Mirror Mirror

September 14, 2023

We have become so familiar with various psychological terms and labels they have become ubiquitous. We casually call people borderline, narcissistic, psychotic, or just plain crazy. Sometimes researching articles or listening to podcasts helps us understand and validate our experiences with people in our lives who have these behaviors. We get to say, “I am not alone, it’s not just me, or ‘it’s called gaslighting.”

The reality is everything exists on a continuum. Most of us have exhibited some of these traits at some point. The truth of who we are is not generally captured in the snapshot of a time when we:
didn’t feel good about ourselves,
displayed an emotion that was not equal to the situation
did something impulsively
allowed loneliness to drive us into a relationship that was not healthy
had a moment when being hit by a bus didn’t sound like the worst thing that could happen
liked being the center of attention
acted selfishly
got upset when criticized
felt we deserved to have special treatment
acted in ways that didn’t make sense to others

Let’s explore someone who is further on the narcissist tendency scale.

Please remember that all these reflections are generalities. People are complex.

Someone with narcissistic tendencies (NT for ease) looks at the world through a mirror. They are always at the center of that mirror, but your life only exists on the edges of that same mirror. You don’t get to have your own life. The light only shines on you when NTs choose to invite you in. If you are no longer useful, the mirror moves away and the light dims. You feel the absence. You want the light back because it feels good when your insecurities and doubts fade under the warmth of that glow again. You both meet a need the other one has.

NT’s often have big personalities. When you are with them you feel either special or invisible. They tend to be high achievers, so they appear to offer security. They can also be quietly cruel. They may accuse you of the very things you fear might be true about yourself. When they criticize, you may feel it is because they simply want you to be better. Or have you believe they love you despite your flaws. Remember when this happens, they are not seeing you. You are a reflection that needs to be improved in their eyes or a way to keep you in your place.

As a child you learned quickly what your NT parent(s) needed. You modified who you were to try to gain their love. Maybe you needed to be their little star or trophy. Maybe you needed to be quiet and ensure you didn’t take any attention away from them. If you were unable to excel in anything they found of value, you learned to be invisible. If your fight response played a big role in being a Survival Part, (thank you Janina Fisher for the wonderful term) you may have been rebellious or felt that negative attention was better than no attention. All these beliefs led you to develop internal voices that have you questioning your worth.

It may sound dramatic, but the truth is, survival was at stake, so you did whatever you needed to do to get to where you are now. If you had a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes in the closet and heat in the house you may tend to dismiss the impact. There are no visible scars. It doesn’t mean the negative emotional impact wasn’t there, it merely means you didn’t have these other factors with which you needed to contend.

These beliefs can impact your adult life as you continue to defend against the fear that the false beliefs are true. Your Survival Parts will be fully present even when you no longer need them. They have probably served you well in many ways, the question is, are they serving you now? How might they be hindering you in life, in relationships, in work? Awareness is the first step toward possible change. If you are interested in taking next steps, please find someone who can walk alongside you as you move toward living more fully from your place of truth.