All posts by Jodie How

West Australian writer, poet and blogger.

Friends with a Narcissist

Part 3 of 5 – NPD series

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) reflect honourable character traits in you, myself and others. This makes it hard to tell if someone is a narcissist.

 

Mr Private

Narcissists are very private, at their whim. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against privacy. Many of my friends like to lead much more private lives than me. But what was considered private to this person changed depending on his mood and agenda.

 

Excuse me?

The narcissist I knew said nothing plainly. I had to read between the lines all the time. Afterwards, he’d tell me I was too literal and needed a dictionary definition for everything. I felt stupid.

 

Mr Bully

He laughed often at my expense. He poked the kind of fun that broached boundaries I had set in our friendship. I told him when he hurt me, but he didn’t respond.

I brazenly told him when to back off, but he’d come back to a sensitive topic another time, another way. He was always pushing me.

I wasn’t to make him feel like the bad guy, even though he knew that’s what he was. It was too intense, too burdensome for him, to bear the responsibility of his actions. He wanted an easy friendship that required no effort on his part. I had to be fun fun fun!

 

Mr Honest

My narcissist friend came across as very honest. He said things like, ‘you can be bare with me’ and ‘I’m one of the good guys’, inviting me to trust him. He implied he cared but his later, punishing treatment proved otherwise.

 

Bitter Pills

My friend would not grant me forgiveness. He did once, in the beginning. He even said sorry… once. Only once.

Sometimes I offended him (and sometimes admittedly I was in the wrong) but often, he would be offended for no known reason. Later he revealed his unforgiving nature.

I had to play by his rules or I was out. I was told not to take offence to anything he said because, ‘he never intends to hurt anyone’. If I responded in a way he disliked – if I defended myself and stood ground – I was blamed for misunderstanding him. (Funny, because I’ve always been quick to listen and slow to judge.)

 

Call me Sally

I was called a multitude of things I had never been called in my long history of healthy friendships. I was tip-toe-ing on eggshells to keep him happy and prevent the abuse.

 

Mr Charity

He claimed he liked to help people but he only helped if it served his purposes as well. One of his solutions to one of my ‘problems’ was very inappropriate. And he kept pushing it, because it was what he wanted.

I was made to feel like the odd one out of an entire world of normal people who put these normal solutions in place. It was creepy.

 

Ostracise me, pleeease!

Towards the end, I don’t even think my friend liked me, yet he hung around. I was still a good supply source for his narcissism. He didn’t want to get rid of me. He would do so in his own time, on his own terms.

I was repeatedly ignored for varying lengths of time as a form of punishment for something I’d apparently said in the ‘wrong way’. No amount of contact from my side would move him to acknowledge my pain. I felt he didn’t care that I was suffering. And so, this is basically how our friendship ended. Mr NPD got shelved.

How on earth did I fall for his tricks?

 

 

 

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How to Pick a Narcissist

Part 2 of 5 – NPD series

 

I’m not claiming to be an expert on narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). I’ve simply learned a lot through experience, other people, and research.

For simplicity, I will describe the narcissist as a ‘he’, as it is men that most commonly have this disorder.

 

NPD defined

According to Wikipedia, people with NPD are characterised by ‘exaggerated feelings of self-importance’. They have a keen sense of entitlement and ‘demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behaviour’. They also have ‘a strong need for admiration but lack feelings of empathy’.

 

My experience against NPD traits

The website, Psych Central, states that to have NPD, a person must meet five or more of the following criteria. (Under each one, I describe how I observed it in the NPD person I encountered.)

* Has a grandiose sense of self-importance:

I was considered ‘less than’ him in all ways, as were many other people.

He thought himself more experienced in all areas of life.

If my views were different than his, he argued to change my mind. This often encompassed belittling.

* Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love:

He was a player. He said inappropriate, suggestive things. His conversation was sometimes provocative.

