This morning I commented on a post (http://ladywithatruck.com/2013/09/07/stifled-emotions-the-aftermath-of-living-with-a-narcissist/) and it prompted some exploration about the tools of narcissistic control, namely “the look”.
Yes, I know that “don’t push me” look. That “comply with whatever *I* want, or else” look. That “you’re a fucking idiot and I’m going to let you know how stupid and incompetent you are” look.
This is the look that someone who wants to control another’s behavior utilizes to shut them down. This is the look that H would give me every time I did/said something that didn’t please him. This is the look that warned me to not go any farther, or I’d have to deal with his reproach and shaming. This is the look of hatred and disgust designed to let the target know that they are not good enough to be worthy of love as they are. This is the look of intent to control another’s emotions and/or actions. This is the look that tells the target that they are not worthy or capable of having their own thoughts or emotions. This is the look that tells the target that they have no right to feel or think for themselves, and if the target dares to try, only bad outcomes will follow.
This is the same look that my mother used to give me at every turn, which told me I was forever disappointing her and making her feel ashamed of me. This is the look that, from a very early age, hijacked my ability to think for myself and build a healthy self-esteem. This is the look that communicated to me, every minute of every day, that the closest people in my life would jettison me if I didn’t comply because their love for me was *conditional*.
I learned very early on that my confirmation of “worth” was found in someone else’s view of me. My opinion of myself was not only irrelevant, it was not needed as a tool for a healthy view of self because that feedback came from my primary relationships. I learned that there was no need to develop a sense of my identity in the outward sense because someone else had already decided what should be on my behalf. I learned that any kind of [what I now know to be] love of Self was selfish and shameful. I learned that I had NO RIGHT whatsoever to even think of being happy or to develop a sense of what that meant. After all, someone else would tell me what that looked like and meant so all I had to do was comply.
Why the need for control? I clearly was born with a strong sense of will. This fact probably isn’t hard to figure out from the perspective of anyone who encounters me. Recently I learned that narcissistic personalities are scared of this sort of thing because it threatens them. A strong willed person who encounters a narcissist has been placed on the “threat” list. I was a threat to my mother and I did not absorb that fact until I was in my 40s. I simply could grasp that she was jealous and threatened and therefore had to simultaneously tear me down and build me up, all on *her* terms. Good grief, how confusing for a child! And how sick for an adult!
So what did I do as an adult? I self-selected (unconsciously, it seems) into a relationship with a narcissist who continued the actuation of the self-fulfilling prophecy that I was a mess and had to be controlled, otherwise…well…surely bad things would happen [sarcasm]. It boggled my mind for quite awhile that I would self-select such a thing, especially when such behaviors were not always as overt as the disgust and hatred my mother displayed. Now I get it. It’s not logical, which had been the stopping point for my understanding. Merely because *I* didn’t think that way, I couldn’t understand how those who should have been my biggest supporters did think that way.
Well of course it’s not logical little girl! This is dysfunctional. It is not acceptable. Hatred and disgusted are the opposites of love.
That little girl’s view of what “normal” was turned out to be completely bizarre and running counter to healthy development of The Self.
All along the way, I fought it (unconsciously, again). I was the child prodigy, the performer, the brilliant pianist and golden girl. I modeled, smiled for the camera, asserted myself in any other place but for my relationship with the narc in my life. I exercised my Will every place outside of that/those relationships. In fact, performing (in great part acting, as I now see it) probably saved me from some very dark mental and emotional places.
I dissociated. I carried on. And I achieved, finally realizing that this was for Me and nobody else.
People who know me outside of my primary relationship with H (i.e., in my Professional Self or in my Individual Social Self) usually react with shock that I could be subjugated to this extreme. Even my therapist found it to be unbelievable that such a stark delineation could exist. Not many know the dichotomy exists because I became a master of personas.
I dissociated and I paid dearly for it.
In my marriage, that look kept me “in check” for nearly 25 years, until one day I challenged him. “Why are you looking at me like that?? Am I doing something to *displease* YOU?” Ah, spell broken. A few years prior I challenged my mother and that spell was broken too, but I made no connection with regard to my relationships with my H and continued to submit to the down-beatings and gas lighting.
Breaking the spell with H had only come about when he’d crossed the line big time within the context of the professional realm. He was teaching one of my courses (i.e., working for me) and had a ridiculous meltdown/temper tantrum. As I remained professional despite the tantrum and continued to ask professionally ask troubleshooting questions, he continued to spiral and bitch until it became personal.
Then I snapped. I had had enough. I stood up and told him that he was out of line. I used the difference in space and height (I was standing, H was sitting) to change the distribution of power in the conversation. I told him that if ANY colleague ever spoke to me that way that I’d punch them in the mouth, job or no job. And I meant it. It was at that point that I gave HIM “the look”.
It was as if all Hell had been unleashed and the swirling energies bouncing off the walls in our very large, open living room, all collected within the vortex of my strength. It was magnificent – and damn overdue.
Interestingly, standing up to both H and my mother are now far easier than I had ever imagined possible. I’ve been standing up to my mother years longer than I’ve been standing up to H, so I can see the progress in the rearview mirror. Yeah, it works – and it’s worth it. I don’t irrationally worry about losing those people in my life because oddly, they need me more than I need them. I now understand that narcs feed off of the energy they suck out of the target and if I stop that flow for feeding, I am no longer allowing myself to be a source.
These days, if I feel “the look” coming or if I feel like I’m absorbing any/too much negative energy due to bitching and dumping o’ crap, I block said energy and shield myself. Occasionally I’ll absorb currents that I recognize as being negative and will do the work necessary to purge those energies for my mental and emotional health. It’s a work in process and I’ll spend a lifetime practicing it.
Integration. Gotta have it.
- Slip Sliding Away-Narcissist Red Flags (ladywithatruck.com)
- Maliciously genius (awakwinasleepingworld.wordpress.com)
- Identifing Narcissistic Folks Early (taosystemreview1.wordpress.com)
- Narcissists Are Not Accountable (psychologytoday.com)
- What the hell is the matter with you? (dmatthewssuccess.wordpress.com)
- How to Avoid Absorbing Negative Emotion from Others and Letting Go of It (almond235almond235.wordpress.com)
- Beware… (lifebegins45.wordpress.com)
- The Domino Effect: When You Absorb The Negative Energy Of The World (pinkdivamamacita.wordpress.com)
- Energy Awareness: Owning Your Energy (touchtheearthblog.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: ‘Who’s to Blame?’ (gratiaveritaslumen.wordpress.com)