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THE NARCISSIST’S PLAYBOOK | TREACHERY HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

“I lie to your face, without a twitch or a twitter, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In fact, my lies are not lies at all. They are the truth, my truth. And you believe them, because you do, because they do not sound or feel like lies, because to do otherwise would make you question your own sanity, which you have a tendency to do anyway, because from the very beginning of our relationship you placed your trust and hopes in me, derived your energy, direction, stability, and confidence from me and from your association with me. So what’s the problem if the safe haven I provide comes with a price? Surely I am worth it and then some.” – Dr. Sam Vaknin

Since I was a child of about 10 or 11, the memory of this movie has periodically crept into my conscience at times, which left me puzzled as to why, and if there was a significance of the sudden memory or discussion.

I recall very clearly, watching “the Bad Seed” with my older brother and my mother on the television one evening as we were children. The details of the horrendous Rhoda Penmark and the plot of the film were not what was remembered, at least consciously, but rather the drama of the final scene – the lightning strike on the pier.

Why this memory persisted through the years was questionable whenever it thrust itself into my mind, as if trying to awaken a distant relevance. I recall thinking of the scene where Rhoda meets her fate as she tries to retrieve the stolen medal that she killed a classmate for.

It wasn’t the fate of the character so much that I had retained, but rather my limited understanding of the physical mechanics of the cause of lightning strikes. It was this scene that I (at least in a 11 year olds mind) realized that a combination of metal, water, and movement during stormy weather is what attracted lightning. It seems so silly now.

I lay in bed thinking of this creepy movie that seemed to enmesh itself in my memory, fading away, only to return at random times for no particular reason, Sometimes, many years would pass before a re-awakening, only to entertain the thought and not pay attention to the recurrence, or even if it had meaning, yet always asking why.

Many years would pass before I actually had a conversation about the film and a recurring dream-like memory of a particular scene.

Slanderous Lies and Manipulative Deceit

Susan and I were walking out of the restaurant’s rear entrance when a clap of thunder opened the clouds to a downpour of rain and distant lightning. We were on our 1st date since meeting, when she snuggled into my shoulder in response to the rain, and said “I always think of “the Bad Seed” when it rains at night”. Followed by “Have you ever seen the movie?”

The Narcissist’s Pathological Envy Represents How Powerful You Are
“It was not your fault that you were abused; the fact that you were targeted is actually an indication that you have something special about you that the narcissist noticed and wanted to undermine in the first place.”

“the projections of pathologically envious people, recognize these microaggressions and acts of sabotage for what they are: signs that you have something within you that is far greater than the power of their slander”

– excerpt from 5 Disturbing Signs You’re Dating A Pathologically Envious Narcissist by Shahida Arabi

Yes! I exclaimed with excitement. The mention of this movie by who would become a very serious love interest was enthralling to behold. It also gave me a sort of validation of the disembodied memory which I had harbored for many years, credence. We tossed comments about the film to one another as we made our way to the car, balloons in tow.

Susan was a reader of literature and classics. Not really a nerdy girl, but with great emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity. A bit avant-garde, yet classical in demeanor, petite and very feminine. It was the naturalness that embodied her persona that radiated a wholesome and healthy beauty, without pretense.

At the height of my happiness and with focus, everything seemed to be in place for the next big move. I had recently turned 26, and after a lunch date one afternoon, we had made an impromptu stop at my sisters apartment that she shared with her boyfriend. It was an innocent drop in to say hello to a sister who never seemed to visit me, even so, I never could have expected the coldness and cloaked discomfort that she had “welcomed” us into her apartment.

As my girlfriend and I were having a fantastic time together, my only desire was to make introduction to “family” and to share in some good spirits. My future brother in law #1 had met her previously and was smitten by the feminine elegance of her classical ballet training.

In Richard’s absence, it didn’t take long to see that we weren’t welcomed unannounced, and I embarrassingly excused us from the apparent formalities that were expected. Most telling, were the coldness of fleeting stares that she had given Susan, quickly changing to a feigned smile as I noticed what I knew to be jealousy.

For a person who is all about appearances, this sister made a big fail. From that day, Susan had no trust in her and thought her a snob. I had too for several years, but she was family and I made excuses for her phony pretentiousness.

