October 05, 2009

Mental Rumination: Why'd They Do That?

Maria from Stern by Joseph Wright of Derby

Mental Rumination: repetitive thinking about a topic

Mental Ruination: repetitive thinking about a topic without resolution

Okay, so I came up with the second definition but anyone who has fallen in love with a narcissist or been raised by a narcissist, will grasp the significance of ‘mental ruination’: endlessly asking ourselves WHY someone did or said something contradicting prior perceptions of who we believed them to be.

Narcissists behave in a contradictory, illogical manner. One day they encourage us to cry on their strong shoulders and the next day they disdain our sappy emotions. Their inconsistency triggers an obsessive search for reasons WHY they behave the way they do. The less we understand about narcissism, the more likely we are to be caught in a miserable loop of obsessive rumination. If we lack information about pathological narcissism, our disbelief results in false explanations that defend our unquestioned assumptions and thus relieve anxiety. This is normal. When people cannot make sense of what appears to be nonsensical, anxiety increases; we sooth our selves with tender lies psychologists call ‘rationalizations’.

People who have been impacted by a narcissist are not the only ones who are confused by inconsistent behavior, though. It’s human nature to rationalize, minimize, and deny contradictory evidence proving someone is not the person we believed him-or-her to be. The more personal our relationship, the more likely we are to extend them the benefit of our doubt because we have pre-determined their character after interfacing with them. We are emotionally attached. We likely don’t even realize we’ve made an assumption about their character and what they are capable or incapable of doing. All we know is that they’ve done enough nice things for us to trust them to be consistently nice. So when someone we’ve established trust with defies that trust with contradictory behavior, we’ll question ‘why’, sometimes creating excuses to justify initial beliefs about them.

You might take a moment to think about a typical news program when a terrible crime had been committed in a suburban neighborhood. Televised news programs love to interview people on the street so viewers can be entertained by their shocked reactions. As the news reporter holds the microphone in front of a traumatized neighbor who had known the ‘suspected criminal’ for years, what does the neighbor say? “The police say they found fifty bodies in my neighbor’s basement, but I’ve known him for years and he’s really a good guy!!!”

The camera returns to the reporter while an imaginative viewer like myself visualizes the neighbor’s brain looping through disbelief wondering ‘why’ his neighbor collected dead bodies in his basement. They’re likely thinking:

“Maybe the skeletons were there when he bought the house.”

“Maybe some horrible person buried those bodies in his basement when he was on vacation. He never locked his windows because he’s just that trusting and naïve so why would he kill people and stack ‘em next to his tool chest?”

“Nah, he couldn’t possibly be guilty. He’s lived next door to me for years and I’m still alive so he must be a good guy. He didn’t kill me and I’m not the nicest person to live next to.”

“The police have made a mistake. Damn those suspicious cops. They only want to solve the case and don’t care whether they’ve arrested the right guy or not!”

When I watch news programs like this and hear someone stammer “He’s really a good guy”, it makes my brain feel like it’s splitting in two and I think to myself, “Hey dude, if your neighbor is a GOOD guy, I sure don’t want to meet a BAD one.” It’s easy for me to speculate on the neighbor’s rationalizations because: I’m a spectator; I don’t live in the serial killer’s neighborhood; My real estate prices won’t be impacted by the news story; I do not love, affiliate with, or have any emotional connection to the serial killer; The serial killer didn’t pick up my newspapers for me when I went on vacation.

Let’s consider the outside possibility that a neighbor next door to our home (yes, that guy who mows his grass and tips the postman at Christmas) is discovered harboring a hundred decapitated bodies in his basement. We’ve known him for years. We’ve seen him go to work, come home, have barbecues, host birthday parties, mend the fence, pick up the trash, wave ‘hello’ in the morning, and bring us fruitcake for the holidays.

Okay, nix the fruitcake. That might be a red flag for sadism.

Dr. Keith Campbell offers a great example of how people get caught in obsessive thinking when inconsistent behaviors force us to question WHY someone behaved contrarily (illogically). Remember: narcissistic relationships are especially prone to obsessive rumination because something is always 'off’; i.e.: a hurtful act, an abusive word, or a selfish deed requiring a logical explanation because the narcissist contradicted his-or-her prior behaviors that were kind, generous and unselfish. If you were in a relationship with a narcissist who reflected acceptance, love and commitment, any sign that he-or-she is not accepting, loving, and committed, will cause your brain to obsess on ‘why’, endlessly seeking an answer to behavior that is inconsistent with your assumptions and beliefs about that person. In his book When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself, W. Keith Campbell explains how our brain cope with inconsistency and why we obsess about illogical behavior.

