If you have children, you are familiar with the difficulty of getting them to do chores. You start calmly explaining what they need to do, they respond “sure”, then wander off and turn on the TV. You wait a few minutes, convinced that they are mulling over the project and intend to get to it quickly. They don’t. Now you call to them “Honey, get that chore done…..Now” in your sweetest voice. They answer in their most sincere voice “you got it”, then turn the volume up on the TV. Twenty minutes go by, during which they don’t budge, but your blood pressure starts to rise. You then call, somewhat loudly, “NOW”. They yell back “I SAID I GOT IT. GEEZE”.
At this point they will probably make a move meant to fool you into thinking they are starting the chore. They will turn off the TV and head to the room you’ve asked them to clean, then lay down on the bed with their earbuds in. By now you are incredulous. WTH?? Now you walk right up to them, take the earbud out of their ear and say something like “Ummm, yeah, I don’t mean Later – I mean NOW”. You are pissed, but you are still in control of yourself, so while your words might be stern you have not yet turned bat-shit crazy. They sense this and say something designed to put you on the defensive, like “Relax, Mom. I’m starting in 5 minutes”.
Thirty minutes go by, and they are still lying on the bed with earbuds in their ears, probably playing a game or cruising snapchat. If you are at all like me you have now entered the Zone of Perpetual Insanity (ZoPI). When I get to this point I get right in the face of the child and scream so loudly that not only do I end up with a sore throat, but they end with a soaking wet face from all the spit I spewed as I lost control. After they wipe their face they say something like “Geeze – you don’t have to get all crazy on me.” and they are off to do the chore.
As you slink away in shame that you entered the ZoPI, wondering why Once Again you have lost your mind, they stand watching you go with a smirk on their face. Why? Because they won. They pushed you onto the ledge, and you jumped. They are now in control. Since you spewed venom all over them, and probably anyone else within spitting zone, you demonstrated you are not in control of yourself. Conversely, in calmly standing there, then chiding you for losing your mind, your child has proven that he is in control of himself – and you. What a powerful position to be in!
Once he has completed his chore he’ll walk up to you and say “I did it. Are you happy now? I don’t know why you have to get so crazy”, and he’ll walk away. Chances are, when you go to check his work, he’ll have done a terrible, half assed job, but you don’t call him on it. You won’t make him go back and do it right, because you are crazy. You spit in his face – you are 100% certifiable, a whack job, one tantrum away from a straight jacket. He, on the other hand, is in total control of his emotions, as evidenced by the calm demeanor he exhibited as you went ape shit on him. And, he has learned a powerful lesson – if he pushes and pushes, eventually you will lose control and, once you do, the situation turns away from him doing his chore to you calming down. He now knows that all he has to do to get out of work is push your buttons. He Won.
This behavior is to be expected from children. Children are supposed to test limits, mess up, try on various obnoxious behaviors and challenge authority. This is a normal part of growing up, the way a child figures out who he is, how far he can push limits, how far he wants to push limits. The problem comes into play when this behavior continues into adulthood.
Here’s how this works.
The narcissist targets you. The love bombing phase begins, and you are the Queen. You can do no wrong. You are his soulmate, you were born to be together, you love all of the same things, you have the same goals in life, he will do whatever you want and, if there is a disagreement, he will quickly drop his position and take your side. How lucky are you! You have met the man you never even dreamed of, because who could dream up such perfection. When he proposes you jump for joy. “Of course I’ll marry you.” Damn, I am the luckiest person in the world you think. Once engaged, things turn.
One day you ask him to do something. “Hey, can you carry in the groceries”, feeling confident that he’ll do so, because he’s always insisted that is his job, you are too perfect to by carrying heavy bags of food. He says “Sure”, then walks away. You stand in the kitchen, a bit confused. Did he not hear you? Does he have to go to the bathroom first? Is he taking the long way to the car? What is happening? You wait a few minutes then head off to find him. He is watching TV. You calmly reiterate “Hey – can you carry in the groceries”, because clearly he just didn’t hear you the first time. You are taken aback when he snaps “In a minute”.
It’s hard to argue with a “in a minute”. After all, you know that as much as you’d like to be, you are not, in fact, the Queen. You are a mere mortal, asking your beloved to interrupt what he was doing to serve you. Calm down, you admonish yourself. He’ll get to it.
I won’t go through the steps it takes to push you off the ledge – if you are still reading, you can substitute any of a hundred scenarios you yourself have lived. When you finally go ape-shit on his ass, he’ll deliver the first real blow. He’ll look at you, you with the eyes bugging out of your head, spit drooling down your chin, hands shaking and body twitching – he will look at you, cock his head in a demonstration of concern, and he’ll whisper the magic words – “you seem really upset. Do you think you need to talk to someone, like a therapist?”.
And, as they say, that is all she wrote. You have entered into the vortex of abuse that will be extremely difficult to extricate yourself from. Chances are you are a damaged person to begin with, which is why he picked you. That one sentence, coupled with the fact that you entered the ZoPI over groceries, are all he needs to convince you that you have a problem. As you ponder the suggestion that you need therapy, you throw into your thought process the fact that he is the dream man, the man that has been so good to you, treated you like a Queen, agreed with all you say and do and, well, what possible conclusion can you come to? The only logical explanation for your loss of contact with reality is that you do, in fact, need therapy.
He has Won. From this point forward drama will be his go-to weapon of control. Whenever he feels like you are figuring things out, whenever he senses that you are looking at him more clearly, he will create a dramatic altercation which ends with you in the ZoPI. Each scene will end with his head cocked in dramatic concern, reiterating that perhaps you need therapy.
These dramas feed the narcissist. As time goes on the dramas will come more frequently. This happens because once the love bombing phase is over the narcissist loses his own sense of power. Remember that while he has been manipulating you during love bombing, you have been inadvertabtly filling up the void that is his soul. Once you stop filling that void, he has to find other ways to feel complete, to feed that gnawing hole in his being. If he can’t fill it with your adoring acts, he goes to the 2nd best way – pushing you off the ledge. Every time you enter the ZoPI, you fill up that empty part of his soul. The spit you spew as you lose control is like food to him, verification that he is OK, he is in control, he is better than you, he has power.
Eventually you realize you have married a child. A disturbed child. His vortex of despair becomes a cage you can not escape. As time ticks by, as the dramas add up, as you spend more and more time in the ZoPI, you slowly disappear. And one day you wake up and wonder what happened, only to realize you have no idea, you just know you are crazy.