My father’s room was completely abandoned two years ago after he passed away. Whenever I’d go into that room, to stuff it with things I didn’t want lying around anywhere else in the house, I’d hear shredding and tearing sounds coming from the cupboard which I certainly believed, were of a mouse. One day, I decided to take it out of there before a breeding ground was made. Using a long traverse rod, I started to hit the back wall through all the old books and clothes, to scare the mouse away with the bangs. While doing this, a couple of things fell off the shelf diverting my attention from the mission at hand.
A gold-colored portable charger with a USB cable attached to it fell hard on the floor. Another thing that came down, albeit with a graceful flight, was a big birthday card made for me with a fiery orange color chart paper, with sparkly baloon figures pasted on its front. Suddenly, I felt a rush of two conflicting emotions boiling inside me – one of being worthy and other one of being worthless. The latter one is what I’ve resonated with a lot throughout my 28 years of playing a character in this drama called life. The two things that fell down were given to me by women, two different women that I dated in separate, and sometimes in overlapping timelines. I wondered how one of them showered me with affection, care, attention, to which I responded with ignorance and self-centeredness and how I allowed the other woman to lie, cheat and even take away my right to grieve for my parents.
Last week, I found myself restlessly fighting the urge to unblock her contact number(the woman who couldn’t love me) to look at her profile picture. I had already done it quite a few times this year. After all that I went through during that relationship, I wasn’t able to understand as to why I was still interested in her. Everytime I feel a bit down, why do I long for the initial good times we’ve had? If I wrote down every instance when I was done wrong in that relationship, one would say that I should have left it way back. It feels like I’m betraying my soul, by being hooked on to her despite being in no contact for over an year.
While looking for justifications for this childlike longing and desperation, I started reading about unhealthy relationships, pathological lying, manipulation, leading myself into exploring psychology. It further introduced me to personality disorders and the concept of trauma bonding. Trauma bonding is a term for the emotional attachment arising out of repeated cycles of abuse alternated with positive reinforcements. Here, the sufferer over the time develops mixed feelings for a person who constantly causes them physical pain, emotional pain or both. It’s like carrot on a stick policy.
I remember getting silent treatments for weeks whenever I turned down any of her unreasonable demands and also being love bombed, when I agreed to them. It puts you in a permanent state of desiring their attention and appreciation. People who are not directly involved in such a toxic engagement, find it difficult to comprehend as to why someone would have any kind of sympathy or care for a person who abuses them. Think of trauma bond like Stockholm syndrome, if that is what you’ve heard more often. I realised I was trauma bonded with that woman. Despite being manipulated, deceived and denied of any affection, I continued to justify her behaviours. On the other hand, I was being a selfish, emotionally detached partner to the other woman. It was like a pain chain – you hurt me and I’ll pass it forward. But it’s not just my story, it’s yours too.
All this points towards lack of two basic human emotions – empathy and remorse. I’d prefer referring to those lacking these as LOEAR(lo-ee-ar) people. Reading about their behavioural patterns, I had an epiphany. There are so many people like this who are socially accepted despite their unaccomodating stance towards others. Their ways are brushed aside as attitude problems or plain selfishness because then, they seem more vincible and less harmful. Yes, we mistake LOEAR people with self-centered people.
See, the human brain thrives on being in control and certainities. It also prefers to avoid discomfort and rely more on the senses than its own intellect. We believe that people are generally good or atleast harmless until proven otherwise. Moreover, our reasoning takes a back seat when we are subjected to manipulation and lies, as we don’t know who or what to trust anymore. This is called cognitive dissonance.
All of this, partially explains as to why people continue to support their chosen leader despite his/her frequent displays of egocentricity and shades of racism. Initially, it’s in the hope for a prosperous future and later, it’s due to the newly formed trauma bond. Narcissism is mostly a part of discussions around unhealthy relationships – romantic or family. Seldom do we see it being an explored aspect, during electoral political debates or even in public opinions about a celebrity accused of harassment. It seems that our society isn’t able to comprehend the gravity of these wrongdoings unless, it’s personal to us. We anyways still attach stigma to mental health issues, so what else can be expected from us.
Everyone displays LOEAR traits from time to time. The need for admiration, recognition, special attention is present in all of us. An absence of empathy is observed in people who are going through collective grief. But, the scale of these traits is low and their presence is temporary. Most of us are able to come back to the baseline in a short period of time. On the other hand, a LOEAR person would stay with these traits for long and won’t find anything wrong with it. These traits are clearly visible in most of the people in power.
Black marketing by medical suppliers and biased vaccination drives amongst states during Covid-19 pandemic, brought into light the narcissism in people holding power. It might not have been a big issue in the developed nations, but in third world countries, this actually cost us millions of lives. If a leader shows no remorse for failing to protect the lives of the citizens, then the nation needs to worry. Why aren’t we able to gauge the profundity of having LOEARs in authority or at influencer positions. Yes, they are charming, they make big promises with confidence, but that doesn’t mean they are going to deliver on them. Only to satisfy our constant hunger to see change, we vote for them without realising that in the long haul, they are harmful to our civilized and cooperative societal frame.
