Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who is narcissistic? If so, I feel for you. The turmoil, gaslighting, games, and manipulation are overwhelming! I know because I’ve married two of them!
Sadly, the main source of the continued confusion is that nearly all books, chatlines, and even experts focus all of their efforts on figuring out the narcissist. How to handle one, how to spot one, and what causes one. But I want to talk about the person that’s attracted to the narcissist, which might be you? This will be groundbreaking for you because very little has been written about what really causes our attraction to one.
Before we start, I want to clarify that I am not making excuses for the narcissist's behavior or advocating that we should minimize the pain they cause. I know that pain all too well. The withdrawal from my second narcissist wife nearly caused me to take my life. Instead, I am advocating for those of us who have fallen prey to their deception. In my experience, the best way to advocate for anyone is to empower them. Facing our own deception generates that empowerment.
The first hard truth to accept is that we play an equal part in the relationship and the dysfunctional dynamic with the narcissist. We cannot divorce ourselves from the truth and responsibility we chose to be with a narcissistic individual. Take me - like all men, there are millions of women to “chase,” yet I chose two narcissistic women. That is my responsibility. I am the one constant in both relationships. We all have the responsibility and ownership for who we allow into our life. Though we are not to blame, we were doing the best we could with what we knew at the time; we are still responsible. We must resist the temptation to deceive ourselves and place all of the responsibility on the narcissist. This is the first truth we must accept to get what we really desire: love.
So what makes us attracted to a narcissist? To discover what creates the attraction, we need to understand that Narcissists are created, not born. They experienced massive trauma as children and developed a maladaptive personality to survive. They may have experienced neglect, abuse, over-indulgence, or under indulgence, to name a few. Unfortunately, the adaptation they developed was to become falsely empowered to avoid feeling the original pain.
The reverse is true for people like myself and those of us who have been with a narcissist. We, too, have gone through horrific childhood trauma, which was primarily experienced as abandonment. This created the polar opposite adaptation, disempowerment. As disempowered people, we were so love-starved and hungry for affection that we become willing to accept almost anything to get it. That’s why the charm, sexuality, intellect, challenging, powerful, and manipulative allure of the narcissist attracts us so much. The chase to figure them out satiates our hunger to regain our lost power.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of teaching and information about what constitutes healthy parenting and what creates childhood trauma, nearly 80% of people will exclaim, "that can't be true; my childhood was great." Many aren't aware that growing up in a single-parent home, having a family member we had to take care of physically or emotionally, being a latch key child, having a parent who had to work constantly to keep food on the table, an addiction, divorce, what people would call "normal parenting" can create the disempowerment. The groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences study (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/index.html) concluded that nearly 70% of adults had experienced at least one traumatic childhood event. In other words, trauma is the rule not the exception for nearly all of us.
Finally, to understand this attraction completely, we need to understand how the brain and body function. For decades, behavioral psychology has shown that we all become the subconscious programming we experienced in the first seven years of our lives. Famed biologist, genetic researcher, and author of The Biology Of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton, points out that 95% of our adult lives, are just reliving the subconscious programming from our childhood. What makes it into our subconscious are the most emotionally impactful moments in those first seven years. Dr. Lipton points out that even in the best home 70% of those messages are negative, disempowering and even self-sabotaging.
In addition, the design of our brain works against us in two ways. Firstly, it doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. We all can relate to knowing the “right” thing to do but not being able to do it. And secondly, it takes tremendous energy for our brain to do anything. Its solution to these problems is to conserve energy by seeking to repeat what it already knows. Basically, our brain and body get addicted to replaying our known emotional subconscious experiences from childhood, most of which were hurtful. I call this process "The Worst Day Cycle."
Still unsure if this is true? Think about the last time you swiped left on a dating app. Your brain and body felt no electrical connection. Most likely, you even said,
“They seem attractive and nice but kind of boring.”
We are bored by them because our subconscious has no known experience with a healthier, more stable person. This stable person will not allow our brain to repeat what it knows, the emotionally hurtful drama of our childhood. Simply put, our attraction to the narcissist comes from our unhealed childhood trauma.