“Here is an example of a basic memory process that I use in my class.” Dr. Campbell writes. “Start out by imagining a guy named Mike. Mike is a nice guy. Now I am going to list some of Mike’s behaviors:

Mike bought his girlfriend flowers
Mike helps old ladies cross the street
Mike donates money to charity
Mike killed his cat
Mike volunteers to help the homeless
Mike dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmas

“After reading this list, what do you remember? If you are like most people, what you remember is that Mike killed his cat. Why? This doesn’t make sense, because the cat killing doesn’t fit with your image of Mike. As soon as you read that Mike, the nice guy, killed his cat, you start asking why. This is a natural thing to do----Mike’s niceness and cat killing seem inconsistent, and this inconsistency needs to be resolved…whatever the conclusions, the inconsistency in Mike’s behavior makes it hard to forget about.”

“One of these behaviors didn’t make sense and thus will be ruminated on until it does.” ~ W. Keith Campbell

Over dinner, I asked my family to consider the scenario Campbell described and then tell me ‘why’ Mike killed his cat. Perhaps this experiment increases awareness of our implicit assumptions? It was fairly ‘telling’ to hear each person’s unique interpretation as to why Mike killed his cat. Since I had the traumatic experience of one of my boyfriends accidentally driving over our farm cat, my first thought was “Oh, poor Mike! I hope somebody was there to support him in his grief!”

My nephew said, “Maybe the cat kept peeing on the carpet!”

My sister, who grew up on a farm where cats were frequently sacrificed to the great highway gods, replied, “I hate seeing dead animals on the road.”

My daughter said, “Mike is a sociopath who kills cats when he can’t get a date.”

One reason people ruminate obsessively on the narcissist is because narcissists are inconsistent and we want to know ‘why’. Their bad behavior contradicts their good behavior, so we try to make sense of what appears to be nonsensical. Another reason we obsess on narcissist’s behavior is because our assumptions about human behavior are limited. Once we learn about pathological narcissism, obsession about the narcissist tends to cease. We know ‘why’ narcissists do the inconsistent things they do. They’re narcissists. Break the mental ruination loop: expand your psychological knowledge about human behavior---both normal and abnormal. Learn about pathological narcissism. This is how to take exquisite care of your mind and your soul.


W. Keith Campbell, When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself, pages 154-155


  1. So many times I tried to make mine normal by loving him enough. Once I left I read and read and read. It was the most confusing and hurtful experience of my life. Thanks again for a great article, and as always, I love the pictures.


  2. You're welcome, Anon. Some days I don't know what to write about, there are so many directions to take when talking about the narcissistic relationship.

    As a result, I browse images in cyber-galleries. A picture will spark a thought or a feeling and inspire me. As usual though, it's challenging to put words to feelings....!

    Now and then, a picture throws me and I can't even say 'why'. I just sit and gaze at the image and don't think about anything...I just FEEL.

    There are those times when 'doing nothing' but letting our emotions move through our bodies without articulation (or action) can be the most healing thing we can do for ourselves.

    Isn't it remarkable that our bodies have a healing process of their own? We get so caught up in "Thinking" that we mistakenly assume our thoughts are more real than our feelings.

    In the case of the N-relationship, a limited understanding of pathological narcissism means we'll draw erroneous conclusions about 'why' the narcissist contradicted our assumptions.

    Maybe if we'd stop thinking so much and FEEL our way to the truth, we could avoid the inevitable craziness of thinking thoughts based on false assumptions.

    I also read and read and read about NPD and tried and tried and tried to help narcissists recognize that the issue was 'narcissism', not blaming defective people who actually loved them.

    At a certain point it dawned on me that ya can't love anyone who doesn't want to be burdened by the responsibility it takes to care about another person as much as yourself.


  3. Great thoughts-- very true. I think we do
    ruminate also simply because we want them
    to who they're supposed to be--a mother, a lover,
    a sibling, etc is not supposed to do these
    hurtful things. It just doesn't make sense and it's tough admitting that we were given a clunker when we deserved
    a well-running, dependable person. And
    that's what N folks are: total clunkers.

  4. I am wrestling with this myself. I am also wondering who is the narcissist... maybe it's me? If a narcissist blames everyone else, how do you know? And if you've lived with one and bought the lies, reality becomes askew. I was not always easy to live with. I wanted more than he could give. I was angry at his emotional, physical, spiritual distance. He always came across as the nice guy, the even-tempered one that could never please his needy wife when in reality he scorned emotion and looked upon it as a weakness. In the end he told me "it's not that I can't give you me, it's that I won't". So cruel, and yet here I sit blaming myself... and obsessing!

