The power dynamics of narcissistic rage and revenge writ large for the spectacle and drama it is - thoughts on the Depp-Heard trial
I hadn’t paid much attention to the Depp-Heard trial, but after reading this article by Charlotte Proudman in 'The Independent', I now do, even though feeling so sick and sad at the spectacle and ‘entertainment’ of it all.
Watching an hour of the two testimonies was enough for me to know my response. I felt the truth of Amber Heard’s accounts, knowing myself the sickening predictability/escalation of how Narcissists behave, and then watching Johnny Depp’s performance with his undermining, laughing, disruptions, not taking it seriously… the women-hating, women-killing texts, the drug-filled vitriol & violence… I was astounded when I looked through the responses of support for him – and so many by women.
I can’t deny it triggered me into remembering my own experiences. After 8 years of intense inner healing from codependency-narcissistic dynamics, meeting many brave women -and men- along the way, I know the patterns and energies around these, often very subtle, power plays very well.
Also the unsubtle, for example when Amber describes being shouted at repeatedly, ‘I F***ing Hate You!’ – I remember being shouted at, right up close to my face, the words spat out, ‘You F***ing C**t, ‘You F***ing C**t’ over and over and over, and fists hitting the wall next to my head. And I stayed. It makes me cry now that I stayed, but being so gaslit, wanting to believe him afterwards when he said he was sorry, and ‘Oh he’s lovely really’ (I Really said and felt this).
The continuing abuse towards Amber from entertained onlookers and Depp fans, the discrediting, the bullying, the mocking of her, the professions of ‘l love u even more now Johnny’ by women responding to his testimony - it chills me to the bone. This is playing into exactly what he hoped for with the trial. The power dynamics of narcissistic rage and revenge writ large for the spectacle and drama it is, and all of us – willing observers, and some of us perfect ‘objects’ to play out the game for him.
Amber is so utterly brave and strong to be doing this - and facing such continued hate and onslaught from a society that projects so much of its own pain onto ‘stars’, glorifying and then tearing them down, making pariahs of them when they tell the truth, especially when it jars with the manufactured carnival of a dream we all live in.
My heart goes out to her and all women who’ve lived through domestic violence.
After many years something shifts, as the self-love and self-care become real. With dedicated inner work and shifting of traumas, way beyond thinking patterns, you can emerge again and truly feel different, as your reality has changed!. You can forgive yourself and others, releasing fears that have gripped for so many years, blessing others and genuinely wishing them well, which absolutely sets you free - whether you choose to see them again in your life or not.
Perhaps, subconsciously you have been hoping for accountability from someone for their behaviour, and this has kept you hooked in, but you need to know this simply will never happen. Narcissists, those with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) for example, just do not do this, they will never take responsibility or apologise for any of the hurtful behaviour, the lies, manipulation, tantrums, cruelty, gaslighting, ignoring of boundaries or any other dumping of their own pain (that they are not dealing with) onto you. If you’ve broached this with them in the past, and how hurt you’ve been, they will usually turn on you, deny it, get defensive or angry, play the victim or storm off.
So you need to switch the focus and to self-parent, to give yourself the love and forgiveness that you need so that your health - and life - are not dependent upon what anyone else does or doesn’t do.
It can take decades to reach this point of understanding and if you have young children it is especially wonderful when you do, in order to stay healthy and well for them - your own health and self-care naturally having such a great effect on theirs. The repeating of patterns often stems from childhood, through generations, and if it can stop with you, that’s a huge and significant achievement! You remain unconscious in this destructive dynamic until one day you have to wake up, often for emotional, or physical survival and this point of waking up at last, might be due to a relationship or a marriage which is founded on the same childhood patterns you are still re-enacting 20, 30, 40, 50 years later.
The patterns often originate in relationships with parents, for example, with a mother who displays typical characteristics of NPD, and who for years may be suffocating, controlling, full of entitlement, rages, unpredictable tantrums and explosions to the point where a child, say a daughter, can be so fearful of her that she hides in her room and prays that she will stay away and leave her alone, her body shaking. Instead, the mother might storm in and shout directly at the child, causing her to want to disappear, to take the beautiful cats and run away. Even with this, as a kind, caring and sensitive child, she will want her mother to be happy, will want to help her feel better, and the daughter internalises the upset and believes it must be all her fault.
