As a black hole is a failed star collapsed under its own gravity into an inescapable singularity, the narcissist is a failed child reduced to a single function: the insatiable acquisition of attention to feel special (narcissistic supply). We can’t see black holes but for the distortion of space and effect on objects surrounding them. Similarly, narcissists hide in plain sight belied only by the social disruption left in their wake.
I hate shopping. But inevitably I need new things to replace old, worn out things. Such is the tyranny of maintenance, to paraphrase Tom Robbins. Threadbare things, in this case. Clothing.
It wasn’t enough that Vans no longer made the suede high-top shoes I’d grown fond of (and nearly walked the soles through) over the last six years and that every brand carrying a similar style vandalized the damn things with their trademarks emblazoned so obscenely large across them that they should pay people advertising revenue to wear them (Adidas, I’m looking at you!). Nothing screams quality like a walking billboard you too can have the distinguished privilege of paying to wear! By the time I ended up settling on a nice pair of DC brand shoes that satisfied most of my criteria, the sales person had long since given up trying to help me make up my mind.
Like many (if not everyone) recovering from narcissistic abuse, I deal with my share of flying monkeys: enablers manipulated into serving the narcissist as their minions who seek to restore the status quo. And I find few things more validating than reading, hearing or seeing the recordings from other survivors of exchanges with the narcissistic abusers and flying monkeys that they’re dealing with. So this Flying Monkey Autopsy segment is for sharing and deconstructing my own contributions with a dash of reflective analysis for good measure.
The first flying monkey cooling on the slab is from my final email exchange with Sister.
Re: So Much For An Easy Morning
This is the email subject under which Sister begins her message to me.
Translation: You’ve inconvenienced me.
I had removed Sister and several dozen others from my list of so-called Facebook friends that I felt I didn’t have meaningful relationships with or were professional contacts that I felt didn’t belong connected to a personal account of mine.
Translation: I don’t give you permission to leave me.
Never mind what precipitated my decision to unfriend her. She’s telling me from the get go that my reasons aren’t important to her. Only the results.
In Greek mythology, Pandora is the first woman created and given, among other gifts from the gods who created her, a jar containing all the evils of the world. Curious, she opens the jar and inadvertently lets the evils escape, leaving only hope remaining at the bottom of the jar before she manages to close it again.
Pandora is a scapegoat, set up to be blamed for all that is ill or wicked while the gods who planted the jar of evil on her and to whom she owes her very existence wash their hands of culpability. Similarly, narcissistic abuse survivors are saddled with toxic shame “gifted” to us by the narcissist that we obediently if not gratefully bottle up and tuck away deep in the dark recesses of ourselves out of sight and mind where it continues to linger, poisoning us, long after the narcissist no longer does. We don’t acknowledge this growing reservoir of pain deep within our being much like the narcissist fails to acknowledge us and for much the same reason: to do so would undo the comfortable illusion, the lie we’ve invested in and grown accustomed to.
But the pain will not be denied. It takes the taste out of life. Bleaches the colors. Numbs the ecstasy of awe. The sheer weight of it drags on us, leaving us spent before we even begin. No, for there to be any hope of recovery then the pain cannot be ignored. It must be freed in order to be free of it. Pandora’s jar must be emptied.
The infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges …
— John Milton, Paradise Lost
Mother steps out the backdoor of her newly installed, manufactured home with a pot of warm leftovers. From a few yards away, peering out of the window of the dilapidated camper trailer that I lie forgotten in, I can make out the steam rising from the food as she pushes it with a large wooden spoon into the dishes of grateful dogs, hungrily lapping it up. Lucky them, those obedient pets. They haven’t failed her as I have. Haven’t disappointed her. I haven’t eaten in three days and resigned to the idea that my lifeless body won’t be found for many more days to come, mere feet away from where Family breaks bread and give smiles to one another. At least the maggots will eat as well as the dogs. For that, they can also thank Mother.
“Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!” Mother is crying out, punctuated by her boy-husband, Motherfucker’s grunts. The window’s open so that the entire neighborhood can receive each explosive thrust of this howling tryst, especially Father well within earshot just next door. Wheels on the metal bed frame are catching air, slam slam slamming against the floor. The second floor. Beneath ground zero, my friend, Steve, gives up, gets up from the couch he was trying to sleep on in the living room and goes to my room where I’m laying in a fetal position with a pillow wrapped around my head, also trying to ignore the punishing humpfest upstairs.
“Are they ever gonna stop?” He asks, exasperated.
Mother’s eyes grow round with horror as she looks upon me transformed into a monster. I must be terrifying but I feel nothing. Nothing but an endless serenity disconnected from the chaos playing out before me on the big screen in a darkened theater. The movie being shown feels unreal, strange like a dream. Only, it’s not really a movie.
The term scapegoat is derived from the Book of Leviticus 16:8
And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.
Azazel, meaning “for complete removal” in Hebrew, has become translated to scapegoat in English over the millennia since. The sins of the people would be given to this animal and banished to the wilderness. The other “for the Lord (the Hebrew god, YHWH)“ goat, I think, can reasonably be interpreted as the favored Golden Child in the narcissistic family dynamic. It bears mentioning that both goats are sacrificed but only the scapegoat has a fighting chance, albeit a very poor one.
Sobbing uncontrollably like a weepy, open wound that just won’t heal, I’m sitting, wilted in defeat, across from a counselor at Tacoma Community College who is patiently, very patiently, listening to me blubber out word sounds. He’s a professor and, as it happens, a psychologist. After a few minutes, he leans forward and says to me, “I think you should cut contact with your brother until you feel that you’re ready to contact him again.”
I see the terms “narcissism” and “narcissist” tossed around a lot, often used as an insult but also trending in the media. It’s a very popular topic on Psychology Today, for instance. As I write this, psychologists are going on the record to call 2016 Republican presidential nominee and presumptive billionaire, Donald J. Trump, out as a narcissist – not that any overt narcissist would care, Trump being no exception. But not just anyone who behaves badly or even happens to come off narcissistic is necessarily a narcissist.