Attune to Attach? To a NARCISSIST?

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To a strutting, arrogant peacock?
To a skunk?
To a porcupine?

Attach to a proudly strutting peacock? A skunk? A porcupine?
Maybe it is not possible, in the way we originally consider. Maybe we need to first address the strutting or the stink. Maybe we need to first tame the quills!

We cannot relate with defense mechanisms. We want to bond with safe people, rather than walk on egg shells pretending to love.

I currently have 3 blatant narcissists in my circle of relationships and have been interacting with our God in how to proceed in relating with them. Here are some of my thoughts as I have processed what is happening within me and how to proceed in being relational.

We all fall on the continuum of narcissism. Some are further down the line- living from a predominant stance that the world must revolve around them, making them feel secure, loved and pleased with themselves.

There are 2 categories, both with a similar underlying theme. “The world is responsible for my feeling good and safe and loved.” At times there is an overlap, but for sake of simplifying our understanding, I will describe 2 categories. And both of them leave me feeling like I am relating with a porcupine. Someone who is ‘bristly’ and uncomfortable to be close to.

The ‘peacocks’’ live in a way to parade their strength and what they believe to be ‘majestic’ about themselves. They insist people think as they think, believe what they declare, be in awe of what they project, do what they ask – or there will be consequences to pay. Shame, disdain, contempt, lashing out anger… They do not look at their responsibility in relationships or situations that go wrong, but quickly shift the blame to another person.

The ‘skunks’ also will not look at their responsibility when relationships and life goes awry. They typically wither into a stance of the martyr, needing to have people commiserate with how horrible it is that they are not valued and treated in the way they need in order to feel ok about themselves.

Narcissists most often grew up in an environment that left them very insecure in their main relationships. They stayed hyper alert for ways that they could possibly attain smiles and praise and a sense of being valued and loved. Or they gave up trying due to an ongoing certainty that nothing about them was worthy of being delighted in, valued and loved.

The deep seated insecurity propels them towards being overly driven to demand people treat them with high regard (peacock), or into a defeated compliance drenched in some guise of self pity and martyrdom (skunk).

Tragically, in childhood neither were saturated into a confidence of being secure in love and value without the need to relate from an inner lurking sense of deficit. They stayed stuck in an emotional level of infancy, needing the world to create their security rather than growing into a confident ability to care for themselves and others in relationships. They fearfully insist on being thought well of rather than live in a way to enhance the life of those in their world.

As I take myself into their experience of deep seated loneliness and angst and fears, my compassion can rise. I can attune with their underlying drives for ‘fight’ or ‘flight and freeze’. And I can even feel tears of weeping for them.

But then comes the attaching!
I realize that part of the problem comes with what people typically think ‘attachment’ will look like.

The ‘peacock’ believes that if you truly understand, then you will give up your individualization and ‘self’, allowing them to reign supreme. You must agree and live by their desires and demands. This is the proof you have attached to and love them.
{But is it truly attachment and love? Or actually fear of the repercussions if you do not?}

The ‘skunk’ believes that if you truly understand, you will feel sorry for their plight and consider them remarkable in what they have undergone. Then you have attached to and love them. {But is it truly attachment and love that has occurred? Or pity and a lurking sense of disgust?}

A narcissist needs to deeply experience that regardless of whether they are performing, living or loving well, they are settled into a relationship that keeps track of their value. That they are so secure in love that it is a safe experience to be in touch with their own shame. They do not need to justify any of their actions, behaviors and attitudes that are actually shameful. They need to know that if they live from a place of authentic humility, they will be valued.

So, how do we proceed to offer this type of emotional environment?
My mind goes into 2 arenas to consider.
One is what does such an environment looks like.
The other is whether or not we have the capacity to do so.

What does it look like?

An overly simplistic answer is that we need to speak the truth in love. To be able to speak the truth that the narcissistic person is wonderful, designed with fantastic traits of God woven into them. That they are secure in love and valued. Unconditional love. And on this basis, they need to hear that their way of living is not appropriate. It is ok to look at what is harmful to others. It is vital they look at what it sabotaging the deep longings of their hearts, to be loved and delighted in. It is ok for them to own how they manipulate, shame and control others rather than love well. They need to know these things clearly will not threaten their security in being valued and loved and appreciated. They need to be held in a place of true honor and respect that will express a message that holds them up to the expression of their highest self. They need to hear that their angst matters but their way of reacting out of it is not appropriate and needs to change.

