Photo by Jean-Yves Matroule on Unsplash
A few times, I was casually sitting on a grassy field when my nervous system kicked in, as a perceived threat in insect form began swarming around me. I felt myself tighten and flinch, prepared to flee or fight. As the black and yellow striped insect landed on me, I realized, upon closer examination, it was only a fly.
Hoverflies are a type of fly that have evolved over time to look like bees, developing black and yellow stripes across their bodies. It was a move of self-preservation. Nobody fucks with bees, but nobody cares about flies. The flies realized, if they could look like the bees, humans would think they had a stinger and not swat them away without a flinch.
Have you ever found yourself forging a stinger in self-preservation?
It's easy to hate the narcissist. They demean and attack, passive-aggressively making you feel tiny and worthless while putting on a show to everybody else that they are the good human.
But narcissism comes from a place of hurt. Often developed from childhood trauma, it's an act of self-preservation; narcissistic traits are employed to protect deep, unacknowledged emotional wounds. As a kid, their needs were not met with care or empathy. As an adult, they overinflate their needs, project their problems onto others, and never admit that they are the problem.
Since it comes from a place of trauma, narcissism can be healed, but avoiding that first step, the step of admitting you are the problem is a vicious cycle.
So how do you know if you are the narcissist?
If you're asking, you're probably it.
Just like the flies that grew yellow stripes on their backs to self-preserve, many of us, whether or not we have a "narcissist personality disorder," have learned that if we hurt first, we won't get hurt.
Who hasn't learned at times to protect their own vulnerabilities by attacking those of others? We take the soft parts of ourselves and wrap them up in the illusion of a stinger. If we take the first sting, we can't be stung back, right?
Have you ever intentionally made someone else blow up in order to win an argument? If they blow up, they are the unreasonable one, so you win. We've all done it.
I can say with confidence that I'm not a narcissist. (My therapist agrees.) As a Scorpio, I know I can be an asshole sometimes to cover up my own watery, vulnerable emotions. Scorpions have stingers, but more often I sting myself.
I've read those working Scorpio tend to keep hurt to themselves, then when they finally feel the need to defend themselves, they take out the sharpest knife they have and stab you in the gut with it. But this isn't a trait specific to narcissists and Scorpios. It's a defense mechanism that many have learned.
In a fight, take the first punch, right?
With narcissism, hurting someone else creates a feedback loop. If they hurt someone, that person is then reliant on the narcissist to ease that pain. It makes them feel needed.
In a non-narcissistic person who just uses these techniques to self-preserve, they may feel bad after the sting. I know sometimes I've taken a fight too far, using my words as a weapon and finally saying the final thing that went just a little too far.
As I get older, I develop more self-awareness around how I show up to conflict. But when I do take that final jab, I'm so overwhelmed with guilt that it hardly matters who started the fight, I ended it, and I'm the asshole.
Disagreements are hard. Fighting is hard. But it also comes with the territory of having relationships with others. It happens in families and marriages and friendships, and conflict, in some form or another, is just part of those dynamics. No relationship is perfect.
If you're asking yourself if you're the narcissist in a disagreement, the answer is probably yes. It doesn't mean you have NPD, but perhaps you've learned a narcissist's methodology of self-preservation. You've learned to take the first punch so you don't get punched. You've learned to protect your soft, vulnerable insides with a sharp, poisonous stinger. But you don't have to show up that way.
If you're having a fight with someone you love, take a breath. Step away. "Don't go to bed angry," is terrible advice. If you're fighting, your nervous system is worked up, which can take control of how you show up to that fight. An activated fight-or-flight nervous system may cause you to say things you regret. Sleeping resets the nervous system. Take your disagreement, shelve it, and come back to it tomorrow. Perhaps it won't even be as bad as you thought.
Like the yellow-and-black striped fly that wants you to think it's a bee, we've all learned to protect ourselves using the worst qualities of humanness. We all have stingers inside of us, but as conscious human beings developing our own self-awareness, we can make the choice if we are going to use that stinger or not. Choose not to sting.
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