The term narcissism has been increasingly part of our culture. It’s a term which has been on the periphery of my attention for years. The personality type has never really been important until recently. There was denial inside of me when thinking narcissism could be a part of my world. For moments, even questioning if I was narcissistic. However, questioning has provided confidence, this set of personality traits doesn’t truly belong to my personality. The traits of narcissism have revealed themselves in others. The subject got me thinking about the role of cerebral palsy in all of this narcissism talk. Does something about having a disability leave us more susceptible to maltreatment was my curiosity. Narcissistic people usually focus on seeking one major thing, that thing is known as supply. The term of narcissistic supply, often used in a negative sense, refers to a pathological or excessive need for attention or admiration from codependents. This is done without taking into consideration feelings, opinions, or preferences of others. It seems having cerebral palsy leaves me in a vulnerable population. One possibly more vulnerable to being excluded from groups of people. The differences leaving us feeling as though we don’t fit. At times, the feeling of being different can lead to greater effort toward fitting in with people. We might lose our authentic selves trying to make others happy.
The ability to supply a narcissist is often impossible, without giving up yourself. Their needs become the most important thing. It seemed an easy thing for me to work toward, trying to make others happy. Doesn’t that fall into the golden rule of do on to others, as you would have done to you. The idea never crossing my mind was how much pain was felt by giving without receiving. However, in my mind it felt I didn’t deserve kind reciprocation. My world made more sense when people were taking advantage of my kindness. Taking on the battle of cerebral palsy was a challenging task. Many times, the disability left me frustrated with moving through the day. So, it made sense if it was challenging for me to handle cerebral palsy, it would be challenging or even embarrassing for others to be around. It was a sad way of looking upon oneself. This feeling had me thinking whoever spent time around me was making a sacrifice to do so. It didn’t matter how they treated me, because to some extent, they too were dealing with someone disabled.
It hasn’t truly occurred to me until recently, these attitudes are almost exactly what a narcissist seeks. The thoughts were turning me into prey or the ideal victim. Narcissists tend to have people around them who execute the beliefs they have about themselves. It seemed people who surrounded me wanted to feel needed, or feel as though they were protecting someone in need of protection. The thought couldn’t manifest itself on its own, unless both parties played into the roles, the relationship wouldn’t be sustainable. It seems part of what made these relationships work so long was my own view of my disability. I felt cerebral palsy made me less than other people. The disability felt only to be a curse and seeing cerebral palsy in another light was impossible. The feeling lead me to maintaining relationships like these, believing my main purpose laid in making others feel better about themselves. The sad part was, in my mind, it didn’t matter how they treated me in return. The simple fact of having cerebral palsy deemed me less than them. A disability which the occurrence of, no one person was at fault for. The relationships only continued to cause anger.
Being treated poorly inside these relationships wasn’t making sense. Inside my mind, there must have been something I wasn’t doing correctly. It felt as though everything was being done to meet their needs, but it wasn’t good enough. There always seemed to be one more sacrifice required to maintain the relationship. After all, I was disabled, so it was a blessing to be allowed in their presence. My gift was having the ability to be accepted by these people. It was a craving being chased for many years. The desire found me only trying more intensely to gain their approval and acceptance. One thing never occurring to me was there being no way of gaining their approval. Due to the narcissistic ways, the relationship was functioning exactly how they envisioned. My role was attempting to run faster, harder, and longer inside the hamster wheel. It was attempting different ways to gain an approval and acceptance that was never on the way. They would simply take from the effort, helping it fuel their addiction, supplying their own thoughts about themselves. The relationships were a continuous cycle of emotional abuse, which could only be ended by one person….me.
Recognizing the situation when engulfed by these relationships feels virtually impossible. There appear to be many reasons for this, because the narcissistic person is going through their process. They are testing to find out if you have characteristics they can use. Their ability to be manipulative inside of relationships seems to be a hallmark trait. Which could mean the actions become challenging for you to spot before it becomes too late. They are often making you feel special and important at first. In some cases, the traits making us susceptible to falling into these relationships could be taught from an early age. Some of the strongest traits that could cause us to fall victim might be empathy or people pleasing. These narcissistic individuals could look for relationships in which people bent over backward to please them, having no requirement for emotional reciprocation. This could be where the development of strong boundaries protects someone from falling prey. Another key factor to guarding against these relationships might be a good sense of self. The ability to understand your own personal worth. These were not traits I grew up having. The boundaries and feelings of self-esteem inside my person needed to be developed. It can take time to turn around something you view about yourself as negative into being thought of as positive. For me, this required viewing cerebral palsy in a way that didn’t feel achievable.
When help was sought, there wasn’t any way of knowing what was going on inside. The word narcissism didn’t seem part of my vocabulary. After spending my college career studying psychology, the term had passed through my ears, but didn’t resonate. The main reason for seeking help was simply a feeling in my bones. Something didn’t feel right and happiness of any kind felt distant. So, the tedious journey of growing out of emotional abusive relationships began. Even if I had no clue these relationships surrounded my world at the time. Cerebral palsy would be the place healing would truly begin. Somehow, the hope inside had been evaporated to damaging levels. It felt as though if cerebral palsy would disappear, everything would be good. The problem with that thought, CP will always be part of my world. There has never been and will probably never be a way around that fact. Thinking the disability was my issue was as naïve as it was false. Inside the long journey of healing we find things to set us free. One was my ability to write, something I found by taking a class in college, but poo-pooed it as the simple enjoyment of an elective. It wasn’t until I began dabbling with it again that I found people enjoyed reading. Then came this blog, writing about my experience with the one thing I was wishing away, CP. All of the sudden an identity was beginning to form. Cerebral palsy was turning into a gift, rather than a frustration filled hindrance.
Walking away from harmful relationships rarely happens overnight. The recognition of harm taking place seems the most challenging part. We don’t want to imagine people in our lives are hurting us and though they may not be doing it through any fault of their own, it still might be happening. The denial of a situation can be a powerful tool. Which could be an important factor someone with narcissism relies upon. Our belief, they aren’t really hurting us or harming us on purpose. These individuals have such a way of making us feel like the most important people in their world. But, they also seem to feel entitled to belittle us, causing us to feel we aren’t worth much at all. The roller coaster of emotion could leave me feeling entirely confused. Often, leaving the emotion of going crazy. How do words and actions change so drastically from day-to-day. There became a suffocating feeling of frustration that wouldn’t subside. An emotion making me feel there was something wrong with myself. There wasn’t anything wrong except the inaccurate thoughts about myself, allowing people to take advantage. My overzealous desire to be accepted paired with poor emotional boundaries. It was all leading to a more challenging life than was necessary.
Cerebral palsy doesn’t only impact physical movement. The disability can impact us emotionally and interpersonally. People with CP don’t always fall into harmful relationships and those who do aren’t alone. Individuals from all walks of life can find themselves seduced into these entanglements. Women, men, and children fall victim to people who have personality disturbance. One of the most disheartening things could be not even realizing we are in emotionally abusive situations. The acceptance of supplying the ego of other people at my own expense continues to require effort. The impact on me for years was clear to those around me, but not to myself. The desperation to be in those relationships was so great. They had become intoxicating to the point, I had little idea of how a healthy relationship was supposed to function. The cycle of emotional abuse can engulf us into feeling we are in a normal state. Which, happens to be exactly the goal of a narcissistic person. Allowing them to manipulate things you view as a weakness in order to supply their own distorted self-belief.