The Narcissistic-Psychopath is a Master at Taking Off Your Clothes
The concept of being naked is one that can be disturbing. It implies revealing your most inner and vulnerable self and standing there in front of another — subject to scrutiny and judgment. It reveals your imperfections and insecurities. It shows your flaws. Few eyes can gaze upon this flesh-suit or birthday-suit that comprises a human form without feeling quite vulnerable and exposed. It is also used to describe things like “naked ambition” and “naked truth.” Depending on the context, the word consistently conveys a powerful image. It is a bold word. A raw, unfiltered word.
Throughout my long marriage, I maintained some modesty due to the fact that my husband was somewhat younger than me. I did not want him to witness any aging part of my body, so I was careful to maintain it and camouflage any part that might not be perfect. Quite often when I would step into the shower, he would be nearby and I would catch him standing there watching me. While I protested that I did not want to be seen in such an unflattering light, he always said the same thing. He always said, “I am your husband. It’s okay. I love looking at you.” There were many of these awkward moments in the last few months, but I did not understand what they were at the time. He seemed to stare a little longer as if he were making a permanent picture in his mind to remember me by — to compartmentalize me into some little box in his warehouse of ruined lives and preserve little snapshots of me in my most vulnerable condition. If you’ve ever watched a predator before they devour their prey, they sometimes play with it a little bit. Sometimes they lie on top of it, sometimes give it a little space to attempt an escape only to pounce on it and hold it down again, initiating a little game of cat and mouse. My husband would put his hand on the parts of my body that were the jiggly parts and seemed to take pleasure in reminding me of them, knowing I felt embarrassed and humiliated.
The world we live in today is filled with a paradoxical dichotomy of two extremes. On the one hand, we are all naked. We are victimized and stripped by our government, by the bureaucracy, by racism and marginalization, by the very fellow citizens that we coexist with. They strip us bare and exploit us, judge us, and subjugate us into a kind of indentured servitude. Emotions are raw and in full display. Behavior that would have been shameful in the past is now accepted as normal. The world has changed, and the rules have changed with it. Pornography is the steady diet that our children cut their teeth on. With the advent of technology, naked bodies are one click away. Monogamy and forever love are antiquated, out-dated Provencial notions that don’t work in a society where immediate gratification is God and the selfish pursuit of “what serves our highest good” is the impetus behind everything we do.
But at the same time we are celebrating our nakedness, we are also camouflaging it. We pile on layers of political correctness, fascination with dimensional planes of existence, defense mechanisms that shield us and make us impenetrable and impervious to other humans. We can seal our intentions and all the while preach about manifesting our own destiny. We ask questions and chase answers and at the end of the day, we are empty-handed. We live in a world of secrets and darkness with insidious deeds and dark agents. Nefarious players and criminal obscenities are covered up, excused, denied, forgiven. We hide from each other, and we cover our own nakedness with layers and layers of meaningless things. We think that money or power or fame are the answer to all our problems, yet those who have these things are often even more miserable.
And while all these mixed messages are being received from all directions, while mankind grapples with the consequences of their newfound freedoms, it is the person with the Cluster B personality disorder, the Narcopath, who truly exhibits the epitome of nakedness. He is vulnerable and stripped away of his dignity, his innocence, his soul, and his heart. The immense shame that he feels creates empty caverns inside of him that can never be filled. These windy dark and empty spaces echo a nothingness as he stands naked in front of a hostile world. At a very young age, he learned how to cover his shame and his pain and protect and shield himself from the unbearable torment. So he killed himself and found a mask and clothed and covered himself as best he could. In place of his true self, the vulnerable frightened angry helpless naked child, he replaced him with an arrogant, confident, entitled, king among men, prince among women, so that he could rule the world from his imaginary realm. Beneath the Narcopath’s mask, is a traumatized and injured child that cannot survive. Narcissism and psychopathy are a trauma response and a delusional disorder. People with NPD dwell in a make-believe world that they have retreated into, one where they always win and they always control everything, one that compensates for their complete lack of any kind of control or positive emotion.
One of the greatest tragedies of life goes beyond the loss of one another. It is the loss of our own selves. In the relationship with a Cluster B disordered partner, neither person maintains any true sense of self. Their identity evaporates and is replaced with a shared fantasy of magical thinking in an imaginary place that does not exist. Maybe the world looks more beautiful for people who live in this imaginary place. Maybe that’s how my husband was able to always see such nuanced detail and beauty and color and resplendent details in the world around him. His sharp eye filtered all of the images around him and created a perception that was unique and insightful. He would reach down and gingerly stroke the fuzzy caterpillar as I would rush by, too busy to see it on my way to complete some random task. The way he could see the movement of the trees in the greenbelt or the patterns in a flower, he appeared to be such a gentle, tender soul. Maybe it’s a kind of madness in itself, seeing the world through a different lens. Maybe they see so much beauty outside themselves because they hold such darkness and horror within. Perhaps that’s what gives them the gift of vision. That’s what allows them to see a world that does not exist. Things take on new shapes and colors when you’re looking at them through this altered glass.