In crumbs of moments the mother might be ok and then the daughter will be so relieved, yet will worry about each word she speaks, not wanting to inflame her, and will come to realise that she has no control over this, it's all too confusing and unpredictable. She feels she must be ‘bad’ inside and a bad daughter and becomes hyper-vigilant, sensing the mother’s moods, the constant fearful dramas, and taking on so much of her mother’s pain and rage as well as feeling responsible for her well-being. Living in a house with a whirlwind of hurt and complete emotional confusion affects children deeply and as adults they often naturally perpetuate these patterns by meeting partners who are very similar, again and again and the familiar dynamics continue to play out.
Once, around 12 years old, in a deeply mocking tone, I remember my own mother shouting up the stairs, ‘Who do you think you Are? Ensconced in your room like a Queen... you think you’re too good for the likes of us’. She often told me what I thought, rather than asking – if I told her I really didn’t, and that it was the opposite, she would insist ‘YES you Do’. There were endless comments like this. I learned to stop replying to these insults as she wouldn’t listen or believe me… that in truth I was scared of her, so unhappy and that I didn’t feel good enough to be around anyone at all, I could blank myself out away from her, immerse myself in books (beloved sanctuaries), be nothing, quiet and at peace. I just didn’t know how to ‘be’ around her. It was as though it was my responsibility to make her happy, and I’d failed, whilst also feeling very deeply that things were wrong, they felt so cruel and twisted. I often had intense tummy pains too, directly related to this as was constantly anxious, and the guilt and shame were huge, believing that it must be all my fault. I struggled with friendships as a child, had little self-esteem and was fearful of most social situations and interactions. These behaviour patterns continued with boyfriends and a marriage, all so similar. The experiences become a part of you and inform so many future choices and if you’re a sensitive child, they can affect you so much more.
The walking on eggshells lasted all the life at home I can remember, with countless painful incidents and then became especially hard when my brother left for University, with more drama to unfold. There’s often a quieter, co-dependent spouse in these situations – (often due to parents repeating the patterns they experienced from their own childhood, with their parents) and when growing up my father was mostly emotionally absent and even though ‘there’ was never ‘there’.
I can forgive my mother now for all of her bad behaviour and controlling presence throughout my life - the many situations from my own childhood, the painful and confusing inclusion of me in a new relationship whilst leaving my father, hurtful accusations around circumstances with my grandfather, and also hours after my son was born, turning up at the hospital uninvited, possessive and threatening – an upsetting and unwelcome shock, having no idea she knew and not wanting her to know, alone with my baby son in an open ward with other new mums and having to tell her to leave and at last she did. I forgive her also, for turning up just before Christmas this year, uninvited, unexpected at my home, my safe, warm space that I have with my now 13 year-old son, in doing so letting me know that she knows where I live and that perhaps she’ll turn up another time when she wants to. I comfort and take care of myself now and these triggers pass more quickly and turn into gifts to clear even more trauma and be firm in future boundaries if necessary. These situations teach us to love and care for ourselves even more, strengthening us in situations where we may have felt vulnerable in the past.
It can take a long time to truly know that forgiveness is largely about setting yourself free, from the pain, hurt and resentment, it’s not about the other person/situation/past event. Healing occurs in spiraling stages and when a certain level is reached, the letting go happens, with unconditional love, such a release, for all of those involved; the cage doors open, you step out, fresh air circulates, there is space inside for newness and light, and it’s beautiful - it sounds cliched, but it’s true.
I feel perhaps these people rely on the fact that you do not feel brave enough to speak out, and it took me years… or they angrily deny everything you say, turning it around and thinking nothing of lying and blaming and projecting onto you, saying perhaps that you are ill, cruel or ungrateful, as they are merely being a loving, kind mother… and in their fantasy – they are, so it is not a lie to them. I’ve found this behaviour has always made me incredibly shaky and have been unable to speak out in case I’m not believed. I’ve experienced this also with my son’s father and my ex-husband. Now, more and more I know that it doesn’t matter so much whether others believe me, these experiences deeply affected me and I can now heal, grow stronger and feel better, irrespective of others’ validation. There are also great gifts and lessons that come from these experiences which I am grateful to my parents and ex-partners for.
