So my last blog, about my experience with a narcissist, caused quite a stir.
I received scores of messages – both public and private – from people (99% of them women), who had experienced something similar – or far worse.
They thanked me for speaking out and saying what they had been – or still are – afraid to voice. Many of them are still experiencing trauma and/or have needed years to recover.
I was shocked and stunned.
Admittedly, I didn’t know all of them personally. But the ones I do know, I sure as hell wouldn’t describe as desperate-for-love push-overs.
These are intelligent, beautiful, successful, kind, talented, popular women with character. They have a spiritual practice (or even career) and they’ve all done tons of “work” on themselves.
I’d have no trouble defining myself that way either.
So something wasn’t quite clicking for me when I was hungrily reading all the literature on the co-dependent/empath – narcissist dynamic and coming across passages about women, who couldn’t cope on their own or who felt empty and needy without a lover.
Before my ex, my life was full, I was doing what I loved, feeling good about myself, had great relationships with friends and family and had been managing my life very nicely thank you.
If anything, after 12 years as a self-employed single Mum, I was “too independent” (or at least that’s one of the things my ex complained about).
So what was going on here?
I’ve been determined to excavate and heal from this crushing love disaster. Shining the light on my shadow is a standard part of my practice. It’s what I signed up for as a Priestess, Yogi & Tantrika.
And I really wasn’t expecting this.
So I’m going to do my best to take a look at what it was that got me hooked into this.
Please be kind as you read this and please don’t send me your well-meaning advice or pseudo-psychoanalysis.
If it is in any way helpful for you, then my work is done. I share to inspire and inform. I write from the heart. And I acknowledge that I am an eternal work in progress.
1. I loved the man with all my heart
I know it’s stating the obvious, but I thought it worth stating nonetheless. Above and beyond everything else that comes next, was the immense love that I felt for this man.
I love quickly. I love FULL ON. I don’t have all kinds of barriers around my heart. And even though I’ve experienced a lot of heart-break, what this seems to have done for me is to simply expand my heart deeper and wider every time.
We both declared our love for one another within a week of meeting. And after that, I opened myself to him in every way. I can hear some of you thinking “are you crazy?!”
Well, no more than most, I’d say. LOL. And if you fit this into the general thread of my years-long devotion to love and sacred relationship (see below), it’ll make more sense.
There was nothing I picked up on in the early stages, that would have had me be wary. Our love felt profound, eternal and mutual. He was totally devoted, caring, attentive and generous. He embodied the most perfect lover I had ever known. And when we met, it truly felt as if I’d known him for lifetimes and we were home.
This love that was so ardently ignited, didn’t just peter out, when things started to go awry. I can’t just turn off that flow of love like a tap. It was my love for him that kept me there, that made allowances, that forgave and forgot, but which also made it oh so painful, when his behaviour shifted towards abuse.
It’s a very strange experience to be abused by someone you love. You know in every fibre of your being that it’s wrong. The violent contradiction of it made my head spin with confusion, my heart and guts lurch with wretchedness and my soul feel terrorized.
I simply couldn’t understand how anyone could treat another this way, let alone someone they loved. And I think I went into denial about it.
And then right when it got too much, he would flip back into normal mode. The charming devotee. And, for quite a few cycles of these Jekyll & Hyde extremes (which were in themselves disorientating), I was somehow able to push it all to the recesses of my consciousness and thaw my traumatised body back into his arms. Which were, by then, the only pair of arms I had to go to in any case.
The place which had been my haven, had also become my hell. And it almost did me in.
2. I believed our union was divinely ordained
This may sound far out and cuck-coo to some of you, but hey, I’m a Priestess, who regularly invokes the Goddess and other deities and I had been meditating and visioning my dream future (including my sacred life-partner) into being for months.
I have been dedicated to the embodiment of Divine Union for over a decade, devoted years to the study of conscious relationship and immersed myself deeply in practices designed to heal, integrate and awaken my inner masculine and feminine.
My life had been expanding at a rate of knots and in the previous year, I had been through a massive healing and awakening process, in which I experienced myself as one with the Divine and caught glimpses of reality beyond the veil.
