Echo can no longer deny the need to take responsibility for her own life.

Narcissus cannot believe Echo has not returned home. She should have come home a while ago and why did she have to harp on him? Narcissus calls Echo a few hours later. He is frustrated that he even has to make this phone call.He tries not to shout into the phone.”Echo it is time to come home for dinner.”

She can hear the anger in his voice still, but every cell in her body wants to run home to Narcissus. “I don’t think that is a good idea.” Echo says with some feigned conviction. At the same time she recognizes that her denial has been broken. She knows he is a danger to her. She tells him “You terrified me to the point I had to run out of the house. I don’t even get an apology, just an order to come home for dinner. I am sorry, but I am not going to do this anymore. You need to move out. I will give you a few hours before I come home to figure it out and do not be there.”

Echo wishes Narcissus would beg and plead or at least try to apologize. In the most contemptible voice Echo has ever heard, Narcissus responds like it was his idea to move out all along. “Perfect. I will move out tonight. Not a problem at all. I am sick of your crap.” Echo wonders what ‘crap’ he is referring to. He appears to have absolutely no regard for how his scary behavior affects her and for some reason this still stuns her.

Narcissus hangs up on her immediately. Wow he even gets the last word she thinks as she drops her phone into her lap. Another relationship has gone to shit. Why doesn’t she get what she wants? A good relationship with someone who loves her. Is that too much to ask? She has been a good nymph, kind to all creatures and good to her family and friends. She pays attention to the universe around her and tries to do the right thing. OK maybe she has neglected all of these parts of her life lately, but she was trying to help Narcissus

Echo’s denial had come in handy in the past protecting her from the overwhelming nature of her suffering with Narcissus. She can now no longer deny her awareness of Narcissus’s harmful nature, thanks to the Hunter who helped her to gather the strength to find out how harmful to her he really is.  She knows she has to do something different, but she is terrified of being on her own and is not sure she can do it. Sometimes, the devil one knows is superior to the the devil one doesn’t know.

Echo is still in the pub. She had walked to an isolated corner on the patio when Narcissus called and has now returned to one of the tables with some friends, all of whom had stopped by to offer support.

The sun is going down. The air is crisp being moved by a slight breeze. It is unusually warm for a winter evening, yet there is the smell of smoke coming from fresh wood burning in a nearby fireplace. Echo thinks about her own home, the home she tried to share with Narcissus,  how neither of them had ever used the fireplace, and how they never really created a home together. She pictures him packing all of his stuff, emptying out drawers, and clearing out closets.

A tear slides down her cheek and her throat feels like it is closing off her air. Samaria, her friend, notices and puts an arm around her pulling her close. Samaria is a much older mountain nymph who lives alone way up in the mountains above the forest. She rarely comes to the city, as she finds it too distracting. She is a bit strange to a wood nymph like Echo, preferring her own company to anyone else. Also, like most mountain nymphs she is much taller than other types of nymphs. Her home is an old abandoned airstream trailer she found on a remote plot of land. This is her idea of paradise. She goes days without seeing another being.

Echo loves to run into her because she is a very odd character full of hard fought wisdom and she is always up for sharing one of her stories from her colorful past.

This evening Samaria appears very serious and wants to talk to her about what happened with Narcissus.She stares into Echo’s face and speaks slowly wanting to make sure that Echo absorbs each and every word like a relished blessing. “My sweet just know you are well loved.” But before Samaria can continue, her long hair-kind of scraggly because she almost never washes it-blows right into Echo’s face, forcing her to shield her face from it with her hands. “Oh my dear not trying to force feed you my hair.  Anyway, this is what you are going to do. It is time for you to stop playing it safe. You are being forced to face your worst fears of rejection and abandonment because you consistently make choices that are below you. This is true in everything you do. You pick men who do not challenge you and with whom you do not even share the same values. You pick jobs that are boring to you that you can do in your sleep. You do not challenge yourself with anything. Enough is enough!”

Echo feels her stomach drop and wants to cry out in frustration. She is so tired of people judging her and telling her what is wrong with her. Isn’t this what Narcissus had been doing to her, telling her what is wrong with her all of the time? “But Samaria I have traveled the world. I have sought out adventure and experience. I left my first husband because I wanted more from a relationship.I have worked hard at my job and saved money.”

