An honorable human relationship that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of reframing the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few to go that hard way with us.
Adrienne Rich (1979)
Today’s subject is more about hatred than hope, and more about distrust than trust. I believe if we do not learn to face our hatreds, then there can be no true hope or trust. Often, we are thrown into deep uncertainty and doubt at times of profound conflicts. We face these on a personal level and we face them collectively throughout the world. At times like these, we are thrown back to a re-examination the nature of our social and cultural structures.
In Pearl Drego’s (1996) article “Cultural Parent: Oppression and Regeneration,” she observed that while the culture of the group requires analysis outside the individual, understanding the Cultural Parent involves introspection and self-awareness. The culture of a group is carried by individuals, and it is possible to become aware of it within the individual personality. Drego’s writings on the Cultural Parent build on Berne’s (1963) work and she provides a means for examining and changing the impact of culture and cultural oppression on the individual’s psychology. In other words, the necessity of understanding distrust and hatred in the movement toward cultural change.
I am accustomed to welcoming difference, challenge and even conflict in my various roles as therapist, consultant and writer. Within these arenas, the experience of differentness and conflict is exciting and enjoyable. In my work as a psychotherapist, I know that conflict, even hatred, is meaningful. For example, many of my clients have had exceedingly difficult lives, and they are in various ways rather difficult people. Often their work with me is their third or fourth effort at psychotherapy. They have little reason to be hopeful or trusting, little motivation to be pleasant or reasonable. When I sit with a client in the face of hatred or despair, I see a body that is scarred and battered. I can usually feel a link, and I can bring some comprehension to the hostility and distrust. Sometimes I am effective for them in facing a deeply distressed affect. Sometimes I am not so effective, but together we eventually work things out. In making meaning of these disturbances, confidence grows that our work will make a difference.
It can be quite seductive and gratifying to the human relations professional to be seen as the good and understanding parent, the provider of the “secure base” (Bowlby, 1979). A psychologically secure base is a necessary foundation for our work, but I do not think it is a sufficient model for working with distrust, violence, and hatred. As professionals using transactional analysis to promote personal, group, and organizational change, I believe that we need to think very carefully when we imagine that we can offer our clients a secure base. What is it we think we are providing? What is it our clients imagine we offer to them? I think the ideal of a secure base needs to be changed to that of a “vital base” within which we offer a challenging, experimental and rather uncomfortable relationship through which both people must shift their familiar frames of reference.
I think that as a community, it has often been difficult for TA practitioners to face the degrees of shame, hatred, and irrationality of which we are all capable. We can, perhaps, more easily make Games within our dyadic relationships to avoid anxiety, hostility, and differentness, but within and between groups the experience of anxiety, unpredictability, hostility, and differentness is harder to avoid. It is probably no accident that Berne addressed the darker side of human relations more directly in his writings on groups. In Principles of Group Treatment, he outlined the satisfaction in groups of the basic human hungers for stimulation, recognition, and structure, stressing that “people will pay almost any price to have time structured for them, as few are capable of structuring their own time autonomously for very long”. He warned that a derivative of structure hunger is leadership hunger and that in turning oneself over to a leader, there is enormous compromise in one’s willingness to think. Ultimately, all too often, the idealised leader then imposes restrictions or prohibitions on one’s right to think for oneself.
Deeper still, Drego refers to group character as the cultural shadow that envelops and contaminates the Child ego state. The term “character” has its origins in Greek, meaning “branded, cut into the skin”; character cuts deep. In transgenerational haunting, a contemporary generation is unwittingly possessed by an earlier generation. Such possession preserves history, but in a poisonous, unmetabolised way. Transgenerational hauntings are steeped in histories of violence, injury, shame and powerlessness, so that the “brandings” of previous generations are then carried in the group character. Uncertainty and doubt inhabit the domain of the tensions between the familiar and the different, between Self and Other, where Other represents a threatening, alien identity or way of life. It is a differentness that cannot be explored or made a part of one’s own life and identity, so it is rendered inferior, disgusting or dead. This is the domain of a fundamental experience of differentness in which the experience of “I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK” is a very real tension that must be acknowledged. This tension is not to be bridged by some saccharine application of “I’m OK, You’re OK” as an unthinking idealisation of the human drive and spirit.
In acknowledging and working with distrust, hatred, prejudice, and violence, we must look first at ourselves, honestly. It will not and should not be pretty. If we cannot look honestly at ourselves and our professional and ethnic cultures, we will be of little value to those we wish to help. In working with prejudice and violence, shame and distrust, we need to look together with the person at both him/her as an individual and their history. and also at the histories of the familial, racial, and ethnic groups to which the individual belongs. As therapists and members of an international community of transactional analysts, we must make space for distrust and dissonance in our work. To develop real trust, we must first acknowledge and express our distrust.
You know a friend is not very good for you if:
- You feel bad about yourself when you speak with them or are around them.
- They seem more comfortable being your friend when you’re down.
- Image is more important than substance.
- They encourage you to stay in relationships that are damaging or even potentially dangerous.
- They hit on your partner or allow your partner to hit on them.