    Thank you for this site, I have been reading through the articles and I hope someday to dig my way out of this mindjob.

  5. I simply love your website, it is comforting and wise with lots of information. I remember using the example of Keith Campbel (i was able to order the book online here in the netherlands) to explain to family and friends why I seemed so obsessed about my relationship and the break-up. I also kept 'ruminating' about it to make sure I would never be hurt by a pathological EVER again. It also helped me to get rid of every toxic relationship I had in my life. Sometimes I even feel gratitude; I've acquired so much knowledge and I see things much clearer. This horrible experience now actually has silver lining.

  6. FacingForward,

    You said it well: "I think we
    ruminate also simply because we want them to who they're supposed to be"

    Yes! Absolutely! Who'd ruminate on someone who said they aspired to be an untrustworthy, abusive, cheatin', lying, arrogant, self-centered, pighead?

    I respect folks who tell us who they are in both action and word. They don't drive me bonkers at all...in fact, one might say they have more integrity than the rat bazturd pretending to be someone he or she is not.

    With the narcissist, what you see if definitely NOT what you get...and then people wonder WHY we're confused. ha!


  7. Or why we can't spell. Or don't proofread.

    That should be: "With the narcissist, what you see IS definitely NOT what you get..."

    ARGH...I need to get a handle on my spelling obsession. Or should I write "Spelling obsesshun."

    Lemme see how long I can tolerate a misspelled word. LOL!

    * * *

    "I am also wondering who is the narcissist... maybe it's me? If a narcissist blames everyone else, how do you know?" ~Posted by Anon

    Good question and a reasonable question to ask on a blog like mine. I've battled with fears that "I" was narcissistic, too. Especially since blaming myself fed false hopes that by changing 'my' narcissistic ways, I could save the marriage.

    I think most people worry that our obsessive self-focus during a grieving process means we're narcissistic, too. No. In fact, if narcissists were self-aware, they wouldn't be narcissists.

    I shall work on an essay for my blog and post it this week. Thank you for bringing up this topic.

    * * *

    "Sometimes I even feel gratitude; I've acquired so much knowledge and I see things much clearer. This horrible experience now actually has silver lining." ~Liselotte

    O yes, it does. Maybe we won't realize the importance of the hard work we do 'understanding' the narcissist, but I am sure that at some point in our lives, we'll be grateful for what we didn't want to know. ;-)

    I am always applying my knowledge to relationships, including my relationship with myself. Now that we're entering the Golden Age of Narcissism, we're better prepared to deal with a destructive social change. (which seems to be springing up all over the globe!)

    We've kinda got a Head Start, this time! ha!

    Hugs all,

  8. 'At a certain point it dawned on me that ya can't love anyone who doesn't want to be burdened by the responsibility it takes to care about another person as much as yourself.'

    Without wanting to sound paranoid:

    Never expect them to have the same feelings and expectations as I'd have, never expect the same rules I'd apply in human interaction.

    It's just not going to happen, in fact; I had the faulty assumptions that if you care for others, then they will care for you...

    What can you do?

    It could be helpful to give up the fantasy that if you care for someone, they will then care for you. It's nice when that happens, but letting go of the fantasy and expectations can give you a more realistic perspective... A little detachment and rational thought can do wonders.

    If trusting others to have your best interest at heart is one of your characteristics, you are leaving yourself open to disappointment, hurt, manipulation, and other dangers.

    People with a destructive narcissistice personality have their personal needs as a top priority at all times. They are considerably self-absorbed, cannot imagine being any other way, and are convinced that everyone else is just as they are... If you are in a relationship with a manipulative destructive narcissist you have encountered your partner's cheating, lying, distorting and misleading. Your partner sees nothing wrong with these behaviors and attitudes, and is not about to change. Your confrontations and challenges do not work. You may be at the point where you are very frustrated, don't know what to believe or expect, and are at a a loss to know what to do about it. Talking out your concerns with your partner does not work. You really need to come to terms with the reality of your relationship and your partner's behaviors and attitudes. Your partner is unlikely to change.

    This is a hard concept to acknowledge and accept, but it is the reality!!!

    From The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern (N. Brown).

    Just wanted to share that with you :-) x


  9. "Never expect them to have the same feelings and expectations as I'd have, never expect the same rules I'd apply in human interaction.

    It's just not going to happen, in fact; I had the faulty assumptions that if you care for others, then they will care for you..."