“Yes my sweet you have. But always with fear like a wind at your back, pushing you in the wrong direction. It is time to let go of these bad habits of always trying to avoid your fears. Suffering, if looked at properly can be a gift, but this is only if you can claim it fully and admit how much you are hurting. It is time to explore it, become aware of it and this will be the impetus for you to change. No matter how afraid you might be, it is time to trust the universe, let go, and find a new path.” Samaria then laughs and says “Or you can keep doing the same things you have been doing. There are other Narcissuses out there or just straight-up losers, if you would prefer. Check out that guy over there.” She points to a guy puking over the railing of the patio. Echo objects,”Look  we know that guy. He is our friend just having a tough night.”  Echo says. Samaria waves Echo’s words away into the air and continues her warning “You are at a crossroads. I hope you take the right path.”

Echo tries to take this all in. She notices her first inclination is to get up right now and return to Narcissus. He understands her. He is what is familiar. Samaria doesn’t care about her. She is just a crazy old nymph who spends too much time alone and wants Echo to end up just like her.

 

 

 

 

Echo meets the Hunter

It has been a long sleep of denial for Echo. The pain of being in a relationship with Narcissus is starting to overwhelm her and she knows she has to do something about it. She is finally able to admit that it does not make sense for Narcissus to treat her the way he does. He must not love her. Why is she risking her well being pining for him to be the way he was in the beginning of the relationship? And why is she always bending to his needs? But the pain of admitting he might not love her is unbearable and the fear of being alone it induces is terrifying.

She flees deep into the forest to get help from her nymph friends, but instead runs into a hunter. The hunter is a great tracker of large and terrifying beasts. Echo in her desperate state of mind shares her story easily.The hunter has no problem imparting  the wisdom earned from years of outsmarting the most cunning of beasts. “My dear before you can do anything you must know the truth of Narcissus. Who is this person you have cast your jewels before? It sounds like you are more afraid to be alone than anything else. To love out of fear is the love of cowards and children. Perhaps, you must recognize your fear and grow up?” There is no judgment in the hunter’s voice.

The hunter knows that even if something looks scary, once it is confronted, recognized for what it is, then it ceases to have the power to incite fear.

When Echo emerges from the forest she has a plan. She wants to know definitively if Narcissus loves her. So she decides to do an experiment to test her belief: Is everything her fault in the relationship with Narcissus? Has she done something to cause this painful treatment? After all of the pain and suffering there is still a very small part of her that knows she does not have to be miserable. A sliver of light in the dark, if she looks hard enough, that yes she is lovable somewhere, somehow.

Narcissus doesn’t usually want to go anywhere, preferring to stay at home staring deeply into the pool of his reflection. It is his safety net, like a child with a pacifier, the pool has become so all encompassing that it has taken the place of real friends, including Echo.  Narcissus has taught himself to see the calm reflection of his face in the water as the world.

Echo has made every attempt to emulate the calm perfection of the pool, but Narcissus has made sure to let her know her shortcomings. Also, he wants her to keep her mouth shut about being so damned needy and jealous. Why does she insist on bothering him about his behavior? He has done nothing wrong. She is the one that is not supportive of him.

Miraculously a few days ago, Narcissus agreed to go on a trip with Echo.He is incredibly nervous though because he has extreme difficulty not being in control and Echo is a wanderer and an adventurer (not that he cares about this at all), but she could be a possible challenge to his authority. But to prove he is a strong man, he agreed to go on this trip.

He does not care about spending time with her unless she is going to make him feel better about himself. Also, he is too cowardly to admit that he really is afraid to travel,   He is not conscious of the fact that he is terrified of leaving his pool.Echo thought he agreed to go because he wanted to spend time with her, but now as she returns home from her time in the forest she is starting to awaken to what might be really going on.

Narcissus believes Echo has proven herself unworthy of reflecting back to him the truth. He thinks she can be a liar and is not to be trusted. In fact Narcissus cannot trust anyone at all. He does not understand the world nor the people in it. He can only focus on getting his needs met and staying in control. He is like a robot when it comes to his behavior, mechanical. He responds only to the programs he had been given as a young child and is not able or willing to challenge any of them. This is mostly because he does not recognize that they are just programs. Echo needs to do better.