* Believes that he is special and unique:

A great many people made no sense to him. He considered most people to be fools. He considered himself different – better somehow.

* Requires excessive admiration:

He displayed his creative talent and loved the praise that resulted.

He required high fives for jokes but rarely doled them out.

He baited me into giving him compliments by projecting a low self-esteem. This gave him an ego boost.

He rarely gave me compliments and when he did, he had an ulterior motive.

* Has a strong sense of entitlement (unreasonable expectations and / or automatic compliance with his expectations)…

Even if he didn’t make his expectations known to me, I was still somehow required to measure up. There were so many invisible rules.

* Is exploitive of others:

He laughed often, at my expense and in company, and created ‘jokes’ that highlighted what he thought my character flaws were.

He called me names even though he told me not to name call.

He’d use personal information I’d given him and, in a power play, twist it to suit his agenda.

* Lacks empathy:

He had no room for understanding or compassion (although in the beginning, he made a great show of it). No amount of me apologising was ever enough. Everything I did, or said, was wrong.

* Is often envious of others

He masked his envy with jokes but underneath, jealously seethed.

* Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes:

There were always riddles I had to solve. If I didn’t understand something, he turned his explanation into a ‘lesson’. He wouldn’t give a simple explanation. I was treated like an idiot.

He never said things simply. I always had to read between the lines and would usually be admonished for not interpreting him correctly.

 

Do any of my examples strike a chord for you? You can take the Psyh Central’s quiz (either for yourself or, by entering another’s characteristics, to find out if someone you know may have NPD) here.

 

 

 

 

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Friendships that Damage

Part 1 of 5 – NPD series

 

Unguarded

It felt like my flesh had been shaken from my very bones… Yes, at the time, I was hurt that much. The price I paid for this relationship was far too high.

Last year, I entered a relationship that I severely misjudged as being beneficial. What ended up happening was not good. This person’s game play damaged me.

I saw Narcissism’s ugly head up close, smelt it’s acrid breath and fell for all its dazzling charms.

I was emotionally abused. I was called names, had judgement statements fired upon me, and was ignored. I was treated like no friend should ever be treated.

Please understand, I’m not the sort of person who harbours a victim mentality. I’m not the stereotypical drama queen. The last thing I want to do is belittle anyone – online or in real life – regardless of how badly I’ve been treated.

Having a Narcissist in my life was a tough, confusing time.

I began to understand what really happened (and why) only after extensive research, talking about the friendship with a psychiatrist a few times over, and listening to some wise, trustworthy friends (who resisted the urge to tell me they ‘told me so’).

 

Narcissists are real, with a capital N.

Sure, I knew about narcissism (most people do) but I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t think narcissists actually existed. Like psychopaths, such characters were too incredible to be considered true in my mind. How could someone think like that, act like that? This is real life after all, not fiction!

Many people (statistics show mostly women) across the world have encountered someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Even today, someone is suffering at the hands of someone with NPD (statistics suggest, it’s most likely a man with NPD). This epidemic weighs heavy on my heart because I know what it feels like to be hurt by it – to be that unsuspecting ‘victim’.

 

So what?!

Why should you care? I’m glad you asked. I’m asking you to care because this friendship was one where NPD, and its insipid by-products, ruled.

I hope that this five part series will do at least one of the following for you:

a) Raise your awareness of NPD so you can recognise it
b) Increase your understanding of NPD relationships
c) Help you choose against becoming a victim
d) Motivate you to end a current NPD relationship
e) Help you heal from past NPD damage

A good friend reminded me that even wise men fall for flattery and lies. So don’t beat yourself up like I did. Please save yourself the pain.

 

Light at the end of the tunnel

You’ll be glad to know that since this relationship ended, I’ve redeemed all the vital parts of myself and regained happiness. You can too.

Healing from the ordeal has taken many months for me, considering it was a short-lived friendship. It will take longer, the closer you are to a person with NPD, because greater damage is caused. But I promise you this; you will heal.

