People with Narcissistic Personality Disorders have an inflated sense of their own importance, a strong sense of entitlement, a deep need for admiration, yet a lack of empathy for others.
They use verbal abuse for power and control. Verbal Abuse is often dismissed as insignificant when compared to physical abuse. BUT, the long-term effect of verbal abuse is that you can lose your sense of ‘self’. You no longer know who you are. It feels like you’ve lost your soul.
A few years ago my sister phoned me up and told me some things that no one should hear. I can’t begin to tell you the world of good she did me though and it’s great to have her back in my life. During the conversation she asked me to go and get some Therapy. I said I didn’t think I needed it, and bless her, she agreed but asked me to do it anyway, to do it for her, so I did.
I spent 6 months talking to a stranger about my life, dutifully answering questions as best I could. I didn’t think much of it at the time to be honest, it made me think, but I wasn’t learning anything new. There was a beginning and an end. At the beginning she said: “I’m not here to fix you, if anything we talk about does resonate, you will feel a lot worse before you feel better.” Bring it on, I thought, I like a challenge, I used to be in a rock n roll band, what could possibly go wrong?
At one point, it was strange to see the therapist grabbing for the tissues on the table to wipe her eyes as I talked about my life. I didn’t think anything much about my life, there was nothing unusual in it. “Why are you crying, I thought it was like that for everyone?” Turns out it wasn’t. The end of the therapy didn’t bring about any real answers or conclusion, just a few words to take away and ponder over. What she told me was that at the age of ten I looked at my Father and said to myself: “I will never be like him.” That kind of took me aback but oddly enough it never shocked me. So apparently from the age of ten all I had really wanted to do was get away from my Dad and my life ever since had been a struggle to do that. Your Father is supposed to be your role model and to a certain extent he was, he had become a blueprint, for me, of how not to be.
The other thing she kept saying was: ‘you don’t know what you don’t have’. If your parents don’t give you real love, you will never know that you never had it and you will learn to adapt and cope but you will never know it wasn’t there.
You see my Father is a narcissist. He won’t agree with that because that is what narcissists do. What was strange was that I had already been looking into this thing called narcissistic personality disorder before I had the therapy and what I found out was quite amazing. These people are everywhere. They are charming and they are clever and they are only in it for themselves but above all, they cannot live without what is called the codependent. The codependent is the arsehole who puts up with them. I’m a codependent who, in the past, through observing my parent’s behaviour, have adopted the traits of narcissistic behaviour, when needed, to get what I want. It’s probably one of the main reasons why six by seven worked. That’s another story. The main story here is that going through life as a codependent means that narcissists and people with narcissistic behavioural tendencies are drawn to you like a fly is drawn to shit. I spent my adult life attracting these rats and being fucked by them, without even knowing it.
The therapy only unlocks thoughts but change is something you have to instigate yourself and it doesn’t happen overnight. If things are gonna change, they have to change from within and you have to start to learn to try and understand the things you are talking about and the meaning they have and then affect that change yourself. It’s almost like you have to look at your life from an outsider’s point of view and it’s really fucking difficult. If you do this then things really do start to change but not as you thought they might. What is likely to happen is that everything you once had and believed in is likely to start falling through your fingers like water.
The key word is change. It’s something a lot of us human beings are afraid of, but I guess for me and my rootless upbringing it’s a perfectly normal thing to adapt to. So what do you do when you realise that you are a codependent and have surrounded yourself with narcissists? Well at first you go – shit! Then you go – you fucking idiot! Then you go – I fucking knew it! Then you go – what am I gonna do?!
You can only do one thing; get rid of them. There is no other way. Zero contact is the minimum requirement otherwise you will be fucked.
It’s hard at first and the ones you least suspect are usually the most terrifying of all. You see, the narcissist is like the mafia, they kill you with a smile, half of the time you don’t know it’s happening and these fuckers are everywhere. A helpful way to spot them is to look out for the one who calls you brother and often talks a lot about friendship and how busy they are and how many friends they have and family members that go on about ‘blood being thicker than water’ and ‘family values’ or ‘sticking together’ and things like that. It’s all a ploy to trick you so they can get what they want. I used to do it myself in order to get what I wanted: “We are a band boys, we are in this together.” If I was saying that it was likely that I was looking for recognition or demanding that something go my way for the ‘good of the band.’ For the good of me more like!
Now I see it more and more but the trouble is that I had such a thorough job done on me as a kid by my narcissistic parenting that I ended up completely surrounded by these arseholes. Imagine it like a cowboy breaking in a horse. Soon enough you are broken in as the narcissist rides on your back showing you how it’s going to be. Now you are in a corral surrounded by other broken horses and dominating masters. The only thing you can do is jump the fence and run as fast as you can towards the natural life you should be living. Ironically, that is just what I did as a teenager, I ran away from home and never went back. But there is getting away and there is truly getting away. From now on I intend to truly get away.
Now, one by one I’ve been chopping down my Christmas card list to the point of decimation and let me tell you, it feels good.