When Echo arrives home from the forest. She sees that Narcissus is again absorbed with his pool of water. She is nervous to go on a trip with him for fear he will abandon her or fly into a rage. They had decided to go to the high desert, far from the forest. She is not sure this is safe at all. She pictures him burying her body in a sand dune. He even has a look of relief on his face as he does it. Now she has just scared herself. This thought is too crazy she thinks. He wouldn’t hurt her unless she antagonized him somehow. She decides she is going to make this trip happen no matter what. It will give them time to figure things out and get Narcissus to stop staring into that damned pool like a crazy person.

Her thoughts put her voice on edge when she asks Narcissus “Are you ready to get online to book our tickets?”

“Leave me alone Echo! You just got home and you are already on my case.” Narcissus screams as he flies into a rage. Echo had asked him calmly. And they had already discussed getting the tickets when Echo arrived home, so he should be prepared for the question.She immediately recalls her experiment to test the waters. ‘Is everything my fault?’ she asks herself. So she stays calm, observes and says nothing.

He grabs her backpack that happens to have her heavy kryptonite bike lock in it and slams it around breaking things and almost hitting her with it.She stays calm on the outside and asks him to stop. He won’t stop. She slowly moves away from his fury. He follows her into the bedroom and this actually scares her because the room is small and he is flailing the heavy bag around. She manages to grab her purse and run out the door and all of the way down the street until she ends up at her local pub. Luckily, she sees some people she recognizes. They welcome her and invite her to join them.

She sits down and catches her breath. She looks at the people sitting at the table and just shakes her head repeating “It is not my fault. It is not my fault.” She knows she has to leave Narcissus for good. It will take all of her strength, but he is without a doubt, dangerous to her well being. She must now learn to think about herself and face her fears of being without Narcissus.

 

 

The Obsession of Echo and Narcissus:To Live and Die By the Whim of a Narcissist

I have told my own stories about falling in love with a Narcissus like evil cold cruel man who caused me a tremendous amount of suffering. The stories are all variations of disintegration of love into cruelty with his disguised intent to destroy me and take my soul. I have told people I thought he was possessed by a demon. I even refer to him as N in all of my articles as an easy way to categorize him, but also if I am really honest, a way to dehumanize him.  I do not know why the N behaves the way he does or what it is really like to be him. I can only explain my own mind and behavior and will admit that I was obsessed with the N. My life became his very similar to the disappearance of Echo’s life. I lost my voice except as a reflection of his.

The phase of the relationship where I began to disappear was when I recognized that he had turned away from me toward the pool of his own reflection. I did not use these terms to describe the experience, but it happened nonetheless. I began to fill in the emptiness with my own stories. I tried to control him, to pin him down, to lasso him, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t get him to face and see me anymore. I hated my dependency on my need for his approval. I hated that my own pool of need for his love was bottomless. I cannot compete with the N’s image of himself. I didn’t exist to the N.

The  Story of Narcissus and Echo ,the mythical couple immortalized in the literature of the Greeks and Romans. I read the story and thought that Narcissus was so self absorbed that he caused his untimely demise. And because he was so self absorbed, he was purposely cruel to poor Echo. He caused her to disappear completely leaving only the sound of her reflective voice. Is Echo really an unwilling victim and Narcissus a calculated victimizer? I mean both were such different beings before they were overcome with their obsessions.

Both characters are the epitome of self absorbed just in different ways. Narcissus is obsessed with himself and Echo is obsessed with Narcissus. Both are completely shut out from the larger world, the bigger picture and in other words access to a bigger self. Their worlds have become small, narrow, self focused, and meaningless. Their pursuit to get and receive love ultimately kills both of them. They do not care for others. They do not give back to the community. They do not have a spiritual practice or time for exercise. They are both addicts strung out on a craving for an ultimate love that does not exist in the form they pursue and yet they give their lives for it.  The roots of obsession go deep into the hearts and souls of both characters.