    Dear Liselotte,

    Isn't that the truth? It's hard to accept the fact that some people do not value community, family or other people as much as they value themselves. But that's a fact. We've all met people who were obviously so self-invested that we'd never consider partnering with them or trusting them to care about anybody else.

    The problem that i see with narcissistic relationships is that the narcissist is highly adept at mirroring the other person (or partner) to such a degree that we falsely assume we SHARE the same values. We will SEE what the narcissist wants us to SEE.

    Which means that if we are church-going, bible believing people, the narcissist will have a sudden conversion. Why not? Narcissists are accomplished actors and one role is as good as another as long as the Supply is adequate.

    If we are family-oriented and gift the narcissist with a good name and respect, then the narcissist will dot every 'i' and cross every 't' to make sure we SEE what we expect to SEE.

    Few people remain in narcissistic relationships once the N's cover has been blown. It may take awhile to stand firm in reality because we yearn for the person we believed him or her to be. The person THEY pretended to be.

    I never expected arrogant blowhards to reciprocate empathy and love. I wasn't trying to make someone he-or-she was not. My hope (as others have written) was to remain loyal to someone who professed a desire to embody the image they projected.

    I think it's important to remind ourselves that we weren't necessarily trying to FIX or CHANGE someone to please ourselves as much as narcissists proclaimed to be someone they were not.

    We had to work through our desire to support someone who was struggling (or so the N professed) and eventually accept the fact that whether the N was capable of change or not, he or she would not change.

    "If trusting others to have your best interest at heart is one of your characteristics, you are leaving yourself open to disappointment, hurt, manipulation, and other dangers." ~Liselotte

    Absolutely! I am hoping that awareness of pathological behavior will protect us from making serious mistakes in our assumptions about human nature.

    I also believe that when we have moved through the initial grief and pain of our losses, we won't be as vulnerable to rejection.

    Some people erect steel walls to protect themselves from narcissists. I tend to believe (and hope) that a more realistic understanding of human nature coupled with a healing process that revisits old hurts and resolves them, is imperative.

    Big Hugs!

  10. I am so grateful I found your writings and good common sense. I am certain I was married to a malignant NPD. The confusion is that 1) he shot himself in the head when his horrific double life and secrets were exposed; and 2) I'm still trying to excavate the remains of my intelligence & WTF?!! from the bit-o-person left after a near decade of being sucked into his vacuum of a reality.

    In brief: I believed I had vanquished demons of a former Loser (my first child's biodad), when I met NPD friend at work. He was "genuine" "sincere" and so incredibly capable I *believed* (Ok, I'm an idiot many times over).

    On our honeymoon, the Mr. Hyde persona came out. Followed by sincere, begging Dr. Hyde apologies. Fast forward several years & a child conceived on wedding night, the only time I was treated humanely was when threatening separation.

    When he finally stopped raging at me, I sadly became warmer & more affectionate again toward him bc I was given the several months of "denying" the regular abuse. Turns out, he was indifferent by then due to his affair with his co-worker (who was pregnant).

    Faster forward, without suggestion, hint or reasonable explanation (short of blaming me), he up and had to leave us. Once out, he considered "reconciliation." DARN - I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer a month into our reconciling/renewed *dating*

    He was at least honest in that he said he would provide pragmatic support (buy groceries from a list I kept track of, drive the kids to school), he could not provide any emotional support. This part I was forced to take in only because others went out of their way to confirm I comprehended.

    Midway into my chemotherapy, his 18 month was revealed. His defense was to attack me by slamming my bald head onto a metal bedpost. Thank GOD our 5 yr old son and Nanny witnessed the entire event as he spent most of the following day when released from jail, trying to give his "version" (as he entitled it) to mutual friends.

    His transparent excuses finally destroyed, he gave up.

    I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, a J.D. I was once a research professor, then high-technology patent attorney. I raised my daughter solo. She is now 16.

    What happened to me this past decade that has me ruminating and trying to make sense out of mental illness?

    That his final words to me after he slammed my head (as he was waiting for the police to arrive) were, "you-cunt-you-reap-what-you-sow..."

    Shouldn't that alone be enough for me to stop ruminating???

    It just leaves me feeling even more pathetic.

    Thank god I found your writings -

  11. Hi CZ,

    I've thought I ought to read some, give myself a bit of a refresher, so I can keep myself out of harms way now and in the future.

    I still have days where I wonder why. I dislike those times the most. It is such an uncomfortable feeling. I enjoyed this essay. Your remark in your comments (in quotes below) is timely for me--

    "Yes! Absolutely! Who'd ruminate on someone who said they aspired to be an untrustworthy, abusive, cheatin', lying, arrogant, self-centered, pighead?"