We can also forgive ourselves for longing for others to understand, knowing now that unless you have experienced Narcissistic abuse, you will not know what it is like. Even within families, siblings, who have very different sensibilities are treated very differently, yet subtly so too, and effects on the child differ greatly. As in any relationship/marriage, we all experience upsets, heartaches and break-ups, and I’ve had a couple of ‘normal’ relationships and their happinesses and upsets! but relationships with Narcissists are very, very different and I’d urge you to look up some of the resources on this in other articles if you want to know more about Narcissism.
The beauty is we can reparent ourselves now, the younger us and the older us and can give unconditional love. We can forgive all of the hurts of the past and let them go, and I truly feel, after 40 years, the fear has only just dissolved. We can also know that we cannot change the situation regarding others, nor should we be trying to, and it’s wrong, and futile, to try to change others. Other people are responsible for how they choose to behave and interact, for what is right for them in their own lives, and we can respect that now, knowing the absolute truth that it is impossible to make someone happy, just as our happiness is never anyone else’s responsibility!
What we can do now, that we couldn’t as a child, is be true to our values and own way of living, to what matters to us. We can state our own boundaries, and what we will and will not allow or accept in our life. We can honour ourselves now and if this is not acceptable to our parents or anyone else, then that can be so, without fear or guilt. The social conditioning surrounding family ties is so strong that there’s an intense taboo with this, and it can take many years to let go of this ‘longing for things to be different’ and to assert ourselves, and be happy, beyond our ‘role’ of ‘daughter’ or ‘son’ or whomever. It’s also the truth that it takes a great deal for a daughter to feel she cannot see her mother for over 10 years, as the damage has been continually so distressing up to that point. A lot of hurt has had to happen to cause a loving daughter to break ties in this way and say ‘Enough’.
Now, in my own life I no longer accept disrespectful, manipulative, hurtful behaviour or non-reciprocal relationships. When I set a boundary and it’s repeatedly dismissed, then the relationship can fall away. My mother’s banging on my front door in the road and shouting, 10 years ago, ‘I don’t need an appointment to see my own daughter!’, after I’d stated that if we were going to meet it had to be somewhere neutral, contributed to the No Contact ever since. Actually, Yes you do need an ‘appointment’ as you call it. We did not have the type of relationship where I appreciated you just turning up. You were not welcome in that way. How you deal with this is up to you. Either you respect my sincere and reasonable wishes or you do not and the consequences either way will happen. I see now how strong I was all those years ago.
A narcissist cannot tolerate an equal relationship, there has to be power and control involved in some way, without compromise, which they see as ‘weak’, in fact they see compromise as the other person manipulating them. I learnt that also with a Narcissistic husband.
Becoming stronger and more aware means that so many beautiful openings become possible. For many years I feared exploring my own passions, being creative and expressive, using my own voice… and that this developed into creating an art business was astounding! - I never thought I’d ever be able to do this. Creating a website and having a FB business page was full of so many fears at the start, mainly as I knew that my mother would be ‘right there’ always. I nearly didn’t start at all because of this but I am so happy and grateful that I found the strength to do it anyway, much of this new confidence being down to a course taken via The Happy Sensitive. At last I didn’t hide what I love any more, through fear. I’d kept this light and love so close and protected as a child, not wanting her to ‘steal’ or ‘claim’ things that were so close and dear to me… and this light had felt so tiny and almost seemed to disappear at times.... It is still hard and upsetting sometimes today, and I know she 'shares’ every post I write to her own page; I’ve been told this, but instinctively knew it anyway. Perhaps this has been a good thing, as a constant reminder that I CAN carry on irrespective of what she is or isn’t doing, and that might sound like nothing or ‘silly’ to some but it’s a HUGE achievement and liberation to me.
The fact that I feel free now also means I can share articles such as this one and not fear the wrath, or the victimisation stories or, ‘what a cruel daughter I have, but I love her anyway’ - type comments. Such comments have no truth and now they have no power over me either; what is said really doesn’t matter to me anymore. The fear is gone and I wish her well; when the fear goes, love and gratitude are present – not necessarily for reuniting in person but as a general love that exists for all.
I can also forgive myself for all the destructive relationships I’ve had all my life, repeating the patterns of trying to appease angry people, emotionally absent people, trying to ‘make it right, make them truly love me’ this time. All the Narcissistic rages and violence, my son’s alcoholic father, the cruelty and controlling in my marriage. All unconsciously re-enacting patterns that were so familiar to me, stuck in a painful, blind dynamic of trying to give love into a black hole, to people who, so tragically, hated themselves at heart and so couldn’t really love another anyway, despite my trying to get them to see how wonderful they were really…oh my gosh, that naivety makes me shudder now at the physical and emotional danger I put myself in sometimes, with an ex-husband who used to get so angry he ‘could put a knife through someone’s face…don’t you GET IT ROWENA??!!’ he’d shout at me.
