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Dissolving the Ego

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grateful_dead_bearToday, I’m going on a bit of a tangent, chumps. But you know me, I can turn the conversation about most anything back to infidelity, so don’t worry.

I was trying to motivate myself to write about some new cheater fuckupedness. Maybe “It Happened to Me: I Was the Fat Mistress”? Where the author credits cheating for helping her accept her plus-size sexiness?

“Unlike all those times in the past where I would cringe and try to make myself smaller, the knowledge that I had a secret lover helped me to keep my head up and take on the cruelty aimed at me.”

Admittedly, that’s pretty dreadful. But if you did this blog, and saw my mail, you’d find yourself with a bad case of narcissism poisoning. I can only read so much dreck. The blog posts about how getting pregnant with another man’s child while married brought her closer to God. Or how exquisite and fulfilling it is to have an affair (but of course she’s terribly sorry for any bad feelings out there).

I mean, GAH. How much more can the Universal Bullshit Translator take?

So it was a nice corrective yesterday to read this terrific article in the New Yorker by Michael Pollan, (I’m a big fan of both the New Yorker and Michael Pollan), “The Trip Treatment.” It’s an absolutely fascinating account of how researchers are taking another look at psychedelic drugs and doing clinical trials with cancer patients in end-of-life care.

People given the psychedelics report, with quite a startling bit of consistency, mystical experiences of feeling closer to a collective conscious. While awake and vividly aware, they describe a dissolving of the self.

Now, it sounds trippy and hippy dippy to say things like “God is love” and “We are all one” after a magic mushroom trip, yet that’s what people in these trials are reporting. These experiences have alleviated their existential dread and made them feel happier and more at peace.

And it’s a one-time thing too. Unlike opiates or what have you, it’s not a numbing or a high. Instead, the experience of a mystical loss of self seems to reset something and folks are changed for it.

In the article, Pollan explores the brain science behind the psychedelics. Researchers have found with MRI scans that when someone is having a mystical experience (they’ve also tested this on meditating monks, as well as people on psychedelic drugs)  the “default-mode network” of the brain slows down.

The default-mode network apparently is the conductor of our “selves.” Our ego.

Pollan writes:

The sovereign ego can become a despot. This is perhaps most evident in depression, when the self turns on itself and uncontrollable introspection gradually shades out reality. In “The Entropic Brain,” a paper published last year in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Carhart-Harris cites research indicating that this debilitating state, sometimes called “heavy self-consciousness,” may be the result of a “hyperactive” default-mode network. The lab recently received government funding to conduct a clinical study using psychedelics to treat depression.

Carhart-Harris believes that people suffering from other mental disorders characterized by excessively rigid patterns of thinking, such as addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, could benefit from psychedelics, which “disrupt stereotyped patterns of thought and behavior.” In his view, all these disorders are, in a sense, ailments of the ego. He also thinks that this disruption could promote more creative thinking. It may be that some brains could benefit from a little less order.

Oh Michael, you had me at “ailments of the ego.”

That was my A-ha moment. Because I have long suspected that narcissism is one of the greatest “ailments of the ego” out there, as is addiction.

Now, of course, I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a chump. I’m just giving you my perspective as someone who reads hundreds of comments and letters a day about infidelity. It’s flippant to say cheaters are “sick in the head.” But in a sense, they are. I believe that narcissism is a sickness and a societal contagion.

What is consistent in the Stupid Shit Cheaters Say, or in the HuffPo narratives of “cheating made me a better person” is the supremacy of the ego, of one’s self, a complete and utter disconnect from others — their pain, their suffering from the egoist’s choices, their experiences.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that addiction is a form of narcissism as well. That’s my opinion. We all have pain, we all want the occasional escape from the burden of our responsibilities, but an addict puts their pain above everyone else’s and puts the burden on others. It’s okay to for ME to get high. Who will have to pay my rent or work my job or raise my children? Figure it out. Not me. Addicts whether they are drug, or alcohol, or sex addicts, choose relationships with THINGS over people. Opiates, booze, hookers. Bottles don’t have needs. Drugs don’t require my empathy. Hookers don’t ask me to pick the kids up from child care.

So isn’t it weird and enlightening to think that the closer path to God, or the Universe, or whatever you believe in, is the sublimation of the self? Of being OPEN? To others, to the world, to a great consciousness? That when you turn this Monster Ego off what you get instead is powerful feelings of empathy and love for all of mankind?

I don’t have any conclusions here, like feed cheaters magic mushrooms. (That’s all we need — sloppy, emotional Dead Head cheaters dancing to “Sugar Magnolia”…) I just think it’s interesting what happens when you flip off the “self” switch.

Wow!

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I found reflection after discovering I’d been cheated on helped me understand the type of person I was. I went through a phase of blaming myself for what had happened, but I soon came to realise that had the roles been reversed would I have chosen to cheat on her? No. No I wouldn’t do that to anyone I loved or who loved me. I would never want to hurt someone like that.

    I don’t think cheating on someone or being cheated on makes you a better or worst person. It’s just a manifestation of the type of person you are.

    • “I don’t think cheating on someone or being cheated on makes you a better or worst person. It’s just a manifestation of the type of person you are.”

      Yep. There it is. So simple and true.

      That is why so many chumps upon reflection and distance from their cheater, realize that the cheater was always a lousy spouse – even if there wasn’t any cheating. Being selfish and all about them is just who they are. Doesn’t really matter if they fill their gaping whole of need with affair partners, beer, or their spouse’s 401K.

      • Exactly!! Their lack of integrity makes all of their decisions. Should I stay here and water this withering grass (“which is such a bore”) or should I go over there where it already *seems* green, even if it devastates my children? Should I steal this item or should I pay for it? Should I lie on my taxes or just be honest even if it costs me more? Lack of integrity always looks for the easiest way out… for them! No such thing as mutual respect!

        We as chumps realize that we have integrity! We realize that even though we were in the same exact withering grass (as our ex)… we didn’t go out looking for greener grass! We just wanted someone (the one we vowed to stay with until death) to partner with us to learn to water our own grass… so we could both be happy again. That’s mutual respect!

        • @Serial, I couldn’t agree more. The cheater is always looking for the easiest fix, easiest route, and bases all their decisions on the amount of work required, always opting for the least amount possible. Integrity is lacking hardcore, along with self-respect and morals…

      • I disagree. I do think cheating on someone makes you a worse person. I agree it shows the kind of person you are but in no way excuses it by thinking people “are just this way.” There is too much deception, lying, and manipulation (I could go on and on) that for me, clearly shows these people are complete assholes. I do believe there are horrible people out there. Unfortunately mine hide it so well and I spackled so well it took up 20 years of my life. He is a horrible person.

    • Perhaps the cheaters would become more creative and write original poems for each slut instead of recycling the same one with a name change at the top if the page. They might not have to ask their wife’s opinion on the new clothes they shop for to impress the. Piggy. This new creativity might also lead them to come up with better pick up lines to woo a whore that has sat on the same bar stool every weekend kidding themselves about just how SPECIAL they are to a serial cheater. Then they could be totally OPEN to the truth. Bliss.

  • Its wonderful what is going on in medical science now. I just watched a video last night about how cancer is being KILLED by viruses intentionally infused into patients that had no other treatments left to try. Viruses like Measles and AIDS. Almost ALL of the patients treated wound up cancer-free. The doctors involved are convinced we will have cancers CURED within our lifetimes. Some of these treatments will be mainstreamed in 2016. Incredible.

    Back to Narcissm. I have often wondered if the brain in some way, believes that there is something wrong in another section of the brain (like with OCD), and it makes the person over-compensate by triggering the person to be too much into themselves. Am I making sense??

    It’s kind of like when you have lived through something bad. Like abuse, or a trauma. You now feel that you must concentrate on yourself to heal. I wonder if Narc’s are in a constant state of pursuing healing somehow, and just can’t find the solution (but to their conscious mind this is all “normal”). I hope I’m being clear …

    My X was obsessive in many ways. And a Narc.

    • That makes total sense and have thought something similar about my most recent ex. In our relationship, I had this supremely chumpy notion that form a platform of love and trust – we could heal and grow together. Nothing doing. He needed something so bad that if I was eating something and he wasn’t, he would even watch every bite of food going into my mouth like it was food off his own plate. He constantly needed more and sulked whenever it was someone else’s turn. It takes a special kind of Chump to fall for that one

        • “Mine would have just reached over and started eating off my plate.”

          Ca-chump, after I told the cheater that our youngest child was saving a cinnamon roll for breakfast, the arsehole ate it. He was like a toddler. If he wanted it, it was his.

          • My first husband (10 years) would go to restaurants, not order what he wanted in the name of cheapness, and then ask for half my food. Passive aggressive weasel.

              • Mine would eat a whole bag of something, chips, cookies, etc. And I mean the family size bag. Never a thought of “Maybe I should leave some for Lina”. I’d go to have a few chips with my sandwich and they’d be gone. Then he’d bitch about his weight.

            • Mine used to like to order things that weren’t on the menu at all and thought he was so awesome when he got what he wanted.

              • I remember when we were engaged ordering soup in a restuarant. He ordered a soup which contained lots of chunky vegtables and when it came he proceeded to cover it with parmesan cheese – the dried stuff that smells like sick.
                He then decided that he could not eat it because of his aversion to eating most vegatables. I had to eat his soup and give him mine which I would have enjoyed far more.
                I hated the smelly cheese and the way he had broken bread in to the soup but ate it anyway.
                For years I fished lumps of carrot, corgette, tomato, you name it, out of stuff I cooked as he did not like to see it on his plate.
                Then, in his fifties, he starts eating veg at the insistence of OW – aint love grand!

      • My Ex got really weird about food too. He started saying at one point that whatever I ordered at a restaurant was always better than what he ordered. What would have been a “Ha ha, isn’t that funny thing” with a normal couple was weird with him. He actually be angry with me and would always decide whatever I ordered was better, and that it wasn’t fair. Then he’d ask for some of mine. He’d pout every time we went out. Good times!

        • It really sucks when you are the waitress and people bring their pathology to the experience. I have waited on many a couple in the midst of something weird that affects either my tip or their dining experience. I just want to say, “enjoy the meal” and work out the issues somewhere else.

      • I find the pemise interesting about self centered people being so wrapped up in themselves that it leads to depression. So in order to liberate themselves from such auto scrutiny they need a type of mood altering experience. Can sex be a temporary fix as well? Totally!! it’s a high that sex addicts seek. It’s true addicts can be prone to rigid thinking stemming from authoritarian abusive upbringing. Therefore cheating becomes a type of liberation from an ordered and structured life

        • When stbx went out to eat with his family as a child, the rule was that he had to eat everything he ordered or he had to pay for his own meal. As an adult, he would ALWAYS order way more food than he could eat. It was like he was still pissed off about that rule his parents imposed on him.

        • Bingo FBI,
          They HAVE to have excitement and the “forbidden” to feel as if their life is worth something…regardless of their upbringing I might add. There are cheaters who’s parents had good marriages, however many a cheater DID have a parent or significant person “model” cheating/lust behavior though…and I think this “imprinted” a message regarding the quality of their life that simply APPEALED to them rather than the parent that remained faithful.

      • Wow. It really is a little scarey how much alike these cheaters are. Mine would do the same thing. Either watch me or sulk and complain why he didn’t have any (even if he had already inhaled all of his).

    • Onthehill: As the PR Director for an academic cancer center, I can tell you what I have learned from many Google sessions trying to translate “doctor language” into “normal language.” With cancer research these days, a lot of research is being done to “de-code” a patient’s and a tumor’s DNA to find its weaknesses. Like, basically, saying that tumor A will succumb to kryptonite, versus tumor B, whose weakness is water. Both tumors are considered lung cancer, but what kills the tumor is unique.

