A LOT is being made of narcissism as deliberate evil as symbolized by charming vampires, merciless terminators and wicked witches orchestrating hoards of flying monkey minions. “They know what they’re doing,” we say. “They just don’t care how it affects who they’re doing it to.” But how aware and, more importantly, in control of themselves are they really?
Whether they perceive the suffering they cause or not, the vampire doesn’t have the choice to go vegan, the terminator cannot disobey its prime directive to be a murder machine and the wicked witch … well, she’s grieving the premature death of her sister by house and understandably upset at her property being unfairly awarded to the killer — what I’m saying is that the so-called “Good Witch” lied to Dorothy, made her an unwilling mark and manipulated all of Oz to murder the so-called “Wicked Witch,” clearly driven to malevolence by the injustice done to her. What a world, indeed!
This is the nature of the thing. And as I work to unravel and sort out my own mess that my parents (screwed up by their parents, ad inf.) made in me, I’m frequently reminded of just how difficult it is to become aware of much less change one’s own nature. I’m fighting reflexive, maladaptive behaviors long established by the dysfunctional family dynamic I was shaped by — and that shaped the other enablers and beneficiaries of this dynamic who don’t want to change it nor what they are and so fight me. For change is hard and there’s a certain comfort in accepting oneself as so designated by another even if what that is happens to be terrible.
Narcissism is an infectious disease, a meme made manifest in its destruction of people by other destroyed people, passed from one generation to the next. All narcissists are victims as well a progenitors of narcissism but not all victims of narcissists become narcissists themselves; that is to adopt a narcissistic coping strategy. Many adopt an echoist coping strategy and so become echoists: ego-depleted codependents that serve others before (if ever) themselves. Two halves of a whole person, narcissists and echoists seek out and inspire the other in others. Narcissists beget narcissists not by design as vampires or Dr. Frankenstein might but by the way zombies beget zombies — mindlessly feeding upon and self-replicating in others for necessity of the function of the disease itself to persist.
This perspective of narcissism as autonomic contagion rather than conscious decision is useful for practicing detachment. It hurts very badly to be held in contempt, rejected and cut down by those who brought us up in this world and it’s incredibly damaging to be unable to let go of and move beyond that pain. We forgive in the hope and belief that this gesture will bring us peace but forgiveness only brings more pain. Our hearts harden and seethe with resentment that we aren’t valued by those the world tells us are supposed to care for us to be seen, heard or even just met half-way. We want closure, an explanation: why don’t they care? The answer according to this zombie disease model of narcissism: they’re sick, unwell, and we can’t cure them but we can take precautions (like No Contact) to protect ourselves from becoming subject to their illness.
To frame our experience this way takes the power away from the narcissist and puts it back in our hands where it belongs. They don’t change but we do. It’s no longer personal to us because the narcissist is no longer a person, a sentient being ever able to choose to act in our best interests. They’re infected, a zombie that we now correctly understand acts simply to consume us, an aggravation to be mitigated, quarantined and then not given another thought to. We’re not going to try to convince a zombie to not be a zombie — there’s no point. Zombies can’t understand and they’ll never not be zombies.
Rather than blaming the narcissist for what they cannot be other than, we can instead put a fraction of this energy towards detecting and avoiding them — like avalanches, mosquitoes or knights who say “Ni!”