According to Wikipedia, the term “double vision” is defined as “the simultaneous perception of two images of a single object.” There is no doubt that a person in a relationship with a narcissistic personality disordered person will experience a non-medical version of double vision.
When the narcissist continuously exploits us, covertly puts us down, and does selfish and sneaky things behind our backs, it hurts, especially the first time it happens. We thought we were in a normal relationship and are anxious to clear the air. We hope being open and honest will bring us closer. We imagine the face of our loved one and how it will reveal intense concern with how we feel because they love us. We are expecting to see compassion and empathy in their eyes and at least be able to understand why we are feeling rejected, hurt, even detached. We expect an apology so that the relationship can grow, trust can be re-built and the closeness once felt, returned.
Aren’t we shocked when we confront our loved one with how they hurt our feelings or betrayed our trust and they become enraged and extremely defensive. They give excuses and rationalizations for all of their actions. They make us feel sorry for them because of their bad childhood. They shift blame by bringing up something we did months ago and we end up defending ourselves. They deny any wrongdoing. The person we loved suddenly becomes explosive, loud and intimidating. Their response blindsides us and WE end up apologizing for even putting the narcissist in a position of having to explain themselves for their actions. How dare we expect an apology! Later, we find out that they called our friends and family to discuss how we approached them with an accusation (rounding up the troops is referred to as “triangulation”). We are then labeled crazy, immature, stifling, jealous and needy by the narc and any of their listeners.
While in confrontation, our symptoms of “double vision” start. We begin to see the two images of the single object. Fading in and out is a vision of a person who said he loved us. There is a faint image of someone who we thought respected us. Suddenly, the image becomes fragmented. Now there are many pieces and they start to separate. They won’t go back together to create the original image because important pieces are missing and we cannot find them. We find other pieces but they don’t fit in the puzzle we started with. We frantically try to restore what we once had before we confronted our loved one. We become exhausted in this process.
In the end, we are unable to put our vision back together. We cannot unsee a person who does not know how to love, who cannot be trusted with our personal thoughts, who is not capable of looking inward, and someone who does not respect us. We now see a person who cannot imagine how we feel at all and they definitely don’t want to see us happy. We see a selfish person who only cares about himself and will stop at nothing to preserve himself, at your expense. He survives daily by employing primitive defense mechanisms while we are left employing psychologists because our friends and family don’t believe us when we tell them he is emotionally and physically abusing us.
Now, we are forced to clear the cloudy “blur” from our eyes. We try to get our single vision back. One way we do this is by rationalizing their unexpected and odd behavior by connecting it to their troubled childhood. We pity them for their bad day and we continue on by blaming ourselves. We swear to try to do better by not antagonizing our friend, lover, child or parent by bringing up our feelings. We are to have no expectations whatsoever. But, our attempts to please the narcissist continue to be painfully unsuccessful. The narcissist is never happy with us and will continue to hurt us, without any remorse, until we walk away. Once we walk away, the fog (fear, obligation, guilt) disappears. As we turn our head to look back we clearly see the history of emotional abuse that we endured. We can see how selfish the narc really is and how we never mattered at all. Reality becomes our new vision and we are able to heal from the hurt and betrayal we experienced. We get a new vision of what a healthy relationship looks like. We learn what love is to look like. We learn to love ourselves like we never did before.