A narcissist’s world
Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.
– Morihei Ueshiba
Like waking from a years-long coma, to escape a narcissistic relationship is to be resurrected. The spell breaks, and the real ‘you’ is able to breathe again. You collect yourself and see the world with new eyes. Life regains its vibrancy, hope seeps back into your heart, and for the first time in a long time, you dare to dream of a better future.
Then the honeymoon period ends, and the night sets in. You find yourself in a world that has moved on without you, while the aftershocks of your ordeal rise to the surface. Without a narcissist to consume your consciousness, new space appears. Rushing in to fill it are toxic shame, self-doubt and fear. Emotional flashbacks, nightmares, or even panic attacks seem to come from nowhere. For a time you struggle with recovery, having good and horrible days, occasionally reaching a point of clarity and focus. Other times you find yourself thrust into the fog of terror and doubt. The crushing loneliness feels like it will never end.
Eventually, you start having more good days than bad, and the flashbacks taper off. It seems like the worst is over. This is a time to reflect, to understand what happened. You come to terms with the knowledge that recovery will be a lifelong pursuit, but you draw comfort from the fact that your efforts are starting to pay off. You are growing, and you are healing. You look ahead with new-found clarity, and the realisations hit you one by one. You find that your earlier innocence has given way to an emerging sense of vigilance and wisdom. You are maturing and discovering confronting truths about the world in which you live. Your eyes are finally open.
Over time you purge the narcissist from your system, and the cravings become fewer. Your mind wanders. You contemplate future relationships, and what kind of form they might take. You also find yourself thinking less about the narcissist and more about narcissism itself. You have questions:
- How big is this thing?
- What causes it?
- How exactly did I get wrapped up in it?
- And most importantly: how do I make sure it never happens to me again?
By now you have read the literature. You understand the relationship between shame, grandiosity and narcissism. You see through the narcissist’s game, and have learnt the importance of setting boundaries. A strong support network is available to you when needed. Your confidence is growing. Nonetheless, you sense the presence of something which continues to hold you back. There is an ache in your chest, telling you there is more to this journey. Ingrained patterns linger, and remain hard to break. You also want to know the truth. The whole truth. Recovery is no longer enough, you want transformation. You want to evolve from ‘target’ to enlightened being; a person who not only survives, but flourishes. The way toward this reality, as you will soon learn, has been staring at you the entire time.
The all-seeing eye
Picture the stare of a narcissist when it focusses on you. This unflinching, all-seeing eye casts out a pulse of judgement that makes you feel naked and exposed. It is as though the narcissist sees something which nobody else does. The second they lock on, you sense yourself lured into their realm, compelled to act or speak without being sure why. There is just something about this stare which profoundly impacts you. It seems to speak to an otherwise unreachable part of you.
The piercing stare of a narcissist has three characteristics:
1. Judgement: It makes you feel small and defective, as though there were something you need to fix, compelling you to prove yourself worthy of the narcissist’s presence.
2. Tension: It creates a cold, enclosed void and waits for you to fill it, putting you under pressure to reveal more vulnerable parts of yourself to ‘please’ the narcissist.
3. Magnetism: It weakens your resolve, making you feel you have no choice but to engage the narcissist.
There is something deeply unsettling about the all-seeing eye of a narcissist. It is forever directed outwards, scanning its ‘territory,’ using its judgement to determine if a person is a source of loyalty or threat, while using the resulting tension and magnetism to coerce that person into providing narcissistic supply. This is the narcissist’s world, where vigilance and tension reign, infecting every second of every day while taking a physical, mental and emotional toll on anyone who enters it. Under the shadow of this all-seeing eye is where the devouring process takes place, wearing down the target and consuming their identity, until all that remains is an unadulterated source of supply. The weapons that make narcissistic abuse possible take many forms, including shaming the target, ridiculing them, terrifying them with open-ended threats, sowing doubt in their mind and bombarding them with charm or drawn-out monologues. But first the narcissist must lock their target in with their stare while gauging their target’s weak points. Does the target look away? Do they squirm under the pressure? Do they blush, fidget or blabber nervously?
