When my husband and I first started dating, he was coming out of a toxic, unhappy marriage just as I had ended a toxic 3 year on and off relationship that, looking back, made me so miserable that I almost can’t believe I dealt with it for as long as I did. I believe it as an act of serendipity that my husband and I found each other how we did and when we did, as timing, with most things, is everything. Sometimes we have to have a few (or 1000) crappy experiences to be ready for the people and experiences that are meant to guide us on our path long term.
We found that both of our exes were so remarkably similar at the root of who they were. Both were selfish, blamed us for everything going wrong in the relationship, lied, cheated, manipulated, and brought out the worst in us. It turned out that after coming out of those relationships, he and I wanted the same thing from one another. As he put it, “Just plain old boring monogamy.” I don’t think that’s mere coincidence. I think we often take experiences for granted when most of life isn’t happening to us, we are creating it with our thoughts and choices.
One yogic principle that is difficult for me as a yoga practitioner is this idea of letting go and surrendering to the flow of life with its inevitable bumps and road blocks. When things don’t go my way, I tend to get irritated and rigid. I thrive on order and routine. When that’s upset in some small way, I just go overboard. Since I tend to be reactive to small bumps in the path like say my husband waking up earlier because of his new job and interrupting my quiet morning meditation time, imagine how I react when someone deliberately pisses on my parade. My ex would do it all the time. He would say he was going out to dinner with some woman and that no, I wasn’t invited and also that if I had a problem with it, the problem was just that, mine. There was nothing wrong with what he was doing. This happened frequently in our relationship and it made me question everything about who I was, my own insecurities and pushed my boundaries way beyond their boarders.
The word “narcissist” seems to be a common malady these days. I imagine it would be difficult if not impossible for a professional to diagnose one. We must remember these people completely lack empathy, so there’s this “me, me me” mentality they have that won’t be obvious right away. Nothing is ever wrong with them, it is always you and everyone else they can no longer charm or control. They have an exaggerated sense of who they are even when it’s not warranted; they are always the smartest, best looking, hardest working, best parent, most talented, and so on. There is always a lack of remorse for the drama they stir into the daily pot of another’s life, often done passive aggressively to make everything look like an “accident”. If you try and stand up for yourself, they immediately claim they are being victimized by your abuse. They may even tell you that you are insecure and creating the drama in your own head, a tactic called gaslighting. Getting into an argument with someone like this is often maddening; you’d have more luck arguing your case to a stone wall. Just when you think you’ve had enough, they will often flip on the charm (but not apologize) and suck you back into their orbit.
I’m not just talking about the Kardashian look-at-me-brand, but the often insidious charm-the-pants-off-you-then-use-your-weaknesses-against-you brand. They are very good at what they do and what they do is read people, get them to open up, then exploit them and get what they want. Since they’re so much fun, charming, socially intelligent, and often bright, it’s easy to get trapped in their web and lose our sense of self, which is exactly what they want. Once they have robbed us of who we are, it’s that much more difficult for us to get out one their true colors finally show through.
When I was with my ex, I questioned who I was to my very core. He would put me on a pedestal so much and tell me I was so smart, so cute, so wonderful, that my walls would come down and I would reveal and confide in him some dark parts of my shadow self. Something everyone has, yet when you share these with a narcissist, they will use that information as ammo should you try to stand up against an injustice caused by them. When I finally got out of it for good, I was left having to almost start all over again in my path to healing and trying to get back to my life, not the one he was creating for me by manipulating me through my weaknesses. He made me believe I needed him, because that’s what narcissist do. Now I can’t believe I spent so long banging my head against the proverbial wall for him.
I first learned the term “gaslighting” from this man. This is a manipulation tactic common with the narcissist and difficult to spot when in the midst of their orbit of deceit. They plant seeds of doubt by using techniques such as denial, contradiction, projection and lying. It’s used to confuse you and make you question your own reality. As he described it to me, I could feel the anger rising through my pores. What he was describing was the exact shit he was doing to me! I knew in my heart at that moment he was gaslighting me! I tried to point that out to him in a fit of rage but with these people it is literally no fucking use. He just used my anger against me; my reaction gave him the ammunition he needed to say “See?! There is something wrong with you! You need help! I never did that; I have done nothing wrong!” I heard this line a lot in three years.
