I want to connect what I’m talking about here to the “love your enemies” instruction, because I think it’s useful in the big picture.
We come to love them (narcissists, I mean), over time, for how they serve our spiritual growth.
This is a real love, one that accepts them as they are, and is grateful to them for being as they are… evil.
This doesn’t mean you hang out with them. It doesn’t mean you allow them back into your life. But when all the pain is properly healed, and all the lessons are retrieved, there is a very deep sense of gratitude for the role they played in your life. And out of that gratitude, and a genuine sense of compassion for their lot in this life, an authentic feeling of love emerges.
This does not deny their evil, and does not deny that they are the enemy. It also doesn’t try to change them. Instead we begin to see how all of it serves us; how they, being exactly how they are, works to help us do the difficult work of development.
This is why spending time trying to figure them out or delineating their specific pathology is a waste of time. It’s tempting to spend time in their head trying to figure them out, presumably to be able to predict their behavior better. This is the wrong focus. They aren’t a static thing. Treating them as a constant misses the real fresh opportunities that each of their expressions offers. The focus ought to be strictly within you, on the transactional nature of the specific kind of evil thing showing up in the present moment –
1. I perceive a red flag that tells me I am dealing with a narcissist.
2. He/She is about to do something painful.
3. Focusing deeply inside my own feelings and reactions – what is this touching within me? what specifically is being triggered in this exchange? what is it trying to show me about myself?
As you work through each individual thing, once you discover and process it fully, you will see that particular dynamic disappear from their presentation. As you tackle one issue after another, you will see the nature of their evil transform into further lessons (the types of things they reflect for you will change). Once it’s served its purpose – to illuminate its pain-counterpart in you – each particular demon goes away. (If it hasn’t gone away, and repeats, then there is more pain asking to be discovered and processed.).
I want to contrast this philosophically, for a moment, with what most people do, which is deny the narcissist’s evil and the harm it causes, turning them into pitiful victims, and generating false compassion for them, and calling this love. It is a blindness to their evil, and a pretending that they are good, then loving them on that basis.
If you concentrate on your own authentic feelings in the body, they will tell you that this latter form isn’t love and isn’t truth. It’s denial of what is plain to see, even for a child. It doesn’t accept the narcissist as he is; it ignores who he really is and lives in the false hope that he will change. Underneath this denial behavior pattern you will find anxiety and buckets of fear, anger, frustration and resentments, not to mention that it is a complete waste of opportunities for reflection and growth.
Mysticism always requires you to tell yourself the truth – about yourself, about the other person, and that you grapple with the very real consequences of those truths.
“It’s less what the eye sees and more what the soul feels.”
This sounds pretty, doesn’t it? It’s actually a lot more profound than it appears.
Most of the narcissist’s evil is not seen with the eyes on the surface. That’s why observers often don’t pick up on what’s actually happening. It’s in the feelings. The greatest harms they cause are psychological. The red flags show up in how the person makes you feel, not what they say or how they appear to the eyes.
One of the tell-tale signs is a feeling of being destabilized. While all things look normal on the surface, inside the body it feels as though this other person keeps knocking the chair out from underneath you. You can call this a sense of danger, but it’s more precise than that.
I think much like developing one’s other senses, developing keen familiarity with the feelings is a very subtle process that takes time; with each person working out their own way to understand and articulate the feelings.
This is not to be confused with an immature reckless reliance on any sort of undisciplined emotional whim; that is the opposite of the kind of mastery I’m talking about.
Here we are holding reason over passion, but then soul-level feelings over reason. At the same time, we are doing the complicated work of being ever-responsible for our projections and distorted vision. (If you find yourself mindless self-righteously yelling and screaming at the narcissist, trying to win the fight because you’re certain, you’re doing this wrong.).
So the deeper work then becomes a matter of distinguishing passions (which are pain based egoic drives which need to be healed and digested out), from soul-level feelings, which are giving you a deeper sense of what’s actually happening for the benefit of growth and discernment.
In all of this, we are faced with the challenge of learning how to trust and express the feelings above reason, above what the eyes see, especially when that means stepping out of social conformity and appearing potentially insane to other people. People who are not aware of how they feel, who are not doing this work, will likely not pick up on any of the soul-level feelings inside a given situation… That’s a very lonely and scary space of perception.
All of this is impossible of course, if one is disembodied and numb with dissociation. Deep embodiment and a commitment to feeling is the threshold issue here obviously, but since you’re here and reading this, I’m assuming you know all that already. 🙂