I’ve rubbed up against some difficult characters in the last few years. No, I’m not talking about people I’ve imagined in my stories. I couldn’t invent the kind of insanity I’ve dealt with, though it does help me to write what I hope are twisted, tragic people. But I’m beginning to realize that it’s not just good material for my muse. Very contact with these people is dangerous. If I don’t step in and do something, this self, this me, is going to take on the same insidious contagion that these folks did.

Life circumstances have forced me into varying degrees of sustained contact with three difficult people in particular, each to the point that a personal relationship of some sort should have formed between us. In one case there is no relationship at all except general bitterness in the other party. In another case, an intense argument a while ago broke through the difficulties, and we can at least be cordial with each other. In the last case, the other party’s stance towards me vacillates between irritating attempts at control and good ol’ boy commiserating about our shared struggles.

These people are hard to figure out.

I’ve known a textbook definition of narcissist for a long time: the one who is in love with his own appearance, like Narcissus, from whose name the word is derived. But now I’m learning the daily grind of really knowing a narcissist. I’m learning that it isn’t some fierce self-love, some fiery joy, that drives them; it’s a desperate self-protection, a machination born out of sheer terror. And I’ve discovered the lumpy formations of this cancer in my own heart. In ten years, unchecked, without correction, I would become one of these shattered relics of humanity.

This greatly concerns me. I don’t want to become someone who carries the bitterness of wound after wound with me everywhere. I want to be a vessel, something that beauty passes through on its journey towards people who need it. If I keep acting on this closed feedback loop of check pulse, feel sorry for self, check pulse, feel sorry for self, I fear I will bend the truth-pipe in me back around onto myself. And if that happens, I will no longer be able to write or to love.

That analysis is a bit of an overreaction, but my mind works in overreactions. I like to state the problem in its simplest, scariest terms. Then I can see it intellectually for what it is; see all its causes and all its effects; and attack it at the root.

I’ve done that. And I have a resolution.

I refuse to be relationally safe. I refuse to give in to the voices that tell me he wants that from you; better give it to him or she needs you to not express your true self; better protect her. Instead, I will boldly, but gently, speak the truth in every situation. And I will not be afraid.

2 thoughts on “Narcissists

  1. It’s so hard. The most insidious thing is this desire to not offend. It’s really a way of protecting yourself from the weakness that the truth will bring out of somebody else. Of course we should speak the truth in love, and that’s the hard part. But it’s better to speak the truth harshly than to say tender, vapid things.

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