It was several days later that I confronted my sister about the rudeness of her behavior toward a serious girlfriend, when she immediately put the blame on me and denied ever having been so rude, saying that I was imagining things.

I can’t believe you would think that I……… , was her response. Can we talk about how many times I’ve heard those words from her?

Cognitive Dissonance

Within weeks of that encounter, the house I was renting was burglarized, my new car was sabotaged, fired from a very good and stable job, and Susan informed me that “someone” had called her mother’s home and attempted to smear my name and reputation.

Without the ability to wrap my mind around the reasoning behind the sudden sinking of everything good, I was left dumbfounded by the events. Except for the burglary of my home – my gut kept telling me that Tina, my closest sister was somehow involved in the burglary of my house. As hard as I tried to repress such a silly notion, the gnawing feeling kept resurfacing.

Nonsense, I kept telling myself. But the instinct continued and eventually gave way to obscurity, as I pulled myself up and got on with damage control.

Needless to say, I never attempted to involve family with my personal matters after that. First, it was David seducing a girlfriend while I was away at work, now, I’ve got to question a sister’s motivation. It would be another 8 years before I would naively fall for the same behavior from her.

I bring this up now, because while the mystery of these events have haunted me at times, and they fit a pattern of deceit and outright betrayal that has gone on for a very long time, recently discovered and unbeknownst to me.

Needless to say, I never attempted to involve family with my personal matters after that. First, it was David seducing a girlfriend while I was away at work, now, I’ve got to question a sister’s motivation. It would be another 8 years before I would naively fall for the same behavior from her.”

And in similarities to the vixen Rhoda of the movie, there she was – hiding in plain sight.

Yet, I would be the last to know, and by that time, most sources of support – friends, business contacts, were missing, refusing to return calls or, if they did, were chillingly cold and distant, or worse, hostile. Not to mention the damage done to my romantic relationships.

Leaving me with a “what the fuck just happened” confusion.

Savior or Fool?

As children, she and I were spending the day with our father. We often spent time together and had great times. On this day, dad and I were fishing along a riverbank while Tina was wading in the water. It was a wide and deep river with a slow current, sandy bottom and decent visibility in the murky water. I definitely recall this time as the summer of 1968. I was 12 years old.

I bring this up because the next events seemed that “something” was not quite right in my “rescue” of Tina from the river current that slowly was taking her downstream that day. In contrast to my inability to swim, my sister was a good swimmer.

Wading into the river, the water gets deeper as I approach, and resort to standing on tip toes and holding my breath with the waterline above my mouth, I reached out my arm toward her.

I would have done anything to keep her safe and secure; we were family and I loved my her very much, yet no more or less than the rest.

Without a visible sign of distress, she seemed quite calm as I grabbed onto her hand and pulled her toward me. The scene unfolded as peculiar because she then began her swim strokes and easily made it to safer ground, leaving me behind on my toes and spitting out water. We waded back toward the bank, and it was never discussed or mentioned again. Even so, the “rescue” seemed weird. It would be a lifetime before she would briefly bring it up in conversation.

Clearing skies of the Haze.

Finally removing the blinders from my eyes and making a discovery of her life-long envy and covert attacks on me, I wonder now, if that moment was meant as a set-up for my demise that could have been played out if it wasn’t for my dad’s attention to what was happening. Given what I now know of her and putting the puzzle together in correct context, I can’t say otherwise, in all conscience.

Some weeks earlier, there was a scare that I had possibly drowned at the local swimming park. With all attention focused on me , since I had no swimming skills, there was a great fear for my safety and a relief of my discovery, safe and uninjured. I now believe that this was the triggering event to “stage” an actual drowning. I wish I could be wrong.

A Pattern of Envy

As far as I can remember, my sister had been competing for attention and displayed a “need” to win, especially when it came to attention from our father. As his only son, he showed me a lot of love and provided guidance without the domineering alpha quality of many American men. In short, he was a gentleman with compassion and understanding of human nature, enjoyed life and his family.

Many such memories of her competition to wrestle away his adoration come to mind, as if her needs superseded all others. I recall him correcting her to share and not be so selfish. Stingy was another word he had for her at times. This sister had a need, almost biological (I now use pathological), to win admiration at all cost, regardless of the smallness of “prize”.