A toxic friendship is a relationship that has the ability to permeate negatively into other areas of your life and is likely to affect your self-esteem. The type of person who is ‘toxic friend’ tends to the one with a tight smile, pretending to support you yet finding ways to put you down and feed your own tendency to feel less than. Some don’t recognise their behaviour because they have such negative beliefs about themselves and what friendship actually means. Others, however, know exactly what they’re doing and act out of jealousy, envy and being generally malevolent. As far as they’re concerned, if they’re going to be down, you’re going to be down, and even if they’re up…they prefer you to be down…
When you have a toxic friendship, you’ll often feel uncertain, and may play conversations or scenes back in your mind as you are worried that you may be being paranoid. You may even begin to question her relationship with your boyfriend. How did you end up here? Surely the two people that you care about the most wouldn’t hurt you, would they?
Much of what a toxic friend will do is subtle or not outright cruel so you can end up doubting yourself. They take a firmer hold on you if you are already insecure or they are your only friend, or one of only a few friends. As they present themselves in a package of ‘friendship’, it can be difficult to ascertain whether they are truly a friend or foe.
Whilst I don’t deny that people generally can’t ‘make’ you do something, there is a lot to be said for the person that takes advantage of the fact that you are already insecure, and more susceptible to being manipulated. Your ‘toxic friend’ may already have bad love habits herself so when you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, she may encourage you rather than provide healthy counsel. Two is often company in this type of situation and if you were to take up with a guy that provided a healthier alternative…that could potentially throw the spotlight back on her choices. Misery loves company after all.
Do you question where your own value has gone? You see the thing about value, is that it’s very much driven by you. You can tell a lot about how much you value you by the company that you keep (or chase). If you claim to be someone of great value and then you hang with someone who treats you like low value goods and stick around to try to get them to see and treat you like higher value goods (i.e. teach them to learn to value you), it’s you who is changing your value not the other party.
Your value is as good as how you treat yourself, the company you keep, the beliefs you hold, and the life you lead. If you don’t treat yourself with care, trust and respect, you will align yourself with people who also don’t treat you in this way plus you continue to hold negative beliefs about you, love, and relationships, you will not only conduct your life accordingly and slot into the merry-go-round that is the self-fulfilling prophecy, but you will diminish your own value in your own eyes
The bottom line is, if you find yourself around someone who seems happier and friendlier when you’re down, you know you’re in ‘toxic friendship’ territory. True friendship means that you can be there when they are up as well as down and that you can share in each others successes and struggles. If your friendship relies on you taking some sort of lower status in her mind, you need to let her go. Remember – a friendship isn’t really friendship if she’s not actually your friend. If the more that you’re with someone is the less that you feel you can be who you really are, it may just be time to exit.
When people are explaining their relationship issues to me, I often hear something along the lines of, “I tried so hard to be a good girlfriend/boyfriend” or even “I did everything that someone could want from a good girlfriend/boyfriend”. Immediately, I am alerted to someone who is devoted to pleasing the other party, and very likely at the expense of themselves. It also reminds me of when I tell my young cousins that they can’t do/have something and they say, “But why? I’ve been so good!” Well yes, but that’s got nothing to do with my answer!
We may have been raised with the notion that being “good” is super-important. If we are good, then people will treat us well, hence the assumption when we’re not treated well is because we must have been “bad”. This sticks from childhoods and even when we become adults, we forget to mature our perceptions and adjust our behaviours.
Of course, when we’ve been people pleasing to the point where can’t be distinguished in a line-up of doormats, being disappointed and not being treated well can seem rather unfair. After everything you have done, why are you being treated like this? The trouble with our obsession with being “good” is that we all have different interpretations of what that means and if the readers of this blog and clients are anything to go by, here are just some examples of what it can mean;
– Being agreeable to the point where you don’t have any strong opinions on anything, you mould yourself into an extension of the other and you silence your own feedback and criticism;
– You say what you think people want to hear and you do what you think people want you to do;
– Over-giving in the hope that there will be a tipping point and you’ll eventually start to receive;
– Not having boundaries; Or
– Being over-empathetic so you end up putting you in the other party’s shoes and then imaging what you would do, projecting it onto them and then being too compassionate while being blinded to their behaviour.
If you treat you and others with care, trust, and respect, and where appropriate love, other aspects of being ‘good’ such as being kind (but not a doormat), compassionate (but not over-empathetic), giving (but not a mug), honest (but with respect), conscientious (but not making everything about you and seeing you as an extension of everyone else) and essentially being a person of integrity do happen as a natural extension especially when you live consciously as opposed to in Fantasy Land.
When you focus on being “good”, you can end up playing a role and this may actually sidetrack you from being you because you end up becoming very concerned with presenting a person who will be ‘kept on’.
It can actually get to the point where you’re essentially tip-toeing around trying not to be, say, or do anything that might give them an opinion on you that could ‘sway’ them away from ‘choosing you’.
If and when things become difficult or it doesn’t work out, you end up thinking “But I’ve played by the rules /I’ve given them everything so why the hell am I alone / heartbroken / unhappy / being ditched for someone who isn’t doing all that I am?”
It feels really unfair especially if you’ve acted so ‘fairly’ that you didn’t really have a voice or fair representation in the relationship because you were so concerned with holding onto him/her. It’s a difficult and one of the ways this plays itself out is that after worrying about being “good” in the relationship, you worry about how you look out of it and next thing you know, you’re basically breaking them off a piece or force feeding yourself a faux friendship because you want to be “fair” and not look “mean”.
