One day a few months ago, I woke up to realize that I was living in The Truman Show and that I was Truman! For those who don’t know, The Truman Show was a 1998 psychological comedy film starring Jim Carrey. In the movie, Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, lives a seemingly normal life that is actually a TV set with all of his friends and family played by actors.
In order to pull this off, the script includes events such as killing off his father in a sea storm to “ensure producer such as the “death” of his father in a sea storm to instill aquaphobia and by constantly broadcasting and printing messages of the dangers of traveling and the virtues of staying home.”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show) This is how they kept him perfectly content in his own little world with no desire to travel away from home.
Things Are Not as They Seem
Eventually, Truman starts to realize things aren’t adding up such as when his father shows up again thought to have been recast by the crew, a spotlight falls in front of him and he hears his every move being explained on the radio. When he becomes unpredictable by falling in love with the wrong woman, the jig is basically up as the cast and crew scramble to find rational explanations for the increasingly non-sensical events that continue to play out.
At face value, it may not seem an important topic for a health blog, but it is because once you see narcissism and its enablers, you cannot unsee it. It pervades every area of our lives. It is online gurus who promise extraordinary results (money, health, happiness etc.) in record time by pushing a button. It is family and friends who repeatedly invalidate your truth — your reality, and often try to sabotage your progress. It is the 100 companies that emit 71% of greenhouse gasses and the top 1% responsible for double the pollution of 50% of the population that tell you to curtail your behavior.
Narcissistic People Are Exhausting
Narcissistic people are exhausting because they convince you so much that you’re the problem, until you’re walking on eggshells by censoring your speech, actions and even thoughts! Even if they aren’t trying to sabotage your health goals directly, this drainage of your energy will hold you back by diverting your energy to whatever stupid rule they’ve thought up for you. They will suck your mental wellbeing with the hopes that you will enable them to be the sh*tty people they are. To hell with you!
These people will deliberately sabotage you. If you need to stop eating sugar, they will show up with cake. If you have the discipline to say, “No, thank you,” they will eat it in front of you, while commenting on how much you don’t know what you’re missing. Narcissists want to hold you back to whatever patterns they are stuck in. They convince you that you’re the crazy one.
But once you accept what you’re dealing with, you realize you’re NOT the crazy one. This alone gives you incredible power! Instead of engaging in their destructive, demoralizing dance, you can design your life any way you want.
It dawned on me that I was Truman, when I stopped playing the role that was expected from me in a personal relationship. The person in question became very suddenly unhinged to the point of contradicting previous statements and “truths” she had shared to that point. The dumbest person I’ve ever met, she went out of her way to try to insult me, when her views were challenged. It became clear that all along her friendly advice was an attempt to control my thoughts and behaviors to make me a supporting cast member in her fantasy world.
Not long after this realization, I discovered Dr. Ramani’s YouTube channel on narcissism. Her videos gave me tremendous comfort as I unraveled this unhealthy, one-sided relationship. Luckily, I hadn’t gone wholeheartedly into that relationship or I’d seek professional help. If you’re in narcissistic relationship that has left you a shell of your former self, I’d recommend checking out her online community.
Know the Language of Narcissism
Until finding her channel, I never fully appreciated the term ‘narcissism’, nor did I ever think about the behaviors that go along with this personality type as indicative of any particular diagnosis. This is key, because until we have the language to describe a set of observed behaviors, we gaslight ourselves into putting all the blame on our own perceptions. And this is what narcissists thrive on.
‘Gaslighting’, by the way, is a term derived from a 1944 psychological thriller in which a man tries to convince his wife she is going insane by convincing her that the flickering gaslights — amongst other things — she sees are a figment of her imagination. Other tactics frequently employed by narcissists are shaming you; fake spirituality (e.g. über religious, law of attraction, etc); future faking (confidently stating future goals without working toward anything); invalidating your feelings and experiences; lying about things such as successes, test scores or profession; putting blame on you, after they disrespect you; having you jump through hoops for them, but rarely the other way around unless they feel they’re losing control of you; and so much more!
