I recently found this story I wrote 7 years ago, after one of my Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy sessions. As I reread it, I thought about how I was attracted to narcissists because they were the best at filling my unmet childhood needs. Narcissists need us to regulate their emotions and they “hook” us by first mirroring our needs. It is a two way street, for a little while. Our ex-partners were attracted to us because of our emotional vulnerabilities and we were attracted to them because of our emotional vulnerabilities. We were set up from the beginning.
The first half of this story illustrates how our mental models dictate our relationships. In my case only a narcissist could induce that intoxicating infatuation that we call love.
February 18, 2009
Our EMDR session started the same as usual. I put on the headphones and the sound of an approaching rainstorm traveling over the ocean filled my senses. I held a beacon in each hand that rhythmically pulsed back and forth, imitating the REM stage of sleep and preparing my brain for reprocessing. I took a few breaths and relaxed in the soft overstuffed chair.
First, my therapist took me to my safe place; my sister’s spare bedroom. It has been my safe place for my entire adult life. It is a place that I could escape to anytime the burdens of life became too great to bear. My sister and her husband kept their front door open 24/7; just in case I needed an emotional shelter.
I envisioned entering the small bedroom at the top of the steep set of stairs. My grandmother’s bed filled most of the room. The dark wooden spindled frame was adorned with a cream colored bedspread and lots of pillows. There is one window in the room that overlooks the backyard and the gardens. An old bubble lamp sheds just enough light for me to focus on whatever I wanted to focus on. The atmosphere is clear of responsibilities and duties and empty of expectations and criticisms. I was free there. Free to sleep or not to sleep, to eat or not to eat, to stay in or go out. Free of the conditions, restraints and heartache that had become my daily life.
From my safe place I journeyed to the house I grew up in. There, I was standing in the dining room with the phone dangling from my fingertips. I had just learned that the man I loved and who I thought loved me had just returned from Alaska, married. How could this be? We were going to get married. His family had become my family. How could the relationship, that I thought would last forever, vanish in an instant? I stood in shock for a few moments and then the adrenaline of rejection and abandonment shot through me. I ran out the front door. I ran for blocks, cutting across lawns, darting across streets. I never felt my feet touch the ground or heard my labored breath. I fled to the small-secluded park behind the church on the hill. I ran to the end of the dock, fell face down and cried for 10 years.
Suddenly, I was hovering about 30 feet above the dock. I saw the back of a small framed young woman lying on the wooden boards below, surrounded by the greenish blue waves of a polluted lake. Her face was buried in her arms and her body heaved in torment. I heard her cry, “Why doesn’t he love me? Why am I not good enough? Why doesn’t anyone love me? I don’t understand. I want to be something to someone. I want someone to be there for me. I can’t stand the loneliness any longer.”
The phone call had caused an enormous train wreck between my fantasy relationship and reality. My reality had just confirmed that I was unlovable. I had committed my heart and soul to this relationship in a desperate need to rectify my feelings of rejection and abandonment by my father. But true to form, my first romantic relationship was just like the relationship I had had with my father, one way.
The phone call had shattered my fragile imaginary sense of significance and my daydream was exposed for what it really was—a dream. It would be 10 years before I felt that intense emotion again, this time the attraction was fatal because he married me.