    Thanks CZ!

  12. this is a great post. bang on. thank you.

  13. Excellent post. I really needed that.... I am in the obsessing... ruminating.... drive yourself nutty phase over an EX-N. I long for a time where I can say, "Who cares?!"

  14. Man this is such a great post. I rationalized, minimized, and justified my mothers behavior for almost 51 years. I have a sister and she was more of her scapegoat than I was. It was about a 51/49 split. But we have spent our lives just looking at each other and shrugging. She grew old and is alone. This was when she turned her full attention on us. Mainly me, because my sister moved far away a long time ago.
    After all these years of just saying she is what she is and what can you do about it. I went NC and have been hit with a 50 year landslide of playing catch up. I run the same scenarios over and over in my head and just say WTF?

  15. Sorry q1605! Sometimes the only solution is No Contact. It's a sad thing when families grow apart instead of together and I often wonder if 'narcissism' is at the root of the dysfunction. People seem to know that they cannot tolerate any interaction with a narcissistic parent even when they are unable to 'pinpoint' a mental disorder as the cause.

    I hope you and your sister are emotionally close with one another. Siblings can be a great comfort in a narcissistic family. I also read countless horror stories about siblings-turned-vampire and draining what life is left when the parents were done feeding.

    Vampire imagery works well with narcissists. Even before NPD was part of the DSM, narcissism was symbolized in mythology. Sometimes the only way to save yourself is to move away or say 'no' if she knocks on your door and begs entry.

    I am sorry for everything you and your sister have gone though.


  16. This is a rather old article, but being somewhat new around here, I'm clicking on links that catch my attention in your side bar. And since this one really hits home for me, I wanted to let you know I appreciate it.

    I think I've gotten the most insight on this site than any other. It really does help to understand logically and I'm beginning to connect emotions and intellect...slowly, but it's happening. The answer, "They do what they do because they're narcissists" has served to stop my circular train of thoughts many times. There is no real answer. My thought about Mike was, "Perhaps he ran over it, while backing out of the driveway. Or maybe he tripped, fell or otherwise dropped something on it by accident."

    But I found myself with those why questions A LOT. And it helps to find an article/essay that shows me what actually went on, what it was about.

    So thank you for explaining this as well as so many other things I've experienced. It's comforting to get the explanation...sort of. However I hate to say it's comforting to know others go through and have gone through it. Since it contradicts my empathy, it's confusing. I don't wish this state of confusion on anyone.

    It sucks that people have suffered so much as a result of a narcissists behavior, but if others didn't go through the very same things, especially those willing to share it in blogs such as this, we'd all be left sort of hanging onto our ruminations and wondering why we were left spinning and spiraling when all we wanted was to love and understand and be loved and understood in return.

    Your articles leave me with a feelings of waking up of sorts. Aha moments if you will. It sort of makes the thoughts about myself, which go something like, "If I'd just communicated differently, perhaps he'd still be here."

    Anonymous Annie

    1. Oops...I didn't really finish that above thought did I?
      Basically what I was trying to say is that reading your essays gives me enough insight to be able to take a thought like "If I'd just been different...(in whatever way) he might still be here" and say, No, not necessarily. It wasn't ALL me. He has and will always have his own patterns that have nothing to do with me.

      Thanks again and hugs for you CZ
      A. Annie

    2. It's so lovely reading your comments, Annie. I spent far too much time ruminating over "I shoulda done this, if only I'd done that." After awhile, you kinda feel like you're going crazy! It was seriously like having a computer virus in your brain and you can't boot up until its gone.

      Well, learning about NPD stopped that obsessive process. Suddenly everything clicked and I could move forward with my life. Which is WHAT we need to do since the narcissist has already gone. hahaha! But it's horrid and it's painful and it IS a relief when someone understands.

      Who leaves his wife and kids after spending decades with them? A narcissist, that's who! Normal people do NOT do the things narcissists are capable of doing.

      I'm not clear what Mike ran over if you're still reading comments and feel comfortable responding?

      Thank you so much for the validation, Annie. Feel free to comment anytime.


    3. Yep. I'm still reading. I'm addicted to your blog!

      Sorry...I was referring to the list of things about Mike:

      You wrote: “Here is an example of a basic memory process that I use in my class.” Dr. Campbell writes. “Start out by imagining a guy named Mike. Mike is a nice guy. Now I am going to list some of Mike’s behaviors:

      Mike bought his girlfriend flowers
      Mike helps old ladies cross the street
      Mike donates money to charity
      Mike killed his cat
      Mike volunteers to help the homeless
      Mike dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmas

      My heart immediately went out to the cat. I have strong empathic feelings toward animals. I laughed though when you wrote that your thought was "Poor Mike." That's usually my next thought too, at least in 'real' life. But the subject being narcissism, well, there probably isn't a 'kind' explanation even though he'd lie and make one up. Ha!