The second arena for us to consider is in looking at our own lives. Do we have the capacity developed within us to be able to enter into this kind of interaction?

For myself, it is easy to slide into my own narcissistic viewpoint. I lose my compassion and become defensive and justify my own perspectives. I can feel my shoulders bracing as I turn the focus to how ‘they’ are wrong. How ‘if they would change’ then life would be improved. I realize that I too live from a place of demanding people (narcissists in this case) live the way I want in order to ensure my sense of safety. And if they do not, I have my own ways of distancing them from my life, withholding love, compassion and respect. I can turn into a peacock or skunk in an instance! And regardless of how ‘right’ I might be or how eloquently I express it- if I do not have love … then I am wrong.

Another aspect of capacity to consider is to what degree do we have the inner strength to handle the repercussions that will come when we speak up. How vicious will the ripple affect of disdain, contempt, assaults, anger be? Who all will be included in the collateral damage? Have I “prepared my hands for war?”

Sometimes the fear of the repercussions is so great that our nervous system shuts us down. We may feel paralyzed, have panic attacks, lose our words… What do we need to help us grow the strength to take a firm position? Do we have support around us to help us when we are rejected, slandered and undergo the loss of relationship with these people who remain important to us. Do we have people who will be interactive protectors for us while also strongly loving the “narcissist” whom we upset?

It is quite possible that the interactions will not go ‘well’, and the ‘narcissist’ will only up their defenses. The result will likely not be one of restoration. Even God does not always get positive results, so we must not be surprised if we do not either.

It is vital that we experientially are aware of the security we have of our souls being sheltered in the protective heart of our God, regardless of the outcome of these very hard and often dangerous interactions.

We are in need of a strong support system.

And the ‘narcissist’ is in need of strong bonds with people who hold him lovingly in their hearts while interacting clearly regarding what is unbecoming to who he is and what is sabotaging the relationships he desires.

Yes, we all are in need of being attuned to and safely attached. All of us narcissistic people.

Knowing what it looks like and growing in our abilities to live it out is the challenge ahead.

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11 Comments

    • Thanks, my Glenn friend! I appreciate your taking time to check out my ‘site’ and read my blog… And your friendship!
      Also, I am very glad you are in our Sat. group! 😀

      Reply
  • Dear heart, Good to read and ponder your creative, loving, and truthful viewpoints. They come through with your unique identity intact, like having a face-to-face, a lovely idea. Your genuine thoughtfulness and caring for the narcissists you describe comes through as well. Glad Papa trusts you with his beloved. I also appreciate your honesty of the difficulties in loving these folks; how best to help them; and yu our personal struggles in all that. Your kindness and truth encourages growth. Thank you.😘

    Reply
    • Oh Cynthia! You continue to be so good for my soul in how you encourage me! Thanks so much! Hugz to you and Noel!

      Reply
  • Thank you, Maribeth! Such a helpful description – truth said in love! I would love to translate it and post it on my own blog. Would that be ok? Thanks, Jutta

    Reply
    • Hi Jutta, my friend. I appreciate your encouragement!! And yes, I’m certainly ok with our translating/ posting it. I hope you are having many encouraging God sightings!

      Reply
  • I get new understanding/insights each time I read this! Thank you so much for posting, Maribeth! <3

    Reply
    • Helen, I’m glad it is helpful for you, and I appreciate your taking time to express it! I hope you have some wonderful God sightings this week!

      Reply
  • This is painfully helpful, for lack of a better expression. 😃 Finding myself having a curiosity and willingness to see narcissists through God’s eyes and provide safety for them. Most of them resist or are offended at safety. Not sure my capacity reaches that far. It’s a real stretch. Bless you Maribeth, for having such a kind heart that knows this kind of pain, and wants to feel a narcissist’s pain also.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Suzanne, for taking time to write. And I track with you…. still wanting God’s help in my own growth to love well!!! Glad we are on the same journey!

      Reply
  • Hello Alice. I appreciate your taking time to read my ‘pondering’ and your note of encouragement. May you experience some extra blessings tailored your way!

    Reply

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