I’ve also had more than my fair share of crazy, cosmic love encounters over the past 10 years (detailed in my forthcoming book), so the extraordinary-ness of it all actually felt in keeping with the flavour of my life.
So when my this man contacted me – the very day after I had conducted a powerful invocation ceremony – and presented himself as all that I had asked for, I didn’t doubt this was the Universe cosmically delivering my prayers.
And, at first, it really was EVERYTHING I had asked for.
So when things started to feel “off” and he began to behave differently or even in ways that alarmed me, I kept coming back to my unwavering belief that the Divine had brought us together for a higher purpose.
I simply couldn’t countenance (and then didn’t want to) that such a perfect manifestation wasn’t meant to be.
And so I saw it as my responsibility to make things work. Partly in gratitude to the Goddess for her bounty. And partly as my divine task in really practising what I preach.
With hindsight I can see how this belief, coupled with the Twin Flame Fantasy, kept me locked in way beyond what was healthy.
Far-out as my belief in cosmic manifestation might seem however, I have since read about paranormal/dark energy interference in such apparently predestined love-matches. My experience fits the description to tee. Crazy, but thought-provoking.
I’m certainly feeling way more cautious these days about ritualistic invocation, sex magic and guarding my energy field!
Of course, now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see the higher purpose of all of it. It’s been one hell of an arse-kick into addressing my issues around self-belief, boundaries and loving too much. Ultimately, I got what I needed, not what I wanted. And I’m grateful.
3. I believe that conscious relationship is about facing our shadows together
Every book I’ve read, every course I’ve taken, every expert I’ve interviewed and every experience I’ve had, has taught me that relationship brings up our shadow: our unhealed wounds, our psychic and emotional unconscious, our patterns, fears and defences.
So for years now I’ve known that, welcomed it and urged the Universe to bring it on in my passion for truth. I know that relationship is the fast-track to transformation, so I’ve been longing for a partner with whom to really dig deep. And I’ve trained myself (and taught others) in ways to communicate effectively and build authentic intimacy.
When my ex told me he, too, wanted a conscious, committed, tantric relationship, I made the mistake of assuming he meant the same thing as me and that he understood the role of the shadow. But he didn’t - on either count.
Only this wasn’t immediately apparent. At the start, he made a convincing display of transparency and awareness, that had me fooled.
But once I was “all in” and the problems started, his transparency and awareness evaporated, to be replaced with such a staggering arsenal of defences, that I found it impossible to communicate or connect with him meaningfully.
And yet I persisted. Which only made matters worse. For every time I communicated in the transparent way I have learned and am used to, he got triggered. Every time I suggested a different approach to resolving our differences, he defended or evaded.
Yet in the classic narcissistic double-bind, he was also quick to taunt me for my “failure”: “how come you can’t resolve our issues if you’re such an expert at tantra and conscious relating then, huh?!”
It was as if my being needed time to catch up with the reality. There was so much cognitive dissonance going on. (He loved me, loved me not. He said this, then that.)
So firmly did I believe in the inevitability and necessity of our shadow work, that I made it both an initial excuse for his behaviour (“Oh, that’s just his shadow”) and a spur to greater commitment (“this is really confronting and painful. There’s clearly something really big for us both to see and heal here. What a wonderful opportunity! How can I engage him in our conscious exploration of this?”)
What I initially failed to recognise (and eventually admit to myself), was that he was neither capable of honest self-assessment or conscious dialogue, nor willing to explore either his or my shadow.
And in my co-dependent need to resolve things together, I failed to pull back and start my own deeper shadow work without him.
Had I known I was dealing with a narcissist, it might have been different. But I had no idea such a behavioural tendency even existed.
What this experience has taught me is that, although I have naively persisted in optimistic love-and-light-land for decades, some people simply are not reachable – by love, reason, compassion or conscious communication techniques.
And that there is a corresponding part of me that feels a strong need to reach – to connect, to love, to be heard, to find mutual understanding.
So in my passion and love-blindness, I had hooked myself up with the perfect mind-fuck: living proof that I was crap at my job, by way of a man who was impervious to authentic intimacy.
4. We had made a commitment to one another
A few years ago, I wrote some marriage vows and then, on New Year’s Eve, spoke the vows out loud and married myself.