There’s no perfect answer to this whole “I’m good but bad things happen” issue. What I do know is that being “good” should be representative of your values and should happen organically as a result of you being you. Anything else is contrived and will sell you short. It may even come across as disingenuous.
Being “good” isn’t going to stop you from experiencing disappointment and hurt.
Life doesn’t work in this organised fashion of bad things and disappointment only happening to “bad” people, otherwise we wouldn’t need prisons and laws. Being ‘good’ doesn’t mean that you have the power to change people whose characters and values don’t fit in with you. Trying to get people to change or blaming you for Other People’s Behaviour as if your worth influences and even provokes it will only lead to unnecessary pain.
Relationships go through the discovery phase and go on to forge a mutual relationship when you are both in it and you’re both putting in your authentic selves, as opposed to one of you putting on a performance day after day or show-ponying around. It’s very easy for us to end up being focused on cultivating personas that we think will be attractive to someone. We try to have boxes to tick. We try to be boxes to tick and somewhere along the way we forget that we are individual people who have lives, interests, hobbies, passions, goals and dreams to live.
You can be you and be a relationship partner. They’re not mutually exclusive and if being in a relationship is separating you from your identity or causing you to act like a performing seal, you’re trying too hard.
The Tricky Situation: Heather asks, “I’ve just been dumped by a guy. We dated for a few months and he ended it because he wasn’t “ready for a relationship” yet, though he had “thought he could be” with me. He claimed he wasn’t over what happened with his exes, despite the fact that he didn’t want to be with them and had broken up with them. He says he still has guilt about how they broke up and that they didn’t get any closure. I can’t help but wonder if he is just making an excuse — can he really be hung up on how they broke up or is he not as into me as I thought he was? Over the time we’ve been together, I invested so much materially and emotionally in him, hoping that I would help him to recover and see me as the best thing to have happened to him. I had hoped that we were going to work out so much but now I just feel completely duped. Please help.”
I feel for you Heather, and the pain that you are experiencing, and I do think that you have may have fallen into the trap of trying to be the exception for this man. I read a situation where you were dating this guy, yet deep down, knowing that he had issues but thinking that you would be treated differently. Perhaps you spent your time with him pushing down your anxiety and almost praying that you get past what you might think was the rocky mark in his previous involvements. If this is the case, this sounds less like a relationship and more like a challenge.
I can’t tell you whether he is or isn’t over his past, but what is clear is that he doesn’t seem to know his arse from his elbow. He appears to flip-flap between, “I’m not ready for a relationship” to then acting as if you were supposed to be the one who was going to make him available and able to forget his issues.
His kind of guilt is more of a procrastination, rather than actually feeling remorse or guilt as he makes out. It is a way of avoiding showing up in the present and when he inevitably fails to deliver in relationship, he can play the guilt card. He doesn’t want to be with his exes and yet they are his go-to excuse; I don’t blame you for feeling confused and suspicious. His position makes sense to him but of course, it doesn’t make sense to you. His lack of self-awareness means that he doesn’t understand what is motivating him to reach for that excuse, but his position is his position.
He is distracting himself from taking action on that guilt and/or facing himself by avoiding the issue by trying out new involvements. He is bolting because getting serious with somebody means that he would have to be done with his ex and get past his past. It means no more excuses. For all he knows, his exes have had the good sense to learn the lessons from their experiences with him and have moved into more fulfilling, available relationships. It’s him that needs to sort out his own closure. That said, you focusing on what you feel is or isn’t going on with him is also a form distraction.
It’s time for you to have a very honest conversation with yourself about what this relationship represents for you. Does it represent oneupmanship over those women who tried and “failed” before you? Why did you feel that you would or ‘should’ be different to the previous woman he dated? What were you being and doing during your time with him that you felt would assure you of a ‘better’ result? What was it that made you think that you were going to work out? The fact that someone expresses interest in you or says that they want a relationship doesn’t mean that they’re locked in or that they owe you if you have invested a disproportionate amount of effort to achieve a result that is more about you winning a ‘prize’ than about a realistic assessment of what is really on offer. They are allowed to change their mind, as are you.
You have to take a level of risk. Call it the sunk cost of being involved with someone. You don’t get it back and there are no guarantees. It would be wonderful if everyone entered into dating and relationships with a high level of self-awareness, but that is what crack pipe dreams are made of. We begin dating based on an impression, and hopefully, we progress into relationship with at least a surface level idea of values. The relationship itself shows not just how values stack up in real life, but also whether or not both parties are cut out for what was intimated in the beginning or whether or not both parties are cut out for a real relationship.
I think what you really have to ask yourself Heather is, what you been focusing on whilst simultaneously ignoring?
I suspect that focusing on him is shielding you from looking at where you’ve denied, fantasised, minimised and excused. You have to be careful of making assumptions and replace these with facts. Make sure you do your homework because he just did to you what he did to the last woman. Not only that, but he gave you some intel on this throughout. My advice? If you’re ever in a situation like this again, ask more questions or at a minimum, recognise a warning to stay grounded and pay attention. Do not task yourself with with the job of trying to be The Best Woman Possible TM that will ‘make’ him be different to how he was with all the other women. Past performance is after all, indicative of future behaviour.
