Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys
‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ is a translation of a Polish proverb, used when one can look back on a former partner and relationship, whilst safe in the knowledge that they are now someone else’s problem. When a relationship is over, it’s over, right? Well it is, unless you are dealing with a narcissist. After many moons and whole years of freeing myself from the grip of one, would you believe it, he is back for a third attempt. His efforts to get some supply have become just plain embarrassing, because the world has moved on; except him. I am not the same person he once thought he knew, nor do I have the same perspectives or trigger points. Yet there he is, still trying the same tired old tricks. Square pegs into round holes. Wasn’t it Freud who defined insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results?
Narcissists like to play this game. They love to play the victim of their previous relationships. They will attempt to get their new target to feel sorry for them. The more they can convince the new target how awful a person their ex was, the more the new target will try to prove that they are nothing like the ex. Classic manipulation tactics. The new target will want to prove they are the very person that the narcissist deserves and can provide the right kind of love that the “poor” narcissist has been searching for. The new target may think that they have just struck gold. Little do they know. It’ll be the same new target who will tell anyone who will listen that they are perfectly okay with the extradyadic behaviour of the narcissist and who will get weirdly enraged that the narcissist has been rejected. How dare I. His reappearance will no doubt be explained away as being part of a perfectly constructed and co-created plan. Of course it is…denial and delusion are fantastic bedfellows when trying to save face and justify why you’re clinging onto a fantasy. The term codependent springs to mind.
Let us try to maintain some sympathy though, as Lord knows it is challenging and exhausting being involved with a narcissist. It is especially exhausting when they try doing a reappearing act months and/or years after the fact. So, how does the narcissist justify repeated contact attempts after a significant period of time has elapsed? The answer is in the timelessness of the hoovering tactic. You see, the narcissist lives a compartmentalised life where time basically stands still, allowing them to juggle numerous compartments, go completely silent and return to the scene of the crime as if mere seconds have passed. How do they do this? Easy! To a narcissist, time basically stands still. Like some ageing, lycra-clad super hero, they believe that they can swoop in and pick up where they left off because time and tide will be waiting for them. The thing is, time doesn’t stand still. I did not need rescuing then, and I certainly do not now. This means that the superhero is left no longer looking dashing and powerful, but rather pitiful, pathetic and a little embittered in their attempts.
At this point, there are two paths to choose between: the path of least resistance or getting the hell out of dodge. I think it goes without saying which path I took. Imagine, if you will, had I gone down the path of least resistance; re-engaged and started contemplating another proverbial trip around the mulberry bush with him. He may admit that he has issues (no sh*t Sherlock) but then make no indication of whether he is dealing with them and in fact, would probably just be resigned to them. Flattering, not. ‘I have things to offer you’, he protested. Really? He doesn’t really have anything to offer (no washed up wannabe super hero does) unless, in this case, you’re prepared to play Pollyanna. He hasn’t dealt with the issues that keep breaking his relationships and he doesn’t like to be alone. He is basically looking for a quick fix from a woman that he still believes can always rely on to get a good reception.
When the hoovering ex tries yet again to come back into my life, would I even contemplate putting my hand back in the fire? Definitely not. I steer clear of toxicity so I wasn’t exactly busting a gut to take up the role of Mummy to help sort out his sh*t for him. Life keeps throwing you the same lessons until you heed them – so understand this. Understand that the narcissist is highly unoriginal in the patterns they employ and would repeat them on anyone, given the chance. They will continue to live via these patterns, no matter who they meet. There are no exceptions and no one gets to win. It is the same script, different cast. It is a shallow and desperate existence, which is why they project this on others. They attempt convincing others that they are the same as they are because misery does indeed, love company.
You will have no regrets when you start listening to yourself and grow as an individual. Regret kicks in when time passes and you find yourself in the same situation. And so it is with a narcissist. Narcissists don’t love, they secure supply using the same tricks and trap that supply with what appears to be love, but isn’t anything near it. They repeat the exact same pattern over and over again. Whilst healthy and non pathological development means change and growth, the mentality of a narcissist precludes them from doing this.
The narcissist in point struggles to understand why he isn’t able to just insert himself back into my life and pick up where we left off. I explained yet again, he had his chance and now it is over. My life and those in it are for me to know and I see no reason to disclose details, only to have him think I’m trying to set up a Game of ‘Let’s You and Him Fight’ (Berne, 1962). I have nothing to prove to him as his opinion of me is genuinely inconsequential. I felt sad to think that someone has nothing better to do with their time but hope to show up in the lives of their exes with a text, email and friend request on Facebook and just like that, the Reset Button will be pressed. What is clear is that he finds himself in an unhappy place; isolated; few friends left and he wants out. I am not that way out. Like all adults, he needs to face up to and deal with the consequences of his poor choices.
When a narcissist goes through their mental roladex of who is most likely to still be open to them and they think of you, it is because they’re living in the past. They tend to get in touch before and/or after they’ve hurt someone else, so that you can pump them up and give them a clean bill of health, like “Look, I’m not that bad! My ex who I’ve effed over a few times will still give me the time of day!” Then, they launch themselves into their next relationship.
Now let’s get back to our pathway of choice. Using the perspective that you only get with time and distance, you have the power to draw a line under such attempts and handle them with high esteem. Remember that nobody can breeze up in your life time and again and wreak havoc without your consent. When a Narcissist is pursuing you, do not misinterpret it. What it really is, is an attempt to control you and is a complete disregard for your wishes and your boundaries. If you tell someone no and they continue to pursue, that’s incredibly disrespectful and fully indicative of someone whose only interest is in their own needs – not yours.
Narcissists need people more than most. Their entire sense of self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the admiration of others, so their emotions are a precarious balance of needing others and having no empathy. When a Narcissist is bent on revisiting a supply, they will throw everything at you to see what sticks, much like a chef will throw pasta against the wall to see what hangs on. Extricate yourself from the cycle of insanity and see the narcissist for what they truly are. Remember the insanity of doing the same thing and expecting different results? There is absolutely nothing for you in the crazy circus. Don’t be just another monkey. In fact, you could also try not being a sheep…