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.
Most of my life I wondered what was wrong with me. I remember being a little girl and questioning what was different about me. When I was five years old, my mom told me that I was adopted and that I was “special.” Oddly though, I never felt special. In fact, I felt anything but special.
My mom did not look like any of my friend’s moms and my brother and I were sometimes embarrassed how she stuck out in a crowd. What always caught peoples’ attention was her hair. She went to the beauty shop every week for what is now going on almost 60 years; to the same hair dresser! My mom would not ride a bike, go for walks, or swim in our pool, because of her hair. Her hair was wrapped every night with toilet paper and adorned with some sort of supportive device, whether it be a scarf or hairnet. Friday nights at our house were spent washing and setting her hair pieces. Saturday was her big day. Her life, our life, revolved around her hair.
Until lately, at 55 years old, I look back and remember how I hated my hair set the night before school picture day and then teased and sprayed before I left for school in the morning. I was the only girl in my entire elementary school that had a bouffant hairdo. I did not want anyone to see me. I did not raise my hand to participate in classroom discussion. I clung to the walls so that I did not attract any more attention to myself. I was provided with the finest of clothing for picture day too. Matching skirts and blouses with fancy collars, while my classmates wore pants, jeans, shorts; whatever they were comfortable and their hair was their every day hair.
For my hair to be picture ready, I endured endless screaming matches and hair pulling. I was hoisted up on to the washing machine and my head dangled over the laundry tub; my mom’s hand the only support for my neck. My mom scrubbed and scrubbed my hair and I squirmed because it hurt. She told me to “be still”, “be quiet” and called me horrible names because I was resisting to process. After I was upright, I had to sit in a chair while she put two bobby pins in each and every pin curl that covered my scalp. I then had a hair net placed on my head and was put to bed. I dreaded going to school the next morning. To this day, I hate my head touched or washed by my hairdresser. I can imagine how it feels when a doll gets her hair pulled, combed and brushed by a toddler!
Every person in my life who I now suspect was a malignant narcissist has had something to say about my hair. One partner said how much he loved short hair, so I went and had it cut short. He said he liked it even shorter, and I had it cut again. When the relationship ended he told me that he hated short hair and he was just seeing how much control he had over me. It was tough being a people-pleaser. I became one because I was raised to be what other’s wanted so that they looked good. I hated dresses, I hated purses and anklets, I hated hats and gloves. I hated panty hose! I was forced wear them at the expense of my self-esteem. Something must have been wrong with me because what I liked was never good enough for my mother or certain friends, both who are now removed from me emotionally.
As I look back to a recent, long-term relationship that just ended, I can recall being manipulated again. This person also told me how I should wear my hair. I assumed she was trying to make me fashionable, because she was the epitome of fashion (in her mind), so I took her advice. I knew that the look wasn’t me, but obviously, by her standards, my personal style wasn’t good enough. Since this relationship has ended, I have returned my hair to “my style” and have more confidence and feel better about myself. I no longer have to be her mirror.
What does all of this mean? Well, what is more personal to somebody than their hair style? We all have “bad hair” days and when this happens, we don’t feel 100% confident, do we? It seems that narcissists focus on hair which is the crux of our individuality. If they can get us to look like them, we make better mirrors.
My mom and dad would tell me that I was loved more than my friends were loved by their parents and that is why I was so special. In my mom’s eyes I was special because I was her little doll. She could dress me up and fix my hair to her liking and I couldn’t say or do a thing until I became a teenager.