity and my drive, the erosion of my precious self and self-esteem, self doubt, anxiety, my photographic memory began to fail me and I became hyper vigilant. I began to get colds and flu often, I began to suffer from nausea and I vomited a lot towards the end of the relationship when I was with her.
In spite of all the opposition and my own introjected opposition in the sense of my ever-growing self-hatred and self-doubt as I had even set about gaslighting myself you see. I left her one night not knowing what I was doing, who she really was and why I was leaving her. I knew that something was terribly and horrifically wrong and, looking back, I think that something snapped in me. This, together with my instinct, propelled and launched me out of and away from her.
She tried desperately to stop me leaving as I think, that in retrospect, she knew that I meant business this last time. This final curtain and this grand finale. I did not give her an inch and I was relentless in my fury and my intent to survive. I was fighting for my life and I was determined to hang on to it. I did not yet know that she was a pathological narcissist, you see. I vomited again on the long drive, on the long, long way to my home. Faraway from her. Forever.
I began to search relentlessly for answers as there was so much that had happened in the relationship that made no sense to me. I wanted to understand what had happened to me. Somehow, I was led into the subject of gaslighting and then onto pathological narcissism. I will never forget that Sunday when I realised who she was and what I had been involved with.
The shock, the horror, the feeling of her infamy, the violation, the paranoia, the rage, the distrust, the fear, the anxiety and the many nightmares riddled with sweat where I would see her real eyes gleaming with a maniacal malevolence. She was looking at me but her eyes did not register me. The eyes seemed not to see me. The eyes that seemed to somehow see through me. And the feeling of absolute disbelief and incomprehension that people that like this actually exist in this world.
I loved her, I trusted her and I made myself very vulnerable with her. Not only did I mean nothing to her, but she was out and with great intent to harm and hobble me. I so desperately wanted to find just a glimpse, a point one of a percent of humanity in her but I know that there was none. All of those moments with her, all of the things that I did with her and all of the countries that we travelled to together meant nothing to her. Only to me.
I have been through many challenging and difficult experiences in my life but this one has been the most gruesome and harrowing, the most grisly and the most ghastly. The most diabolical. I realised too that I was suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder and my mind, my body, and my spirit was but a shell of what it used to be. At that time, I really wondered if I was going to make it through that unspeakable ordeal.
I read a great deal of books about pathological narcissism, I went onto forums and spent hundreds of hours reading stories of fellow narcissistic abuse survivors and I joined a group in Johannesburg called the narcissistic abuse support group. I was put in touch with a man there. This man spent hours and hours on the telephone with me every day as he held my oft shaking and trembling hands and my flooding eyes. I have never met him. I owe this man my life.
I quickly identified the still present narcissists in my life and people that were unsupportive and attempted to blame, invalidate and shame me. I had a therapist at that time who I believe is also a narcissist. I discarded all of these harmful and unsupportive people with a force of such ease and determination that it astounded me. I quickly found a trained clinical psychologist specialising in narcissistic abuse and began the long and difficult journey of recovery. I armed myself with an enormous amount of knowledge. The most potent weapon against the narcissist.
This time, instead of turning to my guitar as an outlet, I turned to the written word and I wrote an entire book of eighty thousand words in four months. No, that is not entirely accurate, the book wrote me. I merely showed up every day for about four or five hours at the keyboard. This tale tells the story of the final illumination, the ultimate awakening in this experience with her. This experience of writing astounded me as I have never regarded myself as an author.
As I now had an arsenal of knowledge, I knew that I would soon be hoovered by her. Hoovering is a tactic used by narcissists to get their victims to return to them. They do this not because they have any concern or genuine feelings for them but rather because they so desperately need narcissistic supply. Narcissists cannot exist without it. Think of them as drug addicts or junkies needing a fix. Without this supply, they go into what is known as narcissistic decompensation. This is literally a matter of life and death for them. They will quickly scramble to get the fuel that they need in order to exist with. This can either be with a new supply or a previous one. I know that she would be after me again. In fact, all of my research has shown me that narcissists regard us at their property forever. The only time that we are guaranteed to be free of being hoovered by them is when we die or when they die. A very frightening and haunting reality.
I shut her down in every possible way. I made sure that there were no mutual friends that she could triangulate me with. She did try with one of my staff and I shut that down quickly too. I installed equipment at my family’s house to block her there too. I blocked her electronically on all of my devices. I installed a security system at my own house. I know that she was coming to my house one weekend and I disappeared quickly for a while.
I became a ghost, you see, I ceased to be and I became a figment of her imagination and of mine. I transformed into the invisible man and appeared only to the very few people that I trusted.
I have been free of her hoovering for a while now and so I have no doubt that she has new supply. But I am always aware and on my guard. I will always be mindful of the fact that she may not be or ever be done with me. But I am done with her. What has astounded me again, is that in talking to so many people and clients about this subject, is how many narcissists are out there and how much harm and destruction is being caused.
Almost every person that I discuss this topic with, is either currently involved with a pathological narcissist, has been with one or knows of someone that has been involved with them.
I hear of the utter misery, desolation, depression, planned or actual suicide and sometimes even premature death as a result of being with one of these severely disordered people.
Narcissistic personality disorder is not treatable or curable. There may be a little short term behaviour modification possible in therapy but the potential for creating or re-creating empathy in a narcissist is forever lost. I think that without empathy, compassion and remorse, there is no humanity. There is no hope for being involved with a pathological narcissist and the only solution is to leave, get out, run and don’t look back…
As time passed, I improved slowly but surely, my clarity started to return, my memory improved hugely, my focus came back and my sense of humour peaked its welcome and familiar head through the misted and cloudy veil of horror. Most importantly, I began to remember who I am and all the things I’ve cherished and what is important to me. For I was lost and diminished, crushed and broken into chards of glass that cut mercilessly into my precious veins severing my essential lifeblood.
The final illumination
This whole experience drove me to find answers as to not only understanding of pathological narcissism but, most importantly, to look at my own history and to learn from it. I now comprehend my vulnerability of attracting and being attracted to narcissists.I found an ever-greater inner fury, a strength that I could never have imagined possible.Other narcissistic survivors report the same thing. The phoenix rising from the final burnt and recently smouldering ashes. I am now able to recognise narcissists within minutes of meeting them and I don’t like them. I have none of them left in my life and, if I had to walk alone for the rest of my life, I would do so.
So strong is my conviction in avoiding and removing myself from them as swiftly as possible.
My fury turned and transformed into a ferocious drive to make people more aware of this epidemic. My upcoming book, radio talks, this website, my story in magazines, interviews with a well-known narcissistic psychopath and the aim of doing talks in and around South Africa. All of this is to inform, to expose, to share, to educate, to provide all of the right and vital resources and support and most importantly to offer hope.
Its more than possible to extricate oneself from these toxic and highly destructive relationships.
It’s not easy but it can and it must be done.
A prolonged exposure to and being in an intimate relationship with a narcissist will drive the victim into madness and insanity.
It’s not necessary to suffer any longer…