It is only through compassionately investigating why you wanted him at any cost, that you can begin to be more boundaried in future involvements. This isn’t about being duped, but rather more about accepting what, arguably, you have known all along. Stop melting your brain with his actions and instead, begin to make peace with yourself and let go of someone that was perhaps never really in from the start.
‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!’
The Wizard of Oz
In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy found the man behind the curtain, pretending to be the great Wizard of Oz, the spell of the Wizard was broken. The great and powerful wizard was exposed. He was simply an ordinary man, who was just able to perform some clever tricks. The trouble with fantasy is that, for some, the line between delusion and reality is blurred for those people who simply don’t deal in the truth. I am talking about those people with fantastical perceptions of themselves that are so great, that after a while, their fantasies become their reality. Why would someone go to such great lengths to claim that they are more talented/ more skilled/ more beautiful/have a better career than they actually have? Let’s take our own trip to Oz and take a look at a certain type of fantasist and an even closer look at what is behind the curtain of lies.
A self aggrandising person with narcissist traits would have been telling lies for so long and have gotten so good at it, that they really do believe their lies are truth. Rather like a child, they live in a pretend world, and much like a child with an invisible friend, it is very, very real to them. For children, living outside reality to some extent is normal and developmental. When an adult lives outside reality and creates a fantasy world they think is real, we call it crazy. We have all met someone who desperately tries to convince everyone around them of how ‘special’ they are. They do this via their tall tales of being a talented child; inventing qualifications that they do not have; claiming to speak languages that they don’t even recognise; inventing a high powered job/career to cover up their mundane, real one; making up stories about the exotic life that they live and the extraordinary things that they do. One would be forgiven for thinking that something just doesn’t seem add up here. It doesn’t.
If you call a fantasist out or question their stories, they will attack. This happens because: 1. They hate the truth being shown to them. If they know you can see through their lies, then you have blown their flimsy cover and that is terrifying to them; and 2. like a young child, they don’t want to leave their fantasy world; a dream where they are perfect and superior to everyone else. The truth is, they are acutely aware that they are not. In fact, they have very low self esteem. Much lower than you’d expect. They hate themselves and so they cling onto the false self they created. This is the source of their grandiosity. They need a constant influx of narcissistic supply to keep their false image of themselves alive.
The Wizard wanted to appear to be a powerful and ruthless tyrant, even though he was actually a weak and unassuming little man. So, he hid behind a curtain, amplified his voice and projected a scary image onto the far wall when Dorothy and her friends entered the Wizard’s castle. What gives the Wizard away as not being a true narcissist (I’d venture a guess that he was probably more of borderline individual) was the fact that when exposed, he took responsibility and showed true remorse for behaving in the way he did. To do this shows humility and self awareness, which are not traits usually exhibited by the subject of today’s post. Nevertheless, the exposure of the Wizard of Oz remains a good illustration of the way in which a fantasist and narcissist will deny reality and cloak themselves in elaborate lies to escape from their painful truth.
When all is said and done, constant self aggrandisement and boasting without substance highlight an intense self loathing and a desperate need for the world to only see what the fantasist wants to be seen. The false self constructed becomes a mask for the rest of the world to see and is made entirely of lies. This mask isn’t who they really are, but who they want to convince everyone that they are. Their attack on others stems from a deep seated envy of those who are effortlessly all that which they want to be. They may also need to protect the illusions that they create. If they feel this cover is about to be blown by the truth, they attack and rage out of terror that you may see the emptiness inside or even worse for them, the vulnerable true self hiding in the dark corners of their unconscious.
By telling themselves so many lies, they are abusing themselves as much as they abuse others, becoming more and more disconnected from anything that is real. Only, this is rarely realised. They’d rather wander forever in the confusing labyrinth of their disordered minds where up is down, north is south, dark is light, yes is no, wrong is right, and they are gods. They can’t face reality because the truth of being ordinary, and perhaps having nothing so remarkable to boast about, might destroy them. Or so they believe.
What happens if your fantasies have crossed the line into the unhealthy and there is a great disparity between ideals and reality? It leaves you feeling frustrated, agitated and resentful. It is difficult to see a way out when you’re knee deep in it. I get it – real life sometimes isn’t all that thrilling, particularly when you’ve had a difficult childhood and have had to cope with painful experiences. The need to fantasise, rewrite history and claim to be many things that are not true becomes a form of self preservation and self protection. It is not uncommon to not only get used to this mode of being, but to have greater expectations and ideas about what can make you happy. However, in rather the same way as an addict needs more and more to achieve the same high, the same is true for the fantasist. The lies and boasting become more grandiose, until they are so far fetched, that others begin to question and disbelieve. Then, the very thing that is feared, becomes a reality.
Having some fantasies can brighten up a day, remind you of your dreams and aspirations and be a source of motivation. However, you’re on shaky ground when the distortions leave you more and more disconnected from your reality and you’re struggling to remember who you really are.
To draw you closer, narcissists & psychopaths create an aura of desirability of being wanted and courted by many. It will become a point of vanity for you to be the preferred object of their attention, to win them away from a crowd of admirers. They manufacture the illusion of popularity by surrounding themselves with members of the opposite sex: friends, former lovers and your eventual replacement. Then, they create triangles that stimulate rivalry and raise their perceived value.
