And for the favorite topic of the day, we can all remind ourselves that it’s not his fault!
“The readiness of narcissistically vulnerable people to convey criticism is equaled only by their resistance to assimilating it.”
“I’ll confess that I [___], but I think you have your part in this, too,” is typical.” (brackets mine, fill in the blank)
“The process boils down to: “I feel mortified that you saw a limitation in me because I aspire to perfection. You probably aspire to perfection, too, or should, so I’ll point out that you haven’t yet reached it, either… thus perpetuates the false premise that perfect self-sufficiency is a legitimate goal”
Fascinating example in this section (quoted above) of the article being discussed! An analyst-in-training was being supervised, and his relationship with his female supervisor was initially one of “mutual idealization”. Honeymoon phase? He won her over, and convinced her that his problems with any former supervisors were because he wasn’t appreciated, or he was so awesome that they were threatened by him. Then this narcissistically driven analyst-in-training asks his female supervisor to do something wrong.
“She refused. He abruptly devalued her, as he had his previous instructors, but since it was in his interest to maintain the relationship until he had passed a Case Presentation requirement, he stayed in supervision.” [bolding mine]
She tries to lay it out for him, and get him to see what he’s doing. So naturally, “…he accused her of acting out all kinds of unpleasant dynamics, including having contributed to his expectation of special favors by her prior warmth and support, which he now labeled seductive and transferential. He was, of course, right to a considerable extent, as narcissistically defensive people, with their hypervigilant sensitivity to others, often are.” [bolding mine]
Isn’t that creepy? Someone knows you well in order to exploit you?
Finally, the narcissistically driven analyst-in-training wants his female supervisor to share his badness, giving him a way to deflect and divert from what he did wrong, guilt her, and feel like a victim to boot.
““If you deny your part in the dynamic, you are self-deluded and therefore not worth listening to; if you admit it, you and I can lament your shortcomings together, construe my actions as responsive to your mistakes, and avoid looking at my own problems.””
It’s compelling to absorb that some of the accusations hold some truth. Just enough to derail the focus, because the person with a conscience will stop and begin self-examination to ‘own’ where accountability is warranted. If the accusations come in a barrage, this can feel like your brain was thrown in a spin cycle. Some of it will hurt. You can try to address an individual accusation, but either you’re caught in the barrage, or stunned by a blow that was aimed for a vulnerable place. It was aimed to hurt deeply. It was aimed to decimate. Part of it is feeling that wound, and part of it is a kind of shock that someone, who at other times will say that he loves you, would intentionally hurt you in that way. Change the relationship to an intimate life partnership with a spouse, and the shock is tinged with a kind of disbelieving horror. It can’t be true, because it would mean that you married someone who doesn’t love you. Not only the mind, but the heart recoils from this.
Later at some point, when he’s telling you that he does love you, an inner frantic dance on numb emotional feet tries to reconcile the two realities. If there’s trauma bonding involved, it’s more like crawling across a dance floor bleeding, trying to collect your shoes and purse, and just wanting to be home, to be safe, and to rest. There he is, holding out his arms with the warmth and sweetness that originally appealed to you, and appearing like the epitome of comfort and relief.
Relief. Rest. Peace. As long as you don’t bring it up again or try to resolve what knocked you down. As long as you don’t in any way try to get him to admit it, and as long as you’re willing to let go of fiercely wanting him to express sorrow that he hurt you. Just let it be. Breathe in the peace and try to heal. The problem, of course, is that you’re never fully healed before it starts all over again. There is just less and less and less of you over time.
If he’s ‘sorry’, if he’s looking lost and pathetic and dejected, looking for you to open your arms and still love him, it only magnifies the traumatic bond. You just felt entirely helpless because of his wound, and now you can do something to ‘fix’ this. You can forgive him and love him. (only nothing is really fixed) It’s a false relief and a false hope. By now you’re so desperate to feel relief and hope, that you grab at straws and get the ‘fix’, not unlike a drug addict gets their fix. Maybe it can be true that he loves you, maybe he’s really sorry, maybe it doesn’t have to end like a nightmare. Maybe…You sink into the relief and try to quiet the small inner voice warning you.
Important to remember at this point is that you’ve just been hit with that fresh barrage of accusations. You’re still absorbing it, sorting through the various individual accusations to see where you’re at fault. He doesn’t need to list your faults and mistakes for you, because you’re already pouring over the list that you keep handy within. All the areas you need to improve. All the goals that you’ve neglected and fallen short from achieving. It’s all there and demanding your scrutiny… to be fair to him. He doesn’t need to remind you of ways that it’s difficult to love you, because you already believe this about yourself.
Being at fault and owning some of them is not entirely undesirable to you, because it means you can do something that might change things and make it better. While you’re grasping at your relief from the most recent battleground, you’re simultaneously looking for what might be an authentic grievance of his. You want to be fair. After all, it can’t all be his fault, so you want to do the right thing and look for what you’ve done wrong.
And in the aftermath of numb relief and self-examination, the very specific original hurt and offense towards you is buried, lost, and obfuscated in the debris.
I don’t think anybody figures this out easily or quickly. Even professionals get caught up in their own toxic relationships, so if a psychologist or psychiatrist or therapist can be enmeshed, maybe cut yourself some slack. I’m trying to do just that.