Once you begin to see the narcissists and the people with those tendencies you begin to be able to deal with them but then you have to keep reminding yourself that the only way to deal with them is to get rid of them completely (or if you can’t do that because of professional reasons, like you have one in your fucking band, then avoid as much contact as possible). This takes a while to sink in. It’s hard. You are in effect seeing what has always been there, deplorable behaviour, a one-sided relationship littered with empty words and hollow meaning. I used to find myself being driven mad and hitting the off licence every night and I never knew why. The behaviour of these people is incredible and you accept it and because they are constantly talking about how many friends they have and how much of a brother you are to them etc. you begin to feel isolated and without realising it, you turn your rage inward and you start to damage yourself.
When you pull away from them and ultimately cut them off and dump them you quickly realise that now, with the ability to look from the outside in, their incredible one sided behaviour, well, it’s as plain to see as the day is long, and you become aware that in reality they have no real friends and the people they hang around with are usually fucked up and drunk and unhappy themselves. Either that or people around them are using the narcissist quite casually by paying them money for a service that they provide. The narcissist calls these people ‘friends’.
The trouble is, you can’t see any of this until you break away. You have to break away, and once you do, it feels like a million pennies dropping and a thousand weights lifting and this change brings about the real change in your own life. I know that for many of you reading this you will be thinking that this is obvious. It is.
What is scary for most people is that they don’t want to lose these ‘friends’ for fear of backstabbing and reprisals. In my experience there is nothing to fear because this will already be going on anyway.
What is scary is that even though I’m aware of all this, I’m still in the early stages of recovery and pulling away and when it happens, I’m still turning my anger inwards. However, what I am realising is that with each one that I cut off it gets easier and the anger now lasts for only a day or even just a few hours. Initially the anger is always directed at the narcissist because they trigger something in you that makes you mad, but you soon begin to realise that your anger is actually directed at yourself. It’s because you are coming to terms with your own lunacy at accepting the madness of these people. What is mad is how many of them there are and how clandestine they are and how deceptive this character trait actually is.
I let another one go the other day. I’ve known him for years and I let this person mistreat me and have a pop and dig at me whenever he could. I never questioned it, I almost believed him and I let him do it again and again until the other day.
It culminated in him having to come round to my house to pick something up yet again which he hadn’t been able to properly fix (he’s an amateur sort of electro handyman that fixes pedals and amps) and as he took it away he actually said this to me:
“No doubt I will get this back to my workshop and find there is nothing wrong with it as usual.”
Now you have to think about that for a moment, and for the first time I actually did. For years I knew this person was like this but now for the first time, instead of being in his house, at his corral, on his terms, the changing person in me questioned what he had just said. I closed the door on him and two things went through my mind. One, could I be a fool for once again giving him something back that really didn’t need fixing? Two, what the fuck did he just say?!!! I stopped myself and looked at the evidence. Nothing I had ever given him back had ever not needed fixing again? However, it didn’t seem like that because when this did happen, after he fixed it, or corrected his mistake, he always pointed out quite categorically that it was either me or the thing itself that was the fault, never him. When someone does this, repeatedly, it’s easy to start to believe them. He probably even believes it himself. It’s narcissism at work again, in it’s most clandestine form.
The enormity of the patronising arrogance of what he had said, the sheer unfriendliness of it and the unwillingness to accept responsibility and even admit to one’s own mistakes to the point of actually believing your own bullshit is pure narcissism at it’s worst, it was all in there in this one comment. He was coming to collect something that had been serviced and repaired by him (badly) and I had complained about it not working correctly and yet before assessing it or even looking at it, he was already implying that there would probably be nothing wrong with it and that I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s insane when you stop and think about that but it was only covering some of the traits of the narcissist: Self importance, lack of understanding or empathy for others, feeling you are always right, having a hard time admitting you are wrong etc.
For me, for years, it had been normal to accept this kind of behaviour from him, it was normal. So for years I would bang my head against the wall and drink and curse the human race and write another song about wanting to live on a different planet. But you know what, this was the planet I had created for myself by allowing people who can be like this into my life. It wasn’t just him, there were so many that I had to question my own sanity. I gravitated towards them and vice versa. I understand that now.
This awareness phase is cruel because you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ve been a complete fucking idiot. You start by being angry at the person who is being narcissistic then you begin to chastise yourself as you realise you put up with something there was no need to put up with. But after the anger and self incrimination you get the solace and the sheer exuberance of knowing that you are moving on and it’s incredible how within a few short hours you begin to feel life change and get better. These people, the one thing they all do is try and make you feel that you can’t do without them. They are clever at this and for a while you actually believe it, but then, when you do make the move, you realise how many others are out there who are kind and generous and helpful and not like that and you start to find them and gravitate towards them and they gravitate towards you and usually bring a healthy slice of misanthropy with them. And so, quite naturally it is you that is changing, not them. As in this case, the narcissist will always be the one to ‘break off the relationship’, because they know you are about to cut them off, they can sense it, they see it coming, they have to make themselves feel better by doing this, after all, it’s all they are left with.
