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  • Alisa Stamps

The Magnetic Pull of the Narcissist


I think it happened again. I didn’t even see it coming, or maybe I did and just didn’t want to acknowledge that. It was a great, life-changing day. A day when millions were dancing in the streets celebrating. That was the day she chose to call me up, perhaps under the pretense of “that day”. Maybe not. The day she “apologized” for her part in my screwed up childhood. For not protecting me against my narcissistic father and not taking the time to understand why I didn’t want him at important life events. The apology part was good. The getting defensive when I didn’t just say, “okay” and move on, not so much. Not to mention that she had just made this momentous day about her, either knowingly or unknowingly. And something in my gut told me that someone in my narcissistic family system would choose today, of all days, to reach out. Something told me there couldn’t just be peace. And like every adult child of a narcissist who has learned over the years how to predict the moves and moods of everyone else, I was right.

It’s that magnetic pull. That pull that makes it so hard to leave and hold boundaries even after years of work. That pull that says, “of course this celebratory day is a good day to talk to someone that loves you”. Even if after you have feelings of guilt. Even if after you are slightly questioning why it has to be this way. Even if after, the wounds that you thought you had worked so hard to heal begin to ache again. I’m telling you, it’s that magnetic pull.

I can feel it as I’m writing this. Two magnets. Two ends that together either repel or attract one another. Can you feel it? The visceral memory is so great, my hands actually feel as if I have magnets in them right now. It’s the repelling that is strongest for me in this moment.

So what does that mean? Does it maybe mean that I have too much Awareness to ever let things go back to the way they once were? Does it mean that in this narcissistic system, the relationships are like those repelling magnets—that in theory they go together but not if you are grabbing them by the wrong ends? I don’t want to go back to when I was enmeshed and co-dependent, and relied on the whims of others to dictate my “happiness”. There is no stability or safety in that. I’ve worked too hard to go back. But as I tell my clients, that’s what progress often looks like. Many steps backward in order to keep moving forward and through.

I’m drawn to the words of my favorite Mary Oliver poem, “The Journey”…

“But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly recognized as your own.”

Little by little, friends. This is hard work and some days are harder than others, even when it seems like they are not supposed to be. And that is the work. Keep going. Even when the magnet tries to pull you back. Keep moving forward and through.

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Alisa Stamps, MSS, LCSW

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