It’s a Throwback Thursday twofer today! Here’s a post, originally written on 6/8/2012 for SpiritualBDSM.com . . .
It’s said that all power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So, with that in mind, how does a dominant avoid the corruption and personal decay that can accompany the wielding of power?
Well, as a beginning, it’s an absolute necessity to know thine enemy. So, it’s essential, at least in my slightly less than perfectly humble opinion, that dominants study and understand the human tendency towards becoming narcissistic.
If everywhere you look you find faults in others, but you fail to see the very same human tendencies and behaviors in yourself, you are either perfect (I’ve never met this individual and don’t expect that I ever will) or you are a narcissist.
|Narcissus by Caravaggio (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome)|
This essay’s title was originally proposed by columnist Mike Royko as a potential motto for Chicago. Ubi Est Mea is Latin, the phrase translates to mean “where’s mine”, an apt description not only of that city’s machine politics, but also as a phrase that very well describes the basic attitude of a narcissist.
At times in my life I have been surrounded by narcissism, so much so that I almost began believing that such behavior was actually the norm. It’s not a pretty way to look at life, so I’m thankful to have been rescued by a wonderful and thoughtful woman who you, my dear reader, know as Serafina.
To define narcissism for the purposes of today’s essay, we’ll head on over to Wikipedia, where we read:
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait. Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, “narcissism” usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group’s relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, “narcissism” often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self.
So let’s be clear, there’s a certain amount of narcissism we all need to properly survive in this world, essentially that’s the measure of self love that we must have in order to make healthy choices for ourselves. Beyond that point, however, as a person becomes almost entirely focused on self, it becomes a disorder.
When involved in any sort of a relationship with a narcissist, (be it familial, platonic friendship, or romantic love) it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, as individuals overwhelmed by narcissistic desires are very good at manipulating people and situations in order to fulfill their own desires. It took me years to break patterns of behavior I’d adopted in order to survive while surrounded by narcissists. And, in some ways, it’s still a struggle for me today, everyday, to break the chains that held me down.
I’m convinced that my ex-wife, the woman I call Blissful Torment here at the SpiritualBDSM blog, was a narcissist in the classic sense. To further explain what I mean in saying that, I’ll again revert to the ubiquitous Wikipedia:
The word narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour”.
My former partner was a beautiful woman, and she knew it. She never tired of mirrors, and she loved staring at her own reflection as she went about nightly rituals involving herself, things like brushing or curling her own hair.
Now please don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing the matter with having a healthy sense of self worth and self love, and there’s nothing wrong with caring for one’s appearance either. The act wasn’t wrong in and of itself, but it did serve as an important clue I might have caught and recognized in terms of her relationships with others.
I might have caught on when Ms Torment told me of her past relationships with men. Her theory was that most men used and abused women sexually, so she became determined to turn the tables. She set out to use men for sex as she pleased, with little or no regard for their feelings or emotions.
She told me that I was different, and I convinced myself despite all evidence to the contrary, that I really was going to be different enough from most other men, that I’d elicit real change in her behavior. Little did I know at that time, how difficult it can be to avoid being trapped in narcissism’s web of destruction.
|I found this picture of a cheating Ms Torment (circa the 1990’s) on tumblr about a year ago.
The sleeping bag, pillow and wife I recognize as being mine at the time the photo was shot, but the semen of multiple men which covers her face and chest, quite obviously, was not.
Supposedly, the reason for Ms Torment’s attitude towards men, was a part of her personal past. At a young age, she and a brother had discovered pictures of her father engaged in a series of intimate acts with a series of different women, none of them her Mom. She confided in me that it was the most devastating thing she’d ever experienced. Isn’t it ironic that she turned around and did the exact same thing to me?
Sadly, it was something I should have expected, because in the end, that’s how narcissists work, they tend live a “consequences be damned” lifestyle, and they leave a wide swath of destruction in their wake. When you hitch up with one, it can be a fun filled ride, but make no mistake, sooner or later you’ll end up in that destructive wake yourself, unless of course you start cutting your own . . .
With that in mind, I write this essay today to publicly acknowledge that during the time I found myself sharing a bed, a home, and a life with a narcissist, I too fell into destructive patterns which caused harm to the feelings of others. It was all too easy . . .
You see, at the end of her life, my Mother was also very much a narcissist. And, it’s Serafina’s observation, that Mom actively encouraged narcissistic behavior among the women in my life. I suppose it was a sort of divide and conquer theory, as she probably figured it was easier to use my wife’s behavior to influence and control me than to try to do so herself.
If you think that being surrounded by a dedicated cadre of female narcissists was bad enough, consider that I also worked for a narcissist individual when I worked in government. It’s clear to me now in retrospect, that most elected officials are themselves narcissists. It’s an inherent flaw in our republican form of democracy. In a representative form of democracy, narcissists are the individuals most likely to be called to what we currently call “public office”.
Why are we surprised when politicians say one thing to get elected, then do something else upon taking office? To a narcissist, promises need only be kept if the consequences of breaking the trust are going to be greater than they wish to pay. Their word is only as good as their current inclination.
And that’s exactly how I got drawn into destructive practices and relationships. Because I cherished my former wife, far too many times I took her side in conflicts with friends, family, and other lovers. I was an active participant in the destruction left in her wake. By the time she was done, the only thing worth salvaging was my relationship with Serafina.
My ex told me once that she’d hate me forever for choosing Serafina over her, as this was perhaps the only important point where I’d stood my ground and told her she couldn’t simply do as she pleased. The relationship with Serafina was saved simply because I finally developed the moral turpitude to say to Ms Torment, “No, you can’t have your way this time, other people’s lives are at stake, enough is enough.”
As a dominant, falling into destructive behaviors can far too easy. After all, dominants tend to be “large and in charge,” and as a group we tend to be rather controlling, as that’s often our nature. As dominants, when we fail to stay balanced, we fall prey to “Top’s disease” which can be described as: “The tendency for dominants to develop a sense of infallibility or omnipotence.”
That definition brings me full circle back to the concept of narcissism. It is my personal belief that Top’s Disease is really just another descriptor, a synonym if you will, for a dominant who’s become increasingly narcissistic. When anyone, dominant or otherwise, reaches the point that they honestly believe in their own infallibility, they are headed down a path of destruction. It’s not pretty to live, or to watch . . .
It’s not just direction, leadership, and/or control that submissive’s truly crave, it’s also strength of character as well as responsibility. Sadly, responsibility is a trait that seems to be particularly lacking in individuals consumed by their own sense of self worth.
So, just as we may prescribe particular rituals for the wonderful submissives who give us the ability to exert our dominance, exercises which reinforce and reassure them in their submission, we must also find and practice appropriate rituals ourselves. We must continually develop and deploy strategies which keep ourselves grounded, sensible, and realistic in our own behaviors and expectations.
It’s been said that the cost of liberty is eternal vigilance. I’d like to posit that we must, as dominants, pay a similar price in return for the wonderful benefits we enjoy in our position of authority.