Kristin Dombek states in her essay ‘The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism: “the future is always trying to feel like the past. When it does, it feels like selfishness, hurt, loss, at the hands of others.”  This also sounds a lot like moving through the attachment phases in child development. When we don’t learn how to grieve the past (not only from abuse that can severely disrupt development stages, but the stages of development themselves can also be very challenging and can incur powerful feelings of fear and loss) and let it go, we will forever be destined to repeat the loss. It is deep ungrieved losses that carve the vacancy the obsession is trying to fill with one’s self or another person.  For some of us this can cause our utter downfall. As Kristin says “the trick is to let it empty”.

I learned that I had to let go of my past pain. I had to face grief and emptiness and all of the parts of myself that I had buried long ago.  Only a Narcissus like man could generate enough pain in me that I was forced to look at my fear of being left and rejected.  When I say past pain I am talking about a time in my childhood where I felt rejected and abandoned. In order to cope I adapted myself to the situation by becoming a specific role: a caretaker, sometimes a rebel all the while burying my own needs desperate to return to the time when I felt loved and protected.

If only Echo had faced her fears and switched the focus from Narcissus to herself, she could have begun the process of healing and gotten her voice back. To be continued…

 

 

An Introduction to 10 Rules to School a Narcissist and Sever the Tie

This is an introduction for my next post because I want to explain how I use the term Narcissism, why I created  10 rules and use the word ‘rules’ instead of guidelines and the importance of their application.

What do I mean when I use the term Narcissist? I refer to my ex-husband as N for Narcissist throughout my story, so how did he get that label anyway? From my own research and experience, the traits can be exhibited across a long spectrum.

On the extreme end there is psychopathy, then malignant narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder (DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.), to narcissistic traits which many of us can manifest. Also there are different types of narcissists, for example there is the overt narcissist and the covert narcissist, the somatic and the cerebral narcissist. I would say my ex husband N falls between Narcissistic Personality Disorder (he meets all of the criteria in the DSM 5 for the personality disorder diagnosis) and the Malignant Narcissist on the spectrum. Researcher and therapist Steve Becker in his paper ‘Differentiating Narcissists from Psychopaths’ makes a distinction between Narcissism and Psychopathy by referring to all psychopaths as having narcissistic personality disorder, but not all narcissists are psychopaths. Narcissists need validation and psychopaths seek to destroy. My interpretation is the farther along a person is on the spectrum toward psychopathy the more dangerous because they truly seek to destroy for the thrill of it.

I attracted three other narcissists while I was healing from my abusive marriage. I learned that I did not have any radar. I must have looked like a sitting duck to them. This gave me the idea to come up with rules of behavior and healthy ways for me to process my thoughts and feelings. Something I can do to help me set boundaries with people. That remind me I am responsible for and accountable to myself and give me the ability to find out if a person is toxic, narcissistic, psychopathic, or anyone along this spectrum and swiftly get rid of them. I learned the hard way that a narcissist will give up on a person with strong boundaries rather quickly.

I regularly put my rules to work out in the land of the free roaming narcissists and have even found these rules to work on run of the mill toxic people. There is no particular order. Any of them can and should be applied at any time, although at certain points in a relationship with a Narcissist one rule may be more feasible than another. They are great tools to screen people while dating, making new friends, for starting a new relationship or even if embedded in a relationship with a possible narcissist. These rules also helped me establish no contact with my narcissistic ex.

I use the word ‘Rules’ instead of guidelines because, for me, they must be followed. Narcissistic abuse is very serious and narcissists wreak so much havoc that for those of us who don’t have a good radar these rules are a great protection device. As I will convey in future posts about my story, I do not always follow them myself and show what happens when I don’t. The rules aren’t a recipe to lower self esteem or an invitation to be hard on oneself. I created them to protect myself like a shield from the wolves in sheep’s clothing (the narcissist, psychopath, malignant narcissist, and toxic people). It also encourages a mindful practice for developing a healthy relationship with myself and therefore others.

 

Beginning Buddhism in the Throes of Addiction

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In the past, I had meditated for relaxation and stress reduction when I was suffering from health issues, but I had not really pursued a spiritual practice and had no idea what spirit really meant. I had studied Buddhism a little. It appeared to offer tools for calming the mind down, like meditation. I did remember, similar to Christianity, it talked about suffering, but it seemed like the philosophy had applicable practices for the here and now to get rid of suffering. Less like a religion and more a technique of working with the mind. Maybe the Buddha could help me?