      This process is called Genomic Sequencing…. If you are interested.

      As a Chump, I’ve found that pretty much every single cheater I’ve heard described on this site have the same weaknesses. Almost like somewhere there is a cheating cookie cutter. You can change the colors or flavors, but in the end, they all pretty much have the same weakness–Their characters…

    • OnTheHill – psychodynamic theory suggests what you are describing. Narcissism is a compensatory personality – the “better than” and “less than” gears Chump Lady talks about are two sides of the same coin. sorry to mix metaphors here. but yes, you are making sense because you are basically describing what is missing in narcissism – a healthy sense of self. which is what the original post today is addressing…

      • I have read the same about NPD, that it stems from, actually, a fear of being discovered as flawed. I read that , in addition to a genetic predisposition towards it, deprivation of affection/bonding contributes to its development.
        Just like some of the monstrous criminals, their childhoods affected them.
        I try to remember my Xw did not ask for this.

    • I’m hearing you, onthehill. Although he’s mo longer my rubix cube to solve, I absolutely do think my STBX is irrevocably broken. I believe his lack of empathy & inability to relate to others on anything more than a shallow level, his pathalogical lying and all his other obsessive unhealthy behsvior is fear based. I believe he’s trying to protect himself by sabotaging anything good that comes into his life. So, perhaps a traumatic experience in HIS life before we met? Maybe…I can’t say for sure and I’m also not giving him an out for the mistakes he’s made.

      After all the pain is gone and I reach meh, I truly will feel sorry for him…or just feel nothing.

      • Thanks you guys. You know what Jamie – my X does the EXACT same thing: “Sabotaging anything good that comes into his life”.

        After I told him I wanted him out and I was going to file for divorce. He went on an hour rant. One of the things he said I found interesting: “I find myself repulsive”.

        And thanks Kelli – that is good to know! That special was fascinating. I did see that they alter the viruses with genes. What an exciting time in medicine!!!

        • Mine said that too! I’m repulsive, I hate myself, I’m a sick person, I wanna die, I can’t stop, I’m a compulsive liar and lie about everything, even things where the truth would do. I am in soooooooo much pain. I feel like I’m going

          What a sad sad sausage

          • At any point when the Jackass would be cornered with the truth, he’s say, belligerently, “Yeah, I’m all fucked up.”

            • My permanent adolescent never used to apologize for his rants or mean emotional attacks. The closest he could come was to acknowledge, after he got it out of his system, “I’m fucked up.”

              We at one point agreed to refer to that version of him as “the monster”. He used to say that I should say “monster” when he was steamed up and dominating everything, and he thought maybe that would snap him out of it. Nice theory. It made him escalate. I used to (naturally) speculate that it was caused by a spike in blood sugar or blood pressure. Now I know that it was brought on by his entitled thinking piling up, and triggered by my not acquiescing to something he wanted.

              Several times over the years, in the aftermath of that kind of thing, he would say, “I think I might be defective.”

              I have to agree.

            • I’m sure he does, Arnold. But help was available. Mine, counselors, SAA groups, his priest. He tried them all, but only because I begged him to. I had his back, for years. Kept his secret. Had his children. Loved him with all I had. And it never stopped him from pursuing his wants first, no matter who it hurt. Our children will forever have the memory of the destruction. Of our family. Of our marriage. And of the man they believed with all their hearts, that he was. I don’t have any sympathy for him. He chose his path. Despite all my efforts to help. He chose to lie to me before we married. And continued his double life until I caught him, six years and 3 children into the marriage. That’s how good he is at deception. He never came from a place of honesty. He only admitted things when he got caught. And not only the porn. He financially ruined me. And, I’m afraid of him. He is a scary individual who already broke into my house and assaulted me. Recovery for him, even if he committed himself to at least 3 years of intensive therapy, which he refuses to do, has a 5% recovery rate. And that statistic is from the leading psychologist in the country on sex addiction. I am committed to my children. And trying to put what’s left of my life in some kind of order and obtain some financial security. I just want to get away from him. I’m not sorry for him, I’m sorry for what he’s done to our beautiful children. And for wrecking me. And he did wreck me. After the emotional torture he put me through, the buckets of tears, and the crushing of my heart and trust time and again, allowing his father to molest 4 of his granddaughters, our daughter being one of them, then using his authority as a sheriffs deputy to stymie the investigation of his father to keep him from prosecution, I’m all out of sympathy.

              This marriage was hell on earth. And I am not sorry I kicked him out. I can’t get shut of this man fast enough. I did my time, Arnold. And I was sorry for him for a long, long time. Not. Any. More. We all have to live with our choices. It’s not my fault nor my children’s fault that he chose porn, and deceit over us. And it is totally his choices that ultimately destroyed his family.

              • Wow Irish. And he is in law enforcement!!!??? EEEEEGads!!!

                Mine refused therapy, and only went upon court order.

              • Irish; Kudos to you for setting a limit on what you are willing to take, you deserve so much better. His lifelong problems are not your fault, nor your responsibility! Addicts need co-dependents to get by and subjugate their needs to that of the addict. Years ago we didn’t know what we know today about the futility of this. (especially to someone who wants no help & thinks taking advantage of people, especially loved ones is ok fine & dandy.

          • They’ll say anything to avoid the consequences of their actions, and will cycle through various strategies.

            Mine started out blaming me for his affair (I had made him unhappy), then faux remorse, then pity (“I’m an ugly guy and will never find anyone!” when it has always been clear he thinks he is the cat’s meow in the looks department).

            Toddlers, the lot of them.

            • For what it’s worth, they fired him from the sheriff’s department and he is no longer in law enforcement.

  • Very interesting topic. I recently had a similar conversation with someone, about how people who have experienced psychedelic trips are just…different. A different sense of empathy, a different approach to their interactions with others. Not that I’m going to eat peyote and get weird in the desert like Jim Morrison anytime soon, but it’s interesting and deserves some more scientific attention.

    • I have not experimented with hallucinogens, but I have close friends who have…and some regularly. I agree with you. Their outlook on things and events is different both baked and sober 🙂

      I find their perspective refreshing, strange sometimes and definitely an eye opener to looking at things from a different angle.

      • Well, maybe in a very controlled environment with excellent and responsible scientists in charge, but I met too many tragic “Acid Casualties” in my youth to think it’s necessarily a great idea. And compulsive, self-indulgent personalities will always tend to reason that if one hit of acid is good, three is bound to be better.

    • Well, since I’m all about sharing here on CL, I’ll tell you that I tried Ecstacy back when it was in its prime while I was in high school and I truly feel that I had some kind of spiritual/emotionally opening experience. I don’t know how best to articulate it but I can say that I was forever changed. I felt like it gave me access to a part of my brain that I’d never been to before; a very sensitive, loving, peaceful side of my brain that I’m able to access freely since that one time. It’s a wonder I didn’t do it more….lol..

  • I have been following similar pieces of the acceptance of self and reality that comes with LSD and other drugs…but to a different end.
    I wonder what the drugs and the experience would do for the chump!
    Would it help with acceptance of what happened or would it help restore feelings of self-worth?
    Yes, time, NC and meh help. But perhaps there is a place for such drugs in our healing? Molly is usded for vets suffering from PTSD.
    I think it a more productive conversation to explore the possibilites of how those drugs might help a chump.

    • Rebecca, those are interesting thoughts. If there was a drug I could take that would have allowed me to more quickly accept reality and move forward I think I would have taken it! Anything to alleviate the pain of being cheated on and emotionally abandoned. Not sure whether that process can be sped up, though.

      • Actually, there is research going on, and has been for awhile—to “dampen” the memory of a traumatic event. I first heard about this on 60 Minutes and found it intriguing, as several family members were involved in the military, and to varying degrees, suffer from PTSD. I also have a very troubled background and then of course, Cheaterpants happened—so it definitely is something I was interested in—

        http://nautil.us/issue/15/turbulence/if-trauma-victims-forget-what-is-lost-to-society

        It’s a double edged sword. If I forget or the pain of the experience is decreased, will I learn from the experience? Will I know in the future what to avoid for my own safety? Perhaps these painful feelings are the only way a species can protect itself from future harm.

        • Cannabis has known properties that have been proven to “help to forget” (among many other things)…which is why it is so many Vietnam Veterans drug of choice.

          • The friends of my youth, who partook of way more of all of that than I did back in the 60’s and 70’s, now remember shockingly little of our shared early days, which really makes me sad. They aren’t early Alzheimers either, their memory loss became obvious about thirty years ago. We’re still friends and sometimes it seems as though only I hold our memories.

            I would love to dull the pain of infidelity and emotional abuse, and I’m normally a stoic. But this is such an enormous wound. EMDR is helping, and maybe time passing helps a bit, but I am no where near functioning well, I can tell you. I’m deathly sick of it all. Just worn out.

            However, the last thing I need is something to further dull my hazy focus.

        • Yes, I also wonder if dampening the pain would change who I am or inhibit growth.
          A lot of the folks I know own who tripped do seem pretty happy, though.

          • Arnold, I think the use of any mind alterations does inhibit our growth and the grieving process. After a year of anti-depressants following the death of my son, I realized that I was coping without accepting, knowing but not healing. It was when I weaned myself off of them that I started to overcome my loss – and also know that I was strong enough to make the journey without the cheater and his feigned support.

    • Rebecca, that’s an interesting thought. I’m sure we’d all like a “reset” button after D-day! And depression from a traumatic event, or the obsessive thoughts that come after it, maybe someday psychedelics could help with that.

      But one thing that did occur to me is that D-Day itself is like a life reset button. Like it or not, your world falls apart. The “self” you thought you were changes radically. I think this experience (after you survive it of course) can make people more open to the world and more compassionate, if we let it. Because chumps have been to hell and back and survived. I do think that gives wisdom, and hopefully later (at Meh) some serenity as well.

      • CL, I agree with you that D-day is like a life reset button. One thing that fundamentally changed on that day was that I started protecting myself. I had a visceral reaction to get far away from him. I kept thinking “I just want him to leave me alone” which seemed deeply connected to the child part of me.

        I believe I was a compassionate person before D-day. I’d been through cancer, lost a child, I knew what was important in life. I just don’t think the same things were important to him.

        • Lyn, I still don’t know what was important to my EX. I was just talking to my daughter and we realized he never appreciated the beauty in life. His wants fluctuated with the blink of an eye. He had many “wishes” in life that could never be fulfilled because he didn’t have the ability to plan or follow through to achieve. It took a long time for me to realize the only thing that was important to him was his own sick needs. They have no joy. It was like loving a cold rock.

      • I’ll second that. As emotionally eviscerating as the experience was, and despite the two years lost to abject misery, I wouldn’t change anything, because at the end of the day my life is richer for it in so many ways. Everything happens for a reason.

        • I agree. On the day I found out, I could not get away fast enough. I felt completely frightened (he’d brought his AP into our home) and knew, without a doubt that I had to get myself safe and our daughter safe.

          I’m less inclined to believe outright that “everything happens for a reason” but I do know that without a doubt, removing myself from my abusive ex was the only way for me to reclaim who I was and what I wanted out of life. It’s painful as hell but I’ve learned so much and I’m a much stronger and healthier person now.

      • For me, the whole experience is like the one Jeff Bridges seemed to have in “Fearless”. I, really do not seem to fear much, anymore.
        With the exception of something happening to my kids, siblings or girlfriend, I am not afraid of much. Very freeing, in a way, to know that you cannot be hurt any worse than you already have been.