This is happening more and more in my life now and as you can imagine, my life is changing. One by one the narcissists are gone. I haven’t had any contact with my Dad for at least a healthy 4-5 years now. In the past even a phone call (they used to come in weekly or fortnightly to keep me in my place) used to leave me fucked. I didn’t know it at the time. I was persistently abused and name called and put down, I was told I was a loser, I was lazy, that I always ran away from my problems, that I would amount to nothing, that the degree in Photography that I got myself was worthless and was just something I did to repair a damaged ego because I had failed my A Levels (which incidentally he had chosen for me). I was told that people no longer cared for me or for what I did and that ‘gyrating around the stage’ was just a pathetic attempt at getting some attention, that my wife was only with me because she felt sorry for me and my children should be felt sorry for for having me as a Father and that I was living in the wrong place and I should be doing this and not that and blah blah blah. Conversations were quickly steered towards football and politics and I was constantly told my views and opinions were wrong if they in any way went against his views. It went on and on and I used to take it and not question what he was saying because I knew that if I did, the phone would be slammed down and I would lose my Father. Lose what exactly?
I used to drink at least two bottles of wine a night and now I don’t drink at all and what is mad is that I haven’t even tried to stop. I’ve changed my life and got rid of the shit and the drinking has stopped. I never fucking needed it anyway, who does?
For years I used to tell myself that I needed to stop drinking. I knew I was damaging myself but I didn’t give a fuck, I was unhappy but I told myself I wasn’t. When I walked to the off licence it wasn’t because of my Dad or because so and so had made a nasty comment to me, it was because of something else; I told myself ‘life was shit’ or ‘I needed something to take the edge off’. When I look back now at the situations I was in and the ones in which I drank most heavily, it was because I was in direct contact with a narcissist or someone using narcissistic tactics to get their own way or get away with their outrageous behaviour.
When I was with Julian Cope I drank like an absolute sod. When I drove down to his house in the night (at his behest) I would drink three bottles of white wine the evening before we were going to spend three days together recording. I told myself that it was because of the long journey or I needed it to help me sleep but in reality I was in the midst of an extreme narcissistic personality disorder. Everything I did was controlled by him, even down to the clothes I was wearing and the music I was making. He even tried to get me to wear a swastika, I drew the line there. That was the beginning of the end actually as I then really started to question his ethics.
He wanted us to go to Cornwall to disrupt a Pagan Festival down there and I said no. It took me about an hour to summon the courage up to call him and tell him I thought it was a bad idea and I wouldn’t be going. The outcome was predictable, it was weird as I literally heard him turn into my Father and accuse me of amounting to nothing, having potential but being lazy, having an ego problem, being a general failure etc etc. This is what happens when you challenge the narcissist. The result was the phone being slammed down and it took him 3 years before he could talk to me again. This was because I voiced an opinion that I thought it was a bad idea to go to this festival and disrupt it. It turned out that I was right and they all nearly got their heads kicked in and the police arrested them all and drove them to the outskirts of Padstow and told them to fuck off.
In the interim years, every single one of those people involved with him had walked away and none of them has a good word to say about him or will indeed ever be involved with him again. I went back to him because he was charming and clever and he soon coerced me into doing exactly what he wanted again. I was useful to him. It couldn’t last though because I started to question him and his radical ideas. He didn’t like it and cut me off. It had to be him that cut me off, he obviously was sensing that I was on my way out, eventually he did it with everyone.
Now that I understand the narcissist and have an understanding of what being the codependent is, I am slowly but surely dealing with it. It’s hard, you would think it would be easy but it’s not. They employ all sorts of different tactics and some are worse than others but they are also charming and clever and sometimes the one you least expect is the worst one of all and you really don’t want to believe it. Don’t forget, they’ve been doing a job on you and probably a pretty thorough one and you probably let them get away with it for years.
Now, to a certain extent I’m literally rebuilding my life and the evidence is that it’s working. I’m not blaming the narcissist, I’m gaining an understanding and I’m understanding that blaming myself is not going to work either. I’m trying.
There are definite patterns, I see them. Sometimes it feels like being a teenager and having been with a girlfriend who was cheating on you and when you finished with her your mates finally tell you what she was up to. You feel anger, then you feel stupid. What you gonna do? You have to realise that you are not stupid, you’ve moved on. The stage of me being angry is diminishing more and more. It’s still there, it has to be while I get rid of the last vestiges of my previous life.
I can’t wait until I get to the point where I see the narcissist straight away and just turn away with a happy smile, I think it’s already happening, I suspect it will be a natural progression, they will no longer gravitate to me nor me to them.
I guess that is just what most sane people do? The narcissist is in fact very lonely. As he tells you of all his friends and how busy he is you have to remind yourself that his put downs and caustic comments are just a way to prop up his own fragile ego. They will never change but I can.