      Your daughter probably had her immediate thought of psychopathy because she is aware of what you write about and your thought processes. No? LOL.

      I'm glad you enjoy my comments. I enjoy commenting. And I especially enjoy getting responses back.

      I wasn't married to the N that is now gone. In comparison to many here, our time together was pretty short (a couple years) but, it was long enough to get "hooked." And truthfully it became/turned into an unhappy 'place' for both of us. But the way it ended was truly traumatizing.

      The time factor aside and the fact we weren't married, doesn't seem to matter in the way I'm relating to so many of the things you write here in relating to a person like this.

      Much of your vocabulary and phrases are EXACTLY word for word things I've thought, said to myself and talked myself through. It's almost like someone else commented on another post that it's like you're in my mind...writing what I'm thinking. But then you go a step or two further and explain it, answer my questions. A serious breath of fresh air.

      I just shake my head at so many posts here, while thinking about how much of what you write resonates right to my core, in both the essays you write and the comments you and others add to it!

      The word uncanny comes to mind to describe similarities in experiences and behaviors, although it's sort of overused...uncanny.

      Anony Annie

  17. This was so helpful. I've been trapped in this hellish state for 2-3 years. Constantly wondering 'why?'. I've used the phrase 'not as advertised' to describe this person.

    I've wondered if, really, I'm the narcistic one. Everyone nasty thing I've let him do to me, he's accused me of, leaving me to spend so much energy defending myself against things that never happened. Only to learn, he was cheating, lying and backstabbing.

    Everyone thinks he's this great person, so thoughtful, helpful, softspoken. He's nothing like that.

    He lavished attention on me in the beginning. I was flattered. But, right away, anytime I trid to talk about something that was troubling me in my life, he would turn the conversation to himself, within a few sentences. It was puzzling and strange. He could never be there for me. He had an uncontrollable temper, and tantrums, like a child. I've never seen anything like it and there was someting always 'off' in the relationship. Now I know why.

    I don't think he really exists as a person. He's whoever he can make someone believe he is. Like skin or a shell. Eventually it cracks and the ugliness comes out. Then, he has to get a new person to make himself real.

    It's bizarre, it feels 'off' because you can't rationalize with the irrational.

    I'm going to stop ruminating (rationalizing the irrational) right now and reclaim myself. I've wasted too much trying to fix something that can't be. Thank You.

  18. Hi CZ,
    At the moment my N-friend is behaving really good for 2 weeks already. I know this can snap any moment and there are sometimes moments that I think 'There we go, he's back.` But than quickly he puts himself strait. I am almost thinking 'is he...changing?` I really appreciate it though. Now I can keep myself busy with other problems, like my N-mother for instant( I wasn't sure about her but now I know).
    Now here is the thing; I will tell you honestly that I know for sure I have had Borderline (the psychologists said it and checking the symptoms I really did), but by some miracle I have only 2 or 3 traits left. So over a period of 10 years I kinda healed. I can tell you Borderline and Malignant Narcissism are close but not quite the same (for people who name the 2 traits together).
    Now my N-friend acts like he understands things better lately and as if he is aware of what he is like. He said twice this week that he feels guilty how he has been acting towards me in the past. I do not dare to think that he is now actually healing but I answered to him that I don't dwell on the past when such thing stops happening and that I am proud of him that he starts to care about the effects of his behavior. Deep inside i am still careful. I have been through this many times before.
    Today he gave me a kiss on my head,'just because he felt like it`. Later he walked in and out of the room (checking me)where I am working (and reading your blog). He could see I was on your blog again. I told him there are some things I have to get through to heal from. I have been through a hell with my ex-husbaNd and my mom on top of it (which is really true). I will wright about it one day, but the story is so bad and complicated I am now first reading all other peoples stories to give me the guts.
    For the first time he was asking me about it (he hasn't cared for 3 years). He said he was glad I told him about it. He said that somehow he feels different lately since he is out of Holland and back in England. Again I reminded him it is not the country, because we are in GB for 3 month already and he is changed for 2 weeks.'It is not the country, it is all in your head!`,I said. He nodded,'that's true. But I do feel different somehow,`
    Dear CZ, I so much want to believe this and yes, he is way softer lately and doesn't fall out anymore. He sometimes comes up with an advice that doesn't make any sense and gets annoyed when I don't want to follow them up, but I was glad enough he made some progress anyway. And now I am thinking; I am lately talking a lot about my recovery of Borderline and that is why I was thinking in the first place I could help him with the same traits he had and I recovered from myself by seeing it (he has a lot of times wondered why the hell I had chosen for him and this is my true answer). Back than I didn't know about Narcissism yet.
    He finds it amazing that I went through all off this myself and that I think in such a mature manner.
    Is he trying to copy me or is it possible he is really trying to change?
    I am skeptical out of self-defense, but I don't show it to him. I find it way safer to know for sure he is a jerk anytime. It could be that he plays this healing game until I finally believe it and than bites me even harder than he ever has before. Or is he really...........sigh....

