There’s something important about human psychology – we tend to believe what people say regardless of what they do. We focus on what is said, rather than focussing on what the patterns of behaviour are.
This week in both the world of work and in love, I’ve been reminded of this as I coach a number of people who are struggling, hooked in relationships with narcissistic personalities.
We recognise narcissim by how unstable, unpredictable the relationship is. The on off quality. The great one moment, can't do anything right the next quality. The walking on eggshells around someone. Never being able to please someone. How everything is all about them. How you might feel gasslighted - being told how you feel is wrong, you're making a mistake, no matter what, its all your fault. You're left feeling if only you could just get it right, it would be great, exactly the relationship you want.
In this blog post, we are going to get into this a bit. We'll explore what is it to be hooked? how do we get hooked? and how on earth do we get unhooked?
What is it to be ‘hooked’ by a narcisst? Hooked is when we feel like we can’t escape. Not physically trapped one hopes, usually more of a mental and emotional trap. We feel stuck on a rollercoaster of super highs and terrible lows with no stability and yet we can’t walk away.
Why do we get hooked in the first place? We need the validation or love of this person. One minute we get so much of it, we feel amazing. Suddenly, abruptly and seemingly arbitrarily the good standing/love is withdrawn and spiteful punishment is rained down. We struggle to make sense of this, feel like if only we could just figure this out, the amazing side of the relationship would be consistent. This is the lie that keeps us hooked.
How on earth do we get unhooked? Unhooking yourself from this pattern is akin to addiction. If you haven’t been exposed for too long, it’s not that hard to kick.
If however you’ve been in it for years, on off on off on off on off on off on off, you can’t help but be addicted to the drama, the intensity of it all. Perhaps you only feel a kind of comfortable, a kind of rightness when you’re in it. You don’t feel comfortable in a normal loving relationship, it feels alien and you aren’t sure if or how you do relationships like this.
You’re so used to the focus being on the other person, it’s always all about them, you perhaps don’t even realise you’ve lost your connection to yourself. Everything you talk about, all your needs are filtered through what they want, or are or are not willing to do.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you care about how you feel, if you’re willing to do the inner work on yourself – exploring your needs, values, beliefs and behaviour patterns – you can evolve beyond this pattern and free yourself.
A lie that keeps us trapped is that we are unlovable – that only this person understands us and if we can’t get it right with them, we can’t get it right with anyone. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are hooked by narcissism, your self confidence, self trust, self belief all become depleted, our self-esteem is on the floor. Yet when truly love and value yourself, you radiate a frequency that attracts others to you – like attracts like.
And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with you if you managed to get hooked, it’s likely a sign that you were perhaps feeling a bit lonely. We all have needs. We all need to be held in esteem. We all need to take care of ourselves and be sure we are surrounded by enough community, friends and special ones so we don’t leave ourselves vulnerable.
I can also tell you from my own life experience and from my coaching practice that it is not easy to be a narcissist. This pattern arises from critically unstable self-esteem and relying on a strategy of self-protection through putting others down and always needing to be right. Narcissists don’t understand what the issue is, they just want people to step up and be more like them.
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you know I take a lot of inspiration and wisdom from Buddhism and here too I’ve learned so much that has helped me. Firstly the wisdom to not make enemies or victims.
I do not advocate at all for demonising narcissists – rather to recognise it takes an enormous amount of skill not to be harmed or to harm them in relationship.
Great Relationship Skills can be learned – how and what to listen for, recognising manipulation and hidden envy, how to communicate more effectively, how to influence, build trust and engagement, building the muscle of really hearing what is being said and matching words to action, recognising incongruence.
If you are struggling with this pattern in an important relationship in your life, please don’t struggle alone. Explore through coaching with me. Reach out to Self Space for therapy. Life is too short to be trapped in misery, no matter how addictive it is, you deserve more.
Here I walk you through step by step many useful and practical techniques for emotional intelligence and how to make friends with your mind.
And provide you with other resources that may help you grow including meditation and more.
15 min guided meditation set to soft music to help you calm, soothe and release fear.