(The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene)
Today’s post is not about the everyday occurrences of people falling in and out of love, no matter how heartbreaking and unfair they might be. Instead, we will focus on a specific behaviours that narcissists and psychopaths use to control, namely triangulation. When I use the term ‘psychopath’, I am not inferring a knife wielding, bloody thirsty maniac, the likes of which are often depicted in film and media. No, I am referring to those characters and personality types who sit at the extreme end of the narcissist pathology continuum.
Psychopaths seek power and control and want to dominate their partners sexually, emotionally, and physically. They do this by exploiting vulnerabilities. This is why they love-bomb you with attention and flattery in the beginning. No matter how strong or confident you are, being in “love” makes you vulnerable by default. Relationships provide the perfect opportunity to consume you by manufacturing the illusion of love. This is why it’s so damaging when bystanders say: “Well, why didn’t you just leave?” You never entered a relationship with the psychopath expecting to be abused, belittled and criticised. At the outset, you were tricked into falling in love, which is the strongest human bond in the world. Psychopaths know this.
So how do psychopaths maintain such a powerful bond? Triangulation. Psychopaths use triangulation on a regular basis to seem in “high-demand”, and to keep you obsessed with them at all times. Psychopaths will manufacture situations to make you jealous and question their fidelity. In a normal relationship, people go out of their way to prove that they are trustworthy, but here, the exact opposite applies. They are constantly suggesting that they might be pursuing other options or spending time with other people, so that you can never settle down into a feeling of peace. they will always deny this, calling you crazy for bringing it up.
The issue here is that you’re accustomed to such a high level of attention after they first lured you in, that it feels very confusing when they direct that attention elsewhere. They know this. They’ll “forget” plans with you, and spend a few days with friends that they always complained about to you. They’ll ignore you to spend more time with people that they initially told you were all horrible people. They’ll seek sympathy from an ex and explain that they just have a “special friendship” you wouldn’t understand. Often, that ex is someone they first claimed was abusive and unstable.
Seeking attention, sympathy and solace from people who are not you is a very common tactic of the psychopath. As an empathetic person, and as their partner, you rightfully feel that they should be seeking comfort in you. You’ve always healed them in the past, so what’s different now? They once claimed that they were a broken person, and that you were the reason they were happy again. Now, they turn to private friendships or past relationships that you could “never understand”. Moreover, they will always make damn sure that you know something is up. This does two things: it leaves you feeling unhinged, anxious, and jealous, and it makes the competing party feel confident, loved, and special. They are grooming others (in the same way that they once groomed you) as they erode your identity. Two birds with one stone.
They want you to confront them about these things, because they are so seemingly minimal that you will appear crazy and jealous for bringing it up. They will calmly provide an excuse for everything and then switch it onto you. Covert abuse is impossible to prove because it’s always strategically ambiguous. You can’t prove anything because of something they posted, or little coincidences, but you know it intuitively. This is how they finalise the crazy-making. Let’s be honest: complaining about statuses & comments does seem immature. That’s exactly how they want you to feel.
Psychopaths are expertly skilled at surrounding themselves with over-givers and insecure people who find self-worth in taking care of others. This is why you are told that your type of giving is now so insignificant and replaceable. You may also be told how they adore qualities in others who are nothing like you, sometimes even the exact opposite of you. The message is simple: you are no longer special and you are replaceable. If you don’t give them the worshipping they deserve, they’ll always have other sources. Even if you do give them everything and more, they’ll get bored of you eventually or find something to chip away at or criticise. They don’t need you. The reason they surround themselves with givers is to have a supply of people who will always spoil and admire them, making you believe that they truly must be a great person. Appearances are often deceiving. Take a careful look around. You’ll notice how behind the image of how happy these givers seem, they all seem to have an unspoken misery about them.
The final triangulation happens when they make the decision to abandon you. This is when they’ll begin freely talking about how much this relationship is hurting them, and how they don’t know if they can deal with your behaviour anymore. They will usually mention talking to a close friend about your relationship, going into details about how they both agreed that your relationship wasn’t healthy. What? Why aren’t chatting with you about these concerns, considering it’s your relationship?
Well, the reason is that they decided to discard you, and have no doubt acted upon it. They only seek advice from people they know will agree with them. That “friend” they’re talking to is probably their next target. During the discard, if you grovel or beg, they are likely to find some value in your energy. They will be both disgusted and delighted by your behaviour. If you come back to them later with an apology, they will despise you. Why? You spoke back to them and you’ve seen too much; you’ve seen the predator behind the mask.
Exes who stay strung are like puppets to the psychopath. An ex may feel that they are fulfilling some sort of good deed as a friend, someone who will always be there for them. They don’t understand or see that they are the basis of so many fights—not because their friendship with the psychopath is special and enviable, but because the psychopath intentionally creates that drama. They are operating under the delusion that their friendship with the psychopath is brilliant, unique, and unprecedented. When in reality, they are just used for triangulation.
How can you protect yourself from this emotional abuse? First, you must learn self-respect. The bottom line is, you need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in relationship. You should never resort to calling yourself crazy in order to account for someone else’s shady behaviour. Trust your gut. If you are constantly worrying or doubting your thoughts, it’s time to stop blaming yourself and start taking action. Stop talking and start flushing.