Any type of formal study of Buddhism will usually begin with the four noble truths which is the main part of the Buddha’s first sermon after he achieved enlightenment, and also the foundation of the practice.

The  first noble truth is often translated as “Life is suffering.” I read this and wanted to throw my book across the room. Ok! Yes I get it. I am suffering right now. Please tell me something I don’t know, but I was desperate enough that I stopped myself from continuing this automatic reaction. I thought about the fact that this is a really old philosophy and a lot of people I respect have said that Buddhism has changed their lives.

The Pali word dukkha which is translated as suffering in English, also refers to anything that is temporary or conditional.  Even something precious and enjoyable is dukkha, because it will end. This is the nature of life and also the nature of death. Now I was even more depressed. There was no hope nor a way out of this labyrinth of suffering?

The Buddha taught that this suffering in life has to do with our perception of who we think we are rather than who we really are. Before we can understand life and death we must understand the self. I realized right away because of my own study of  psychology in college that the psychology of Buddhism has a different view from the west. In the west we conceive of a self as essential, important, real, and fixed. Yet Buddhism is proposing a self that is a fiction, a delusion.  What the hell does this mean I wonder?

 

Survival at its fittest

4 years ago I was a childless 39 year old woman who lived alone! My parents got me a goldfish because I was going through a divorce and they were worried about me being alone. I kept it alive for almost 4 years. I remember hauling the tank over to friends’ homes whenever I went out of town for a few days. The dirty fish water sloshed onto the floor of my car. Probably cut several years off of the poor creature’s life. I should have just had someone come to my place to feed it once a day, but I didn’t want the fish to mostly be alone for all of the days I was gone. I didn’t get another fish for the tank because I was never convinced that my goldfish wanted to share the tank. He or she seemed perfectly content on its own.

When bad things have happened to me I usually wallow for a bit in my misery and then try to come up with solutions. I believe I have had the typical dose of bad crap in life from my parents divorce to my own divorce. I battled with painful health issues for over 2 years in my late 30’s. But overall I kept on. I did not lose my world or myself. I kept my job, my friends, my life mostly intact throughout my mishaps. I hurt. I was miserable at times, but I knew I was going to come out of it and be ok. I had a history of alcohol abuse especially during my divorce, so when I started having health problems I sobered up and changed my diet. I still smoked occasionally, but nothing like I used to. Gradually, I got healthier and this gave me a great deal of confidence. I had learned a tremendous amount about physical balance in the body. I loved the feeling of calm I got from taking such good care of myself. I biked everywhere and that became my regular exercise. I meditated daily for about 10 minutes. I took a writing class. Made some new friends. I had financial stability. I had  been single for over two years and was enjoying it. I had some trips planned with friends. I was in the perfect place in my life to welcome a new relationship with a man who would forever change my life. What I didn’t know at the time was that maybe like my goldfish I was perfectly content being on my own.

I hope you can follow me on this very crooked path of hard won transformation as I separate myself from an extremely abusive relationship with a narcissist. It wasn’t until I was untethered from this relationship that I realized I did not know the person I married. And even worse I did not know myself. He sucked the life out of me until I felt forced to choose between living and dying. Anytime I got a bit of strength back in me he came back for more and the destruction happened all over again. He was like a vampire and I was his highly tolerant, empathic victim desperate for love and approval, willing to feed him my life blood; he held all of me in the palm of his hand. At the time I had no idea what was happening and I certainly would not have claimed I was being abused. I had no idea what trauma and abuse can do to a person, but I would find out.

I would like to use blog posts to describe my journey not unlike Echo’s story of suffering and disappearance, but that it is possible to have a better life after loving a narcissist. Yes I went through an incredibly destructive relationship, had tremendous difficulty leaving, and establishing no contact. I traversed a variety of avenues of healing and recovery and have struggled with discipline and effort. I will explain what worked for me, what didn’t and why. Also, I would love to hear from anyone in the world. Any and all comments are welcome.