Author Lionel Shriver said “The fatal flaw of good people is that they believe everyone is just like them.”
A few people have approached me recently, for personal advice about relationships that seem to have a common theme: “He/she was so horrible to me, so why can’t I get over him / her?”
What does make us pine for poisonous people?
Well, there’s grief, certainly. Grief has a long, unpredictable shelf life. Grief will take its time with all of us, and sometimes, just when we think we've mastered it, like the old game of 'Trouble' something will bop us on the head and send us back to the start.
Beyond that, though, when it comes to yearning for someone we fully know is both hurtful and hateful, I think it goes a little something like this:
Good people have a very hard time accepting that there are evil people in this world. They may believe it intellectually, but emotionally they just can’t fathom it.
It is all wrapped up in conscience. Because good people have a conscience, they simply cannot wrap their heads around the fact that some people don’t. Thus the entire experience of their relationship with the person we will from here on in call the malignant narcissist gets stored, in their brain, as “unfinished business”. As such, it becomes a task that keeps scratching at the back of their mind; a circumstance they twist over and over, like an emotional Rubik’s Cube: “If I just would have done this differently. Or maybe if I hadn’t said that.”
Because there must be some way to make it right—right? Because everyone is redeemable—aren’t they? No one is that bad.
Except some people are that bad. Some people are incapable of reparations and it is not because they don’t see what they have done wrong. It is also not because they do not know they have done wrong.
It is because they don’t care that they’ve done wrong.
Read that again: They do not CARE that they have done wrong.
What’s more, they are not going to care. Ever.
“But – but – but---“ you say, because you, the ‘good person’ who cares so much, cannot conceive of a person who cares not at all. Yet I reply:
“No.” Now listen: The part of the brain that would be capable of compassion, regret, guilt, and shame was never formed in a malignant narcissist. Therefore expecting them to feel any of those things is like expecting someone born with no hands to hold a cup with ten fingers. They can’t. They literally do not have it to give.
And no, they cannot learn it. Stop trying to teach them. Here’s why:
Imagine a baby born with no heart. What would happen? Would a heart just grow in its chest spontaneously? Could it learn how to have a heart beat and pump blood…without really having a heart at all? Of course not. Tragically, baby would die.
A malignant narcissist is a person born (sometimes built, but typically it is a nature/nurture perfect storm) with no emotional heart. So what happens? Well, spiritually, they are dead. For all time. Their body works. Their minds are often (and ironically) very sharp. But on an emotional level, a soul level…they are dead. That’s why their callousness will take your breath away. That’s why they will say things that shock—and sometimes embarrass—you. That’s why they can gaze, coldly unmoved, while you cry over the latest wound they’ve inflicted upon you. They have no feelings. Beyond appetite and anger (and their anger will be ignited, almost 100% of the time, by having not got their way, not by something emotional) they do not feel.
They pretend to though—and that’s where you can get tripped up into believing they’re like you.
They’re not. Don’t be fooled. Dr. J Reid Meloy, renowned expert on narcissism, said it best when describing a narcissist and ‘feelings’: “They know the words, but not the music.” Meaning they know what the social contract says, and they can fake it. But inside they think the whole thing is so much foolish bullshit.
Now, back to “appetite” for a moment. Narcissists in general have an appetite for many things—sex. Shopping/greed. Booze, drugs, and the altered states substances create. They also, very often, have an appetite for power, and within their appetite for power comes a thirst for dominion. Over you. And, for a malignant narcissist, wrapped into that thirst for dominion is the pleasure they derive from seeing you experience their dominion over you.
In other words—malignant narcissists feel pleasure when they have hurt you.
Read that again too.
When they hurt you—physically, emotionally, or mentally—it feels good to them.
Yes, they are that sick, and yes, it is hard to accept. Because no normal person—aka a person with a soul—feels orgasmic pleasure when they have wounded another. Narcissists, however, do feel that pleasure. They like your pain. It gets them off.
The only solution for a relationship with a malignant narcissist is no contact. Or, if no contact is impossible (some of us are saddled with family members who are malignant narcissists and we're under some obligation to stay connected to them), then thoroughly limited contact needs to be exacted—with NO EXCEPTIONS. That means superficial information is all that you share with them: the weather, a popular tv show, a benign news article/current event—all are acceptable topics to make the smallest of small talk about.
Do not share your feelings. Do not disclose anything emotionally charged, or reveal anything that’s made you happy or sad. In the highly time-limited encounters you are obligated to have with these characters, keep conversation at a minimum, and be thoroughly vague when or if they begin “mining” for more information. Remember—they are not asking because they care. They are asking because they want ammunition to store in their quiver full of poison for later. Give them none of it, and if it ever becomes acceptable to go completely no contact, do so with no hesitation whatsoever.
Because these creatures are soulless, heartless people masquerading as human. The only way to win with them is not to play.
And how do you “get over them”? Start by accepting that it is not them or your relationship with them that’s troubling you. It is your brain, the brain of a good person, that simply cannot comprehend that evil exists.
It does exist. And it hurt you in the form of the malignant narcissist who polluted your heart and took advantage of your goodness and decency.
The person you thought you loved didn’t even exist. He or she was a role the malignant narcissist played, a cardboard cut-out of the lover / husband /wife/ father or mother who you truly deserved. They did not deserve a fine person like you, and you never deserved a monster like them.
So now—be safe. Enjoy life-giving, beauty-filled things, and stories, and experiences. You deserve peace, love, and decency. Malignant narcissists are capable of delivering none of those. So run—don’t walk—away.