That’s common amongst the narcissists: “I have done nothing wrong! I don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re crazy/inconsiderate/angry/bitter/jealous/insecure….” My husband’s ex has said all of those things to me anytime I’ve stood up for myself or him against her verbal abuse or boundary pushing. Of course, logically I know she does things on purpose in order to incite a reaction from me (or us) and then use that reaction as fuel for her gaslighting war against us. It’s just what people like this do. The best thing to do when they passive aggressively push a boundary? Don’t engage. Remember? It’s literally no fucking use anyway. Let them plant their own karmic seeds in their own garden of shit. Never, ever give them ammunition.
Toxic people can act as boulders in our path and dealing with them is like trying to push them uphill with us. We may love them so much that we want them to see the way they hurt us so that they can change and become better people because we see so much potential in them. It’s easy to want to see only the good and gloss over the bad. Who hasn’t done that? With the narcissist, it’s a dangerous practice. They will use every ounce of their charm and wit to prove they are the best, and the most loving, and then use all of your weaknesses and insecurities against you in order to continually prove their worth.
Always remember what I said and I repeat: It is no fucking use. Give it up. It’s best to not get caught in their cycle of drama. Trust me, once you see it, you’ll know what I mean.
They won’t see the error of their ways until they’re ready, and that time will probably never come. They swim in a sea of their own bitterness when they can no longer control and manipulate people and situations they once so easily could before. Leaving them is near impossible until you actually do. Don’t expect them to give up so easily, but by all means get out. when I left my ex, I blocked him from my phone and for months he texted from some internet phone number that wasn’t traceable just to harass me. He even signed up for yoga teacher training when he had no interest in yoga before and now teaches in the local area. If you asked him about me, he would say I’m crazy. I don’t care. I’m just glad he eventually got bored with me and gave up. My husband isn’t so lucky; he has a child to share with his ex, so I also get the joy of dealing with her drama.
The best thing I have found is to completely disengage. Yes even when there’s children. There is no such thing as co-parenting with these people unless you’re perfectly happy to be their puppet and do it all their way. Otherwise, Google Parallel Parenting and use it for your own sanity.
So since people like this will probably be a fact of life at some point, how can we bring this peace of mind (yes, I said peace) into our hearts and minds and not allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in their own little dramas that they create? How can we respond instead of react?
Let’s take a look at a couple of principles from the Yamas and the Niyamas. Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence, and Ishvarashvara Parnidhana is the principle of surrender.
At first glance Ahimsa seems like a no brainer, but I challenge you to think deeper on this concept of violence. Of course I won’t kill someone, but there are times when I say that I wish a certain person would do the world a favor and walk out into oncoming traffic in the passing lane of the autobahn. That right there is violent not just towards the other person but also towards myself. These are the unproductive thoughts that plant toxic karmic seeds for the thinker. What’s the point anyway? How does thinking this way benefit anyone? It’s easy to get triggered when someone is treating us like garbage and when we’re the ones catching the blame for the drama they love creating, but wouldn’t it feel better for us to simply let it go. At the end of the day, and the end of this life, it doesn’t matter what these people think or say about us. What matters is how we felt about ourselves and how we treat others. So who the hell cares?
This is where we get into Ishvara Pranidhana. Surrdender.
Ahh it feels so good when you do, and this is where you get to “win” and the narcissist will “lose.” A narcissist will never understand surrender because they’re too busy scheming ways to control and manipulate you and others. When they aren’t doing that, they’re creating dramas in their own heads to keep convincing themselves that their enemies are just that: enemies. Sound like a shitty way to live? I’m sure it is. Do you want to be that person? Hopefully not if you want to live a fulfilled life.
But sometimes we may wonder, am I a narcissist? How can I judge someone else as such when maybe I’m the problem, right?
If you have to ask, you aren’t. A narcissist would never ask if they were one. They would never even question that there was anything wrong with them, remember? If the term was presented to them they would quickly throw it back your way. It would be as lame and childish as them saying, “Nuh UH you’re the narcissist!”
That’s what they do; they project. They don’t self-examine. If you self-examine in an attempt to weed your own personal garden and grow more fruitful plants then congratulations, you are not a narcissist.
So with gratitude for those who have been my biggest teachers by showing me how not to be, for showing me parts of myself I needed to change or modify so that I don’t inflict pain on others or myself anymore. Gratitude to those who serve as my positive guides now and show me what real breathing, genuine love is. Gratitude to myself for knowing the difference and making the effort to become the person I am meant to be so I can make a difference even in a small way, to my little community of people who love me big.
Maybe as we find ourselves triggered by these toxic people who Eckhart Tolle forgivingly calls “Unconscious”, we can develop some compassion for them.
Believe me I know, easier said than done. That’s why it’s called work, and that’s why yoga is a practice.