I think of Maya Angelou and her words, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them – the First time’. And when the mask of charm slips, as it will with a Narcissist – run. And feel utterly relieved (you won’t at first) if they discard you suddenly for new Narcissistic supply when they know you’ve seen through their mask at last. In fact, learn to recognise the charm for what it is at the outset – manipulation, they want something you have, which is often your light, goodness and joy…or the kudos if (unlike me!) you’re rich, have material things or a reputation… they like to bask in this and claim it as their own.
I’ve felt a call to write this, partly as an honouring of my own journey and also in the hopes that even if one person comes across it and something written resonates with them, then I hope it helps. I hope the tone comes across in the way I’ve felt it when writing, not of ‘blaming’ anyone, not of making anyone ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but in an honest account of experiences that have affected and shaped me, woken me up and helped me to shift into such a new, healthy understanding.
I know, from my own work and learning in this area that many of these patterns are the same for many people, of all ages, and there are beautiful resources out there and so much love, understanding and support that can truly help you break free from repeating these awful and, it’s not extreme to say, sometimes life-threatening relationships and dynamics. This is such an important achievement for parenting our own children and breaking the generational patterns too x
It’s in the nature of these relationships to get worse, and you will be complicit in repeating the behaviours again and again until you HAVE to wake up … and this often takes decades - it took me until my early forties and a string of upset, violence, self-abandonment, fear and devastation and I know of others much older, it’s never too late - and you might feel you are a worthless shell of a person right now, getting an emotional, psychological and often a physical beating… but this CAN and WILL – and MUST! – CHANGE.
…and only YOU can do it – with loving support.
If I hadn't encountered these and all that unfolded, I would never have been able to express my joy and create, felt or paint, share my work or flourish and thrive!
*In the process of adding... these are the first ones...*
Over the last few years I've read so many books and articles that have helped me immeasurably, in opening up to awareness and understanding of my own experience on the topics of Narcissism and being Highly Sensitive and an Empath. These have in turn led me to mutually supportive communities and individuals who have been inspirational in the most beautiful ways, and also, ultimately and fundamentally, to an experiential understanding 'beyond' the book reading. xx
These resources can lead us to other 'resources'... ones that will become 'pointers' towards an awareness that is far deeper than 'gathering information' or of cognitive awareness/understanding; an awareness that lies beyond any labels we may have for ourselves - labels which may be true on the level of how we function in the world, as individual personalities with particular character traits, such as HSP and Introvert, yet these labels are not the Truth of who we essentially are, beyond our 'form' identity. We can forget this when we are so enmeshed in everyday life, or in situations that may be traumatic, and so at these times, gaining an understanding of how we live and function in the world can be helpful and lead us to others who experience similar, which is a beautiful support, as here we can acknowledge our humanness and individuality, and experience self-compassion and healing ...
... and then we can go beyond these aspects of who we are, on the surface, and the ideas we have of ourselves into the greater truth and recognition... with so many thanks, in my case, to nature, poetry, art, Rumi, Buddhism, Mooji, Eckhart Tolle ...and many experiences from a young age which gave me glimpses of this true awareness of who we really are, of our essential consciousness...
Here's a collection of some resources, partly for my own reference but mainly for any others who come across them and find them of interest and perhaps helpful...
If you come across this page and would like to suggest any other books/resources on these topics that you've found helpful, or would like to make any related comments, please do, in the comments below, or email me :)
These categories do intermingle...
Narcissism and healing
HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)
'Empower your life with Gentleness' by Bingz Huang is a wonderful, practical guide on self-compassion and kindness, for HSPs, Empaths and everyone!
Introverts! - Susan Cain
Beautiful TED talk!! xx
'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking'
Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön
Advaita teacher/'pointer' - Mooji
Also many wonderful online videos!
Eckhart Tolle - and many online videos!
More... on living and celebrating every day
Louise Hay, Robert Holden, Marianne Williamson, Eileen Caddy, Wayne Dyer...
Daring and Rising! - Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert
Other resources include: