Bits and Bites Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Narcissism and its counterparts: past, present, and future

Take heed!

“I don’t care what you think, unless it is about me.” (Kurt Cobain)

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Narcissism and its counterparts are a plague. They produce pain and suffering for anyone who gets involved. The problem of narcissism, in our present culture of narcissists, needs to be addressed.

Thomas Bulfinch, in The Age of Fable, explains that in Greek mythology, Echo was a wood nymph whose love for Narcissus led to her demise. Narcissus was a beautiful creature loved by many but Narcissus loved no one. He enjoyed attention, praise and envy. In Narcissus’ eyes, nobody matched him and as such, he considered none were worthy of him. The gods eventually punished him by making him fall in love with his own reflection. This destroyed him.

It’s a fable worth reading and the story is often used as a warning to those who love someone who cannot love them back. It is often thought that narcissists come from families that have overly protected, adulated and spoiled them, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, they come from dysfunctional families where trauma has been badly managed. They are forever bruised and will make everyone (family, friends and colleagues) pay. Some are highly functional; others constantly put on a show, pretending to be someone they are not.

I married a narcissist. I was a 19 year-old country girl; he was a city-slicker. He suffered from borderline personality disorder and depression but coming from a very closed-in, secretive family, I had no way of recognizing this. I trusted people to be genuine and caring but those with BPD have a pervasive pattern of instability in their interpersonal relationships and self-image which is marked by impulsivity beginning in early adulthood and is present in:

• frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

• a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation (called splitting)

• identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

• impulsivity in at least two potentially self-damaging areas (spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving or binge eating)

• affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood… for instance,  intense episodic dysphoria (chronic feeling of general discontent and illness), irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours, rarely more than a few days)

• chronic feelings of emptiness

• inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger

• transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

• recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, threats or self-mutilating.

This borderline personality disorder places the individuals between neurosis (mild mental illness) and psychosis (severe mental disorder where contact is lost with reality).  *

Three years into our marriage, my husband was diagnosed with manic-depressive (bipolar) depression with psychotic tendencies. I scrambled to find information and try to understand what I was up against. It was more than I had bargained for. In order to understand the full scope of what I went through, you would have to read The Neglected Garden — my first novel. Here is a short excerpt:

“Andrew felt threatened by my pregnancy from the beginning. Instead of expressions of joy, there was nothing but visible disappointment. You see, the insecure child inside him was being forced to grow up to make room for a new baby. He had developed a drinking problem by then and because he was taking anti-depressant drugs he constantly had heartburn problems. Two months into my pregnancy he had to be hospitalized for ten days because of gastritis and severe depression. During those ten days, he insisted I go visit him every day. It never mattered to him that I was working full-time and had morning sickness. He didn’t give a damn! This was his way of attracting more attention to feed the deprived egocentric child in him.”

My first husband ended up committing suicide ten years into our marriage. The last months leading to his suicide were sheer hell.

All this to say that narcissism has always been present in societies from time immemorial but our present society, with its emphasis on the self, may be producing more narcissists than ever. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and reality shows are feeding this egocentric need for putting your self out there, showing off and boasting. I personally refuse to watch reality shows and lately, when I filled a questionnaire on TV programming, I voiced my concern about self-inflated ego shows.

Narcissism breeds more narcissism!

Do you agree? The narcissistic personality wants nothing but the best and now! He or she wants it his or her way or no way! In the process, the narcissists accumulate debts and failed marriages, lost jobs and lost friends. They are trapped in a spiraling vortex, hooked to their iPhone or iPad, oblivious to everyone and everything else. They tweet and text and collect data. They worry about their looks, their diet, their clothes, what people think of them, what people say about them…

I remember when a friend mentioned her former brother-in-law had committed suicide. On his night table they found a complete log of everything he did, even to the date and time where he had last turned the mattress on his bed… but a will was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t made one. CONTROL to the bitter end!!

Often, only a severe crisis followed by extensive therapy will force a narcissist to seek help, but then… only if the person is willing to be totally honest, to reflect on the problem and gain fresh perspective... only if he recognizes his past habits and is willing to let go of dysfunctional behaviours, will change occur.

Alcoholics Anonymous has helped many individuals move from the “frightened child behind the blustery bully” who matches this quote from AA: “For so many years my life revolved solely around myself. I was consumed with self in all forms — self-centredness, self-pity, self-seeking, all of which stemmed from pride…” to a more self-confident person who can finally move to a more balanced, kinder, and more caring lifestyle that offers peace, serenity, and genuine love.

In the meantime, unless you are prepared to suffer, run away from a narcissist before you get caught in his web!

May you live and love better!!