It was a commitment I made to my inner masculine and to my self in a sacred ceremony, to be the ONE I was waiting for and cultivate the inner union and profound eternal love I aspired to.
When I met my ex, we both spoke vows of commitment to one another. The day we met, he got down on one knee to and pledged his heart. And one fine day a month later, I took out the vows I’d spoken to myself and spoke them to him – from my heart.
We promised to speak and live by truth.
We promised to be “all in”.
We committed ourselves to fidelity and honouring.
We committed ourselves to sharing our shadow and growing together.
We even spoke about celebrating our union in sacred sites all around the world.
I didn’t take this lightly. I meant it most sincerely. And I thought he did too.
So I honoured that commitment. I gave it all that I had. And I felt betrayed, afraid and bewildered, when his story and behaviour began to change to increasing detachment, truth-fudging and energetic/emotional/sexual leakiness. All of which, of course, served to increase my sense of de-stabilisation. And trigger my need for closeness.
Although it took me some time and a lot more suffering, it was actually his betrayal and denial of commitment that finally spurred me into anger and the resolution to end it.
5. Our union offered me everything I had asked for
So I got it. All. On a golden platter with knobs on. After years of intense personal growth work. After years of struggling financially and doing it all alone as a single Mum. After numerous heart-breaks and let-downs. After months of visioning, meditating and calling in my heart’s deepest desires.
I got the committed, conscious, devoted man I’d prayed for
I got the inner & outer union I’d been working towards for a decade
I got the gorgeous house by the sea in the sun.
I got the tropical beach paradise.
I got the travel to Bali and Australia
I got the film-maker with whom to co-create my interview show
I got the co-creative alchemy I’d been dreaming of
I got the opportunity to finish writing my book in peace
I got the healthy, vegetarian food I’d wanted – and cooked for me too!
I got gifts galore beyond anything I’d ever imagined
I got to attend the conscious Festivals I’d had in mind
Yes, this specifically, my dreams were answered. I figured I’d suddenly won the Master Manifestor Jackpot and gone to Heaven!
So when things began to turn sour, a part of me was understandably reluctant to face the loss of it all.
And another part of me felt so incredibly grateful that I made allowances. I mean, come on, the Universe and this man had gifted me SO MUCH. I figured I owed it to him to temper my needs and make small compromises in return.
But this was one key in the lock, he was later to play upon, switching drastically from heartfelt vows of unconditional support to manipulative accusations of ingratitude.
And this is one more lesson I’m finding it hard to swallow, because I’m so bloody programmed to “be nice”. Even if I feel gratitude towards another, I owe them nothing, least of all the compromise of my integrity and well-being.
6. We had mapped out our future together
When the Universe delivered, I said WOW! THANK YOU! And I leapt. In with both feet. No holds barred.
Deliriously happy and excited as we BOTH were, convinced of our TWIN FLAME status as BOTH were, we were mapping out our future together within weeks and nothing could have seemed more natural.
To me it felt like the obvious continuation of the future I’d been envisioning becoming my now reality. I’d already seen it in my mind’s eye. Now it was happening. We BOTH said we wanted the same things. Our co-creation was flowing like magic. What was there to doubt?
We planned out the whole year together – work, travel, holidays. I oriented my livelihood and schedule around “us”.
So, once again, when the red flags started popping up, a part of me wanted to bop them down again like in that arcade game, because the natural conclusion I was going to have to draw (if I really listened to them), was that that the brilliant future we’d planned and in which I’d invested my everything, was suddenly looking awfully shakey.
That frightened me. And since, by this time, I’d already been isolated and worn down to an anxious shadow of my former self, I was stuck for a while between the (wishful) thinking that I could make it all ok and the dawning realisation that I was going to have to walk through the hell-fire of letting it all go.
7. I felt ashamed and afraid to let others down
How do you tell the world – who know you as a Priestess of Love, who’ve been to your amazing workshops on conscious relationship, who’ve followed and celebrated your love story with delight on Facebook – that your dream, which has become their dream – is falling apart and no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to magic it back together again?
How do you tell your children, family and friends – the ones you left behind and so assuredly and exuberantly shared your ecstasy in love and life with, that you’re feeling confused, anxious, alone, afraid and, on occasions, abused?