Every single time you remove a toxic person from your life, you will find that the anxiety subsides. Some of us are better at judging ourselves than others, so this finally gives you a chance to put that to use. You can decide whether or not you like the way you feel around someone. No one can ever tell you that your feelings are wrong. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t. Trust your instincts.
Today’s access to all things social media has made internet stalking somewhat mainstream and socially acceptable, in the sickest sense. Gone are the good old fashioned days of stalking your prey in broad daylight. Stalkers have all but thrown away their baseball caps, dark glasses and hooded sweatshirt disguises. No, nowadays you can make like a legitimate creeper and learn everything that you need to know via social media. So in today’s dilemma, what if you’re hung up on stalking your boyfriend’s ex?
We can all relate to the sweet, tiny pangs of jealousy when someone we love mentions their ex. When people with romantic history start dating other people with their own romantic histories, it can highlight the fragility of love. “If he loved her then but loves me now, does that mean one day he will love someone new and she will be stalking me on holographic-Instagram?” Why am I doing this? Is this helping me, or distracting me from the real issue? All valid questions. So let’s get creative and rather than hate, try to answer this with compassion from the perspective of the new girlfriend.
I stalk your ex-girlfriend online for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I want to see what made her so special that you dated her in the first place. I know, maybe it would be easier to ask “Why did you two break up?” but I never get a straight answer. “We were just too different” or, “She broke my heart” doesn’t tell me anything. Sometimes I get a little more, like “She cheated on me” or “She moved on” but your defenses cause me to find the answers on my own. My favorite response from you is that “She was a crazy bitch.” So I try to find out why she was a crazy bitch, to prevent me from emulating her craziness. I troll her Instagram and Facebook profile or anonymously follow her in hopes that I might find out some small nugget of something to help me find answers.. Call it schadenfreude, but just knowing that I don’t possess the psychotic qualities that you lead me to believe that your ex-girlfriend has, assures me in a small way that I am better and that we may stand a chance at this dating thing.
If the breakup was a tough one, I might stalk your ex-girlfriend to make sure she is recovering normally. You know, just to monitor that she isn’t threatening to make a return into your life and to assure myself that you are completely over her. I want to be everything that she is, and more, so that you will never have any reason to leave me.
Sometimes, I’ll stalk your ex-girlfriend because I want to know what it was like to be in a relationship with you. Weird, yes. But those two months or tw0 years or 10 years dating her are two months and two years and 10 years I will never get back. Your ex-girlfriend is the most recent person you’ve been with that I can compare myself to. Comparison shouldn’t be necessary, but most people in a new relationship are a little curious as to how they measure up to the last one. If she is prettier than me, do you think I am ugly? If she is smarter than me, do you think I’m stupid? I don’t want to know if she was better in bed, but I do want to know that I’m better in bed.
Also, I stalk your ex-girlfriend because I am afraid that one day, you might wake up and realise just how good you really had it. And that’s the worst — when I stalk your ex-girlfriend because I think you are cheating on me. I know, it’s a total breach of trust, and low self-esteem on my part, but some guys just can’t shake their ex, no matter how hard they try. Love is a potent and addicting drug, especially when taken in large doses over extended periods of time. Maybe you broke up, started dating me, realized you missed her for whatever reason, and started to have sex with this chick again on the side. We all know that there is no good way to break up with someone. It’s going to hurt, one way or other. Lots of people would rather cheat than feel guilty for hurting someone’s feelings.
I know that I have to believe you. I know that I have to trust you when you say that you love me, and that you are done with your ex, and that I am so much better than she ever will be. That’s when I stalk your ex-girlfriend because I believe we are too good to be true. Because great relationships like this don’t actually exist. Because by going through the Instagram pages of your ex, I hope to uncover — and avoid — the skeleton in your closet that could possibly break us.
Back in the real world, stalking is rather like watching porn. It can be fun and exciting at first, but it can also make you feel numb, detached and a little gross. So, if you are developing an unhealthy obsession with your boyfriend’s past, try redirecting your sneaky energy into active engagement with the people you actually know, like, for example, your boyfriend.
If you’re really into your relationship, why are you comparing yourself and turning yourself in knots to be everything and more than she ever was? Look, I’m all for living your life however you want, which can include spying on social media accounts, but if that’s the case, then own it and at least be gracious about it! Hating on someone that you do not know, disrespecting them and imitating them all throw a massive spotlight on your own internal wounds, Might it be better to heal yourself from the inside out rather than hiding behind a false self?
Mockery, sabotage and hatred of your partner’s ex all stem from jealousy. What you are doing is not only toxic, but ultimately a waste of your time. We have all had scabs that we like to pick because sometimes, picking scabs feels like the good kind of bad. However, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be better off not touching them. Whatever you say or do will not change the past. Nor will it change whatever this person represents to you that has you feeling so insecure and needing to compare. Time spent trolling and competing could be time spent exploring your obsession within therapy. Maybe in this way, you would really and truly be on the road to becoming the sort of person that you desperately want to be seen as being.
