When someone hears the word “target” they could think “department store” (shopping), “deer hunting” (sporting), or “archery” (competition), all relatively harmless activities. When victims of narcissists hear the word “target” their stomachs flip; their breath is taken away; and their heart skips a beat, but not in a good way! Similar to shopping, hunting and archery, narcissists have targets too, and it is frightening to find out that you were chosen to be one. Narcissists are very selective in who their targets are and they go through quite the process to finding and grooming one. I know this because I was the target, victim and survivor of a narcissistic relationship.
If you ask me how I became friends with one I really do not have an exact answer. What I do know is that our kids are the same ages and go to the same schools. We were both room moms, PTO moms, baseball moms, and dance moms. But truthfully, I was just going about my business raising my family, working and going to school at night. Before I knew it, I had a “best friend”. I became so close to this friend that it was hard to believe that I finally found someone who loved me unconditionally, who I had loved unconditionally, and that had so many interests similar to mine. I often asked her how we even became friends and her answer was “well, I picked you out of the school directory”. BULLSEYE! Punctured by a poison arrow! Who picks friends out of a school directory? Don’t friendships happen naturally and gradually? Now, when I tell this story to others, their eyes open wide, their jaws drop and their voices raise about three octaves. Most say that picking someone out of a school directory is strange enough to be a RED FLAG for them, but it wasn’t for me. Personally, I thought it was just irony. How cool and coincidental that someone picked me and that we just happened to be two peas on a pod! I thought we were meant to be friends forever. Why did I think this you ask? Well, RED FLAG #2 was the future faking. I was told that we would be friends when we were old and gray, which allowed me let her get close to me. The “growing old” theme was carried out in birthday cards to each other and in random conversations. I mean if someone has the intentions of being my friend for the next 25 years or so, I certainly want to treat her with love and respect, right?
It is well known within the mental health community that Narcissists, Psychopaths and Sociopaths all lack empathy. Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions”. I think that while individuals with Cluster B personality traits do lack empathy, parts of me also believe that they do “understand” and “share” another person’s experiences and emotions, otherwise they would not do what they do. They totally understand that they need to hurt and betray specific individuals so they can feel good. They totally understand how to do it and the pain (emotion) their betrayal causes. They “share” their pain with us, for sure! I noticed that while the friend that I now believe is somewhere on the narcissism spectrum, had lots of “friends”, many of them lived in big homes, had nice cars, owned businesses, were in local politics, would be considered attractive by most people’s standards, and were treated by her with calculated care and respect. For some reason thought, she didn’t treat any of them like she treated me. I was the emotional punching bag she needed to feel good. There was something about me that she was attracted to. While I am not privy to any toxic traits of the others in her social circle, I am also not aware of nor have I ever been told that I am a toxic friend either. First, I don’t even know how to manipulate someone and I wake up in the same mood everyday. Secondly, I don’t lie and actually value honesty. Third, I certainly don’t change my looks or personality to suit whatever crowd I am hanging in. Fourth, I don’t put people down, in fact I usually make fun of myself first. Fifth, I have a great sense of humor and a sincere laugh. Lastly, I am capable of open and honest communication. But, since narcissists correlate money with power, she saw me as powerless and defenseless. I had weak personal boundaries and was raised by a narcissistic mother. I was out in the open with no protection whatsoever!
There is another term that I think is more applicable than the “experience” part of empathy and that is the term “relate”. Webster’s dictionary defines “relate” as “to show or make a connection between (two or more things)”. While I think that narcissists can experience and understand (know the meaning of) emotions they just can’t “relate” to them, or connect to them. Of course they understand emotions because they can mimic them. They have studied them. Narcissists by nature are not introspective and cannot look at themselves as the source of anything. They are unable to relate as to what is the real source of their pain, but they understand that they are in pain, which is why they do what they do. They are unable to relate to the tears that drip down their target or loved one’s face. That they caused the tears. We are not over-sensitive! We are not jealous! They cannot relate to the actions and investment of love. They don’t relate to compromise and sacrifice. The don’t relate to unconditional love. What they do understand though, is that they are in pain and that they want their pain to go away.