    • I have to call bullshit. My ex is a former deadhead. He was scheduled to attend his 99th concert when Jerry Garcia died. He met and hung with the band at bars. He did all drugs excluding heroin. He sold drugs to fund the concert hopping. He has described scenarios at dead shows where he saw bubbles that weren’t there.

      His ego did not “dissolve.” He was very threatened whenever I was able to solve a problem that stumped him. Things as silly as reigniting the pilot light on the stove. He cheated and pretended it never happened, or he couldn’t remember it was too long ago.

      By the time we met in 2004, Jerry Garcia had been dead nine years and my ex was cleancut and hard working. It seemed like it was just an interesting anecdote of his adolecence. He claimed he did not do drugs anymore. He was lying. You can’t lie like that without an ego to defend.

      By the way Garcia, though hugely popular was not that nice a man. He cheated and went through three wives. He lied to them. His downfall was heroin, which I guess isn’t a psychedelic, but I’m sure he did plenty of LSD too.

      • I said something downthread about how bogus claims about not “being into the ego” or how “Babylon is all about making money”, etc. Yeah, half the time deadheads are ripping each other off to get money for hard drugs, cheating on their spouses/significant others, or name-dropping. Almost every one of them has a story about how they met Jerry, for example. Some Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, etc (FTR, I have had unpleasant run ins with Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson and his wife Arlen–the latter two stayed at our house for a few days–those days are not my proudest moments).

        • Yes, this is him. It seems like there was a lot of partner switching/stealing among dead heads. I think part of how he justifies his cheating is through feeling sorry for himself about former girlfriends who took up with his best friends. But I was not a part of any of that, so it seems unfair that he did it to me.

        • By the way, it is helping me to hear you describe other deadheads as similar to my ex. It is helping me realize that’s just who he is, and it wasnt my fault. It’s my fault I expected something different, but it’s not my fault that he cheated and tried to lie about it. It’s not my fault he devalued me to pursue his own pleasure. The funny thing is, it just doesn’t look like that much fun to me.

          I am so tired of obsessing on this, I want to be over it already. But I guess the function of psychic pain is to help you make better choices in the future. Every silver lining has a touch of grey. Whatever the hell that means.

          • I know, Jen, I’m sick to death of thinking about this stuff everyday, too. How far are you from D-day? divorce?

            Once the practicalities are over, the rest may be just habituating to the pain until we stop responding to it.

            • I am two months away from a man I spent the better part of 10 years with, although admittedly we were off and on the last five or so. He insisted on calling me a “friend with benefits” for the last 18 months. We were never married, but we have lived together, and spent atleast four nights a week together even up until the end.

              So it’s not about children or money, just heartbreak. I do have a 20 year old son with an autistic spectrum disorder. He needs me way more than this clown ever did. I’m ashamed I wasted so much time and energy, but I really thought it was love.

              He is a former deadhead and a current drug user, so this particular piece was important for me.

              He said to me once, “you were supposed to stop me.” Not to evoke sympathy, I think he was honestly asking me to help. But it is way bigger than me, and he would push me away to partake. He is not a mess, he is very functional at work, he pays his bills. It is not something I want to be part of and it is not something he is able to give up. It is the other woman, even more than the actual other women. To tell you the truth, they are not all that hot.

              So anyway, I am following this blog to stay strong. I want to move on this time.

      • FWIW, I’m not a fan of the Grateful Dead or of dropping acid. I’m not advocating that cheaters do magic mushrooms. I just think it’s interesting that a chemically induced spiritual experience seems to mean turning off your brain’s ego systems. I wonder what that says about narcissism.

        As for dropping acid — a) I have personal experience of addiction in my family and all I can say is it is ruinous and narcissistic and horrible. b) I had a friend drop acid in college and she wound up in the psych ward for 6 months. Weirdly, she later went to Harvard Divinity School. Make of that what you will.

        Finally, the GD bear was just me finding an easy graphic this morning. I think the whole Dead Head phenomena kind of silly.

        • Well, FWIW, Cl, I did think you must have dropped a load of acid. You are so evolved.
          Probably listened to a lot of Fire sign Theater, too.

        • I guess I just don’t want to face the idea that the human personality, character, or talent can just be reduced to or induced by an ideal cocktail of brain chemistry. My ego insists think that “I” had something more to do with “this”. That “me” is more than the round-bottomed flask containing a dram of this and a pinch of that…

  • onthehill – my ex had a lot of OCD tenancies as well – socks folded a certain way and arranged by color and pattern – very possessive and weird about “his” things being put back exactly in the right spot – very neat and orderly (which was actually nice – made cleaning much easier). I always felt, deep inside my subconscious, that something was “off” about him and I just could not articulate it in my mind. Of course his being possessive about his cell phone and laptop was just hiding his lying and secret plans – but what else was he hiding over the years? I guess I will never know and since I have reached an (almost) constant state of “meh” about him, I don’t want to! 😉

    • Uh huh !!! Mine did similar things. He used to go ape shit if I left the oven mitts on the counter.

      • onthehill–then do not see “Sleeping with the Enemy” with Julia Roberts–it will trigger you badly (though in that film it is about the length of the hanging towels). It does, however, have a satisfying ending.

        • Tempest; I got triggered by that movie too. My Ex owns nothing that doesn’t have value to him RIGHT NOW, and his house looks like a hotel room. Never a toaster on the counter, and the hand towel always folded after use. To me, really weird. If he buys one too many items for .50 cents at a place like Home Depot, he will stand in line and return it the next time we go. I would throw it in a drawer & figure I will need it later. We were not a good match in this way for sure.
          I remember when we bought the house together (still his after divorce) I told him I am going to need a bookcase. And he said “what for? I said “books,” and he said “why?”
          Too funny, I thought everybody read books. Did anyone else have a read phobic cheater? Maybe he was afraid he would learn something!!!
          I did ask him why he did not find books interesting, entertaining & informative. I have been an avid reader since I can remember. Now thinking back, I should have known I was in for trouble when he said “people who write books don’t know anything, they are just trying to make money.” What? And you know all this from NOT READING???
          Anyhow, I just thought, well he is missing something big, but I better get my bookcase, and I did. (despite his irritation about it) It ended up in the garage which was not good news for my books. Now I live alone and have about 5 books & three magazine on my bedside table!!

    • Tshirts were to be folded a certain way, facing a certain direction. MY STBX even created a tshirt template out of a clipboard that we were all to use. Needless to say, I refuse to fold tshirts anymore, thanks to that experience!

      • I was the OCD party in my relationship. I have always been neat, but never made demands on others. When my ex began his devalue and discard, my OCD escalated. For me it was part of unwitting the pick me dance. I could not figure out why he was suddenly so unkind and critical, and I thought if all the things and I were perfect he’d love me again.I exhausted myself doing anything he’s ever complamented me on in the past to get crumbs of postive regard,

        Keep in mind these were all just nebulous thoughts I didn’t understand till later. EX was a slob and content to be waited on.

        • My EX husband and my 10 year old are both OCD – officially diagnosed. Orderliness has nothing to do witih it. It’s order in the midst of chaos in the mind. Sometimes the way to control their surroundings is neat/orderliness but that’s really more a stereotype of this condition. Whatever action they do to control their surroundings – it’s NEVER is it done in a way that they purposely invite attention – it’s the complete opposite. They spend every ounce of energy ensuring that people DON’T see what’s going on all in the hopes of looking normal. It’s completely exhausting for both of them as it’s all consuming to navigate a normal day.

          So the T-shirt and orderly thing – that’s plain just a controlling and asshole-y person. However, I do believe my Ex’s OCD helped him to compartmentalize his behavior when he was cheating.

          • The cheater made me color code his closet. He would freak if a shirt was out of place. But his tool area is a disaster. I think he did it just to irritate me and hoping I would mess up.

            • Funny, reading everyone’s comments got me thinking about this very same thing, mine is very sloppy and disorganized in every way….except his oh so precious gym in our basement. He would place every single piece or plate in it’s place when he finished each set….and just bitch endlessly when anyone else didn’t. He has been gone 3 months and the garage still looks like a bomb landed in there. Wth? Weirdos.

          • The essence of a compulsion is that it’s…compulsive. During the worst of my anxiety and cleaning sprees, cooking elaborate meals, decorating and home projects, I had no conscious knowledge of why I was doing it, and I could not stop, OCD can take many forms, it’s not always neat- hoarding is in the OCD spectrum. I have OCD. It does not manifest the same for everyone. I don’t care who knows, because it harms no one and I’m not ashamed.

            I work from home, and there are still days where I cannot sit down to work until I clan and organize things for a few hours. I also cannot skip a day showering or washing/sanitizing my hands like others seem to be able to do. It’s no longer manic, but a relaxing thing. I don’t enforce excessive needs and wants on others, and I no longer feel overwhelmed cleaning up after a slob.

    • My ex was also very neat & tidy but not to the point of obsession. He was a list maker & file folder maker. He was great a making vacation plans or drawing up renovation ideas. Being a mechanical engineer all this seemed normal to me. My therapist explained that he had the ability to “place” me in a file folder & move on to what he believed he deserved: happiness, new sexual partners, a woman with a career not a job, no crab cakes on Thanksgiving – you chumps know the rest. Matter of fact, after he ran away weeks after dday, I came across a list of questions for his divorce attorney (one he contacted a week after dday!). One question was “what about the other woman?” & financial issues. No where was I on that list – that list came from a different folder not the one called us

    • Nicole, my stbx didn’t have OCD tendencies but he did hang his shirts in the closet by color and didn’t like it when I got them out of order. T shirts were separated by color in his dresser too.

      He’s definitely a procrastinator though. He’s always putting things that need to be dealt with off. He’s so busy and doesn’t have time to do anything – like a phone call to the cable company, etc. In other words, he’d prefer not to be responsible for anything. In our separation agreement, he was given 4 months to refinance one of our cars into his name only. His four months was up mid February and he’s not done it yet. I think it’s a narc mix of 1. entitlement (I don’t have to do anything you say even if it’s in a legal agreement), 2. procrastination (I’ve got 4 months, no need to hurry), and 3. lack of responsibility (I don’t have to do anything unless I want to do it).

  • Tracey, I’ve experienced episodes of “we are all one” a couple of times in my life, but not through drugs.

    Once was after my first child’s birth. It was a difficult delivery without any drugs. I lost a lot of blood. When they held my baby down where I could see his face (I was too weak to hold him) what I saw took my breath away. It was like I could see through his face all the generations of our family who had come before him. It was so surrealistic. Everyone kept asking me who he looked like and I answered “he looks like family.” It felt like I’d known him all my life.

    The next time was after cancer surgery. I was feeling pretty traumatized and scared. A casual acquaintance stopped by to visit and drop off some food. I remember feeling so grateful and “at one with” her and the universe that I threw my arms around her and got all teary eyed. She looked a little taken aback but I didn’t care. Later I described the experience to others as feeling like “we had no skin between us.”

    Both of the experiences were profoundly comforting in traumatic periods of my life.

    As far as cheaters are concerned, I do think there was an emotional disconnect in my ex. He wasn’t a person who seemed to feel empathy. It took me a long time to realize he was “acting like” he was concerned but he didn’t really feel it. He once told me he could get the people who worked for him to do anything he wanted by “acting like he cared.” This was a very alien thought to me. I agree with Reyn that being a cheater or being cheated on is a manifestation of the type of person you are. I’m not saying I’m a perfect person, but I was willing to look inside myself and change whatever needed to be changed. I don’t believe my ex was capable of introspection. He had a lot of wonderful qualities, but unfortunately loyalty wasn’t one of them.

