Narcissistic Abuse and Codependence for Writers

I firmly believe we’re all psychologists at heart, because psychology is founded on the desire to know ourselves (yes, that is a little narcissistic…), but also the study of those around us. Today I have a wonderful fellow author sharing her knowledge on the complex and nuanced topic of narcissism and codependence. You’ll read for yourself that Luna has obviously developed a fabulous understanding of how these relationships develop and perpetuate (and how they can be overcome). Her novel, The Sleeping Serpent, is next on my reading list 🙂

There is often a strong reaction from readers of my novel, The Sleeping Serpent. The main character, Nico Romero, is a highly skilled charismatic yoga master who manipulates women to serve his desire for wealth and celebrity. One of the most frequent questions I get from readers is, why would a woman allow a man to abuse her? Why doesn’t she tell him to go to hell, and walk away? A codependent relationship with a narcissist is as addictive as cocaine. It’s an obsessive compelling force. Unwittingly, it can happen to almost anyone at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Have you ever met someone you instantly connect with—someone who seems to know who you are, and what you need? A narcissistic sociopath is charming and magnetic, they appear to be perfect—the answer to your prayers. They are emotional vampires—the ones who use manipulation to seduce their victims. They have a keen ability to quickly identify your inner wound, your vulnerabilities, and appeal to your vanity and fears to bind you to them. They make you feel a part of them, something larger and somehow more alive.

Since publishing the book in late 2015, the term narcissist has entered the mainstream lexicon. The recent exposure of the prominent media mogul Harvey Weinstein, led to the #MeToo movement which has raised awareness of the recurrent misuse of power to intimidate, exploit and coerce. When developing a character who commits sexual assault or sexual harassment it is essential to understand the motivation behind their actions. On the surface they appear restrained and to have self-discipline, but inwardly they feel inadequate and out of control—uncomfortable in their own skin. Shame is an overwhelming feeling that drives many psychological maladies. It is the compulsion behind sexual predation, and it is at the root of my character’s disorder. Abusers take pleasure in their dominance, and the suffering of their victims to assuage their own pain and feelings of debilitating agitation. Take care to draw the distinction between the behavior of an insensitive jerk and a sexual predator.

In my novel, Nico Romero uses the force of kundalini for the dark side of self-interest—his desire for wealth and fame. He compels his female students by appealing to their vanity—making them feel beautiful and giving them confidence. When writing the character of Nico, I researched Kundalini Yoga to understand this potent energy that Nico uses as a tool. As an accomplished healer with his own celebrity, he attracts an entourage of beautiful, successful Hollywood women. Each woman has something he wants—connections, money and sex. He spends time cultivating each one, playing guitar and singing Spanish love songs, and he gains their trust. Nico is captivating and passionate, but like all narcissists he is also needy and controlling. A dark healer who hooks his victims in the chakra that holds their wound, the place where they are weakest. This combination creates a codependency, a symbiotic relationship where there exists an unspoken agreement between parties, making the women feel needed and important to him. Sociopaths mirror what you want to see and believe, concealing their true nature. Once a narcissist has you compelled, the bond is difficult to break.

Persons with narcissistic personality disorder treat others as an appendage and source of supply, though they can never feel gratified. Just like a vampire story, a narcissist will siphon another’s life force in the attempt to fill the echoing emptiness they feel inside. When Nico doesn’t get his way, or someone disappoints him he becomes enraged and has a meltdown that provides him with a release of pent-up anxiety and euphoric high which empowers him in the face of feeling worthless. There can be no acceptable explanation for not responding to his (or any narcissist’s) immediate demands. In the book, the extreme drama Nico creates is a plea for validation stemming from his fear of loss.

Over time, those who are bound to a sociopath barely register the verbal abuse, excusing the behavior. Narcissists berate, gaslight and play a cat and mouse game of pushing away and reeling in. Women in a relationship with a narcissist are accomplished, able to supply the narcissist with something he desires. They also have an unrelenting need to fix their abuser, even though they are powerless to do. Ultimately, they become a shadow of their former selves and their self-worth is shattered.

When developing a character, their affliction, their shame, and their yearning is what propels the story. Nico’s dark brooding torment is part of what enchants his victims—reaching into their gut and grabbing hold with an invisible hand—then slowly and methodically tears them down. The reader will never like Nico, but they need to feel empathy for him. In developing a character with this disorder, it is essential to understand and convey their suffering. I pointed to Nico’s possible (again I never diagnosed) attachment disorder with his back-story. Nico’s father left when he was young. He was then sent away as a child, alluding to his mother’s preoccupation with drug dealers. When his mother dies he blames himself for not being able to heal her. The mental anguish felt with narcissistic personality disorder is an affliction that will never be allayed. Ironically, their paralyzing fear of loss is what they manifest as each relationship dissolves and everyone ultimately abandons them to save themselves.