Sometimes, we need to ask ourselves whether it is time to get off of the relationship/drama crack. You may be used to experiencing dynasty levels of drama or struggle in your upbringing, so it won’t be a huge stretch that you may find yourself in dramatic relationships, experiencing drama regularly in your daily life and essentially smoking too much Relationship/Drama Crack.
The key with drama or dramatising things that happen to or around you is that you place yourself at the centre of the reason for it happening in the first place. It’s also participating in Fast Forwarded situations where you experience a level of intensity in hours or days that would quite frankly scare the sh*t out of another person, but you’re right in there enjoying the high off the drama fumes, and relishing in a struggle or fight, that you are essentially having with yourself.
This is to do with our own ego image (how you see yourself) and also the assumption that people be and do things because of others, as opposed to it being their character. As a result, you can end up thinking that a lot of things are about you and hating when people don’t live up to your expectations. Drama seekers often love the thrill of inappropriate situations, intensity, and even potential danger. You like having the last word, fighting the fight, being an underdog and refusing to look for grace and peace in situations. You become that metaphorical dog with a bone.
As a recovered and ex Drama Seeker, I cringe when I think about all the quite frankly weird things that I was naive about, hung onto and that had opened me up to all sorts of crazy experiences. The truth is, much like others rocking those sequinned shoulder pads and handbags at dawn, I liked the attention because at that time, I didn’t/couldn’t differentiate between positive and negative attention.
When drama kicks off, you know you have someone’s attention and if you associate drama with normality or affection/love, the high envelops you…until it wears off. Even if you know that nothing ‘good’ is going to come of the drama, on the high you feel more comfortable, showered with attention and in control of things.
That’s pseudo attention, pseudo comfort, pseudo control which dissipates. As time goes on, especially in relationships, just like drugs, you have to create more drama to feel the same level of attention you used to and it also gets harder to climb back up from the low.
In my practice, I hear a lot about and write many posts on unhealthy and shady behaviour in relationships. I’m not talking about having disagreements, forgetting to do something and the minutae of the day-to-day; I’ve written extensively about emotional unavailability, commitment resistance and ultimately recognising inappropriate behaviour.
What fascinates me is that people know that someone’s said or done something that triggers at least a code amber or red alert in their mind and yet there they are, still indignant, denying, minimising or blaming and attacking someone else for it.
While you may claim to not seek drama, your drama is about trying to understand and control the workings of someone else’s mind – a someone, I might add, who doesn’t think and act like you, so you could never understand unless you’re planning to be like them or are like them. You then create even more drama by refusing to accept what their actions mean and instead decide that you will be the exception to the rule and make them change.
I no longer have any desire to feed off danger, inappropriateness or just things going haywire in my life because it’s like saying that I can only feel good if my life is screwed up. I just can’t stomach the rollercoaster. That is progress, given that I come from a home where my parents drama, especially my mother’s, controlled the temperature of everyone’s moods.
Drama simply does not do it for me because of the beliefs that I now hold. I don’t think someone’s trying to destroy me, I don’t believe I’m an unloveable person, I don’t think I deserve poor treatment, and I don’t believe in investing any chunk of my life, no matter how big or small into playing Columbo and investigating the bejaysus out of someone else. Ain’t no one got time for that!
You’re the only person that you can control. If you don’t like the drama taking place around you and genuinely want to be in a truly happy, mutually fulfilling healthy relationship, you have to stop participating in drama. By participating, I mean creating drama, seeking drama, pretending to be the solution to someone else’s dysfunction or trying to change people.
It’s time to be choosier about who you associate/interact with and distance yourself from those who can magic drama out of thin air! Drama comes from the same type of people and the same type of situations. Why are you trying to be the exception to the rule and why are you discounting the low that inevitably follows the high? Perhaps it is time to stop being a short-term thinker. The relationship/drama crack feels good now, but what is the cost of the medium to long-term consequences?
Once upon a time you felt like Cinderella. Your Prince Charming made you feel special and so happy. That is, of course, until you found out about Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and that trampy blonde Smurf down the street.
It seemed like one minute, you were both consumed with each other and now he’s cold, distant, cancelling plans, making excuses and you’re starting to feel like you’re annoying him.
You’ve become an emotional basket case. You’re obsessed and you can’t get him out of your mind. You’re on alert for any tidbits of information and all you see is her. His new target. The interaction is just ambiguous enough to be innocent, certainly not hard evidence that he’s cheating, but that sickening feeling in your gut tells you otherwise.
When you finally get to confront him, he blows it off and spins it, so that you come off as jealous, needy and asking too many questions.. But soon after, he grows more and more distant. He doesn’t have the balls to be honest and to tell you what is really going on, but your imagination has already filled in the blanks.
What of the new target? Well, she believes that she has just met her soul mate, she’s getting all of his attention and feels like she’s won. You’re an emotional disaster and your Narcissist is in ecstasy. All you keep thinking about is how good it was, how once you were the recipient of all his attention, how he would come to you for love, support and comfort and now, he’s directed his attention elsewhere and he’s getting love and comfort from someone else.
Then you start to drive yourself mad with questions like: What did I do? Why her and not me? Is she better than me? Is she prettier? Is he in love with her? Let’s break these down one by one:
What did you do? Nothing. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent this. What you did was trust someone that wasn’t deserving of your trust. You were tricked into falling in love with someone that seeks power and control by manipulating other people’s vulnerabilities and when you are in love, you’re vulnerable, so he made sure you fell – hard.