    • Wow thanks for sharing, Lyn. I also had the most moving moment of my life when my daughter was born. Literally life-changing. And my ex also confided that he could get anyone to do anything he wanted by just smiling at them and acting like he genuinely cared/ liked them. That is some scary sociopathic master manipulator shit by our Exes.

      • That is interesting, Sunshine. I remember watching an interaction between my ex and a woman whose pet had just died. He was saying things he’d learned were comforting, but I knew he didn’t really feel them. She lived alone and was desperate for true human connection over the loss of her beloved pet. I could see that she was reading much more into my ex’s compassion than was truly there.

      • My xh said something similar, that he knew how to make people love him so he could get what he wanted…. Creepy.

      • Favorite comment of my cheater – “I listen to folks telling me things and then go ahead and do whatever I want to do”. This was said with reference to his overbearing parents. but that’s his motto for EVERYTHING in life.

        • This was my life in a nutshell. If I ever stood up for myself or voiced an opinion he would listen and agree but in the next breath do exactly what he wanted behind my back.

          • same here Sketchyokgirl. same here. Nothing I said ever registered because he nodded sagely and went about his business. Chump that I was, I truly believed he would LISTEN if I were not overbearing… nothing really worked. except the pitbull attorney. 🙂

      • My Ex claimed that he actually has ESP powers over his mother and that one day when he was a child, he suddenly used thought control to send a message to her to drive of the road and she did. He also claimed that he had been drugged and robbed on a train while he was in India in his 20s, and that as a result he “saw God.”

        I have to say that though intriguing, after that and my first Ex (who used a lot of drugs in the 60s and has always been a thoroughly selfish person, useless as a parent, and also a cheater), I am cynical about this premise and it seems to me that hallucinogenic drugs cannot make a selfish cheater any less so.

        Kind of like my belief that I think I heard when I was young that “the older you get, the more like yourself you become.”

    • Lyn…….no empathy or compassion did my X have either. As I know most of us here know the feeling of grief and it’s stages, not sure how it compares with the loss of a child. However, I found it so off-putting when X was so hateful and angry (with me only, of course) after losing his 23 yr old son. He had NO regard, compassion, empathy etc of others who also lost children. He would say, “I really don’t give a shit about anyone else”.
      He also, many times, used to yell at me and say, “You have a dead child and then tell me how you feel”! And this was painful and rude to me because he obviously knew I had my own son who was 6 months older than the one he lost.
      Of course this was all in the course of him cheating and me not knowing because I’d ask what might be wrong because he was alienating me in ALL ways. So this is what he used. Sad and sick all at once!!!

  • I applaud you for making the connection between personality disorder and the need for spirituality in our lives. (Of which psychedelics is but one path.) Cheating is but one symptom of the need for that connection. Ironically what the ego so desparately craves cannot be found except through it’s loss.

    • Yes Pervical, I agree. I also believe that the one reason why narcissism is so difficult to treat, let alone ‘cure’ in a clinical setting is because it’s not a disorder of the mind, but rather one of the soul.

      Gypsy

      • My sister in law told me that after our first child was born with Down Syndrome , she went to visit my then wife at the hospital.
        She looked in and heard her crying and saying over and over ” Why me”. I was scared, of course, and ,maybe a bit sad. But to my wife, this was all about her.
        All her family were doctors and PhDs. This was a personal failure to her.
        I ended up raising my son almost by myself, as soon after he was born, my wife embarked on her drinking and cheating escapades and we would see her infrequently.
        She made everything all about herself. I later found out she had been drinking while pregnznt, which I believe caused some of the other problems my son faced.

  • This is such a wonderful post today. It has lessons for all of us, not just the disordered, about how to be better people. And we don’t need to use psychedelic drugs to get there, we just need to find ways to shift our consciousness away from our egos toward the “greater good”, a la mystical monks.

    This also makes sense, from a more traditional medical standpoint, as anyone who’s done much research on chronic illness/ disease/ treatment knows that meditation, listening to music, and spending time in nature — all pursuits that bring people “closer to God,” “closer to nature,” or “more in tune with the collective consciousness” — have been found scientifically to improve medical conditions such as MS, cancer, etc, by 20% or more. Obviously, there is some kind of mental and physical gain from rising above ourselves and our selfish objectives.

    But part of the problem with all this re infidelity is that cheaters, by the very nature of who they are, don’t want to change. They are very happy with themselves and their caking-eating ways (narcissism). Unlike us chumps, they have no interest in being anything other than the duplicitous scum of humanity that they are. So although we Chumps can use this “transcendental knowledge” to continue our quests to “gain a [better] life,” it is oh-so-wasted on the cheater cohort. Unless we force-feed them psychedilic drugs in their breakfasts, haha… (j/k) 😉 Probably better just to stay away from people that you have to drug to be decent human beings, lol 😉

  • Percival, I agree with you that spirituality is incredibly healing. Sometimes I believe it took being “thrown away” to realize my own worth. If I think of it that way, then I can be thankful for having a chance to connect with that deepest part of me, that spirituality, that I couldn’t have accessed when I was so focused on others.

    • Sometimes I believe it being thrown awayto realize my own worth. Thank you Lyn for giving me the words that I have been searching for to describe exactly what I’ve been feeling.

    • Lyn, I like your term of being “thrown away” to realise my own worth. I am a really decent and kind person so I do not understand why I feel so worthless still. I tend to think it is because my son’s verbal abuse of me is getting worse, which makes me question everything about myself.

      • Maree, how old is your son? I have an 18 year old daughter who seems to have picked up most every trait of my narc stbx. He has been triangulating us for years so I see how she has learned from him to treat me the way he has. I’m having trouble determining if she’s simply acting like a teenager or if she’s truly learned his narc characteristics.

        • BBC, my son is 32 years old. He was the sweetest little boy and if I told you some of the things he is saying to me, they would make you cry also. He prefers his predator father who has sex with teenage Asian prostitutes. I didn’t do a very good job of raising my daughter or son. They simply do not like me. Not a thing I can do about it.

          • Maree–You should not like your son. He sounds like a disrespectful bully. Believe me, I read posts on CL every day and you come across as a warm, insightful, interesting woman who has been served a hearty dish of bull dung. You are not worthless, the people treating you badly are worthless. You are very valued here.

              • Amen to that, Arnold. We cannot afford the luxury of keeping people around just because they are family or long time friends, if they are being abusive and hurtful. I also learned that from my experience with infidelity. Mostly when people refused to show compassion towards me during the darkest time of my grief. I finally realized, I just don’t have it in me to suffer fools. I had been through something traumatizing and I didn’t need people in my life who were heaping more crap onto me.

          • Maree, I agree with Tempest – your posts are always kind and caring which is why I asked you about your son’s age. I was surprised that he was treating you this way and I’m even more surprised now that I know he’s old enough to know better. Ridiculous. You definitely deserve better…I’m keeping you in my prayers.

    • “Sometimes I believe it took being “thrown away” to realize my own worth.” Lyn, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      I think that the issue with us chumps is not just that we focus on others, but the way we focus on others. When I was with my cheater Narc XH and even with the Rebound (not a cheater or Narc, but just a dick) after that I was so focused on them and the relationship that I lost myself. I was always thinking, “I can’t lose him, I’ll have nothing left.” I would constantly question my value in the relationship. Now, that I’ve purposely spent the last 8 months focusing on connecting with my spirit, mostly through yoga, meditation, and religious exploration, I find that I connect with people in a whole different way. In a better way. When I focus on others now, I feel like I’m coming from a place of abundance, not lack. When I focus on helping someone else it is because I want to, not because I have to for fear of them leaving me or that I am nothing without them.

      An epiphany came to me this past Valentine’s day when I was kind of bummed because I didn’t have a date this year. I realized that I needed to get my head out of my ass and see that even though I’m not in a romantic relationship, I still have lots of love in my life. I realized that I have the love of my friends and family and tha I have love inside of me. That I can pay it forward and share that love with others. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and I ended up spending that Valentine’s day afternoon volunteering at a local soup kitchen. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Since that day, I’ve felt more confident and secure in who I am than I ever have in my entire life.

      • BothFeet, don’t let anyone take Valentine’s Day from you! I’ve loved that day since I was a little kid, long before I met my ex on Valentine’s Day. The first year after the divorce I decided that I was still going to love that day, and I thought of people who were alone and wouldn’t get cards this year, so I sent them one. It’s still a great day and you have plenty of love to give.

  • I am a little tired of the word Narc. It seems we have come to the conclusion that Cheater = Narc. Andwhile I agree that soem cheaters have Narc tendancies not all are Narcs. Like most mental illnesses there is a spectrum and I would say that if you are a Narc you will most likely have problems maintaining any normal relationship. Same holds true for people with depression, bipolar and other chronic illnesses including pain syndromes.
    Seems we have made the Narc our national animal or posterboy/ girl here at chump natiion.
    Do I think my Idiot is a Narc? Narc tendancies, sociopath tendancies, little PTSD, OCD and just throw in a little bit of plain ole asshole. He is certainly dangerous. Can I label him as one thing … No. Do I think he is disordered and just all around a jerk … Yes. Will self help remedy? Medications? Dont think so. He is a product of his environment as well. And that has formed very strong convictions in him.
    I just think we throw around the Narc label a little too loosely. And like most labels or catch phrases its just gonna fall out fashion or become tolerated. ” He is a Narc” … Yes that expalins it all. Now I feel better cause he is a Narc and well he cant be nice so I shouldnt worry about it anymore. Fixed.
    And what about my chumpiness? Is that a mental illness as well? cause it seems we have as many chump symptoms as do Narcs… So is that the ying to the Narc yang? We find eachother only to be able to identify in eachother those traits?
    Maybe i need psychedelics…. Belly up to the bar… I good use a good trip.

    • I agree with you TheClip – everyone has narcissistic traits and labeling all cheaters “narcs” bothers me too. Unless the person has a diagnosis I prefer to refer to a cheater as an asshole. I certainly spent enough time untangling the skein, and the MC we saw told my ex he should be tested for BPD at one point. Little did she know the rage he would throw at me due to that advice… back to the label; if statistics are correct then calling every cheater a narc would mean something like 30% of the US population suffers from NPD. I find that highly unlikely…

      • I agree with you Clip, but I think that it might be a little “shorthand” for “Cheating is a profoundly narcissistic act.” When you’re dealing with someone who can threaten the life of the spouse, put their health in danger (knowingly) with unprotected sex, endanger kids’ lives with by bringing unknown partners into the mix, pathologically lies—you are dealing with a Narcissist at the least and a Psychopath at worst.

        This is the definition of a Narcissist, people who can sustain doing these things with little or no remorse. They often are high functioning, like mine. He holds an esteemed position in the community, trusted by all with their very lives. Does it make him a good person? No. Is he diagnosed NPD or sociopath? No–because he’ll never sit down and tell the truth long enough to a therapist who can do that. He’s a manipulator and a dangerous person. He enjoys his position because it gives him the feeling of controlling life and death decisions—which he does—over people who put their faith blindly in him.

        If, however, you are trying to put this label on someone who got really drunk one night and screwed the neighbor and it truly never happened before/or will again—then that’s a little different. But I think most of us here have the full blown—years long, finances blown apart, kids endangered, health endangered, family destroyed affair situations. I don’t think I need the DSM-V or a therapist to tell me that a man/woman who can’t tell the truth to save their children’s lives is a Narcissist.

        MHO.

        • W was officially diagnosed as bi-polar and that certainly explains a lot. But it’s not a perfect analogy; there are a few things that keep it from being a truly “classic” bi-polar situation. And after I started with this site, I checked out NPD and found that w met most of those characteristics as well. Guy I am seeing for therapy (who knows her well) confirmed that. So who knows, exactly what is ailing her?