The other day, I was reading a list of top 10 most intelligent animal species on earth. I knew dolphins would get a mention there, but an octopus making it to the list astonished me. I didn’t know much about them, they were just too mysterious creatures for me. It turns out that they’re quite smart. But the yardstick for judging the I.Q of other species has always been the human intelligence. It’s like judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will surely fail everytime. Every species is intelligent enough to survive in its own ecosystem. If it wasn’t for our fishing nets and dams, the salmon run will conclude with more spawning participants. It goes to show the narcissism in our species – feeling superior to other species. We are yet to find a more sustainable alternative to nuclear power and here we are, judging animal intelligence in our ecosystem.
Retrospection is always missing from our to-do list, otherwise we’d work on reviewing our intentions first. From past leaders that caused holocausts, riots, supported biased law and order executions to today’s racist and chauvinist(male) leaders, the society has always let off their acts as merely selfish and mean. Whenever we’ve supported these leaders hoping that they would improve our quality of life, we weren’t able to guess that this support is a fuel to their unquenched thirst for power and success. Why would someone without empathy care about you once they’ve obtained the support they needed to win the seat. It’s imperative for us to know when to withdraw the support. Whether it’s the mean boss or the selfish friend, if we keep brushing aside LOEAR traits, then we are fostering a Narcissus like character.
What is gender bias? In its primordial sense, it is a belief that your gender is superior and more deserving than others. It manifests in our world as deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes in every possible field of work and in relationships. Women in any field, equally skilled and resourceful, are paid much lower than their male counterparts. This unjust rewarding habit also serves as a covert way, to discourage women from even desiring an independent life. Also, the harassment episodes at work are subconsciously aimed at ensuring that women stay subservient to men. This is the male narcissism.
Even if it’s a family matter, we must not allow any form of abuse to be justified as anger outbursts or provoked behaviour. The more we stay quiet, the difficult it becomes to speak up. It’s a sin not to call out and put a stop to these abusive behaviours. Let’s question the small representations women have in governments around the world. Have we deduced that they are less capable in matters of the nation? If yes, then on what basis, apart from our narcissistic need to feel superior, was it done? If you’ve made up your mind to ask these questions, ask one more for our sake – why do we call ourselves mankind and not humankind only? Doesn’t it point towards an evolutionary narcissism in our race.
My self esteem was built every single day during the honeymoon period of my relationship. I was offered love, attention, care and a freedom with no bounds. This was all done in order to hook me in and make me crave for more. Once my trust was gained, she began alternating between withholding and intermittent display of love. This lead to cognitive dissonance casting its spell on me and I became a prisoner of my own desire. Even though our relationship changed into a long distance one pretty soon, I was in such a strong grip, that even the distance couldn’t weaken the rope. I had recently lost both my parents and was experiencing cumulative grief; I didn’t want to lose anyone else that I loved. So I kept giving in to the demands hoping that I’ll be able to see a prosperous future. I should have left that relationship at the very first display of lack of empathy or any remorse for her wrongdoings.
By the time I left, I had lost all my savings, my parents and my only passion – music. The manner in which I was discarded in the end left me feeling totally worthless. I started questioning my intellect and my odds at surviving in this harsh world. Only when I got to know about the concepts of boundaries and narcissism, was I able to comprehend how our relationship was damaging on so many levels. I encouraged her behaviour which eventually led me into a dark alley that I’m still trying hard to find a way out of. I should have left it way earlier.
There was another woman in the picture whom I mentioned at the beginning(this one did love me). At one point of time, I was dating them both, narcissistically searching for the missing passion and affection in my long distance relationship. She used to record our calls and play them back just to hear my voice. I was gifted all sort of things that showed her commitment towards the relationship, like a sketch she made from one of my pictures with a guitar – she’s a sketch artist.
She wanted me to be emotionally available and even complained about my coldness quite a few times. But I, totally unperturbed by her needs, was still craving and rooting for my chosen woman. Initially, the rooting was in hope for a happy future and later, due to the trauma bond. I should have left it earlier. The girl who loved me should have left it earlier.
The fiery orange-colored birthday card was given to me by the woman who loved me, while the charger was lent to me by the other woman that I longed for. Resentful, depressed and logically distorted, I went out in the evening and threw away the charger into the garbage dump suspecting it to be the source of my sufferings (black magic maybe). I really hoped that the curse was lifted post this desperate act for healing.
Later that night, I went back to the storeroom to continue my battle against the mouse and resumed the strikes. After a couple of hits, the mouse finally jumped out of the cupboard and ran towards its freedom. I could’ve accidently hit the mouse instead of the wall and it could have been fatal. But the mouse didn’t sit their hoping that I’ll change my mind and stop troubling him. He gave me no chance to hurt him and jumped out in time. I should have jumped out in time too. The girl who loved me should have jumped out in time.