That you’re sitting curled up in a corner of a room in paradise, sobbing your eyes out, half wishing you could die and wondering if you’re losing your mind?
I only ever dared tell two people.
If it weren’t for one of them, I may very well have lost it entirely.
And it was the words of the other, that really got me thinking: “if you are telling me that you are feeling abused, then whatever his background, whatever he’s done for you, however objectively “true” or not that is, WHAT are you still doing with him?”
Later, when it was over, more friends came forward to say that they’d always thought he was odd or sensed something dodgy about his energy or felt nervous about the whirlwind that had over-taken my life.
What I would say to this from today is, if you suspect a friend of yours is the victim of abuse, don’t just stand by and “let her/him walk her karma”, please say something! It is incredibly frightening and isolating to be in this position.
8. I take too much responsibility and doubt myself
However secure and confident I may seem, there is a part of me that is always wondering if she has done a good enough job and will tend to assume fault or adopt responsibility: far beyond, in many cases, what is a healthy balance.
Heck, I used to feel guilty just walking past a security guard, even though I’m probably one of the most compulsively honest people I know!!
This is the perfect fit for a narcissist, who blames everyone but him/herself for whatever is going on. I noticed this blaming tendency early on, and it did make me uneasy, but at the time, my primary response to the blaming stories was compassion (because they were about the terrible things other people had done to him) and a desire to be accepting.
But when the finger started pointing in my direction, it was a whole different ball-game.
I can’t tell you how insidiously it crept in, nor how debilitating it became. But, matched with my sensitivity and self-doubt, it was a soul destroyer.
Whereas others may immediately leap to their own defence or simply ignore an unjust or attacking statement, my tendency is to feel hurt, attempt to consciously communicate my own experience of things and also to question myself: “maybe I am being selfish?”… “maybe I didn’t communicate it clearly?”… “maybe I AM too sensitive?”
This same tendency towards self-doubt, rather than bold assertion, played into the dynamic, when it came to the increasing frequency with which he changed his story or even seemed to make things up, swearing blind he had told me or we had agreed upon something, when I had no memory of it.
Rather than dismiss this as HIS problem, it added to my sense of uncertainty and the cognitive dissonance mentioned above. Put together, this was one of key dynamics that, on a couple of occasions, drove me towards what felt like insanity.
You see, the narcissist cannot be reasoned with, nor truly hear or empathise with another’s perspective. They will twist, evade, deflect, manipulate. Anything but meet in truth and vulnerability.
This is a tricky one for me. My father was an arrogant bigot, who imposed his views on my teenage self and the rest of the family with emotional and, on one rare occasion, physical violence.
I’ve been mindful ever since, that I never want to be like him. I would hate to make anyone feel the way he made me and my family feel. And I saw how his attitude caused him difficulties in his career and all his relationships, and cut him off from the richness of life.
So, by contrast, I’m very open-minded, tolerant and an eternal questioner, which has been encouraged by my breadth of travel and life experience and my study and professional choices. Nothing really surprises me, which in situations like this can be a disadvantage.
Whereas some people might have recoiled long before, my open-ness tends to have me sit with something unfamiliar in curiosity, rather than judgement. But what I’m now beginning to wonder is if a part of this might also stem from an adolescence, in which my boundaries were so pervasively over-ridden by both parents, that a part of me is stuck in a false and unsafe degree of open-ness to other-ness.
On top of this, I’ve taken the spiritual precept that everything outside of us is inside of us to heart.
From my current perspective, I misinterpreted and misused this spiritual thinking against myself though – taking responsibility for what wasn’t mine and using new age beliefs to beat myself up and put myself down, rather than find empowerment.
And this is a really important one for us empaths and sensitives to be aware of.
You see, here’s where I think I got it wrong. I was with a person, whose words and actions felt abusive. And my response was: “what am I doing wrong here?” “how can I love more?” “what do I need to do or be to bring a return to love, understanding and harmony here?” “what in me is inviting this?”
But these were the wrong questions.
As I now see it, this exaggerated internal focus on my own failings and need to change, not only fitted perfectly with his blame pattern, but actually colluded with the abuse and kept me locked into it.