When a person with healthy shame makes eye contact, they take the edge off the tension by expressing warmth with their eyes, looking away occasionally, as well as using head gestures to indicate that they acknowledge and accept what you are offering. The narcissist’s stare, on the other hand, is cold, static and unyielding. It offers nothing to its target except an eery sense of being watched. The narcissist may smirk and say nice things to create the illusion of a real interaction, but their eyes reveal their true intention. Awareness of it is one thing, being able to confidently hold eye contact is something else. Your capacity to remain firm within the tension tells the narcissist that you have a spiritual boundary which they cannot cross. It informs them that your sense of Self is solid, that you have faced and transcended your ‘primary wound’ while integrating it into a Higher Self which will never bow to manipulation. In short, the person who can go toe-to-toe with a narcissist is one who has undergone the journey into the darkness of the soul, survived, and come out reborn. Herein lies the art of transcending narcissism, which is the focus of this book.
Turning the eye inside-out
As long as you avoid the malignant, all-seeing eye, you remain vulnerable to its effects. This book is about developing the strength and courage to stare back at this menacing gaze. It is about cultivating a character so formidable, the narcissist is the one forced to either yield or look away. But that is not all. This book is also about attaining a state of consciousness so potent, you gain the ability to see through the stare of the all-seeing eye, deep into the recesses of the narcissist’s being. You do this by anchoring yourself within, which allows you to engage life with abundant certainty, tenacity and self-esteem.
Such a venture is not to be pursued lightly. It requires the heart of a hero; a person willing to take the treacherous journey to the edge of their faith and courage — and then further. This modern-day hero journey requires you to travel away from your home, i.e. your comfort zone, and into the depths of your being. There you will meet with formidable opponents such as toxic shame, rage, despair, confusion, the critical voice, the saboteur, the abandonment wound and, of course, fear. Turning these ‘opponents’ into allies will be essential to your success. It is during this journey that you will also meet with a mysterious figure; a certain someone who has been there the whole time, waiting for their saviour to arrive. You are that saviour, and you are the mysterious figure.
As you will soon discover, this enigmatic presence is your divine essence, which will feed your actualisation and growth. Tapping into it opens you to a world not only of torrential grief, but also abundant potential. For reasons beyond your control, this divine presence was locked-up long ago, left alone in the depths of your soul. It is they who you will bring back from your journey, and it is their super-human qualities which you will integrate so that your sense of Self will be complete. It is at this point that your evolution truly begins.
As it is with all heroes, inside you exist the blueprint and the resources to actualise into the person you were meant to be. Hero energy lies within all of us, having been gifted to us by our ancestors who underwent their own journey into the soul in order to conquer the challenge of their day. We are here because they faced their demons and won. We are products of countless generations of successful evolution. What is needed from us now is the readiness to pay our ancestors homage by also taking on the mighty struggle. We must be willing to be torn apart and put back together, to be pushed to our limits, and to emerge anew. This is not wishful storytelling, but a very real alchemical and psychological process. You should not take hero stories literally; they merely point toward a necessary human undertaking. This process leads to a cosmic expansion of your consciousness, the evolution of your mind, body and spirit, and the discovery of unimaginable wonders.
Just like any hero who ventures into the underworld, you will have help along the way. While this can and probably should take the form of a therapist, support group or friend, assistance will also come from unexpected places. As you plunge into the depths of your Self, you will discover resources you thought only others possessed. You slowly learn that your capacity to tolerate pain and intensity is limitless, and that inside you is an organism which is self-regulating and wise beyond imagination. The more you learn to trust this organism, the further you will progress.
Your journey begins in the land of duality — where ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reign supreme and narcissism thrives through a strategy of divide and conquer. Narcissists succeed here by creating exclusive situations where they and their ‘allies’ are pure good, and anyone else is pure evil. This experience of duality is not only a concept. It is felt. Meanwhile, control is enforced by the all-seeing eye, which has the potential to lift you to the heavens or crush you beneath the weight of toxic shame. The shadow of duality can be something one notices, but more often than not, the hero in this story will have to rely on their ability to intuit and sense when things are wrong. The journey out of this world leads you into the underbelly of the Self, where these capacities to intuit and act courageously can be found. Although the narcissist’s world is perilous, you nonetheless possess the capacity to transcend it. The all-seeing eye exists in every society, always seeking to dominate and control. Narcissism is a part of human nature, and as a consequence, so is malignant narcissism. Its sorcery is boundless.
Lucky for you, so is the power of your True Self.
