A modern funky account of disappointment, deceit and a curious twist of plot
A while back I was in a support group for adrenal fatigue. We shared stories and the “therapist” (who had no personal experience with adrenal fatigue, at all) guided us as he saw fit.
Most people, including me were there to prove to social security officials that we were trying hard to get better…and that we ‘deserved’ financial support (it’s a bureaucratic battle out there). Thus started my immersion in “group therapy”.
Fortunately, I had a mind of my own, and after a series of meetings I was offered a follow-up but decided I’d “learned enough” (In fact, those meetings exacerbated the fatigue, but that’s another post)
And then things got interesting. I discovered the parallel universe that connects Monty Python to narcissism and to that particular therapist (let’s call him T). Here’s what happened:
I called T to tell him the good news (I am healed, I am healed…) and we had a funny conversation. It went something like this….
Me: I’ve decided to stop with the group
T: Do you think I am surprised? …
-this was not a rhetorical question, he actually waited for me to answer.
T: I was expecting you to decide to quit (sounds cheerful)
– at this point I naively assume he is in agreement-
T: (after some chitchat) “You made the wrong decision. If you’d discussed this with me before I could have advised you well [blabla]
– He still sounds strangely cheerful.
There is a bit of a back ‘n forth argument between us at this point, me determined not to lose my trying-hard-to-heal-status, and he concluding with:
“The way you’re going about things will get you nowhere beyond the superficial”
Which is T-code for: ‘you silly stupid woman, you will never get better this way’ (thus spake the practically clueless yet theoretically educated T).
And that was that.
People always complained I was ‘too darned deep’ and now I received official confirmation to the contrary. Should I be happy?
The weird things was, he definitely sounded happy through all of the conversation. In fact, he audibly bubbled with enthusiasm the moment he allowed himself to point out my “wrongness”.
Slightly odd for a ‘caring’ therapist, you’d think.
In retrospect it seems that, from his point of view, our whole conversation was a wonderful illustration of his superior insight into my soul. Never mind that I’d provided all the info. In fact, any independence of thought on my part was likely interpreted as “delusional”.
How do you argue with someone who truly believes he is Napoleon? You don’t. You politely thank him for his -&%$@*77*- time and you leave.
And that’s that.
T is a narcissist. It took me a while to nail that. How could anyone out to help others be a narcissist? It made no sense initially, until I read about the ‘hidden’ type. The rest of this story is about how I discovered the final clue to parallel universe enlightenment.
It’s hard to describe how T wove insult into ‘helpful advice’. It keeps amazing me really, and the bad news is, he is not alone. There are quite a number of people out there, who will fire all kinds of information at you, without any intent to communicate anything in particular apart from “you suck”. And they can do it beautifully. They can sing it as lovely as a sonnet, shine while saying it like the purest sunlight. As they put you down, they soar to increasingly poetic heights. They dazzle you while -in scribbling away in their hidden agenda- they brainstorm “10 effective ways to punch you out”. That’s why a constructive interaction of any sort is virtually impossible. You try, you fail.
Somewhat after that phooey phone call with T, I was looking for some happy medicine to flush out the narcissism nausea. I turned towards my Monty Python collection. Obviously! For I realized something for the first time – listening to some sketches from “The Holy Grail” I gained a new psychological perspective: King Arthur is a narcissist.
King Arthur goes around demanding that people obey, whilst he is unable to put together a coherent argument about anything. He is unable to put together a coherent argument because the only message he truly wishes to communicate goes along the lines of: “obey me, do as I say, I am king and you are nothing compared to me” and such variations on the general theme. I always perceived these sketches as funny and slightly disturbing. Now, a deeper layer is suddenly revealed. Not only is narcissism a big theme with the Pythons, many sketches explore coping strategies: how do you deal with someone who endlessly and successfully drives you mad?
Some top solutions the Pythons came up with (not only from ‘The Holy Grail’):
1. You launch a cow at them (from the castle of Louis de Lombaaaaaaar). Applicable when you are out in the country.
2. You mentally label it as a political campaign between the “silly party” and the “sensible party” (realizing all the time that the silly party will get all the votes). This is a psychological carry-along mechanism to apply anytime and anywhere.
3. You convince them that being truly awesome involves diving down the beak of a bloody great crocodile and you hope that they get crunched to bits whilst simmering in their own greatness. This involves some more narcissist know-how, but when you can trigger their need for endless self-congratulation you’ll find that a strange kind of blindness ensues, otherwise only found in people that are in love.
4. You conclude that all they can possibly be after is sex and there’s probably more truth to that than anyone wishes to know. (parrot sketch)
There is a great, insightful, practical little book about narcissism called: “Disarming the narcissist. Surviving and thriving with the self-absorbed” by Wendy Behary (2008) New Harbinger Publications.