          Therapist also said these mood disorders and mental illnesses are incredibly complex, hard to pin down, and require lots of expertise and complete cooperation from the patient to treat effectively.

          Three points:

          (1) I perceive the vast majority of these cheaters are impacted by one or more of these illnesses/afflictions. It may even be rare that someone has all the traits of precisely one ailment. I see them as being on a huge grid with lots of overlapping circles, with each circle representing one of these problems. A lethal brain cocktail of a little NPD, blended with BPD2. Then throw in a tendency to drink too much and… WHAT FUN!!!

          (2) As you said, hard to pin down because most cheaters would never allow themselves to be really, truly diagnosed.

          (3) As we know, this is all fascinating (I could go back and forth on this with everyone here for hours, I really could) but my therapist is only mildly interested in figuring out what is wrong with HER; he is much more interested in helping ME move on.

          • something else to keep in mind as we discuss mental illness and personality disorders is an old diagnostic adage:
            Axis II develops around Axis I.

            this means that the personality disorder features of narcissism, borderline etc on Axis II reflect the type of mental illness such as bii-polar, OCD, anxiety, depresssion, etc., of Axis I.

            it is easy to get all this confused. bottom line is they go hand in hand…makes sense when you think about it.

            • I have a son who is bipolar, and an ex who is a narcissist, so I’m an expert on both. There is no similarity between the two — at all. During a bad episode, you wouldn’t consider my son character disordered, just delusional. On a good day, he’s lovely. My ex, was an inconsiderate, selfish, self aggrandizing prick – every day.

              Personality disorders may be considered a mental illness, but people with personality disorders are IN FULL control of their faculties. My son has a neuro-chemical disorder which renders him insane on a bad day. They are two completely different things. I have pity and heart break for anyone cursed with a mental disorder. I would just burn the personality disordered at the stake.

              • Einstein, I’m not a therapist, but I have a parent that is diagnosed Bi-Polar and is a complete and total asshole…all of the time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

                https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bipolar-you/201310/the-relationship-between-narcissism-and-bipolar-disorder

                “Comorbidity of Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder

                It is estimated that approximately 5% of those with bipolar disorder (BD) also have co-morbid narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). That is roughly one out of every 20 bipolar individuals also has NPD.

                When this occurs, the two disorders can potentiate each other.”

                I think that what the point being made here is that these disorders…Clusters A-C have OVERLAPPING symptoms. From what I understand, the symptoms must be “enduring”, causing distress to themselves and others, and other significant indicators in order to be classified as a disorder.

                My parent can be on meds and “level”–but the level of assholery never decreases. The pathological lying never goes away. The selfishness and absolute lack of empathy for ANYBODY never resolves.

                I agree that bi-polar is often misdiagnosed as NPD or Borderline though. The therapist must be skilled enough to differentiate.

              • I agree, SphinxMoth–I believe my father was bipolar + narcissistic, and it certainly led to a**hole style behavior.

        • Completely agree with you, SphinxMoth. Mine was high functioning, just shy of an NPD diagnosis. Smart ones can also answer the NPI in a way to avoid detection.

          • I think many of them get labeled bipolar, or some other “real” illness. That, in turn, leads the public at large to have the wrong idea about bipolar – because the people they meet with “bipolar” are just NPD, borderline and such. There is a world of difference in the way they present, and even more difference in the underlying causes. To me, it’s the difference between truly ill, and being evil.

        • Sphinxmoth, I totally agree. My ex actually WAS diagnosed as NPD, but even though I am not a therapist, I have no trouble in spotting narcs these days.

    • Hmmm, I dunno… I think perusing this site for any period of time shows us pretty quickly there’s a whole spectrum of cheater situations: lifetime cheaters, one-night stands, emotional affairs, hookers, STDs, abusers,…. We don’t all have the same story.

      Was my cheater 100% Narcissist? No. But he has some of that, more than just a pinch, I’d say. So I’m comfortable with the shorthand. I think it’s, well, shorthand … for the behavior of putting your own needs above everyone else’s. Is it 100% accurate as a psychotherapy diagnosis of our cheaters? No, of course not. But it’s dismissive and snarky of the cheaters’ behavior and therefore supportive of us chumps (as opposed to focusing on codependency or similar, which, IMHO, shifts the blame back onto the chumps, which is not [again IMHO] the primary focus of this site). Narc, I dig it.

      • I agree NWBilio.

        I think the disorders (NPD/BPD) have characteristics on a sliding scale that make diagnosis fuzzy even for professionals.

        Many relationship sites recommend that us laypeople not make these diagnosis since we aren’t trained to do so.

        But again, all I really know is my cheater, my story, my path, and for her, the description fits, so I am fine calling her a narc.

        My course of action would not change if zero out of three therapists formally diagnosed her with NPD/BPD or if 3/3 therapists diagnosed her with NPD/BPD. The disrespectful, insulting, damaging, neglecting, devastating behaviors and impact on myself and my children were so egregious and severe, that the diagnosis is moot.

        Narc it is.

        • I agree, Buddy–I knew mine was a Narcissist before the cheating. Strong enough to warrant a full-blown NPD diagnosis? No. But the cluster of symptoms (including the infidelity) puts him at the center of the prototype.

      • Good one Tempest.

        As far as labeling…..after 12 years experience as a psychiatric nurse, I am inclined to say….if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, loves cracked corn, and sports feathers like a duck……chances are, it’s a duck. Just sayin.

      • Howled out loud at work on this one, Tempest. I have a fire wall so I couldn’t respond until now. Everyone around me was asking what was so funny….

    • Clip, I don’t argue that cheaters are NPDs. I argue that cheating is a narcissistic act. You cannot cheat on someone without suppressing empathy for the chump.

      Who excels at lack of empathy? Narcissists. Now, maybe it’s a situation condition or a permanent character disorder. Who’s to say? That’s untangling the skein. What I argue is — is this relationship acceptable to YOU? Does it reflect YOUR values? I’m not arguing every cheater is NPD run away!

      Of course, many cheaters ARE in fact disordered. Mine was. Terms like “NPD,” “Borderline,” and “sociopath” were thrown around in therapy. On the spectrum of fucked up, he was REALLY fucked up. My cheater isn’t all cheaters.

      We can’t diagnose our cheaters. As Dat says, I think it’s enough to call them “assholes.”

      Today’s post, however, was about exploring narcissism and spirituality. Self vs. selflessness.

    • I like the shorthand of saying ‘narc’ for a certain kind of cheater; the ones who cheated repeatedly or very long term, lied with ease, blame-shifted and acted entitled when confronted, etc. It’s quite possible that many of them could be diagnosed a NPD/sociopathic. Each of those is at least 1% of the population, some research shows Narcissistic PD is getting up to 4 or 5%, because of cultural factors. That’s A LOT of people! And I’m betting that the the ‘betrayed spouse’ of a low-narcissism cheater is less likely to be here in CN.

      To me, the usefulness of the shorthand term is as a reminder that the Chump was NOT responsible for what happened, and that the cheater is highly unlikely to change. This is a lesson that Chumps take a long long time to learn.

      • It is hard for me to fathom that any person could lie so much, for so long, sleep like a baby , function at work, and look me in the eye every day while cheating, and not be a Cluster B of some sort.
        It seems just too far fetched to imagine a non disordered person could do this.

        B

        • It’s easy to do this if your an alcoholic, lie about the drinking, live in denial. I’m thinking it’s quite similar actually. It’s completely wrong and I know the person needs help to stop just as an alcoholic does,

  • You don´t need the drugs. Daily meditation and frequent yoga has been my way of connecting to one, source, energy, supreme love or however you want to call it.It has been absolutely healing and has made me understand the mind-body connection much more. I have also done a lot of tapping, exercise and affirmations. All free, legal and heatlhier ways of clearing the garbage left by cheater narc and others and working on bringing out the best me possible.

    There is a lot of fascinating new information on how the heart is another brain and its amazing potential.

    http://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/introduction.html

    The problem for narcissists cheaters (pardon the redundancy) is that they don´t have a heart…or have never used it!

    But I also now believe that we have had to deal with narcissists when we were not loving ourselves enough or conscious of our full potential. After being chumped, the best path to recovery and happiness is to learn to love yourself as one and to understand this is to reach our full potential through love. This does not mean that we need anyone, but that we are happy with our best selves. Complementing new partners or friends will come after we get this….

    • Now there is the brand of cheater who meditates daily and practices yoga regularly, but is still narcissistic. They just use their spirituality to further justify their actions, to forgive themselves, to accept that they occasionally find “true love” outside of marriage, and to just generally think better of themselves since they do practice.

      • I’m part of this line-up. He practiced these things pretty much the entire marriage – and even when he was cheating implied that he was existing on a higher plane of knowledge and spirituality. He gave that as a reason why I just didn’t understand and I never would why he had to cheat on me.

          • Ha, ha…the joke is on me…now that you mention it, my cheater is beginning to do yoga and I am almost sure he is doing it because the OW is pressuring him to. I have done yoga since before it was fashionable, and stopped for several years when I had my babies. Now I went back right before Dday and asked him to go with me but he never wanted to.

            So now he is a more focused asshole like JH says……

      • In my case, she would have “transformations” and be “spiritually aligned with nature” and the goddesses would speak to her and all this would help her in her quest to inspire and help other people, because that is what it is all about. What about helping your husband and kids by not living a secret double life and spending us into bankruptcy?

        It is this type of irony and hypocrisy which made it very difficult to think reconciliation and trust was feasible.

      • This is absolutely true- my yoga teacher often says “If an asshole starts going to a meditation class, he can become a very focused asshole”.

  • Why stop at psychedelics? Let’s conduct some studies to see if strychnine helps cheaters.

    (kidding!!)

  • Yes–so much yes. I wonder if another word for merging egos is…empathy! (while I’m sure there can be too much, or too dependent or whatever, lack of individuation), the sense that we are and ought to be social beings, and be careful with each other seems to me to be a hallmark of integrity.

    Not unlike the Golden Rule, it’s about the ability to understand that your well-being (welfare) will either directly or eventually affects my welfare. If your kids are well housed and doctored and educated, I live in a safer, better world.

    As it happens, I’m episodically engaged in a “conversation” with a person who proudly proclaims that she sleeps with married men “all the time” on the Fat Cheater thread. Her last comment to me? “cheating by your partner only destroys your life if you are weak enough to let it.” And she’s including consequences for children in this. While I’m done trying to talk to this narc crazy (kibbles!!), her comments, and so many others on so many of these comment boards, illustrate not only how uninvolved people don’t understand the dynamics of broken trust, but that there are cheater zombies among us who will go on the offensive (as it were) for there access to cheating.

    too early in the morning for this much thinking….

  • This is a very interesting hypothesis. I would love to see the outcome of the trials on depression–I’ve thought about “alternative” methods for my own brushes with the disease that do not carry the dangers of side effects.

    This is my opinion–and experience–with hallucinogenics. My XH is a high functioning Sociopath–with a very important position in the grand scheme of societal things. He is one of the most a-moral and frightening individuals I’ve ever come across–the stories came out after our divorce, but they are there just the same. Stealing his college graduating class’s gifts from faculty the night of an awards ceremony (PDAs, expensive gift cards, etc)—as a “joke”–while he sat in the audience (he was angry because he wasn’t eligible for any award) and watched the pandemonium ensue. He never returned the gifts, btw. They got hocked.

    This is an example of the person, before I met him. Afterwards, he graduated to death threats.