 

Survey like a meerkat

Are you judging your relationships wisely by stopping contact, taking a step back and having a good look at what’s going on? Or are you like I was, drifting on the ebb and flow of your friend’s agenda?

Have you felt like you’ve been locked in a cage with no way out? You can break free.

How can you pick a narcissist?

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Fear

I recently read Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Within it’s pages, I found an insightful description of what fear is. I want to share it with you.

‘I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.

‘Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.

‘Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.

‘The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hardtop shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.’

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

 

Am I the only one who can identify with this, or can you too?

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We are Winged

Wind whipped past my face, cooling damp skin from the cloying heat. The country air smelt clean, laced with incense. I sped along on my hired mountain bike as I descended the hills of Ubud, Indonesia.

Tentatively, I took my hands from the handlebars and tried to balance with only the tips of forefingers. That mastered, I raised my arms up and out to my sides; closed my eyes, breathed deeply and immersed myself in the ‘rush’.

I smiled broadly; euphoric. I felt free. Nothing mattered; I was in the moment, physically, mentally and spiritually. I had truly let go and was soaring.

I’m thirty-two years old and that was the first time in my life I felt I had wings.

Wings? Yes, I have them. Here’s an epiphany – so do you! Cool, right?

Even though I’m in my thirties, mine are still small and weak; they’ve barely been used. But now that I’ve found them, nothing’s going to stop me from exercising them. I can’t wait till they’re big and strong enough to soar high with them, at length!

The reason I’m only now discovering my wings is that for most of my life I’ve felt trapped.

Severe illness caged me for the greater portion of my growing-up years. Depression and anxiety nailed me to the floor from age eighteen. And more recently, people’s expectations, marriage and a three-year-old son have felt like ties holding me back from living my dreams.

I don’t mean for that to sound so horrible. I love my husband and my beautiful son. I am blessed beyond measure; truly. It’s just that I’ve not experienced much of what I’ve wanted to in this life… yet.

So when I went to Bali, on my own, to a heavenly retreat for a week, it was a huge step to discover I had wings! And I got to test them out. At the time I thought I was just on a much needed break; I didn’t know I was discovering my wings. But my trip was significant.

And that no-hands-riding experience? That summed everything up for me. This is what I need. Leonardo Davinci’s words suddenly make sense; ‘For once, you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.’

So the question is not, do you have wings. It is have you used them lately? I hope you’ll unfurl your beautiful feathers soon.

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Snowflakes

There is no end to the amount of unhelpful beliefs that have held me back in life and creative expression.

For a long time, I hesitated to create my own blog. Adding to the collective background noise in your life didn’t appeal to me at all.

 

I fear not being heard

I don’t think anyone would consider me worth listening to. I have no fancy work experience or education history; no amazing travel or adventure stories.

I’m hardly interesting at all! I’m that person asking the questions, not the one being asked. I’m the listener, not the talker.

I’ve raised my voice above a whisper before, and I’ve been ignored or worse, misunderstood or slated. The fear of these things happening again has held me back from confidently expressing my opinions.

 

I fear being heard

Actually, and I’m being completely vulnerable here, I even fear the opposite – having a voice that is taken notice of! If that happens (some trick of a wand and hat perhaps?) you’ll find me hiding behind the curtains, trembling with stage fright!

If you met me, you’d be far from intimidated; far from riveted by my words. I don’t stand out and I don’t command attention. I don’t think I’ll ever be that person who is noticed. And that’s okay by me.

 

Why I’m blogging

I think I’m like a liquorice allsorts lolly. (No, I’m not about to use this like the onion metaphor for layers, in Shrek.) The combination of traits and peculiarities that make me me is not that important. All you need to know about me is the motivation of my heart – my character.

It’s not that I even feel like I need to be heard. I don’t need to blog for that reason. I have enough self-confidence to not require your validation. And I think there’s enough opinion out there to keep the infernos raging, without mine to add fuel.