Most shocking were times when she would “set me up” for punishment, which was delivered by my mother, while laughing, sometimes hysterically. As if to take a pleasure in seeing me punished without cause or doing no harm, her laughter would be followed by instigating an argument, thereby giving me more punishment at times. Looking back, I see that she had a pattern of pleasure in other people’s pain, physical as well as emotional/psychological.

There were moments during our adult years that I noticed the the same reaction in hearing about a misfortune or struggle that I had experienced. Her eyes would “light up” with a sadistic glee that sent shudders through me. What kind of person is this? I wondered.

The need to control other’s and event’s in order to get what SHE wanted, became a well rehearsed and affective strategy that was without regard or concern for decency.

This competition that she engaged in was (thought to be) brought about the our closeness of age. We were only 11 months apart, with me being older; I’m certain of that. Even during those adolescent years, I had thought that she one day, would grow up and grow out of such petty maliciousness; to the contrary, they intensified to my dismay. And while looking through a complete inventory of memory and recalled experience, I can clearly see that there was something beyond jealous reactions to petty desires. Envy – and there was plenty to go around.

As for myself, I always felt comfortable in my position within our home – there was no need to compete for anything, as far as I recall. There was healthy competition WITH my older brother, as we would challenge one another to overcome obstacles and fears. I considered that a vital part of my development and look back on our childhood with fondness.

The Question of Belonging.

At the time I reached 14, a dreaded feeling of being born into the wrong family slowly crept into my mind. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden, my sister and brother would turn against me to place blame and falsely accuse. I had become their scapegoat. But why?

It seemed like it happened overnight and without just cause. I was ridiculed and mocked for any efforts that may have rivaled theirs. The finger of blame was often cast in my direction for things I had no knowledge of. My brother was quickly sliding into a world of drug and alcohol abuse, and with it, the nasty disposition that showed itself to be a psychological “bully”, with threats of physical harm that would never be followed through. My pleas to him to stop the drugs usage fell on deaf ears, as I learned quickly to dismiss his bullying as mere threats and often felt sorry for him. But, his self-protection wouldn’t allow him to open up to me.

While his sudden bullying was open and not at all bashful during his wild mood swings, my sister’s bully tactics were wrapped in coy words and responsive actions. She was growing increasingly secretive and cunning.

Manipulating her way through her teen years, and beyond. She never really had a steady boyfriend, but many male suitors she would spend time with. The irony for someone who professed her innocence and virginity was that her many of her boyfriends were drug pushers and/or users, and criminals, and entitled bullies.

But, all that didn’t matter to her, since they were “popular” and had a money background whether it was “real” or “pretentious”. It was all about appearance and popularity, and she found that those could be easily manipulated. She studiously protected her “reputation” from anyone outside of her chosen circle, family included.

My father saw her charades and became heartbroken to see how she showed no courtesy or decency toward him while in public. But she would gladly accept his buying power when shopping for clothing and other needs.

The three of us would often go shopping together, while she would walk 10 or more paces in front of us so that she wouldn’t be seen with “less than perfect” people. This was a budding somatic Narcissist in the works.

This is how she treated her father, who labored and provided her with all comforts that were needed, and then some. That gave her love and encouragement, discipline and direction, and a beautiful home.

Of all of the slights she did to me, they meant nothing in comparison to the selfish pretense that she displayed to our father. He was truly heartbroken, and I have never forgiven her for that. She was and still is unremorseful about the display of grandiose selfishness, and shows no shame. Gaslighting is her only refuge.

My father’s funeral was a small private affair. With military honors, he was laid to rest following a 3- gun salute of honor. If ever a moment existed that would show the disembodiment of a family unit, it was this time. At a moment when you’d want to be surrounded by family, she was nowhere to be found on that rainy April afternoon, rather choosing to socialize with her equally narcissistic “friends”,

In years that followed, I’ve yet to hear her speak with fondness of him, but rather with overtones in an emotionless manner.

Hop, Skip, and Jump…into marriages

During my dating years, I noticed two distinct types of personality of eligible partnerships. There were those who courted and slowly formed a bond, and those who “jumped” in to a relationship from the first encounter.