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
– Albert Einstein
In ‘How To Kill A Narcissist,’ the first instalment of this two-part series, the role which grandiosity and shame plays between a narcissist and their target was explored. The intention behind ‘How To Kill A Narcissist’ was to free the targets of narcissistic abuse, focussing primarily on understanding the nature of the abuse as well as the recovery process. Little attention was given to the plight of the narcissist. This approach of objectification, of labelling a human being a ‘narcissist,’ was done to unburden the target and help them focus on purging their ordeal from the inside out. Self-care and self-protection, along with facing up to shame, trauma and anger, are the crucial first steps for those on the path to healing. Only following this can one move to the next stage, which is to face the origins of their torment.
In this second instalment, we will delve deeper into the Self, carefully inspecting its core components layer by layer. Doing so allows us to understand what makes us tick from an unconscious, psychological level, which in turn shines a light on the processes at play during narcissistic abuse. By tuning into this core Self, we can intuit the game in real-time and be better informed in making decisions. Without awareness of our entire spectrum of experience, we will never be able to act from a place of confidence and conviction. Worse still, we will remain ill-equipped to ward off manipulation.
Next, narcissism is looked at from a systemic perspective, demonstrating how it perpetuates in enclosed social environments including families, workplaces, cults, spiritual groups, friendship circles as well as romantic relationships. Using a bird’s-eye view, we will observe precisely how narcissism takes a spontaneous Self with endless potential, and moulds it into a rigid role that provides narcissistic supply. When a narcissist reigns over a group — in a family or otherwise — their shadow can lurk over countless people, often impacting multiple generations. The devastating impact this personality can have on society as a whole cannot be understated. This concept of an oppressed social structure lorded over by a narcissist, i.e. the narcissist regime, was introduced in ‘How To Kill A Narcissist,’ but here it will be explored in far more detail.
Connecting the ideas of the Self and the narcissist regime will be a look at how malignant narcissism forms after an extended period of abandonment and abuse. The resulting trauma and toxic shame leave a person no choice but to split from their True Self and invest their energy into propping up an idealised, grandiose identity to ensure survival in a cold, shameless world. Behind this unnatural state is an insatiable hunger, which calls for a steady flow of ‘supply’ to feed it. The ensuing search for people willing to sacrifice themselves leads to a lust for power in what culminates as the aforementioned narcissist regime — a social group geared toward providing narcissistic supply to the ego-fixated person. Any outsider who lacks awareness of this reality is first drawn in, and then devoured.
Finally, the process of individuation is explored, illustrating how a person breaks free from bondage by cultivating an empowered and enlightened Self. Here the focus shifts from recovery to evolution by tapping into and activating the core aspects of the Self. Even though understanding the journey from a cognitive level is a crucial step, it is by instigating change at a spiritual and bodily level that profound transformation takes place. That is, thinking to yourself ‘be confident’ has little effect. However, introducing empowering experiences and grounding the body to allow better energy flow will make the transition from ‘unconfident’ to ‘confident’ seem like a formality.
Regardless of what form of narcissist regime you deal with, the idea is the same — as is the approach to transformation. To discover where the solution lies, we follow the gaze of the all-seeing eye. We shift our attention below everyday consciousness, toward our vulnerable Self, where our true nature reveals itself. Using Melanie Klein’s theory on splitting, Carl Jung’s ideas on complexes and archetypes, as well as Wilhelm Reich’s work on characterology, we will discover how the development of the Self occurs primarily within the context of a group; a process which begins in childhood and repeats anytime we join a new ‘tribe.’ By revisiting the child still living within us, we discover core instincts which continue to impact our lives. This includes an all-or-nothing view of the world, a deep longing for an all-powerful figure to protect and nurture us, as well as the five essential building-blocks for personal power: security, vitality, tenacity, divinity and wisdom. When the evolutionary process is sufficiently tapped into and restored, the result is the constellation of a powerful Self. The narcissist regime gains its power by hijacking this developmental process, aiming to entrap its target in a psychological cage of fear, confusion, neediness and shame. It is here where the war is waged — and won.
A fully developed Self is the antithesis of narcissism. It is formidable, wise, self-sustaining, and capable of relating to others in a profound way that empowers all parties involved. For you to obtain such a state, your path must run through the fire of daily life, with one empowering experience lighting the torch for the next, and so forth. It is a journey which we are all supposed to take before it was derailed. Resuming this voyage requires that we first step back, to the moment in time where the flame of the Self was first lit — when we entered the world and laid eyes on our first higher power.
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Note: This is an all-new, extended edition of the original book ‘Killing Narcissism.’ It has been completely restructured to better explore the concept of ‘Self’ development while maintaining the original core information about the narcissistic family and narcissist regime.