jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
[personal profile] jewelfox

I feel bad for saying this, but I'm actually not sure how much most of the comments and compliments I've received help, after reading this essay on /r/raisedbynarcissists.

I think a lot of it may have to do with how my ego was inflated, growing up, as a homeschooled Mormon. I was told over and over again that I was part of a chosen generation, I was a prodigy, I knew better than almost everyone else, I had more authority in my little finger than the Pope did in his whole funny hat, I was going to live while the earth was cleansed with fire ... a lot of things designed to inflate the egos of young people and tie their self-worth to the church, which I was explicitly told to do.‏

Then finding out that in order to keep getting that treatment, I would have to lie. But not processing it that way, because lying was out of the question.‏ And not realizing that the people around me did it anyway, all the time.

I think I eventually saw that in the situation I was in, all the ego-inflatingness I received really said more about the people dispensing it than myself. People would tell me things that reinforced their own cultural narrative. They liked that I exemplified some part of the story they told themselves about how the world works.‏ Sometimes it was painfully obvious, like when a mentally ill "friend of the family" who was staying with us told me how I would pilot the spacecraft we apparently kept in our basement.

They didn't really want to know that I masturbated, or was depressed, or felt sick very often, or had never had a full-time job. They wanted me to exist in their minds as an object.

I understand hugs, and listening, and mirroring my distress, as signs of love and affection. Compliments just go right past us. We used to treasure the ones that we got for our writing, but somewhere along the line we started to feel they were so hyperbolic as to be unbelievable.‏ We're not sure why.

Compliments based on the kind of person we supposedly are don't even register. They are like telling us "God has a plan for everyone," or having cishets ask about our relationship when they assume that we're in one like theirs. It's at once disturbingly personal and very impersonal, and it doesn't bother us so much as make us nervous. Because we feel like the person is outlining the conditions on which they will relate to us, and if we do something that contradicts the image they have of us in their mind they will shun us.

I feel like they don't know what they are talking about, and even if they're saying something nice they're really just saying how much I affirm something they believe in.

I think the compliments I've been most touched by are when people describe the effect that I or my writing have had on them. That feels like a thing I can take credit for.‏ The best I can say about myself, then, is that I remind other people of what's important to them, or have helped them escape from a bad situation.

The worst I can say is that I'm terrible and shouldn't exist. I tell myself that at least ten times a day, just as a reflex. It's usually brought on by either doing something I find enjoyable, or hearing someone tell me that I'm awesome.‏

Date: 2014-05-30 08:24 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Hmm. Is there a way we can express affection or support that will be more helpful to you?

Also, I am now exploring that reddit (generally reddit as a whole: not somewhere I go) and... yikes. Some of that is very familiar.

Date: 2014-05-30 11:07 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Thanks. (augh I am reading too much of this probably, but it's like yanking off a bandaid.)

Yeah, I can see where that's troublesome. Boo for scripts that take something good and twist it until it supports something hurtful.

A thing I've done is practice saying (or typing) just... thank you. Nothing more unless there's a question or something. I don't know if that would even be a helpful thing, for you?

I was also addressing compliment-as-expectation, and I've been consciously working on it for two years, and it is still hard to receive a compliment and not see a hook in it, even if the person giving it is not actually like that.

Date: 2014-05-30 11:56 pm (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
I really hope that what I'm about to write isn't discomfort-inducing. -.-

Content warnings: strong language and talking about narcissists in no uncertain terms. Also references to complements I've given.

In a sense, I suppose that one could say that when I give compliments on some of your essays, I am reinforcing a cultural narrative...

Likewise, if I disparage someone for writing something cultish (Internet Atheists or divine absolutists), I'm also disparaging their cultural narrative.

That's inconvenient happenstance in the context of trying not to become a narcissist in my own way.

I do have strong reactions to people based on their worldviews, and that's based on my life experiences. If something someone says would put someone like me, or someone else just trying to be theirself, out in the fringes and at considerable risk, then allow whichever one of my aspects who possesses great hatred of that to chime in here: Screw. Them. I mean, that's a hard stance, but it's something that I happened to come by naturally. I don't want to go out of my way to try to make an army of people who agree with me, just because I'm me and I'm awesome and whatever, but I've also gotten to the point where I have a difficult time stomaching the kind of narcissistic "everyone-should-be-like-me" dreck that comes from the TERF radfems and the religious-or-anti-religion cultists and the, well, any group of people that is so high on their supposed worth that they can't be bothered to see the world from anyone else's point of view.

I also respect that any person or group making some kind of sociological claim, including myself, runs the risk of jumping from the frying pan into the fire, because sociology is a science where it is easier to make huge mistakes with far-reaching awful consequences. Most narcissistic types don't respect that fact.

I respect that, and I have strong opinions tied to strong emotions. I understand that I'm walking a dangerous line.

I guess the same goes when I do things like give soaring praise for something you've written. I give complements based on the same experiences and emotions that I've been talking about. When something hits home with me, I'll say, in pretty absolutist terms sometimes, that it is great. It's just that inconvenient happenstance that doing so may ironically reek of the same thing to someone who has had to deal with narcissism in the past.

And I'm deeply ashamed in myself for how badly I've messed up in the not-too-distant past. I was poisoned by narcissistic rhetoric as much as the next person who has existed in such paradigms. So, I've kind of been there too.

Um... sorry about the word count. What I'm trying to say is that I have a very strong "cultural narrative" against this thing that you're also against, and when I see you write awesome things that go against it, I geek out and get happy over it. To me it's not just affirming something I believe in, but it's giving voice to things that have the potential to help a whole lot of people. Creating things that should exist, for the sake of people who should have them~!

I don't know how to resolve that unfortunate ironic happenstance, of sounding a bit like a narcissist, apart from pointing out: at least we're on the side that worries about becoming like them. And hopefully that will keep us from becoming like them.

(Maybe, like checks within religions to prevent extremism, there's a set of self-checks that people could use to prevent a narcissistic outlook...?)

I also don't know that any of this helps with the discomfort and the fear or not, though. They're definitely two different beasts: assessing the nature of narcissism and dealing with the emotional damage caused by such people and communities.

Date: 2014-05-31 05:18 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
Heh, sometimes I start thinking in text and I don't stop, so that was a little cumbersome up there. And, it was partly me trying to understand where I was coming from, in addition to trying to communicate where I was coming from. So, it wasn't defensive so much as trying to be reassuring that I wasn't coming from a non-bueno place.

But I totally get that it's one thing to see evidence that you're not living in a community of narcissists, and another thing entirely to stop preparing for the rug to be pulled out from underneath, or to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Which makes me wish I could say something here that could be of more help, because it's an awful feeling that I'm also slightly familiar with. Or at least, I'm very familiar with unnerving social anxieties where I perceive people to secretly hate me, or have it out for me.

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