Why her and not you? Because she’s shiny and new. They like the challenge and the thrill of the chase. He has already won you, the chase is over. They also like neediness and infatuation, it is like inhaling energy to a Narcissist. He doesn’t want a comfortable relationship. He doesn’t want closeness and intimacy and if he stays with you, that’s how normal relationships progress.
Is she better? Is she prettier? Who cares. You can drive yourself nuts comparing yourself to someone else. It won’t change anything. it will just make you feel worse. Our battered egos always want to lead us to a place where we feel not good enough. None of this is really about her. There is one advantage you definitely have over this woman – she has no idea what’s coming – you do. You should feel sorry for her. It’s a mistake to engage her at all. I’ll bet anything that he has made up stories about just how crazy and jealous you are, just like he told you the same stories about the girl that you replaced.
Is he in love with her? No. Narcissists create the illusion of love. Every emotion they feel is short lived and superficial. She will lose her shine soon enough, and just like you, she will be devalued and discarded.
You should understand that what a Narcissist wants most is to be wanted and desired by many. This is why you will always find them surrounded by a group of admirers. Make no mistake – they actively create this, but will pretend that it is something that just happens to them. It doesn’t. They create the pretense that they are important, sought after and popular, by collecting friends, ex’s and potential targets. The more women they have, the happier they are and if there are women fighting over him, it’s double the pleasure.
Back in the real world, it is normal to feel jealous when someone you cared about has so unceremoniously tossed you aside for someone else. Our hearts are aching for justice. The fact that we were so easily replaced and forgotten may have you feeling less than but hold that no one is exempt from this treatment.
Whenever someone acts like they don’t care about you – believe them. If they act like they’re not afraid to lose you, it’s because they’re not. There will always be someone to take your place, because a Narcissist isn’t hindered by morality, attachment bonds or real feelings.
When you give up your heart and your power to someone who is incapable of caring about you, the only outcome will be pain. Remember that a Narcissist feeds off of attention, drama and jealousy. They love to create it and be in the centre of it.
Don’t waste your energy on jealousy. Know that there is always going to be a new target. Even if you “succeeded” what have you really won? Someone incapable of love or commitment. Even if he came back, you would always be looking over your shoulder and you should be. Don’t envy his new woman, because in a short while, she too will be trying to figure out what the hell happened and what the hell she did wrong.
There are many situations and topics in life that you can have discussions about, but when it comes to the recognition of shady behaviour and what in fact might be repeat shadiness, it’s time to stop discussing and to start flushing. Your boundaries are yours to uphold and if someone would go to the trouble of busting them, talking about it time again gives the impression that you’re not really that serious and are open to having them busted again.
It is not your place to raise adults from the ground up. If you don’t think that a person knows the fundamental difference between right and wrong and you feel that they lack an affinity with basic respect, then it is time to step. Sometimes you have to ask: What is there to discuss? More importantly, it’s time to ask, what are you doing ‘discussing’ boundary busting behaviour?
- I want you to explain this to me and make me feel better about it so that I can go back to deluding myself about you.
- I’ve personalised your actions and so I want to discuss this so I can find out what I did wrong.
- I wanna fix you.
- I’m used to toxic atmospheres. You pulling this bullshit on me feels like home.
- We now need to have this discussion so I can go through my drama cycle, get some validation and lather, rinse, repeat.
- I’m still in this.
- I’m not going to take decisive action.
If somebody doesn’t see things or your involvement in the way that you do, they won’t feel obliged to explain their actions. If they’ve previously crossed boundaries and had discussions with you, they’re highly likely to have worked out the pattern and will know what to say/do including stonewalling, Future Faking, Fast Forwarding and distancing themselves in order to calm you down or panic you into submission.
You don’t negotiate with your boundaries or your dignity. Ever. If a discussions and/or repeat discussions will diminish you, including undermining your credibility, then flushing this person by mentally and physically distancing yourself and moving on is the only way.
Let me tell you from personal experience – these discussions will turn you into someone you don’t recognise. A person who suffers with Thinking and Talking Too Much. I remember one ex trying to palm me off with a feeble explanation after I had discovered some of his shady behaviour. As I listened to his tale, I remember thinking, “I’m not doing this any more. I can’t trust you and you’re a habitual liar” and it had to end. Playing the fool and playing Columbo in my own real life episode of Cheaters is not my style. Sometimes you have to turn yourself off.
In a mutual relationship or just an interaction with an adult who is capable of empathy (and has an affinity with the truth), a discussion on a topic, an exchange of ideas, or trying to reach a a resolution isn’t going to leave you hanging.
There is no conversation to be had about why someone is doing you over, time and again.
There’s no debating the legitimacy and validity of your boundaries and you sure as hell shouldn’t give someone the green light to duck responsibility in their attempts to put their shady behaviour on you.
Don’t ‘negotiate’ with people who don’t even have the basic courtesy and personal value to respect you due to not valuing their own integrity. The more you discuss, the more it looks like you’re convincing you that their behaviour is about you, or that you’re trying to sell you back in to an already unworkable ‘deal’.
Stop discussing, start flushing.