    1. Hi Flower bud,

      In the USA, BPD and NPD are frequently combined because of the significant overlap. I read a recent article about "borderline organization" suggesting it was easier to treat/cure BPD than NPD, even though "narcissists" appear to be more stable, confident, etc. That makes sense to me because people with borderline disorders WANT to have relationships. They VALUE relationships which supports their desire to change any behavior that hurts-or-limits relationships.

      Narcissists however, tend to be self-reliant, valuing their independence. Even though relationships are important to them, they are not as motivated to change themselves in order to maintain the relationship. Therapy/treatment is usually painful and most of us keep going anyway because we value relationships. We'd rather face our pain than lose a significant other. So that explains my view of NPD and BPD distinctions.

      The other thing to add is that Malignant Narcissism is more severe than NPD. There's the narcissistic personality disorder and if it overlaps with psychopathy, then it becomes Malignant Narcissism. Malignant narcissism is much rarer than NPD and it is distinguished by aggressive and sadistic behaviors, paranoid features, chronic suicidal behaviors, ambitious strivings for power and control, etc. I hope your partner is not a Malignant Narcissist because in that case, you may want to seriously consider ending the relationship as safely as possible. There is no cure for Malignant Narcissism. Check out my post at the top of my right column and scan through "the narcissism key" to read about malignant narcissism.

      As far as BPD healing on its own, I think that happens more times than people realize. It depends of course, on the severity of the disorder. Most women will see themselves in borderline traits, especially if they've suffered abusive relationships. It's more of a reaction (learned behavior) than a permanent trait based on psychological and emotional deficits.

      For awhile, women were being diagnosed with BPD at alarming rates but my impression is that this disorder is much better understood today than it was. A while ago, it was labeled the"garbage can diagnosis". An abusive relationship was causing the BPD behavior and s/he could eliminate dysfunctional behaviors once s/he learned about boundaries and/or ended the relationship. Is this how BPD and NPD are understood in your country?

      Healing NPD takes an average of seven years of intensive psychological treatment. If the person with a NPD is not being treated of his/her own free will, there's little to zero hope of cure. But what can and often does happen is that the narcissist adjusts his/her behavior to please their partner in order to preserve the relationship. So I guess if you consider cure to be permanent eradication of NPD-behaviors, then it will take years of consistent efforts on his part for that to happen.

      (to be continued)

    2. You seem very motivated to work on yourself and make changes that will improve your relationships with others (and yourself). But YOU are the one doing all the work and learning what your partner needs to know about himself. His disinterest in "his" issues is typical of narcissists. I think the best you can hope for in your relationship (unless he enters therapy) is that your educational and behavior changes will increase your resiliency and your self-worth in the event either of you decides to end the relationship.

      If it were me, I wouldn't involve him in my process. I wouldn't talk to him about "his" issues or threaten to leave if he didn't change. I'd go about my business improving my own life and working on my own issues without involving him. I would not keep 'tabs' on his behavior (unless writing privately about him in a journal, forum or blog). This is insulting to a narcissist as it is for anyone when someone else is judging their behavior on a good-bad scale. Practicing healthier boundaries between your process and his, will eliminate some of his defensive (and hurtful) behavior.

      We can tell someone how they've hurt us to establish a boundary and that's important. But we really have no right to tell others to change themselves to suit us. (this is something I am STILL learning, ha!) Basically, we can say that the relationship will not work if x, y and z continue to happen but then we leave it at that. They make the choice to honor our requests or not. If they won't (or can't) then we must remove ourselves from harm and end the relationship. It's a bitter pill to swallow when you love someone.

