Over the last number of years, there are two situations that I approached with dread more than anything else during the course of the year: holidays and vacations. I used to think this was unique to me, but the more that I’ve learned about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, the more I learned that holidays and vacations are the ultimate playground for those… afflicted… with narcissism. It’s actually true of Cluster B personality disorders across the spectrum.
Why is it that way though? Is it really all about attention for the narcissist? Why do narcissists ruin special occasions?
The narcissistic playbook of devalue and discard is especially true for a narcissist’s targets, partners, and family members on special occasions. Narcissistic individuals are hellbent on destruction, particularly relationship destruction, and their lack of empathy and inability to handle intimate relationships makes Christmas or your anniversary or Mother’s Day almost an offense to their alternate reality, which will catch up with them and cause them to bring it crashing down, often spectacularly, during these times.
In my years of trying to understand, here’s some things that I’ve put together:
Narcissism doesn’t know empathy- Have you ever given someone a gift for their birthday or for a holiday and watched with anticipation and excitement as they opened it? Good, that’s normal. Narcissists don’t find joy in making others happy. As a side bar, narcissists are either incredible gift givers because gift giving is a show and a way to make them look good to others, or they’re incredibly terrible gift givers because they just don’t care. Narcissists aren’t wired to care about things that are special to other people, so they are prone to make special moments memorable for all the wrong reasons. They’ll disappear, not show up, get intoxicated, lull about in complete misery, or otherwise make the occasion entirely about their needs. Narcissists seek to avoid what should be special memories altogether or ruin them because they are incapable of healthy emotions.
Because everything is about them, anything else is an obligation– I’m not saying that you particularly enjoy going to Grandma Betty’s nursing home every year on her birthday, but you do it and you do it with a smile on your face because you love your grandma. You stay as long as you are able and enjoy socializing with the rest of your family while there. By the time you need to leave you ended up having a great time with your family. The narcissist will either come late, not show up at all, or loathe in self pity during such an event because it’s not something that was their idea; not something that they want to be doing. Unless, of course, the narcissist is performing. If visiting Grandma Betty helps them perform for some particular audience or massages their ego, they will happily oblige. Because they are getting something from it. If the narcissist didn’t think of it, the act of doing it is a chore and that just brings a feeling of misery to anyone involved.
Holidays breed intimacy, and narcissists don’t want anyone close- Making memories and sharing special occasions is a natural way to create a positive, healthy bond between people. Narcissists don’t do healthy bonds and they sure as hell don’t do intimacy. Getting close to people, having meaningful conversations- these are things that gives a narcissist anxiety, and they have no skills or resources to deal with that. Anxiety makes a person extremely unreliable; when faced with a situation that causes anxiety, a narcissist will do anything to distract, shove the feeling aside, or numb it with drugs or alcohol. Pair that with a lack of empathy and you have a holiday dumpster fire.
Misery is easier- You’ve probably heard the saying misery loves company. For a narcissist, because they live most often on a default setting of self-loathing, self-pity and misery, they look to bring others to that place, even if subconsciously. Ruining a holiday could be something that gives an overt narcissist joy; sucking the positive energy out of a room could be a way that makes a covert narcissist feel special. Regardless, it’s easier for them to operate as a miserable person than a happy one.
There is no one that does Christmas like me. If you know anything about me over the last fifteen years, you know that I go all out- we start decorating in October (okay, September) (okay, it was technically still August last year), load up multiple trees of different shapes and sizes, play Christmas music obnoxiously well before the official season begins, and generally just take great pleasure in the warmth of the holidays. My kids have all become just as Christmas crazed – my Nico especially. It’s magical.
This year no one is going to ruin our Christmas. There will be no need to self-isolate because we’re embarrassed what might happen when we see friends and family. There will be no need to prepare for disaster and be ready with an escape plan. There will just be us and the magic of the holidays.
And that extends to this, my second Mother’s Day since filing for divorce and first since escaping down here to Florida. There is something so empowering knowing that my babies and I have the weekend to celebrate our life and freedom down here without having to worry about what fireworks show is going to go off (it will only be Disney fireworks for us from here on out!).
This past week the state of Florida re-opened most beaches with social distancing guidelines, and so we took a quick trip down to Cocoa Beach this morning to kick off the weekend and had an absolutely amazing time.
A few photos from our socially distanced beach getaway this morning; it was amazing to finally do something that felt very FLORIDA. And sorry friends back up home, it especially felt nice to do it as you sent and posted pictures of the snow coming down in your backyards. 🙂