    Anyway. During his undergraduate years, he and his friends routinely would meet at a rural home of one of the friends–and each would bring a different drug. Cocaine, pot, alcohol—my XH’s thing was mushrooms–Psilocybin. He considered himself the “Guru”, doling out exact dosages for each person willing to try it, so that no one got overdosed. Very responsible, right?

    Well, did it change him? No. Did he ever come off of it a better person? From what I was told and how his behavior only deteriorated over the years? No. Was he introspective? Absolutely not. In fact, his attitude after we got married was that he wanted to persist with this little habit of his (growing them himself)–even though I put my foot down about NEVER having that shit in my house. We almost divorced several times over it. Help his Narcissism and addictive behavior? Nope. He just turned to other things. Alcohol, porn, smoking, food.

    I think that perhaps the idea that this could help with depression is that depression is a chemical imbalance—whereas sociopathy and some of the more violent mental disorders are an actual structural defect in the brain. MRIs show that the structure of sociopaths is different. Depression doesn’t show on an MRI.

    I hope to God that something as simple as a safe trip for a few hours, under the care of a trusted and experienced practitioner can help people with depression–that would be absolutely earth shattering. So many people suffer terribly. I can’t imagine that pharma companies will welcome this development, if we can get off of these awful anti-depressants and finally have some semblance of normalcy and happiness without damaging drugs.

    • If you read the article, it’s interesting about Big Pharma. They aren’t interested at all, because you can’t prescribe it every day and what they’re proposed is a guided, one-time medication thing.

      On your ex, my thought was — you have to have something to work with! If you don’t have a soul, I guess you can’t connect to other souls.

      • Fascinating post.

        w has/had a soul. However, a switch flipped on one very specific night and she has never been the same since. I can furnish particulars but there is absolutely no doubt that she emerged the next day a totally different person. something tweaked in her brain and she never came back, not a bit.

        No doubt it was all buried somewhere, but something happened on one specific night to flip that switch. What I call the evil twin emerged, and has never gone away.

        I don’t know if this is the case with others here, but if so, it is interesting to wonder if someday, there might be a way to flip the switch back more to that collective conscious mode.

        For me, this experience has made me far more humble, compassionate, and caring. Little things don’t bother me as much. I’m more grateful for things I enjoy and value. In a way I am much more judgmental; but in another way, more willing to reach out to other people that I might not have before.

  • Interesting, and a bit triggering to see the Greatful Dead bear. My Ex has that tatoo on his leg! When we were younger, he tried LSD and mushrooms. He was very into Timothy Leary and that whole scene for a while. He only tried drugs a handful of times, but I’m sorry to report it did not offer him enlightenment. Neither did religion. It’s an interesting discussion, because I think it can be temporarily useful for some people. But my Ex was not even temporarily a better person from those experiences. In fact, those were the times when I saw him tell the most outrageous lies and become even more “grandiose” in his thinking. I hadn’t thought about any of that for a long time!

    • Thank you DoneNow for your point of reference. I saw the same too with the much older adults who I was with. Along with the grandiose thinking I did not see them stop cheating. (I was a teenager and hung out with folks in their late 20’s through mid 30’s). Historically it was a hedonistic time and this was a hedonistic bunch. The so called “beautiful people”. Some claimed spiritual enlightenment but my inner teen self said BS. Cocaine made them worse. I was so turned off by cocaine because of what I saw. It was these folks that drove me to my cheater in my 20’s. He didn’t do drugs so I thought he was safe.

  • I was in such an obsessive, miserable state after being cheated on. Of course, staying in contact with my now ex, keeping tabs on the OW, trying to “reconcile” helped keep me stuck. But I was desperate to find a way to stop thinking about the mess my life had become. I just wanted a break from the pain, and feared that I’d never be happy again. The pain was intense, shocking, and seemed to have no end.

    I turned to meditation classes to find some peace. It’s not as fast-acting as a psychedelic, but I do think it has a similar effect. The message is letting go of ego and permanence, and just being present. Somehow, sitting on a cushion, focusing on your breath, and letting go of ego has a lasting, positive effect. I credit it with getting me back on my feet when that felt impossible.

    If psychedelics put you on the fast track to happiness, I’m all for it.

  • I find this medical hypothesis quite interesting, and I hope some findings can help the suffering.

    I can say that the Coward did plenty of drugs as a teen, suffering greatly from his own parents’ divorce, and living poor and frustrated in a wealthy community, surrounded by plenty of teens whose parents were also self-absorbed.

    He did experience a psychedelic trip in high school, and he felt that it made him prescient for one brief moment in time–he saw in his mind something he swears he saw later in reality, down to minute details. He also smoked a lot of pot, but many people did and do.

    One of his seemingly arbitrary parting condemnations of me was that, “YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME!” He was outraged–OUTRAGED–that I wasn’t overcome with adoration that he saw something before he saw something. And we are talking about something akin to seeing a particular plant arrangement in the glory of his trip, that he later saw in the mundaneness of his real life–every single detail replicated. Apparently this was very moving for him, and he wanted it to be very moving for me, too.

    Whatever. I’m sure the Twat Troll thinks he’s incredible. Come to think of it, he was probably reminiscing the good old days with his soul mate (*snort!*) and SHE told him that he was the most amazing man she’d ever met in her whole life, but *I*, on the other hand was too busy with household chores to keep this lore at the forefront of my mind….

    Meh. Maybe he would benefit from another trip. Or, not.

  • Most major religions teach one form or another of the idea that the self is an illusion and interferes with our connection to God. Personally, I’d place a greater value on getting there by contemplation and practice, but if drugs help some people who might not get there otherwise it seems worth exploring.

    Serial cheaters SUCK at turning off the self switch. They’re all about the self getting what it wants at the moment the self wants it (Lunchtime blowjob, anyone?) Which is one reason why I think there aren’t many truly spiritual serial cheaters. Religious zealots? Cult leaders? Jesus cheaters? Sure. But they’re fakes, imitating spiritual practices. If a bear can learn to ride a bicycle, a cheater can learn to genuflect. Though cheaters often love churches–because they’re such happy hunting grounds. The folks in the pews working so hard to sublimate themselves? They often make excellent chumps.

    And if you dig this stuff, check out William James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience.” He’ll blow your mind and make Mr. Pollan look like the competent pop journalist he is.

    • Personally, I prefer C.S. Lewis on this topic. He points out true humility is about self-forgetfulness, NOT thinking less of oneself. In other words, it is the practice of empathy and care for the other or focus on God (my paraphrasing). He writes about this in MERE CHRISTIANITY.

      And I think this is why cheaters have such a hard time as well. They lack true humility. Sure, some go the self-pity and self-abasement route when caught. But that is not humility. Humility says I am concerned about YOUR needs, wants, and hopes. Cheating says, “I only care about my wants and desires.”

      Finally, I think CL and Nomar that you are touching on the theme of mysticism that runs through many religions. The healthy ones have this warm piety mixed with healthy humility and concern for others at their heart, IMO.

      • DM – I agree we are essentially describing mysticism here. Some of my favorite people are mystics… Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Terese of Avila, Catherine of Sienna. As for living mystics…probably Richard Rohr and Laurance Freeman. And my college roommate and forever friend, Mary Jo…

      • Lewis is great, though he makes no bones of the fact that as a Christian he had a horse in the race. James is great because he comes to the topic with a scientific eye, studying the *phenomenon* of the mystical experience. Under what conditions does it arise? How does a person experience it? What effect does it have on a person afterward? Without rooting for any particular answers, he managed to be one of the most inspiring spiritual thinkers of the 20th century.

        • Not a huge James fan myself. He was out of favor when doing my B.A. in philosophy as far as a philosopher is concerned. The Europeans didn’t think much of him as a contemporary is what I was taught.

          And I am of the opinion that we all have horses in the race. It is just a question of whether or not we acknowledge them. Haven’t read enough of James to know his slant in this for sure. My reading of him was limited to his work on pragmatism, which I found lacking in sound underpinnings philosophically.

          • Don’t forget Durkeim! and the elementary forms of Religious Life (although I don’t especially agree with his approach or conclusions, being, in general, not a structural-functionalist.) I rather prefer Hegel and the Phenomenology of Mind, which addresses CL’s topic rather well. The narcissistic and/or cheating types whom we discuss seem to lack the ability to stand outside of their consciousness (will, or desires, or ego) and understand the impulses. Instead, of course, they just go for it, on the double if possible. With fries.

  • My cheater is OCD also and diagnosed with PTSD, wondered what an MRI of his brain would look like? I agree that whatever his thought process is, it allowed him to lead a double life. Which after it was discovered, that same thought process enabled him to feel no empathy for me. This whole experience has been all about himself and shifting the blame onto me. Our entire marriage was about him being in control. He’s stalling the mediation, again, the only thing he can control.

  • I read somewhere, maybe NPR?, that psychedelic drugs are used to open the mind, and dissolve the self. Once a person is in this state, a trained psychologist leads them through different experiences, and scenarios… basically help them dig into their issues with an open mind.

    I remember reading about it because I immediately thought of my husband. I really feel that psychedelics combined with therapy could potentially help him. Lord knows nothing I tried worked. I’ve also suggested drugs for anxiety and ocd to both my husband and his counselor, but both of them just looked at me in disbelief. I do believe there is potential in psychedelic drugs, when they are used in a safe, professional environment.

  • What a thought provoking post. During the Troubles, I did a lot of thinking about the role my ego played in my unhappiness. It was helpful for me to try to work to set aside the part of my ego that was very concerned with what the rest of the world thinks of me.

    “Will they think I’m a failure because X cheated on me?” Set that aside – that is my ego taking center stage. So many self-doubting questions can be put into healthier perspective when the ego’s role is identified and analyzed.

    I also studied a lot about the connection between addiction and narcissism and agree they are intertwined. Even if an alcoholic/addict does not have NPD, his or her behaviors, choices, disease processes (call it what you will), have the same traits as narcissism…and the same impact on the chump sitting across the dining room table.

    I’m so thankful all that is out of my life!!! And because I emerged from the process a stronger, more self-aware human being, I have even come to a point where I can have some gratitude for the lessons I was determined to squeeze out of that particular semester in the School of Life.

    It does get so much better.

      • I credit my Irish ancestry – the ability to laugh through the telling of tragic tales saved me and makes me think of them very fondly – but the shorthand label is mostly an efficiency…who has time to write it all out every time? I’ve gained a life! 🙂

        The Troubles encompassed recurrent pregnancy loss, subsequent failed fertility treatments, his descent into alcoholism and addiction, his affair with and subsequent cohabitation with a Professional Masturbator who stalked me, him being in and out of our home, the intervention and then the rehab romance, the short lived homecoming and rocky sobriety, the relapse, my diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, all capped off with his impregnanting yet-another-other-woman and having a baby the week the divorce was finalized.

        Being here and reading everyone’s insightful posts that are suffused with support and kindness for one another helps so much, and reminds me of an Irish blessing for times of sorrow:

        May you see God’s light on the path ahead
        When the road you walk is dark
        May you always hear,
        Even in your hour of sorrow,
        The gentle singing of the lark.
        when times are hard may hardness
        never turn your heart to stone,
        may you always remember
        when the shadows fall – you do not walk alone.

  • I think the label you apply to your cheater only helps you to understand that there are other people who fall into that particular spectrum of behaviors, and in order to understand yourself, you realize that you can also fall into a descriptor of a spectrum of behaviors. We need to categorize and differentiate in order to understand, because the “Big Picture” might be overwhelming.

