Too many of our relationships with family and friends are thoroughly toxic. Instead of giving us energy, as does a healthy relationship, they drain us, leaving us feeling depressed or inadequate. The real litmus test for whether a relationship is toxic is healthy is not so much how we experience it while we’re in the presence of the other, but how we feel about it afterwards.
Recently, I reconnected with a friend of mine, Jasper, who I had not seen in several years. The first time we got together we had a good laugh- reminiscing, and exchanging vignettes from our day to day lives. The second time, however, which was later the same week, was not nearly as pleasant.
I had sought his assistance in coming up with a marketing for my book. Over the course of 3 hours of conversation I was inundated with innumerable facts relating to the strength of his connections with major players, and the challenges facing anyone trying to parlay a book into a continuous stream of income. However, what was conspicuously missing was any concrete answer to my question. My question it seemed was only a launching pad, a sort of pretext, for a pitch directed at demonstrating how much he knew, and how near he was to success. The obvious implication being that compared to him, I was not even on the playing field.
In the words of Shakespeare: “Nothing comes from nothing”. The spiritual vacuum that lies inside the narcissist is all consuming. The achievements of others, particularly those ‘near and dear’ to them, is perceived as a threat, an unwelcome reminder of what they themselves have failed to achieve. It would appear that envy consumes them in a way that is simply unfathomable for the majority of us. Even when the narcissist, has by any objective measure, far surpassed the object of their envy that is still not enough to satisfy their need for dominance. The ultimate victory for such people is to have the other completely under their control.
How many married couples do know where one spouse has systematically undermined the self confidence, and self image of the other- usually the stronger of the two? Over the course of years this relentless assault, like waves crashing against rocks, leaves the stronger vanquished- having been reduced to an empty husk, a mere shadow of their former selves. This applies equally to relations between friends, colleagues, or within the family.
How many of the key relationships in your life, when placed under the cold light of objective scrutiny, might not reveal this same pattern? A disturbing thought, I know. Nonetheless, one well worth considering!