It takes courage to speak and live from one’s integrity and to listen openheartedly to someone else’s integrity. It’s vulnerable. One who comes mainly from narcissism, a false persona and worthiness seeking patterns, will find that kind of vulnerability impossible to access. The neuro pathways aren’t there. True empathy comes from self compassion and there needs to be a true self for which to have compassion. Listening without defense or blame is usually the most a person with narcissistic tendencies can do and that can even be highly challenging. Validation may not only be sought for the effort, taking priority over any additional understanding of your needs, but the listening may come with a certain emotional distance or arrogance.
If you have people in your life like this, it is an opportunity to practice REAL acceptance. Acceptance for whom they are and what their capacity is to be open and real with you and for whom you are and what you are expecting from them. Disappointment from not getting your needs met may require some grieving, especially if this is a repeated pattern and you are likely to never get them met from THIS person. It might require taking a hard look at how things are rather than how you’d like them to be. You may notice there is a part in yourself that believes you are not worthy of reciprocal care and this dynamic is actually familiar in your life or the pattern is remarkably similar to one with a parent. (“Good noticing!” is what one of my earlier teachers would say to that!)
You see, acceptance is not for the weak of heart! It is not “rising above” what we may be afraid to feel or know and calling ourselves “spiritually enlightened.” As Odysseas Elytis once wrote, “Don’t be afraid what is written you to feel”. Acceptance takes courage and it is the most loving thing you can do for yourself AND the other person. The other most loving thing you can do for yourself is be with others who can mirror back and validate your experience. Be with people who have practiced the courage to be with what was “written them to feel” which will give them more capacity to listen to your feelings with care and compassion. Notice where the other needs to be in control AND where you need to be in control and that will shed light on where each has been hurt. Let go of expecting a certain kind of intimacy or a cherished form of empathy from a narcissist. If you want to keep narcissistic people in your life, I don’t blame you! Many are fascinating and charismatic and maybe there’s more appreciation to discover for the needs you have that narcissistic personalities DO fulfill. But keep your own self love and full expression intact by establishing other sources of emotional support like close friends or a good counselor. People who can see you, be open with you and WANT to! There is just more of who we are that shows up when that’s true. And it also helps us get back to a sense of humor. There’s nothing like a good laugh with a friend when we get “stuck”! It’s no coincidence that the word for ‘humor’ originally meant ‘to be fluid’, like water.
Acceptance IS the way home but it’s not disconnecting emotionally in the name of ‘higher consciousnesses’ or ‘spiritual enlightenment’. It’s being honest and compassionate with ourselves and those around us and that requires vulnerability and courage.