No, I need to blog as a creative outlet. I want to express with the wonder of words what I passionately think and feel. If that makes your world a better place, even to a minuscule degree, then I’ll be ecstatic.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learnt from my life experiences. And maybe I can give you an insight where you might need it, or pique your interest on something you might want to explore for yourself.

But please don’t mistake this for arrogance. It’s not. And, in the face of countless lies that sometimes fill my head, I must remind myself that thinking it is arrogance is just another lie. It’s another lie, among others like ‘you are just like everybody else’ and ‘you have nothing different to offer anyone’.

The thing is, I don’t believe the lies anymore and I especially don’t want you to believe the lies in your head, either.

 

Hello, Clarity!

The fantastic West Australian author, Annabel Smith, encouraged me to publish online when she shared her thoughts with me about blogging and its validity. The way she thought about it was that all writers are like snowflakes, because together every one of us makes up a stunning, snowy landscape.

Her words hit me with a beautiful clarity – no two blogs are the same, just as no two books are the same. As humans, we are all vastly different. The works we produce are complex, unique fragments of a larger picture. They are pieces of our heart.

So today, my friend, join me as I outwardly tell fear to go fuck with someone else. Because today is my day! Today is your day! We own it and we don’t need permission to take whatever frightening leaps of courage we like!

Run, and don’t look back!

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An Author comes to Visit

Starry-eyed

I have this thing about meeting authors. Regardless of their level of success, I am always bubble-brained about being in the same room as one. So if they talk to me, I may very well just faint on you.

Not long ago, Annabel Smith, author of A New Map of the Universe and Whiskey, Charlie, Foxtrot made her first book club visit for her latest novel, The Ark, and I was privileged to be there. The opportunity to meet and speak with her was priceless.

Authors have more of an effect on me than actors or other famous and infamous people from popular media. As I listened to Annabel speak to our book club, I had stars in my eyes! Yes, I’m such a word nerd ;o).

 

Meeting Annabel

What a fantastic person Annabel is! ‘Truly delightful’, as one friend put it! Her generosity in sharing her story and providing helpful writing advice astounded me. Many authors seem to put on a mask when they meet fans, but not Annabel. She was genuine, authentic and personable. She was honest with her answers, even when questions required her to make herself vulnerable.

Questions flew around the table the entire time. There was fascinating conversation about surveillance, human behaviour in dark times, and the writing life.

It became quickly clear Annabel has worked extremely hard to get where she is today. No matter how long a project would take her, she’d stick with it until she finished. She started The Ark in 2009. And it didn’t get published until 2014. What a champ to never give up and to see such a challenging project to completion!

 

Annabel on writing

Let me tell you something else. Annabel is a writer just like you and me. She procrastinates, doubts her ability to write and finds criticism and feedback demotivating. She’s had many personal challenges to overcome, just like we all do as writers and human beings.

She said many times that she’s not a quick, efficient writer, but a very slow one. This was so encouraging for ‘slowbies’ like me! She used to completely ‘pants’ it, (not plan her stories), she said, but now she’s becoming more of a planner.

When she pantsed it, she’d often get stuck and couldn’t see how to move her plot forward. Planning, she said, has made her writing process quicker. But Annabel is adamant that she plan as little as possible so as not to take the fun out of the writing. She still likes to see how her stories evolve and progress without having to cookie-cut it out. This keeps the fun alive for her.

 

Create an opportunity

Annabel has never given up on her writing, no matter how hard it’s been. Isn’t that the case in any creative endeavor? Don’t give up, and you’ll get there eventually!

Annabel’s success as a writer is also a testament to the value of connections. People she’s met and who have helped her on her journey as a writer have been vital. So, get networking and build an environment of support around you!

If you have a book club in or near Perth, ask Annabel to visit. , Otherwise, you might miss out on some quality information that will help you in your writing career.

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