What I should have been asking myself, as my friend did is: “what are you still doing here?!”
The biggest thing I was “doing wrong” was staying in the relationship, when it was not just hurting, but destroying me. The second biggest thing was thinking I was doing or being anything wrong at all. It was staying there and believing I must be in some way inviting it, that invited it!
9. I trust, make allowances and positive projections
I’m trusting, open-hearted and almost childlike in my innocence. I see the best and greatest potential in others. If they act in a way, which I find challenging or hurtful, my initial reaction is most frequently to make allowances and rationalise away their behaviour as unintentional and/or stemming from their wounding (more misuse of new age thinking at my expense).
I really don’t like to jump to conclusions and have seen enough times, how everyone has a story that, when we hear it, enables us to find compassion for them, even when the first or surface appearance can be harsh or off-putting.
So when my ex began to contradict himself, become enraged or change his story, I reasoned that perhaps his neural pathways had been damaged by the radiotherapy he’d received a few years earlier (and even made a mental note to check in with his former wife about it)!!
When he started to hear blame in my every “I” statement, distort my words into unrecognisable fiction, yet blame me and deflect any responsibility for our difficulties, I found understanding for the fact that feeling blamed was his core wound, even though this left me feeling increasingly frustrated and hopeless.
When he started to make cruel, emotionally abusive, demeaning comments, I was aghast and bewildered. How could a person who professed – and had demonstrated - such incredible generosity and love behave like this? It made no sense to me, because my own heart cannot conceive of such behaviour.
I was making the cardinal mistake of attributing my own sensitivity and moral code to him, rather than letting in the reality of what was before me.
This is positive projection and I’ve done it a lot. I guess I’d rather think the best than the worst of people, but at the ripe old age of 53, I am resolving to work on my discernment, scale back my tolerance and pay close attention to my bull-shit meter.
Even if I get it wrong on occasion while I’m practising these new skills, it feels edgy and empowering to say no more often, stop myself short when the old desire to “be nice” or self-denyingly tolerant kicks in and relentlessly put myself and my own judgement first.
What this also highlights for me is the need to ask more questions, make less assumptions and take more time to get to know someone – even when (or perhaps especially so) the union seems cosmic and divinely ordained !
You see, although I did ask lots of questions about his past, they weren’t necessarily to assure myself that I’d be safe with this other, but more to seek understanding and find compassion. And I took all his answers on face value. And assumed he meant the same thing as me, rather than clarifying – both through questions and observation – if we were actually on the same page.
I simply trusted and loved. And that has been my pattern.
And even when there were a few red flags, I over-rode them with my positive projection and attachment to the Twin Flame fantasy.
I knew he’d just come out of a 3-year relationship, but I didn’t question that.
I knew his ex had blocked him on all social media and called him harsh names, but I didn’t question that.
I knew he had started seeing somebody else during his last relationship, but I didn’t question that.
I knew he’d been abused and abandoned as a child, but I didn’t question that.
I witnessed him shamelessly butt in line at a concert, but I didn’t question that, even though it went against every one of my principles.
I was ensconsed in the rosey glow of love, fantasy and naivete. And I put too much faith in words and not enough in a discerning assessment of action.
10. I’m a (single) mother
I’ve thought about this one and was a little hesitant to include it, but, for me it connects both with the making allowances and overly care-taking behaviours of mine, as well as my unadulterated acceptance of being care-taken.
As a Mum, I’ve become used to sacrificing myself and going without. I’ve become used to putting myself second. A mother has to. When a child cries in the middle of the night and is hungry, you have to get up, however exhausted you are.
When a child has a tantrum and expels her emotions at you, you have to breathe and absorb it and understand she doesn’t mean it personally.
When my teens ask me to pick them up from their athletics training, I overcome my fatigue or put aside my work deadlines to do so. And organise a nice hot meal for their return too.
And I do so with love and no expectations. Whatever happens, my children come first.
And, as a single Mum for 12 years, I’ve been putting my kids first for a long time.
Now it’s not that I ever regarded my ex as a child or had maternal feelings towards him. But my conditioned tendency to defer to the needs of the other, born of years of mothering, certainly played a part.
