All I do is Attract Narcissists ... What's Wrong with Me?
Let’s say you’ve worked hard on your healing; you put in months or years to have a strong educational foundation of narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. You can look at your psychological development and feel proud of your growth and knowledge. You wake up in the morning with a mind free from the harsh characterizations of you based upon your ex-narcissist’s opinion. You returned to your beliefs that values such as morals, kindness, and connection are what’s most important in life.
You then go out into the world in this 2.0 version of yourself and find sitting before you a new narcissist trying to start a relationship with you. You can’t believe this! “But I worked on myself … how am I here yet again?” You might even start to doubt yourself and think, “I’m probably over-reacting.” And then after some time passes, you’re again struggling to have a relationship with someone who is selfish, emotionally limited, and in the throes of discarding you. The healing and recovery cycle will have to start over again whenever this ‘new’ relationship ends. Naturally, you’ll start to lose faith that there are any healthy people out there. Many will believe they drew the narcissist into their lives.
I get it. And looking at that scenario, it is easy to think you are attracting narcissists. It happened to me, too. After my psychopathic relationship, when I went on dates, it was narcissist after narcissist. Some normal men were in there as well, however the number of narcissists asking me out for coffee was high.
It would have been easy for me to think – “It’s me.” | “I must be giving off signals, like beacons only seen by narcissists and psychopaths.”
Well let me get blunt here – It’s not you! … in the beginning.
Here’s the deal. From what I have seen of pathological narcissists across the past 20 years is that they are attracted to all kinds – everybody! They love the powerful, the compassionate, the rude, the arrogant, the bubbly, the intellectual, the not-so- intelligent; I could go on and on. They are not as discriminating as we might think. They appear discriminating only because we see the final results of their efforts; we see who they ‘get‘ to stay with. And this is key, because not many will tolerate the exhausting behavior of a narcissist.
The group of partners who tend to stay involved with the personality disordered (after they have demonstrated violating or vile behaviors) are the empathic or the kind, deep bonders. These potential targets and survivors may have a style of putting others first. When these survivors connect with others, that bond is real. Many who stay with narcissists are caring, tolerant, and loyal. They can forgive their partners easily because they come from a place of understanding. They may know pain, so they innately respond with compassion, even if they are getting mistreated.
Many of these individuals have been hurt before, such as via a history of abuse, a narcissistic parent, etc. As you know, often our past will create conditions psychologically that interfere with our future relationships, as well as how to handle violators when they come in our lives. (We can dive into that topic at another time.)
The involuntary bond many survivors can easily develop with others makes their love a deep, full human experience. They do not have the capacity for the superficial and discardable surface level love demonstrated by narcissists. Unfortunately, this genuine deep bond can easily shift into a trauma bond for a survivor once their narcissist shows their callousness and selfishness.
Therefore, it is not ‘us’ in the beginning that attracted this person, because narcissists and psychopaths cast their nets out for all types. The ones they tend to ‘catch’ and pull in are often people with beautiful souls, who will tolerate, overlook, forgive, and question themselves, when they are violated by someone else.
The Value of Knowing You
You may not have been taught that you have traits that need to be protected from people who are ‘built’ nothing like you. But that protection of self in a healthy manner is vital (i.e., boundaries, confidence, comfort with saying no, etc). Empathy is a very special trait; it requires a set of neurological networks and brain regions that do not function well (if at all) in pathological narcissists. However, through abuse and trauma, the brain can change significantly for someone who is empathic. Trauma can easily send empathy levels even higher than their current state. Incredible, right!? And that can be both good and bad. The reason I say it could be bad is that an extreme amount of empathy can make functioning in life painful. Those with very high levels of empathy (brought about from abuse) will feel the pain of almost everything out there that that might be suffering – animals, society, environment, etc. Therefore, in order to keep this ‘neurological dial’ from getting turned to level 10 – you must protect yourself from people who are violators (e.g., narcissists and psychopaths). Unfortunately, empathic people and narcissistic people are common pairings. It is probably always to the detriment of the empathic person. The narcissists will nearly always benefit. They get to release their hate, jealousy, and pettiness to a captive audience who must walk on eggshells to appease an extremely fragile ego.
Let me share what allowed me to protect the healing work I put in after my psychopathic relationship. When I decided I was ready to date again, I listened to my body (tension, anxiety) and mind when I was with these new individuals. I behaved more as an observer in this ‘beginning’ stage. I put up an internal barrier and made it clear to myself that I will control the pace of this introduction period. I knew that if I did not, the consequences for me were grave (i.e., pain, anxiety, more healing/recovery).
Was it difficult? Heck yes! Narcissists can appear so fantastic and ‘normal’ when you don’t have a chance to observe their behavior over extended time. To detect patterns, the brain will often need multiple experiences with the person, particularly if the narcissist has a stellar mask. For me, that meant I had to date the individual for several months before any subtle bad behavior was displayed (i.e., sarcastic put downs of me, inability to be playful, laying out their past victimizations to test my empathy, etc). The easy scenarios were the ones who tried to move things at lightening speed, had a great deal of ‘charm’, love- bombed me, or put me on an extreme pedestal. I could immediately walk away from those individuals, as those red flags were glaring and huge.
Work will still be required when you are opening yourself up to a new relationship, even though you have gone through a healing process. Because, if you take yourself through recovery, however do not put in the work on this end as well; another narcissist will pop themselves into your life OR you will decide to stay away from intimacy altogether.
I knew myself, my values, and my worth, I did not jump to the conclusion that I attracted these people (who did not even know my name).
I learned from being involved with a psychopath that I had not been protective of my particular set of personality traits. And that was key.
I was not the attractor of pathological narcissists; I was the keeper.
In my particular instance, I kept the individual before I was bonded. I kept him when I was doubtful and had ‘bad vibes’ about him. And then as the ‘relationship’ progressed, I bonded, trauma bonded, and then found myself entangled in the life upheaval that goes with loving a pathological narcissist.
Walking away from people you realize are not psychologically healthy may not feel comfortable for you. You might feel like you are being mean. However, demonstrating your boundaries and moving in a different direction is your right as a human being. If a someone does not feel right for you, you owe it to yourself to walk away before it proceeds into involvement with another narcissistic individual.
They Love Love too
After your healing journey from this relationship, more pathological narcissists are likely going to come along. They love love, just like anyone else. Just know your traits of compassion and ability to easily connect (which is so fantastic) can make you vulnerable to tolerate mistreatment more than someone who does not have your set of traits. And you can protect those traits, with boundaries, observing, paying attention to patterns, and walking away when socially unacceptable behaviors are demonstrated.
All the best on your healing journey! And if you want to go a bit more into the educational component of healing – join me in Neuroinstincts Academy.