When writing The Sleeping Serpent, I didn’t diagnose the Nico character, which I thought would have been leading. Instead, I showed how he and other characters interacted and behaved, and through their actions was able to convey their motivation as well as emotional pain and suffering. To best illustrate the codependency between Nico and each of the women, I wrote in third person multiple point of view, careful not to head-hop. In my opinion it was the most intimate way to show each woman’s personality and relationship with him. Each woman ensnared in Nico’s cannibalizing web becomes obsessed with him and desperate to win his approval and affection. Without Nico, they fear they will lose what they believe he gave them, be it beauty, confidence, or talent. Showing the craving, desperation and painful longing is how I was able to convey addiction.

In my research I learned something from the Twelve Steps addiction recovery program about “chasing the high,” which is an obsession with regaining the elation once felt in the initial phase of a relationship, be it with a drug or a person. Though it is difficult to admit, victims of abuse sought extrinsic validation in the form of flattery, appreciation, and a desire to be needed. To break the bond, one must first admit they are addicted and reclaim their power, then the work can begin to find intrinsic validation and self-love. The blessing is found next to the wound. Weathering this personal storm will provoke the self-reflection needed to discover what called the relationship to you. This is not to be mistaken for excusing the abuser. Remember, a narcissist identifies that weakness, the inner wound, and hooks into it. Before you know what hit you, you are caught in the spider’s web, struggling for survival, craving the drug that was their flattery, approval, validation. It is only through such a devastating erosion of the self that one can transform. Like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, you will discover what you had sought for externally you had always possessed.

What’s your thoughts? Do you have a character that could be ensnared by a narcissist? How can your character discover ‘the blessing beside the wound’ Comments and feedback are always appreciated. Connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Have a wonderful week,

Tamar

FINAL-HI-RES-SLEEPING SERPENT COVER-EBOOK.jpg

Luna Saint Claire is a costume designer and author residing between New York and Los Angeles with her husband, a philosophy professor. She loves blues rock and Indie music and is a fan of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Her personal style can best be described as eclectic bohemian. Though she now enjoys running and yoga, she spent years of her youth in the ballet studio. Her part Native American heritage informs her work as a designer and influences her storytelling.

Her novel, The Sleeping Serpent – a woman’s struggle to break an obsessive bond with her yoga master, can be found at all booksellers in ebook and paperback.

Available on Amazon Worldwide: myBook.to/SleepingSerpent

Books2Read Universal Link:  http://www.books2read.com/u/478WLj

Amazon Author.to/LunaSaintClaire

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27353462-the-sleeping-serpent

You can follow Luna on social media – links are on her web site: http://www.compelledbooks.com/

35 comments

  1. Tamar –

    I had been working on crafting the character of the primary antagonist in my novel along the very lines that Luna describes in this post. So this overview was not so much as an “ah ha” moment, as it was a validation that I am on the right track. My antagonist is a religious leader, so there will be ample room for far-ranging nuances; everything from the deeply revered to the most despised person known.

    Thanks for sharing Luna’s insight. As well as her book. I just bought it on Amazon. Tamar, your posts and insights have really motivated me to put all this knowledge to work in crafting many of my characters as deeply flawed, yet human. I am so pleased I stumbled upon your website last year. My characters likely would have lacked the subtle depth of that humanness without your inspiration. I sincerely appreciate all the wisdom and knowledge you impart to the literary world.

    Respectfully,

    Lance Haley

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lance,
    Validation is a powerful feeling – it’s great to hear we’re on the right track! It’s wonderful to hear that PsychWriter has been useful, it’s always encouraging to hear that the reason you write is actually happening 😉
    Happy writing,
    Tamar

    Like

  3. Succinctly described portrayal of the narcissist! Luna, you did a fantastic job researching and writing a compelling story about the dark side of human nature and the extent to which we can fall into its trap. Once again – fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. What a wonderful idea, Claire! I love to share writer’s personal perspectives, we all have a level of innate understanding of psychology and it’s contribution to writing, either through study or personal experience. Are you able to forward her my website details, which also has a contact email? Thanks for the suggestion, Tamar.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my gosh! This is the most clear explanation of the type of relationship that I, along with a number of other women, became involved in with a cult-like religious figure. I have tried for many years to write about it – but somehow I choke up. It is difficult because a) hard to admit that I thought I could help him and b) I just can’t bring myself to allow the reader sympathise with him. I think in part because to get away from him I had to stop sympathising with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh, what a difficult experience to go through. Writing about it can be very healing, but only when you’re ready. I always say keep pushing yourself, but know when to give yourself a break (such a difficult balance to negotiate). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Tea Fan! I completely understand what you have gone through! I hope you might read my book if you won’t be triggered by it — it is quite detailed. But maybe you will come to understand what you went through. If you want to you private message me on Facebook.

      Liked by 2 people

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