    I don’t know about drugs being used to treat the personality disordered, or the extremely traumatized — that is way beyond my scientific understanding. Right now, personality disorders are considered incurable. That helped me put a cap on it, and helped me start healing when I finally figured that out. As a chump who had plenty of codependent tendencies, I felt I “should” help “fix” my partner. When I realized he could not be fixed, and I was signing up for a lifetime of misery if I continued down that path — it was easier for me to get off the path. At this point I don’t care what label he has, or how many combinations of problems he has — I am just grateful to have survived, and to not have to deal with him any more. I am grateful for the insights I learned about my own personality quirks and problems. I am grateful for realizing that if I didn’t learn to take care of myself, I would never be able to help anyone else. It is strange that it took being exposed to the extremely selfish actions of a liar/cheater partner to realize that I was not selfish enough — that I had to learn to put my own interests ahead of others to avoid being used up and discarded. It’s not that you don’t take others into consideration, but that you put their interests in some sort of proportion to your needs and interests. That lesson is hard to learn.

    I don’t believe ALL cheaters are Narc’s, and I do believe that sometimes an otherwise good person can make a really stupid mistake and be truly sorry for it. However, when the lies and the cheating become a part of a lifestyle, and when the person who carry’s on that way is willing to do that to the detriment of a life partner (and children) — that is disordered behavior. I don’t care about the label — you can call them all con’s if you want to. You can call us all chumps. If it helps you understand it and deal with it, and accept it, I think that is a good thing.

    • Portia; I agree, it has taken me awhile to get away from trying to understand them/him or thinking I* can help. Sometimes we just think up excuses for them. Finally I thought I had a horrible childhood, so why is the big problem that he did too? I have had many challenges and why should his be more important?
      When we went through the trying to reconcile, I was the one doing all the work to try to ensure our success. I didn’t cause it, but I get to do all the work? No go!
      I don’t care what you call it either, I just don’t want any of it!
      The drug topic is interesting as long as what it “open your mind to” is constructive. When I was young, I remember people taking hallucinogens and cheating. Qualifies as a new excuse too!
      Hope there is something to it if it helps people.

  • I agree addiction is an expression of narcissism. For all the reason Chump Lady outlined in her analysis. However, this perspective is counter cultural. Mainstream culture is all about the ego and basically sees cheating as an acceptable path to happiness. This is frightening.

    The True Self keeps the ego in check and fills that God-sized hole in the soul with something much larger than earthly addictions. imo.

    Research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology is revealing how “falling in love” is a powerful drug indeed and it usually lasts only 2 years full tilt – so no wonder many of the ideal OW/OM relationships eventually die. This same field also explains the physical ache in our broken chumpy hearts.

    While trying to find the original research about interpersonal neurobiology (couldn’t, at work, break is over…), I found this quote from Frank Pittman, a long time therapist who appears to have the right perspective on infidelity, ego and True Self….

    “When partners are unhappy, this notion can mislead them to start looking elsewhere. In such moments, they need a wake-up call. In truth, [[[“bad marriages don’t cause infidelity; infidelity causes bad marriages,”]]] states psychiatrist, author and family therapist Frank Pittman.” http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/11/the-neuroscience-of-genuine-love-and-what-love-quotes-say/

  • There has been research regarding the use of psychedelics for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder which the results were positive and promising. It has been 5 years since I’ve read the results of initial studies on Medscape. Bill W. founder of AA was using psychedelics as treatment as well. (I don’t know if he ever quit cheating.) I used them back in the late 70’s early 80’s. I have ADHD with depression, anxiety, and mild CP. I was also a “funny looking child”. I suffered emotionally, psychologically and had sensory issues. I felt like a zebra in a pack of horses most of my youth. I swear the use of psychedelics is the reason why I was able to succeed scholastically when I had been failing previously. I went from a possible high school drop out to a college graduate. I had mentioned this theory to my colleagues years ago and was dismissed as rationalizing my drug use,.Pfffttt! I made sure to print the article out and give it to them.

    I took care of my Mom during her last year of life and saw that Oxycontin and Benzos did not make the end of her life meaningful. Just drugged and severely constipated. I vowed if I had end stage cancer I’d figure out a way to treat myself with marijuana and psychedelics. The experience of caring for my parents at the end of their lives is part of the reason I could not stay with my cheater. Life is too damn short to be miserable.

  • This post resonates with me today because (as so often happens here), I’ve been pondering why (when my life is tooling along very well), I still find myself stuck wondering about Jackass and MOW. I had the huge A-ha moment that I had created the Jackass I knew in my own mind based on the mask he was showing me (the con he was running) and now, based on snippets from social media and mutual acquaintances, I am doing the same thing, but now giving them brain-space that would be better left for filing Ed Sheeran lyrics or dialogue from the new Kevin Hart movie. The whole Jackass drama has always been primarily in my head because…they are holograms, the two of them.

    I thoroughly get that Jackass is at the far end of the narcissist spectrum (I think NPD given the mess of both his relational life with partners, FOO, and child and his inability to maintain a business or remain at a job without conflict). It’s also evident that MOW has poor life skills. I have no business being interested in any way in these two hyenas who crossed my life path and blew it up. So as I read this post today, I’m thinking my minor obsession with these two falls into this category of “ego problem,” although the problem is not a lack of empathy for others but rather a failure to see others as they are, in this case people living lives that I only see in echoes. It’s a kind of insistence on maintaining what was the product of false consciousness in the first place.

    CL is right, I think, when she says addiction is a form of narcissism–a radical turning away from relationships with and love for others in favor of things or sensations or experiences. But I keep circling around my own need to create “relationship” where none can exist–my long history of choosing lovers, partners, friends who are addicts or narcissists–as on that same page. How much different is it for me to lose myself in relationships than for my X (not the cheater) to lose himself in alcohol and hydrocodone? Both of those choices are indeed ailments of the ego. So here I am now, at the next step of the journey, thinking that I still have a lot of work to do to re-program how my brain works on relationship. And thinking that requires a deepening and renewal of the spiritual practices that are my alternative to psychedelic drugs.

    • LAJ I’m looking at my part, too. I look back on almost 40 years of this type of relationship behavior and go “WTF??” I believe the therapy and spiritual work is the reason I was able pull my head out of my rear sooner with less damaging consequences. I know God is doing for me what I know I can’t do for myself. This last go round was a little strange in that I had an awareness of the behavior. It was like standing outside of myself observing my own dysfunction. Could be the adage of progress and not perfection rings true. I might not ever have a long term relationship but I do hope that I can cross over to the other side of the street rather than finding myself falling down that hole again.

      • Oh, Chumpy, me too. People keep asking me when I’m going to start dating again. I say “when I am healthy enough to do it for the right reasons.” I remember the worst days just before and after DDay and how heavily I leaned on prayer from moment to moment. Once I started feeling better, I started laying in bed that extra 10 minutes instead of getting myself spiritually aligned for the day. This is a great week for me to re-set that pattern and get my meditation practice king again. I really like that “standing outside yourself” awareness. That’s got to be a big part of not repeating the pattern.

    • As my therapist explained it, the difference between an addict and a narcissist regarding the need for sex is that the addict needs it just to feel normal, and has very little control over obtaining sex (or drugs or alcohol or…). The narcissist has more control and seeks sex out as a way for extra ego strokes and a sense of superiority and control over others.

      Mine clearly fell into the latter.

    • LAJ, I’ve read a lot of Susan Anderson’s work on abandonment, heartbreak and self sabotage. She has some very practical exercises that help you reconnect to your deepest self. Maybe reading some of her books would be helpful for you? http://www.abandonment.net

      • Thanks so much for thinking to post that link for me. All three of those words (abandonment, heartbreak and self sabotage) resonate for me. And I try to read something every day that will move me forward!

        • I just came from B & N and picked up a discount copy of “The Sociopath Next Door.” Should make for some fun reading, eh?

          While there, I also saw a book called, “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.” It sounded empowering, so it’s on my Amazon list.

  • Putting on my ancient anthropologist’s hat (my major), there are many many cultures that use psychedelics in a communal or controlled manner that do a lot of good for that community. They help bring them together as one. They help to alleviate their own mental illnesses. Ayahuasca, kava, dancing, all of them. Might have some merit in a culturally sanctioned manner.

  • Interesting discussion! I also turned to Buddism classes and meditation after Dday and separation, plus I was seeing a therapist as well. The problem was that I felt an internal struggle going on with both of these at the same time. My therapist asked me to drop the Buddism for a while because I was already naturally an altruistic person who had always cared for others and put their needs ahead of my own( a chump) and that I needed to focus more on developing better boundaries and not letting myself be used or abused by others not that way inclined. So, perhaps narcissism/altruism is all on a spectrum? We are all sentient beings with many of these traits , some more towards one way than the other. Perhaps the answer is balance, being able to empathize and have compassion for others but at the same time, not letting them take advantage of you, or use or abuse you. That’s what I’m working on. When this happened to me , it felt like he stole my light and took away all my good qualities and made me see the world ‘s darkness and evil. Now I’m working on getting some of those back and but also being more discerning about who I let into my life.

    • The line in the Bible that helps me think about this is “love your neighbor as yourself,” which indicates that we are not to allow “love your neighbor” to get out of balance with “love your self.” That’s the balance, I think, between codependent behavior and narcissistic behavior.

      • I agree, LAJ. For me, I think the love your neighbor as you love yourself teaching is actually the foundation for living practicing true respect and love. If you truly love yourself, you are not going to mistreat yourself – which would also include, but its very nature, not allowing other people to treat you in a way that is out of alignment with how you honor and nurture yourself. In completing that circle, you would not treat any other person in any way that you would not want to be treated. In knowing your own value and worth, you appreciate and respect the worth and value of others.

  • When I left my first cheater (later diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenic), I found a community college with a daycare center that took infants. I went to college, worked, and tried hard to build up my self-esteem, which I imagined as a steel rod running vertically through me. Each triumph (over some daily hassle or minor life catastrophe) felt to me like it made the rod stronger and thicker.
    I visited a friend in the country for a weekend. She had some of the finest LSD ever produced, and I very reluctantly took some with the rest of the group.
    I experienced incredible visual effects as well as transcendent moments of connectedness to all that is, and the realization of the universe’s essential oneness. I have referred back to those moments spiritually throughout my life, though I must report I also experienced paranoia and fear which did not abate for months and took a skilled therapist to overcome.
    Most notable to me was the absence of the steel rod after that day. I was conscious of molten steel leaving me at the time, like a waterfall out my feet, and I felt it as a loss. I don’t know if it was for better or for worse, as the image of my steel center had got me through many trying times.
    I never did LSD again. Currently I meditate, and this seems to cultivate an ability to see people as they are acting in the moment rather than in retrospect after I analyze. I do think this will help me avoid those with ill intent in the future, i.e, another cheater.

  • In my limited experience, Deadheads talked a lot about the peril of the ego and how “Babylon is all about money”, but in reality… they were mostly ripping each other off to get money for heroin or cocaine more often than not. And they were mostly slaves to their ego; it was just cool to pretend you weren’t.

    That was the reality, sadly.

    • TimeHeals,
      My ex is a former dead head and over the years I have come to realize he has some impairment in the area of scruples. He sold drugs to obtain the money to follow the dead and attend shows.

      The easiest way to describe him is to say, he thinks if other people don’t know what he did, it’s just as if he didn’t do it. The last few years I have come to realize he doesn’t care anything about anyone who can’t do anything for him. On the surface he is very polite and likable. He isn’t even really a horribly dark person underneath. Narcissist doesn’t fit because I wouldn’t say he is love with himself or that he enjoys inflicting pain on others. He just seeks pleasurable experiences and isn’t hugely concerned with the needs of other people. I guess “addict” is a better word, but it isn’t as if he can’t do without. One day when I was upset and complaining his best friend described him perfectly to me. He said, “well, he’s mostly about himself.”

