Nearly ten years ago, I learned the word "narcissist." It was a fascinating discovery. At the time I was engaged in endless power struggles with my husband. As far as I was concerned, he definitely lacked empathy. The more I brought it to his attention, the more he seemed to suck the life out of me, triggering anger and feeding off my emotional energy.
I downloaded articles. I read books. I discovered an entire world of social media that diagnosed the solution: LEAVE. The only way to treat narcissism is to get as far away from the cold, heartless, energy vampire as possible.
The other paradigm I found extremely interesting was that most people who discovered they were in narcissistic cycles also self-identified as "empaths." I, too, was empathic. The entire framework that explained how empaths attract narcissists simply made too much sense to ignore. I was convinced. I had finally figured out what was wrong with my marriage. I was an empath married to a narcissist. So, the next obvious solution was to leave my emotional vampire in the dust.
Yet something was "off" about this analysis. It was somehow too scripted, too convenient. I scrubbed the internet to find if there was any hope of healing a narcissist. Finally, I found a therapist who took the position that it was possible to heal a narcissist. But there were certain limited conditions that would make it work. He agreed with the prevailing professional prognosis. However, he carved out anarrow exception that did not doom all marriages like mine to the eventuality of divorce.
Okay, so I discovered an anomaly of sorts. But now what? I was disconnected from my husband in every way--emotionally, physically and spiritually. Certainly, my life could not be doomed to endless emotion-draining abuse. Could it?
Well, I decided that if the narcissist represented an "emotional vampire," then I would simply stop feeding him emotions. Wouldn't that make sense? The problem was that, when triggered, I was emotionally reactive. I simply could not help myself. I believed this was simply my personality. But I deperately needed to starve my vampire of emotional energy supply.
So, I continued my research and encountered the writings of James Allen. I consumed the first book, As a Man Thinketh with an unmatched ferocity. I listened to it during my morning commute to the office. I played it in the background as I worked. I ate lunch with it. I fell asleep listening to this book dozens and dozens of times. The wisdom made so much sense: If I THINK I' m an empath that has attracted an emotional vampire, then I am correct.
When I made this connection between my thoughts, beliefs, and reality, the game completely changed. I returned to the idea of my self-identity as an "empath." What began to trouble me was the construction of the empath-narcissist dynamic. When I analyzed this framework more closely, the prevailing advice made all empaths "victims" and narcissists "vampires." When I confronted this paradigm with a new perspective, the bottom line was that I had agreed to be a victim, little red riding hood. And by accepting that framework, I developed the belief system that my husband was simply the big bad wolf.
Yeah. No. I'm not doing that anymore.
The problem with the prevailing argument, psychological framework concerning the empath-narcissist connection is that it is based on part truth, part lie. The way I like to think of it is that if you take a clear glass of clean water and then take one drop of sewage and mix it into the water, the whole glass is polluted. One drop of filthy water is not going to turn all of the water brown. But I have never met anyone who would be willing to drink from a glass of water they knew had a single drop of sewage in it.
The same goes for the empath-narcissist construct. It has a drop of sewage. A small dose of missing information that makes its analysis, diagnosis, and prognosis unreliable.
And I'm here to tell you that had I not found that lone voice in the world wide web who had a difference of opinion, I would have drunken the entire glass of clear poopy water.
I' m here to tell you that I healed a narcissist.
And that narcissist was MYSELF.
And once I got serious about piecing together the truth of my identity, the truth that I did not NEED my husband for happiness, the truth that the conflict in our relationship originated with the conflict within MYSELF...
My husband began to empathize with me.
Let's be very clear. I'm not a licensed mental health professional. I'm simply a reformed, mental health patient. As a pastor and legal professional, I have simply insisted on identifying the evidence of healing in my own life so that I can share the process with others.
Do I believe there is a condition that is clinically classified as narcissism? Yes.
Do I believe that condition is very serious and debilitating? Yes.
Do I believe, after counseling thousands of people in family crisis that most complaints of narcissism are the extreme clinical diagnosis as defined by clinical licensed mental health professionals? Absolutely not.
I healed my narcissist by healing ME.
And now, there are two voices in social media shouting to you. I will just encourage you to turn your focus away from trying to heal the person you have identified as an emotional vampire. Instead, especially if you self-identify as an empath, I encourage you to turn all of your extreme love, affection, and commitment towards uncovering and healing the broken spaces of your own heart.
That's how I healed.
That's how I reconnected with the love of my life.
That's how I erased our family from the divorce playbook.