I experienced the electrical explosion the day I met my second narcissistic wife. I was standing outside the restaurant on the evening we met for our first date. When I turned around and saw her walking towards me I felt hit in the gut, took a step back, and heard myself say;
“Oh, My God, she’s the devil”!
Was she actually the devil? Of course not. Narcissists are not evil. They are severely broken and damaged people who perpetrate evil things as a result of that brokenness. But, I was instantly drawn to her. My brain and body instinctively knew this would be crazy and chaotic, and I could not stop myself from pursuing the relationship.
The brain's design, our childhood trauma, and the resulting hunger to regain our lost power create the 7 ways we attract a narcissist?
- We knew from the beginning. We see the red flags. And we ignore them. I have found this to be true with every disempowered client attracted to a narcissist. They all saw the red flags, but the brain and body could not resist the temptation to relive their childhood trauma.
- We think we can fix them. We see their potential through their flaws, and we try to gain power by being the ones to fix them. Like the parent, we couldn’t heal or get love and attention from. Trying to fix the narcissist helps us hide the disempowered pain from our childhood. It is a learned subconscious manipulative attempt to get our power back. If I can heal you, I am powerful.
- We are obsessed with figuring them out. We Google narcissism, critique everything they do and talk to as many people as possible about the relationship. We obsess over them and make figuring them out our sole focus. We could never understand as a child why we couldn’t get love and care so if we could just understand the narcissist we could feel empowered. We don't recognize that what we really want is to understand the pain we experienced in our childhood. Therefore we are unaware that we are manipulatively pursuing the narcissist to make sense of our childhood pain.
- We do everything we can to control their actions and behavior to get them to stop. We throw fits, we complain, we throw it in their face. Some of us are aggressive. Those who are severely disempowered do it silently. This is another attempt to regain the power we lost in childhood.
- We try to become whatever the narcissist wants. We become chameleons. In my case, I changed the way I dressed, my career choices, and more to appease my first narcissistic wife. This creates the self-deception that we are “nice.” And sometimes, we want to change, but the disempowerment learned in childhood taught us that we can not voice our desires. Like me, we then pick a narcissist who will demand the change we wanted, but since we never mentioned it, we can then blame them for making us change. Our childhood was about being abandoned so we re-enact it by abandoning ourselves.
- We keep going back to them, but we keep blaming them. We are unaware that it is our childhood that has created this compulsion to self-victimize. It is all we know. Society has not told us that this is a two-sided dynamic where both parties have responsibility. We are unaware that if there are perfect imperfections in one person, there have to be compatible perfect imperfections in the other person and the unhealed brain is drawn to them.
- Society has taught us to deceive ourselves by not taking ownership of our part. Society has failed to teach people that no one enters our life unless we allow them. Instead, it focuses on blaming the narcissist and celebrating the role of the victim. Being the victim also garners attention and care. The care we did not receive in our childhood. As the victim, the unspoken inference is that I am nicer and kinder, and therefore I am better than the narcissist. This deceptive viewpoint strips the individual of their authentic power and keeps the abuse cycle alive. Society never taught us that ownership and honesty with ourselves provide us the agency to create change and is the only way to authentically reclaim our lost power.
While it is disheartening to recognize that our childhood and society conditioned our brains to believe that we must manipulate for power from the disempowered position, there is hope because disempowered people are capable of empathy, and so, unlike the narcissist, they can recover. We only need new knowledge, skills, and tools to stop the subconscious self-victimization and learn how to express healthy empathy towards ourselves and others. That healthy empathy needs to start with not blaming ourselves.
I always remind my clients
"We can’t be blamed for something we weren’t even aware of. We can only do what we know. As we know better, we can do better.”
If you have never been able to find the source of your attraction before, then this is a momentous occasion. You now know there are things in your past you can address and heal so that future attractions will be healthy ones. By doing so with an expert like myself or many others out there who specialize in these matters, we will become authentically empowered.
All worth exploring because everyone deserves a brain and body capable of being attracted to someone kind-hearted enough for true intimacy!
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