  • CL, I love your posts and can identify with most if not all of what is said on this site.I like many here have suffered at the expense of my Idiots behavior and choices. How can I explain what bothers me about the “Narc” label? I guess I feel the more we toss it around the more we are desensitized to it. Does it really matter what the diagnosis is? Narc, Socio/psychopath or schizo? Personality disorders? Can anyone suffering from these disorders have any sense of self? probably not. From what I understand of these types of disorders no. Not in the wiring. So do we then embrace that they are disordered and therefore can not help themselves? Pity for the Narc? They will never be right in the head? So lets feed them pyschedelics and hope that it true. I say lets go old school….frontal lobotomies.

    • Or, we could hook cheaters up to the same electrical apparatus as the rats with electrodes implanted deep into the “pleasure centers” of their brains. Poor little rodents were willing to push that lever until they killed themselves.

      • I love that experiment. Makes me giggle every time (though it seems people think I’m a pervert whenever I reference it).

  • I have to say, I got stoned for a week when I was in the depths of depression after he bailed on me, to suppress the anxiety as I didn’t want to go on pharmaceuticals. It worked. I’ve only ever participated socially, very rarely for a laugh with friends, and I’ve not used it again for over a year now, but it really worked to set me straight, quell the anxiety and propel me forward.

    Dickwit on the other hand, had to cut back on his dope and alcohol consumption after we had kids and he got a job that did physicals and drug testing. It was only then that his psycho persona came out as a full blown narcissist with a cleaning problem. It seems he’s been masking it with me for years with dope and booze. I had no idea I had married a disordered person. I just feel sorry for the kids in the fall out.

  • My Cheater is a high functioning alcoholic. Last year I begged the MC privately to tell me what he is. I already knew the cheater’s bio dad had been professionally diagnosed as NPD. The cheater I married is on the NPD spectrum with sociopathic tendencies.

    In a lot of comments above it appears that most of our character disordered cheaters self medicate-drugs, sex, food. An MRI of the cheater’s brain, both on their high and sober, would be interesting in comparison to an MRI image of a non disordered person.

  • Some people become addicted to things like alcohol due to past trauma combined with a lack of innate coping/self-soothing skills.

    This is a very self-serving comment from me as I once had some pretty long-standing issues with alcohol brought on by bullying, a very bad traffic accident I had as a teenager and a very stressful home environment (and subsequent divorce). I was too young to understand the need to talk about how all this made me feel and, once introduced to alcohol, developed a dependency that plagued me for a long time.

    In my early 30’s I took myself off for a long period of therapy (maybe 10 year’s worth). I have much better coping skills as a result and no longer depend on alcohol to calm my anxiety.

    I’m not sure that my behaviour was narcissistic, maybe it was. I’m different now, though.

    • See my comment above–addiction and narcissism stem from different things (per my therapist). Being an addict doesn’t make you a narcissist, nor vice versa.

      • My dad was an abusive alcoholic. When he was still drinking, his personality was not very nice. but, once he stopped he was a good guy. he had compassion and kindness, although you would never know it when he was drunk.
        I cannot imagine anyone being more abusive when he drank . But, as I said, once he stopped, he became a different person.

  • My ex had a few brain scans done during our marriage for a chronic neurological disease. Unrelated to that diagnosis, it became clear that my ex is a sociopath. Sometimes, in a magical realism kind of way, I wish someone would have told me what they saw: Gaps in character, lack of empathy, no feelings, the writing on the wall.

  • There is an interesting book, “Course in Miracles”, like meditation, it changes your perspective on life in a loving way.

    It rewires your brain using mindfulness.

    It’s pretty heady stuff, put out by the FOUNDATION OF INNER PEACE.

    Bottom line: God is LOVE

    Under the Introduction it reads, “The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.”

    “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompasing can have no opposite.”

    The closer you get to the other side, the more this truth reveals itself.

    The one question I would love an honest answer to from cheaters is:

    What are you so afraid of, that you would risk everything to keep from facing that fear?

    • “What are you so afraid of, that you would risk everything to keep from facing that fear?”

      Wow, that’s a great question. I’d like to hear the answer to that too.

  • Is it too cynical and unloving of me to say I think the only fear my XbF had was fear of letting an available Hot Fresh Pussy slip away unplumbed?

  • Clip mentioned something about being concerned when the words narcissism or sociopathy or disordered are tossed around. Personality disorders are on a continuum. Actually all personalities are. We all have a small amount of narcissism in our personalities and it is healthy. It means we look after ourselves. When it goes into full-blown narcissism you begin to get people who are totally self-centered. Staying on the continuum Is when you get true sociopathy. If you mix in histrionic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder then you have a mixture that is impossible to live with. These people have learned to disguise themselves in childhood and by the time by they are grown it is who they are. I have to repeat that. It is who they are. I don’t think psychedelic anything is going to put into a brain what is missing. Still, what psychedelics can do is allow you, the normal one, some modicum of peace.
    A psychologist once said to a friend of mine that it only takes a week to drive someone crazy. He meant that literally. The more you trust and love someone the easier it is. A spouse or a child in a nuclear family are so vulnerable to manipulation that they really can show signs of mental instability in a week.
    When you consider that humans are tribal you realize that biology plays a very important role and why desertion so painful. It damages your sense of belonging to your tribe at a cellular level. When someone says you do not count, you are not worth it, you are worthless, they have gone against your definition of yourself. Asking the person “why” will give you an answer but it is not what you need, because what you need is your tribe to be intact. That is why it is so painful.
    If medication,such as psychedelics,can help you reconnect to the worldwide tribe, as it were, and let you survive emotionally, then I say go for it.

    • A great therapist (also a university professor of psychology) once told me that intermittent reinforcement (a particularly damaging in that people keep hoping for the reward, which comes once in a while, instead of the punishment. I love your explanation of why the pain is so terrible. That also explains why anything that reconnects us to our tribe (the tender care of a friend, mediation, group classes, rewarding work with others, prayer, community service) helps us navigate the pain. It also helps, I think, to consciously re-build that tribe.

      • *once told me that intermittent reinforcement (a particularly damaging in that people keep hoping for the reward, which comes once in a while, instead of the punishment) literally drives people crazy.

        So sorry–I have no idea what cut off the end of the sentence, since I’m on the laptop, not the iPad.

    • Let go says–That is so true about being able to become mentally unstable in a week; it only took a week for the otherwise-normal participants in the Zimbardo prison study to start behaving like dictators and tyrants (the guards) or like victims (the prisoners), even though they had been randomly assigned. Imagine if they’d actually had emotional ties to each other.

  • What an interesting discussion! from my own experience of taking psychedelics, I think they definitely show you something about your spiritual self and your place in the universe. MANY of the most amazing experiences of my life have been on acid or mushrooms. And my empathic friends that I’ve done that with – there are some very close, special bonds there because of what we’ve seen together. But I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of taking them with two disordered people. . . and what it did for them was to send them to a very dark place. and my guess is that’s because that’s what the stuff of their souls is – something dark, disturbed, & monstrous.

    • I would agree with you WTFever. The magical mushroom tour allows you to explore what is already within

  • I wish I could say I am a nicer person after being cheated on, but to be truthful, I used to be much nicer & loved most everyone. Friendly, open, etc. Now, not so much. Not a big fan of putting myself out there and it has been years now. Oh well, at least I can read in peace.

    • It’s true, Regina, being betrayed is Innocence Lost. There’s no way to go back to trust levels before the bite of the apple (and we didn’t even get to taste the damn apple).

    • That might be temporary, Regina. at first, after this, I was in my “take no shit from anybody” mode. It wore off and I feel , actually, that this has made me more compassionate toward others.
      There is some good that came out of this, for me, IMO. I know when to get away from people and I do not trust untrustworthy people anymore. Makes life a lot easier.

      • Hi Arnold! Like a lot of us, this seemed to simultaneously hit with other negative things. I really feel changed and not in a good way. My job is very social, but after that I am done. I have not been able to trust people in my family either. My brother & I were very close as children, but he married a Narc 36 years ago and she has insisted that we not be too close. If he & I are laughing on the phone for instance, she will call him to do something. She was happy when I got cheated on and took a financial tumble because I guess it has always been a competition to her. (winning!) She has grown to be about 80+ lbs. overweight and maybe it makes her insecure. Whatever. Sick of all the crap, I just want to limit my exposure. As I said, I am years out from cheaterdom.
        Thank you for the encouraging words though, hope you are right.

  • I belong to AA because I’m in recovery for alcoholism, dealing with the EGO/Pride is a big part of the recovery, in fact you cannot recover without dropping them. Just thought I’d throw out what the definition of EGO is in the 12 step program, it means “Ego: Edging God out”. So yes, I believe cheating is an addiction where it feeds the EGO just as alcohol addiction feeds it. BTW, that’s why they have 12 step programs for sexaholics. See here ——> http://www.recovery.org/topics/about-the-sexaholics-anonymous-12-step-recovery-program/

  • I wish I could say it improved me in some way Tempest, but I am not seeing it. If anyone feels this is true for them, I am happy they can feel that way.

  • Maree, I second Tempest’s response – your posts are always kind and caring. That’s why I asked you the question about your son’s age – I was surprised that he treated you this way and I’m even more surprised now that I know he’s old enough to act better. So sorry you are dealing with this on top of everything else.

  • It’s interesting to me that both of the most pathological narcissists I have known have no interest in psychedelic drugs or marijuana – in fact they openly mock their users as “losers” and “gross hippies” – but are utterly addicted to cocaine and alcohol.

  • Yes, my first ex was a Mormon and a textbook narcissist. He didn’t drink alcohol or coffee for that matter. Drugs were out of the question. Sometimes I wonder if a drink here and there could have possibly mellowed him out a little, but there’s also the possibility that he would have become violent.

    My second ex is a former deadhead. He did/does all kinds of chemical substances. He is not a narcissist, but he is “mostly about himself.” He doesn’t care too much if his actions hurt me, but I wouldn’t say that is a goal for him. He just wants his cake in a variety of flavors.

    I do wonder if the drugs blunt empathy for him.

  • Ok, Chump Lady, that’s a really harsh way to discuss addiction. And, for that matter, depression. The fact that some people use these qualities as excuses to be jerks doesn’t mean you can go on a tear saying, “See? An addict! A mentally-ill person! Judgety-judge-judge EGOMANIAC!” Addiction and mental illness aren’t per se moral failings: they can coincide with them, but in a Venn diagram shape. Where they do coincide, you can also distinguish between people who are “addicts because they’re jerks” and “jerks because they’re addicts.” And given that by your own description you aren’t well-informed about any of these conditions, your lumping all of these people together and condemning them wholesale seems ignorant and mean-spirited. Nobody’s asking you to be nice to asshats, but you don’t get carte blanche to insult other groups based not on behavior but on medical history.

    • I come from a family with both addiction, depression & mental health problems, yet I saw nothing wrong with Chump Lady’s post. She is trying to help us. If you cannot see this, why are you here? I was not going to even respond when I saw this earlier but decided to say my piece.

    • DC do you ever go into any 12 steps programme meetings? There they are honest about their selfishness. Just last night: ‘alcoholics are really selfish people’.
      And these are the tiny minority who submit to AA and other programmes in order to change and make amends. Most don’t. There is no problem with what Chumplady said, addicts and alcoholics in recovery would agree with her.

  • CL, you are absolutely right suspecting that addiction and narcissism are linked. As a clinical psychologist specialising in addiction said: ‘it is very easy for a narcissist to have a relationship with a bottle. Bottles don’t have needs’.

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