My vision is failing and at some point, I will most likely be blind. As this condition evolves, depth perception and shapes tend to pull and twist into a convoluted version of themselves. It’s trippy, yet it flies under the radar much of the time. I don’t realize how much I don’t see what other people see until I find myself pouring milk beside the glass and onto the counter. Maybe that’s what it’s like for him. Maybe he just can’t see the way the rest of us do, no matter how much he tries. So there we were, a dysfunctional pair who managed to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for many, many years. At one point or another throughout our marriage, we covered each other to allow the other a little dignity, and other times we tried to strip things away and look at the raw truth beneath the layers.
But isn’t that what all relationships are? Being naked in front of each other and unafraid. Seeing each other‘s jiggly parts and loving them anyway. Feeling excited and grateful that you have a person beside you that you can be so vulnerable with, so exposed.
But life with a disordered partner isn’t always like that. During the good times, the halcyon times, things may seem quite wonderful. But if you peel back that mask and look underneath, the naked truth is that the nakedness is distorted, stretched and pulled like taffy until it loses its integrity and becomes unrecognizable. As the partner of a disordered person, as the one who loves them and hopes for them and prays for them, you become a little more like it every day. And then the end, when the inevitable closure comes out of the clear blue sky in the middle of a sunny day when you least expect it, you are left standing there with the whole world watching all eyes upon you and you are completely naked. You have nothing to cover yourself with. But it doesn’t even matter, because you are so raw and bloody that all you can think to do is try to stop the hemorrhaging before you die. You may fall to your knees, grovel and beg. You may run screaming down the street, chasing their car like a dog. You don’t notice all the people looking on in horror. You don’t even notice that you’re naked.
Can you still remember their face and the look in their eyes when they stared at you in your nakedness? “It’s all right. I am your husband. I get to see everything.”
At the time you may have felt a little tinge of discomfort, but you had no idea what was getting ready to happen to you. You had no idea that everything would be stripped away. You had no idea that this partner, this person who vowed to love you forever, could butcher you like raw meat.
I think they steal your skin and flesh and bones and wear them like a beautiful coat, or stick all your broken pieces on to themselves until they absorb and become a new beautiful creation. They cannibalized themselves when they were young, and in the end, they devour you, too. There’s something dehumanizing about that in ways you can't imagine.
When I picture humans who arrive in hell, I don’t think of them wearing shorts and a T-shirt. If you study artistic renderings of hell, the inhabitants there are naked. I remember how we went to Paris on two separate visits that were bookends for our life together nearly fifteen years apart — the first time on our honeymoon and the last time only a week before he abandoned the marriage. We lingered as I put my hand on his shoulder and leaned in to smell his hair. We stood in front of the bas relief sculpture of the Gates of Hell at the Musee de Orsay in Paris and marveled at the depictions of the anguished, tormented souls. I tried to imagine what that must be like to be crowded together in eternal torment and completely naked through it all.
I have dreams now I’ve been naked and tied to a table, tortured, and then sacrificed as an offering to some dark lord. And then, there I am again in a cage, naked and afraid. Cold and hungry. In the next dream sequence, we’re going down the freeway. My husband is exposing himself and looking for my response as we speed down the road, and then suddenly he pulls over and puts me out of the car. I am naked. He smirks and speeds away, and all the other cars just pass by, no one stopping to help me. Pointing. Laughing. Taking pictures with their cellphones of the naked crying lady by the side of the road. The dreams keep coming, sprinkled with truth, tinged with tragedy.
The human body is a gift. Something sacred and special that should be honored and protected. But that is not your truth if you love a Narcopath. Because you were nothing more than just a body, just an object, just a toy. They never see the person that’s in there. And in the end, when they murder you, they just dump that body by the side of the road like it’s the carcass of a cow or a deer, and they never look back and think about it or have any regrets or remorse. So if you’re in love with the Narcopath, all I can say is prepare yourself. Keep something close by to cover yourself. Prepare to lose it all. Everything stripped away. And then, you’re going to be left behind.
So, gird your loins and strengthen your spirit. The magnitude of the betrayal will not only leave you decimated and eviscerated, but you will also feel like you have been skinned alive.
The last few months before he left without warning, my husband devalued me by taking off all my armor piece by piece. By dismantling my protection, humiliating me subtlety, and compartmentalizing the snapshot images he was collecting like teeth or some sick souvenir. I didn’t know what he was getting ready to do. I didn’t know I was being stripped down and prepped for the kill.
The way they leave you tells you everything.
And the way they destroy you in the end leaves you. . .
P. Pesqueda is an educator, writer, and recovery facilitator. She has a Master’s degree with an emphasis on guidance and counseling as well as the personal experience of being discarded by her husband of 15 years who is a narcissist with comorbidities. She has worked tirelessly over the past 1 1/2 years to overcome her own attachment and abandonment issues, dysregulated brain chemicals, and C-PTSD. There is no shame or stigma in mental health conditions, and both partners in these emotionally abusive relationships typically experienced childhood trauma that must be explored.
Visit her website for articles, podcasts, and vlog @ narctroopers.com