At the same time, the part of me that has longed to put her feet up and experience being taken care of for once, certainly jumped at the chance to be cooked for, driven around (what a luxury – I hate driving!) and pampered.
11. I isolated and lost my self
So I’d leapt into this cauldron of love and perfectly manifested paradise half-way across the world and sat down with joy and gratitude to finish writing my book.
Once again, initially, this was a dream come true. I had the undisturbed peace and quiet I had prayed for in which to write and my loving partner by my side.
When he cajoled (and then manipulated) me to spend time with him or adapt my own flow of being to fit in with his, I figured I owed him that much for such kindness and generosity.
When he displayed subtle irritation if I made time to Skype with my kids, rather than fit in with his plans, I made allowances.
When he acted heart-broken at the prospect of my departure and booked me new flights home a month later, I felt the heart-break too and put that before my kids and the work commitments I was due to return to.
When he got angry if I told him I’d been messaging with a friend about something in our relationship that was bothering me, I figured I needed to be more understanding and respectful of our differences.
When I suggested we ask a trusted friend for help or seek counselling, he was vehemently dismissive.
When I hinted to one of my interviewees (a renowned tantrika and a friend) that we were having difficulties and ever so subtly courted her advice, he was furious.
When he then forbade me from talking to anyone about our problems, I complied.
Although he’d promised me we’d meditate and practice daily together, we never did. This has been an important part of the fantasy for me. Another one of those truths I’d taken at face value.
And although I continued with my own daily practice at first and had every intention of sticking to it, somehow I allowed it to be swallowed up by his needy pull for my time and energy and the vortex of our togetherness.
As with everything else, the shift was gradual.
But then suddenly, I was on the other side of the world, had no friends and no-one to turn to but my abuser/Beloved and was not doing any of the practices that sustain and connect me to my God-Source.
I had abandoned my self. And made the relationship and my partner my Source. That will never work.
12. I was financially dependent upon him
I’m a single Mum on a low income. He was a single man with savings, who offered – with utmost generosity and willingness - to pay for the things I couldn’t afford.
I would never have asked, demanded or expected this, although I did call in a man with disposable income and natural generosity.
And it seemed quite natural to me, since in all of my long-term relationships, I have always taken the attitude that’s what mine is yours. In times past, when I had a high income and considerable assets, I have paid off past lover’s loans, supported them in difficult times and invested all of my savings in a joint home.
So having someone approach me with a similar attitude didn’t strike me as unusual. It felt almost karmic in fact. And I was very very grateful.
But, once again, the ease and willingness with which he gave and offered his support began to shift. And he started to use it against me at times or accuse me of ingratitude if I did not comply to his expectations. It was an easy way to manipulate me, since I was indeed deeply grateful and utterly overwhelmed by his initial flood of generosity.
It also became another one of those narcissistically abusive double-binds: he would encourage me to focus on finishing my book or stay with him for longer, rather than return home to my freelance work schedule, but then express irritation at my lack of income.
(All the time never once earning anything himself by the way.)
His behaviour encouraged my dependence on every level, but then spurned me for it.
And when it came to a couple of crunch points; the points where I was tearing my hair out, feeling half mad, isolated and broken, my lack of financial (as well as emotional) resources were another reason I didn’t just get up and go. Especially since it wasn’t simply a case of getting to the other side of town, but the other side of the world.
It’s long, I know, but I’ve tried to be as thorough as I can. Writing this has been a process of catharsis, deeper insight and letting go for me. And I really hope it may help you too.
Once again, from where I am now, I can only feel gratitude for everything that transpired. It’s grown me to yet another level of maturity, wholeness and self-awareness. A slightly unfamiliar, but very good-feeling place of greater self-containment and deep inner cosiness. And an edgy place of exploring my no-nonsense bitch-self, when I feel my boundaries getting crossed or intuitive alarm bells going off.
Perhaps the most surprising outcome is that for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I really have no interest in men or dating. I just don’t feel a need or desire, even as I still feel super luscious. I guess it may take a while, before I will be able to both trust a man and feel confident that I won’t make the same mistakes again.
If you would like my support in processing and healing from your own experience, then I am available for one-to-one sessions, both on Skype and in person in London, UK. Please be in touch.