I was talking to my cousin, and she told me about a group of “friends” she and her husband had enjoyed over the years. Initially they shared a common bond – Marching Band. In case you are unfamiliar, being a Band Parent is practically a full time job. A lack of funds means the parents are called upon often.
During the years they were band parents they enjoyed each others company. Once done with band they remained friends and started taking trips together. My cousin said that she and her spouse had come to wonder about these trips, so on the last one they backed up. Instead of orchestrating the conversation, they waited and watched. By the end of the trip they realized that these people, whom they had believed to be “friends”, cared little to nothing about them.
We got to talking about the sheer number of narcissists and other toxic people in our lives. Ugh!
My cousin asked me how she was to know that a new, or old, friend fell into that category and I knew the answer!!
Learned through years of pain and abuse, here is the list I’ve compiled that should send out warning signals.
- They never ask you about yourself. They talk freely about themselves, but ask little to nothing about you and your life. On the rare occasions they do ask you something, you get the they don’t really care what your answer is.
- Despite never asking you questions, they know a lot about you. How does this happen? Assuming you are a healthy person, you supply the information willingly. My cousin aptly labeled this “cocktail conversation”. You ask them about their life and actively listen to the answer. When no questions are forthcoming from them, you volunteer information about yourself.
- There is a speedy connection. Narcissists (narcs) & toxic people (TP) come on strong. Your relationship goes from 0 to 60 overnight. This is even more alarming if this behavior comes from someone who previously had little to do with you.
- They agree with everything you say, think or do. They have the same hobbies, enjoy the same activities, possess the same values and appear to be your long lost twin, or soul mate. They often refer to themselves in this way – your “soul mates”, or “long lost twins”.
- They are a victim. Their ex, boss, sister, neighbor….someone has wronged them, and they are a victim. Many people are victims, but the narc/tp brings this up freely, often out of the blue. Healthy people are generally reluctant to refer to themselves as a victim; they certainly don’t boast about it.
- “Volunteer” activities are readily shared. They can’t wait to tell you about the walk they went on to, raising money for brain cancer. If you check you will find out they didn’t actually raise any money. These endeavors are a show, designed to prove they are the great person they are presenting.
These are the early warning signs. As time goes on, if you continue to associate, the following will happen:
- They begin gaslighting. They will deny having said or done something, they will question your memory or motives, they will talk behind your back, they will try to separate you from your family & friends.
- They start pulling triggers. Unwittingly you have revealed yourself to them, and they begin to use it against you. You suddenly have an interaction that leaves you flummoxed. “Where did that come from”, you think. They understand you and won’t hesitate to go for the jugular.
- They cause you to doubt your own sanity. You walk away from them wondering what is wrong with you; how could you cause such strife with this loving “soul mate”? It must be you! (it is not)
- You feel badly about yourself after an interaction with them. This is the one effect that should spur you, if you haven’t already, to end the relationship.
When I was talking to my cousin I felt a bit depressed. It seems like I, and my cousin, are surrounded by narcs/tp. I wondered if this is simply a product of our time, or if there is something more at work.
Later in the day I got a panicked text from a coworker, telling me that the sub she arranged for her shift wasn’t there, and asking if I could go in. Normally I would have said no. Tonight though, the studio was offering our first Pop-Up class. This is a donation class, open to all members of the community, held to support a non-profit named Portlight. This organization goes into disaster zones and assists the disabled. If you follow the news you know that this is a seriously underserved population in our country. The thought of adding to this process, fund raising for those in need, sent me into the studio. I am so glad I did!
I showed up to the studio and was embraced by a wonderful young woman, grateful I was there and concerned about what I had given up to be there. As we checked people in and collected donations, we were surrounded by people who care. These were the folks who showed up with cash donations, no fanfare and no agenda. They were concerned with others and put their own story behind to step up. It was a lovely, fulfilling experience. It restored my faith in people. Despite it all I do believe there are more honorable people than damaged in our world, we just don’t celebrate them as we should.
I hope I’ve provided useful information here. My next blog is about a theory I have – Did the 1950’s Begin the Narcissist Boom? I’m excited to see how this idea evolves.
In the meantime, keep your boundaries up. Maybe not a brick wall, but certainly a sturdy wall that people have to make an effort to break through. And, if you are in doubt, ask someone. Explain the situation, in detail. Question what you are thinking and feeling. Because there are damaged people out there, and you don’t need them in your life!