      I'm glad you're checking in with updates.... :-)


    3. Dear CZ,
      Thank you for explaining again. After reading about narcissist over and over again it is for our kind still hard to really understand it. I don't know how much they know about NPD in Holland. I have learned about it, once I was in England and in Holland no one seemed to see his problem when I told about him. The psychologists even said I was still in the typical Borderline state of blaming other people. I still feel like the specialists of Borderline in Holland don't know enough about it. But that is my personal experience.
      I do not think my friend is malignant. I also was/am training myself to understand more about it and it is not my intention to try to change him. But I was (and still am, because he is still trying to grow) confused when he made a move to do something about it. I think he really wants to, but he will not go in therapy for it. I have not mentioned therapy, because that would make him feel like I send him straight to the electric chair LOL. It just scares me when he seems to change. The harder he tries, the more the chance he bounces back, because I think he gets angry at himself it is not that easy. I am trying hard to get a job and move out. Until that time we have to cope with each other. And when I have a place of my own I can finally keep myself busy with my own problems. And than I will whine and complain about my mother 'wink` on your blog and keep on track with your stories and those of our blog-friends.
      Thank you for your time and effort to explain BPD, NPD and MNPD in such a good way. I am trying not to insult him, but I think you understand that it is hard for me with my good will and 'understanding`(that is what makes him vomit, right?) to watch my words 'wink`, but I just keep trying to see it. I just have to read your comments on this over and over again, ha!

      Big hugs,
      Flower bud

    4. I forgot to mention he helps me to get a job and move out. I still call him my partner, but we are just very good friends.

    5. Oh! I see...you are living together as very good friends, not lovers! That helps me better understand your situation. It also explains why he isn't over-reacting to your discussions about NPD. He's a friend, not a "partner." He's interested in what you have to say about narcissism and his personality but he's doesn't feel as threatened as he might in an "intimate relationship."

      My guess is that as you change and grow and work through your issues, he will change, too. In fact, the whole relationship changes when ONE person stops behaving in patterned ways. Such as the BPD/NPD relationship when the narcissist pulls her strings to feel in control and she reacts. Once we stop reacting in the typical ways we always have, CHANGE takes place. It might be a healthy change and it might be MOVING to ANOTHER apartment, but some kind of change will happen. ha!

      I laughed out loud at your comment about not telling your partner he needed therapy! Oh yes! It is like sending narcissistic people to an electric chair! Their reaction can be painfully hostile which is curious to people who are only-too-happy to use psychological services. Therapy is a relief. It's a lot of work and tears and effort; but it IS relief learning healthier ways to relate to people (and ourselves).


  19. "Never expect them to have the same feelings and expectations as I'd have, never expect the same rules I'd apply in human interaction.

    It's just not going to happen, in fact; I had the faulty assumptions that if you care for others, then they will care for you..."

    Dear Liselotte,

    Isn't that the truth? It's hard to accept the fact that some people do not value community, family or other people as much as they value themselves. But that's a fact. We've all met people who were obviously so self-invested that we'd never consider partnering with them or trusting them to care about anybody else.

    The problem that i see with narcissistic relationships is that the narcissist is highly adept at mirroring the other person (or partner) to such a degree that we falsely assume we SHARE the same values. We will SEE what the narcissist wants us to SEE""

    Yeah, they spend a while building a connection, but the second you step slightly out of line or speaking back (Expecting things of them) they start getting angry and passive aggressive and flat out cruel when it doesn't go there way.

    LOVE Your blog, explains so many errors in my life and in my relationships.

    1. Thank you for being here, anonymous! I hope that by learning about narcissism, you will find the same peace and happiness as myself.


  20. Such a great blog CZ, still !

    1. Oh! I didn't make the connection between "Liselotte" and "anonymous"!! Well, my brain has been working overtime and isn't as quick as it used to be. It may take a day or two before I make the connection but I'll eventually get there. ha!

      I hope you're doing well and moving forward with your life and realizing how valuable you really are and that you don't need to put up with mistreatment by anyone!


  21. Sigh. So true. For a long time, my hatred & rejection of him was all I had to protect my identity & perception of reality from him - and now, the slightest thought of him pisses me off so much it exhausts me too much to do anythig productive, and I can't suceed because the thought that he'll pat himself on the shoulder for it disgusts me to such irrational degrees...

    My counsellor thinks moving out of the family home could help. I hope she's right...

    1. You are living at home with a narcissistic parent? That can be excruciating, Kendrix. Once you are able to live on your own, you'll realize how competent you are. Daily life with narcissistic parents can grind down our confidence and ruin our self-esteem. The good thing is that we can "heal" and this is what I wish for you...that you are able to separate yourself from mistreatment and restore your self-esteem and worth. That you will be free to be yourself. It happens all the time. Have hope.



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