To round out these manipulative tactics, narcissists are lazy control freaks who want everyone to play a supporting character in their play. Like the slave owner, who calls his slaves lazy. As I suggest above, you’ll know you’re in the presence of one when you always feel like you can’t fully express yourself without some sort of backlash, planning out every word you utter for fear that you’re breaking the script they want you to read from. You self-censor knowing they easily get triggered when you’re tired or busy, telling you how easy life would be if you’d be more organized, yet stealing every available moment you allow them. It’s ok for them to monopolize your time.
They err towards name-calling over intellectual discussion. Since they are allergic to work, they have no interest in learning facts — especially inconvenient ones. They often invoke fear as a form of control — fear of communism, of being ostracized from the herd, of death. It’s the person who says, “Just do what I tell you because you don’t really know what you’re gonna get, if you follow that other person’s advice.” They just want the story they’ve concocted in their heads to play out as planned. Your curiosity is an affront to the narc.
They are also big into status and whatever symbols they associate with it — diamonds, caviar, jet-setting, fancy cars, champagne, name-dropping etc. God forbid, any of that is not your cup of tea! You will be shamed for being limited in your thinking. In short, they want you to like everything they like without question. The only exception is if you legitimately, say, know a celebrity or have an excellent bottle of wine from a recent trip to a Bordeaux vineyard. The narcissist will know a bigger celebrity and mock your wine, while draining the bottle.
For these reasons and more, celebrities and politicians are frequently assumed to be narcissists. This may be partially true, but no matter the role they play in society, narcs prey on empathic individuals — that is, people who will give them the benefit of any doubt.
One day you will hit a wall. You wake up, realizing you have nothing left to give. This is when you replay the relationship in your head and realize that the relationship only worked when you played your part according to their plans. It’s like the last scene in The Usual Suspects, when the cop looks at the corkboard and realizes the guy he had been interviewing the entire movie was, Keyser Söse, the guy he was looking for all along and that he had been piecing together his fictitious series of events from information he saw posted on the wall.
Once the narc is unmasked, the real fun begins. These guys are way more predictable than they realize because they’re so self-important they don’t know you know they’re a liar. Let’s say you’re exhausted, but you don’t mention that because you don’t want to be shamed over your work schedule. You keep the conversation brief by using one-word comments or otherwise speaking without too much emotion, because now that you know what kind of person you’re dealing with, you’re reluctant to go down any path that leads to criticism.
The narc never asks if you’re ok. They don’t really care that you might be tired or simply having a bad day. But if you continue the one-word and detached answers for a few more minutes, they go for broke by pulling out tactics that contradict one another — just like mine did.
First, you will likely be shamed with a phrase such as, “That’s so sad!” If you simply don’t engage with the critique, they will try to cheer you up by offering your time and gas to drive their belligerent ass somewhere. Remember, up until now, you’ve given them permission to believe that serving them gives you the ultimate pleasure. They will make several attempts to get to you either through mutual friends, acquaintances, a spouse or child — just like mine did.
Depending on the type of relationship and how lazy the narc is, they may still make attempts to corner you in conversation. Because they never own the ways in which they betrayed your good will, they will concoct a story of how good they were to you and label the rift as a misunderstanding. If you accept this notion of a misunderstanding, but still don’t want to go back to the way things were, they’ll likely lash out with something along the lines of, “Well, I never liked you anyway!” So long as they’re not violent, these people are quite laughable to be around, because their lack of self-awareness means there is no low they won’t entertain. Why should they, when they can lie their way out?
Be Like Truman
Just as Truman’s audiences cheered for him when he left the set, my friends who had been watching from the sidelines were happy to see me come to my senses. Although the initial stages may be difficult, for me, I was angrier at myself for trying so hard to make sense of these abusive patterns for so long. I now sleep better, whine less (I’d like to think), and am usually a lot happier around those who truly matter to me. I think I even go to the bathroom better!
Like I said, once you recognize these personalities exist in your own life, you will see it everywhere: in business, religion, politics, healthcare, fame, the food pyramid, World Economic Forum, the KKK etc. It becomes tempting to label everything as ‘narcissism’. Perhaps everything is, just in varying degrees.
The last thing these guys want is for you to be happier, more successful, more wealthy, healthier or really to have anything better than or even the same as they have. Once you decide that you won’t play their game and own the fact that the goals you have for your life are all that really matters, they lose their sh*t! Grab a bowl of cracklings and enjoy the show.
Have you suffered narcissistic abuse? What unexpected places do you feel it shows up? Let me know in the comments!