More so, I observed the habit of some, female and male alike, to exhibit a seeming fear of being without a date or girlfriend/boyfriend, as if there was a primordial fear of being alone. Most of these individuals would go from one relationship to another without stopping to catch a breath.

This, I couldn’t relate to in the least, since I always enjoyed the time to myself to and to learn from any perceived mistakes in choosing a compatible and trusting partner. Sometimes, many months would pass until I met someone who had a healthy combination of chemistry, trust, and mentality. I hit the jackpot once, and thought a second and third time, but those were doomed from the start, which was only understood in retrospect.

It was during these times, that I learned to identify some qualities that were hidden from view and using past experience, and would quickly distance myself from such people. I enjoyed the time to myself and never felt a driving need for instant companionship. For me, it seemed the healthy and natural approach, since I’d much rather have remained single than to have multiple (ex) wives and a possibility of bearing children from multiple partners.

It was a lesson learned in my youth.

Through my teen years and beyond, I noticed the seemingly flippant way that she could go from one guy to the next. Of course, I said nothing, since her sex and romance life was none of my business and had no concern about it since these things were private and not discussed. What could have been an adolescent drive to explore sexuality, could have been outgrown in the later years. But, it wasn’t. The pattern continued.

  • Her first marriage ended when she walked out on him after having an affair.
  • Her second marriage ended when she was discovered to be having an affair.
  • Her third marriage ended when she promptly left and demanded settlement after he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.

Within a couple of months of her informing me of her #3’s diagnosis, she had packed and moved, transferred her job, found an apartment, was working her job, and dating a “guy she met on Match.com”.

All that in two and a half months time and showing no concern for the health of the “multi-millionaire” husband who, again, provided her with all of the luxuries she needed. Not a word of sorrow or grief, but only that “(she) I got tired of the abuse”, which is her catch-all go-to phrase for meaning “he/she won’t bend over backwards to kiss my ass”

So, when I called her one day to say hello and she informed me that her future #4 was visiting, and was speaking to them via speakerphone. Because I considered him a friend, I was compelled to give him a warning – “be careful what you ask for”. From that comment, I could feel the coldness of ice radiating from her. (the senses are reduced to only hearing when communicating via telephone, thereby all focus is on the sounds and nuance, allowing a sensitive person to “hear” inaudible perceptions.)

It was that singular moment that she exposed herself. Her immediate silence after numerous emails and calls to discuss important matters went unanswered. I had been discarded, just like her former husbands and her father. And, one day, #4.

At the time I reached 14, a dreaded feeling of being born into the wrong family slowly crept into my mind. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden, my sister and brother would turn against me to place blame and falsely accuse. I had become their scapegoat. But why?”

In other words, she had no use for me since I’ve always been the sole sibling to speak truth regardless of consequences. I was the one person who could send her “well constructed facade” tumbling down on top of her. And she knew it.

When asked about #4’s strange behavior and refusal to converse at an invited get together, her denial and efforts of gaslighting and minimizing was followed by more denial. But the tone was in her voice – she was lying.

All of the her treachery and manipulations of the past hadn’t conditioned me to the wrath that she would unleash on me. It was immediate, thorough and brutal.

The Bad Seed

We get a glimpse into the cold indifference of the character discussed in this blog post. Sadly, it is my sister – not just a sister – but one who I’ve admired and had fond memories of as children. I’ve supported her and congratulated her on her many successes (I had no idea many of them were manipulated), complimented her and spoke highly of her in spite of flaws that were kept privately acknowledged.

I was quick to dismiss grievances and forget injustices. We were family, after all. But, that wasn’t enough for her.

The attacks continued, getting more heinous and severe, now threatening my safety and freedom.

How do you continue to forgive someone who shows no sign of abating the malevolence toward you?

You walk away.

A lesson that needs to be conveyed, is to verify the stories no matter how they might be wrapped in believable masterfully manipulated speech, and to trust your gut instinct. Ask questions of the accuser and you will see, as I have, that her story falls apart very quickly under direct questioning, once you get her off of her well rehearsed talking points.

Because, at the end of the day, I can sleep well knowing that I’ve knowingly harmed no person – physical, emotional or psychological during my years.

It’s important to note that these are only memories and have long ago been reconciled of emotion.

 

Video courtesy of YouTube Creative Commons license.

Reference

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