The dreaded anticipation, presence, and aftermath of a hurricane is devastating to communities, families, and states. But so is a narcissist. Viewing the storm from a distance, you can see it’s massiveness, intensity, and potential destructibility. However, while in the middle of the storm, it is hard to know when you have experienced the worst of the destruction. The same is true for a relationship with a narcissist. Here are six other similarities.
- Their reputation precedes them. If there is ever an ideal time for a politician to release a self-deprecating scandal to the news media, it is during the preparations for a hurricane because the hurricane will overshadow any other news. With reminders of previous hurricanes and their subsequent damage, predictions of the current path and its continual changes, and countless photos of empty shelves, boarded-up windows, and abandoned streets, there is an absence of any other news information. Not only does the reputation of a hurricane precede itself, it dominates. The same is true for narcissists. Anyone who has endured the path of a narcissist knows the best strategy is to prepare ahead of time and listen to the advice of those who have already survived this storm in their lives.
- The calm before the storm. Just prior to a hurricane hitting, the weather is beautiful. There are clear skies, an absence of humidity, the temperature is just right, and it is inviting to be outdoors. But behind the façade is a powerful force that only the animals seem to sense. Birds fly in the opposite direction, smaller creatures take cover, and even the crickets and frogs become silent. The calm before the storm is eerie. It is an indication that the dangerous hurricane is near. This is very similar to the initial feel a person has while dating a narcissist. There seems to be nothing wrong and everything looks perfect. Only those with a keen animal-like instinct know to avoid the narcissist.
- Front side of the storm. The initial bands of wind and rain are shocking yet manageable. First-time hurricane survivors tend to let their guard down because they wrongly believe that this is the worst part of the storm. They might venture outside, posting pictures of bending trees, arrogantly assuming that others are overreacting. This is like a sucker punch. As the eye of the storm approaches, everything rapidly escalates as the winds intensify and the rain blows sideways in heavy sheets. Narcissists use the same tactic. The idea is to set their opponent off balance by allowing them to think the narcissist has thrown an initial powerful punch, but they have not. It is the next punch that is the most dangerous.
- Eye of the storm. Once again there is an eerie calm amidst blackness. Even if it is daytime, the sky is dark and low as the winds become silent and the rains cease (some hurricanes even have clear or yellow skies in the eye). Depending on the size and speed of the storm this can last for a few minutes to almost a half-hour. Make no mistake: it is the eye in the center of a storm that determines the strength. The more controlled an eye, the more powerful the storm. At the heart of every narcissist is a deep-rooted insecurity. Just like a hurricane, the deeper the insecurity the more controlling the narcissist. Just because a narcissist reveals that insecurity, it does not mean a person is safe from attack. Rather, the reverse is true especially as the back of the storm approaches because a narcissist fears exposure or embarrassment more than anything else.
- Back side of the storm. The violent nature of the storm following the eye now seems to have been minimized in comparison to the front. Literally out of nowhere, things rapidly escalate to a level well beyond what was expected. This is when trees fall, loose objects become projectiles, roofs collapse, windows shatter, screened-in rooms cave, and the flooding begin. As the bands of wind and rain sweep around the eye, their direction changes, causing even more damage. It isn’t over until the last band dissipates and the skies clear once again. Once a narcissist feels exposed or vulnerable (which is what happens during the appearance of the eye), they attack with such force that it leaves a permanent emotional scar. This is the knockout punch.
- Cleaning up from the damage. The light of the day brings clarity as to the extent of the damage. Some have more damage than others and worse, some are completely devastated. Stories of survival are recounted, curfews are lifted, neighbors’ band together to help each other, electrical companies work overtime, once-blocked roads are cleared, trash is picked up off the ground, and a new normal ensues. But the memory of the storm lives forever so much so that even the mention of a pending storm clears grocery store shelves days in advance. This PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) reaction is common for anyone living in the area. It is also true also for anyone who has lived through a narcissistic relationship. The PTSD responses to new narcissists are normal as a person prepares for the worst.
Not all storms are like nor are all narcissists alike. Some are more powerful than others, some have greater influence, or some weaken just before impact. Nonetheless, it is good to be prepared and aware by planning for the worst and hoping for the best.