Monday, August 07, 2006

Savior Complex

Otherwise known as beating your head against a wall...

If you are under the misconception that you could someday fill the attention-cup of the narcissist it is time for a reality check. There is no filling their vast reservoir. You can labor intensively for the rest of your life only to find yourself being condemned by the narcissist for never doing anything for them. (I'm betting you've already heard the narcissist say something like this.) At some point they will push you to utter hopelessness if you have insisted on clinging to the hope that you could ever be enough for them. My advice? Give it up now. Don't wait to hit the dregs of despair. Take that as sage advice from the voice of experience...because that is what it is.

Are you one of those people with a savior-complex? Are you convinced that the narcissist's redemption lies in the vast repository of love and hope you keep your heart? Alas, you have my very deepest sympathies. I assure you, at some point you will find yourself crashed upon the rocks of reality. Reality is this: no one can save the narcissist. How many more years of your life are you willing to waste on a project that is doomed to utter failure? A saviour can only save someone who recognizes their need for salvation. The narcissist is above all that. You are his inferior. You are the one in need of reformation so you can better fulfill the narcissist's endless demands.

And, please, think about this: When you expend yourself to fulfill the demands of the narcissist it is exactly the same as granting every petulant wish of a four year old. Has any four year old become better behaved by this indulgence? Quite the opposite. Neither will the narcissist. By sticking with him you are making him worse.

Stop right here and let that sink all the way in.

By staying with the narcissist you are part of the problem, not the solution. The only hope for the narcissist, as slim as that hope is, is to find himself utterly alone. It is the only time the narcissist has to confront herself. Only a crisis will induce a narcissist to seek out help from a professional. Chances are very small that the narcissist will stick with therapy long enough to deal with their real issue which is their narcissism. Once their presenting problem (i.e. depression) is fixed, they flit off never to be seen by their therapist again. But that isn't your problem either. Life is too short to waste it on someone who can never reciprocate, who is incapable of entering into your feelings, who will suck the life out of you and then kick your corpse as you lay lifeless reviling you for dying on them. Give your regard, your love, your energies to someone who can actually appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

I love your descriptions --- they're very detailed and helpful to me.

I tried to be my Nmom's "saviour" for a long, long time (ramping up, and up, and up over my whole life, but age 30-40 in particular) and all I got was really, really tired and angry.

Fabulous blog. Thanks for being in contact.


Anonymous said...

Hi anna,
you said, "The only hope for the narcissist, as slim as that hope is, is to find himself utterly alone". What a revelation, I hadn't thought of that. I have Narcissistic family members that I have to deal with daily. I have recently had to go n/contact with them. Thanks for this blog, glad I found it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

I just came across your site and just wanted to say thank you. I think it is wonderful that you are helping people make sense of what has happened to them. Your articles and some of the links-especially the one about the Narcissistic Mother were very useful to me-hoffifying because it was so much like my mother (-: but very useful. This has fortified me and make me feel less alone.

Bless you


Anna Valerious said...


Thank you!

Stay strong. You are most definitely not alone.

Anonymous said...

i would love to respond however i am not sure why i need to leave a second email address of a friend. It doens't feel safe to me under my current situation.

I was hoping to comment on forgiveness. My nmom doesnt demand me to forget but she sure as hell would demand I apologize to her for "causing her pain" despite the fact that it was her nbehavior that caused our family to self destruct.

She demanded the same with my father whom she divorced after 35 years of marriage.


Anna Valerious said...


I have no idea what you mean about needing to leave an email address to comment? I assure you, no such requirements are made for comments. Only a set of characters typed into a box to prevent spammers. I hope you'll try again.

Anonymous said...

great blog XD

a funny thing, a friend says that i have "the saviour complex", the sad thing? looks like she is right.

Free said...

I have just discovered my husband is a N. I feel as if a ton of bricks have been lifted off of me. I never understood why he was the way he was and recognizing what he is now has saved my sanity along with websites like this one. I intend to not continue to be a savior especially since I know I can't save him and I no longer want to waste any more of my life and time in something that is not going to make me happy or keep me sane. We talked divorce two or three times before with my going to a divorce lawyer the last time. The only reason I did not follow through was because he told me he would "fight me to the end" to get custody of our 15 years old son. Having gone through enough with a N father, I decided to wait until my son graduates from high school in three years. Thank youf or this site -- it is making my newfound discovery of N world, so much easier to understand.

Jane said...

I was that person for a long time. That false belief in my ability to heal that corrupt soul hurt me, my children, and my marriage.

I have not had contact with my mother for a couple years now and still am blown away by how good my life became after that momentous decision. I should have done it years and years ago.

Nothing is gained by keeping a person like that in your life. I found that I could hope, pray, and have faith in change but it didn't matter. Only she can choose to change and I know she never will. I have heard a couple things about her from the grapevine since I went to "no contact" and I am more convinced then ever that I did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

LOL. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for this insightful commentary!!!

Pencil said...

After a 5 years of NC with my Aunt, I foolishly forgot how horrible she was and initiated a new relationship with her (she is my dead mother's sister). What a mistake! For the first 3 years I tried so hard to "save" her and her dysfunctional daughter and grandson. I got nothing but a slap in the face for all of my good deeds! Stress, gray hair and stomach aches were my punishment for doing good deeds. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

So glad to have found this location of people who have tried with no success to save a N from himself. So often when I grow angry at the memories of how I was abused I am overwhelmed by the sense that I need to forgive HIM. But now I realize I need to forgive myself for being so naive to think that I could save the N from himself. I met my abuser just after he was dumped by this wife. Of course, he was the victim and played me for sympathy. He did it well. However, nothing I did was good enough. In fact he was always telling me how wonderful his former wife was to make me even more insecure. The big red flag that should have made me run was that his twin adult daughters were in a no contact mode with him. He acted "hurt" so I contacted them to get in touch with him because he missed them and the grandchildren so much. They called him and he did not follow up. In a recent phone conversation with him he said he was still angry about me calling his girls. I was only trying to create harmony where there was none. I guess these sick people love it when there is no challenge to their evil. For so long I felt like failure because I could not make this man happy. I forgot what made me happy. That is what evil erodes any sense of how decent we are and makes us feel less than adequate. Trying to make sense of all this is quite trying to take heroin for long term benefits. I now realize I need to find healthy people and stay out of the opium den of Narcisstic men. May God forgive me of thinking I could be a Savior....God gave us Jesus to do that job. Merry Christmas!

Alex said...

Wow. I woke up and had my last straw with my mom a week ago. After 3 days of her freezing me out, she finally responded. I polished off my goodbye letter and sent it yesterday. I feel like I am walking on a cloud. 42 years of repression and feeling responsible for her happiness is released.
I did have a savior complex. How many times did I defend her (once to the point of a fist fight in the hall at school)?? How many things did I have to do and then be told I never did anything, I never call, I never visit. Now I know why I have snapped at her and pushed back for several years. Becasue she is a remora, digging in when I try to escape.
After my letter, she is reverting to "poor me, you think I was a terrible mother" and pretending to be happy for me freeing myself. While she emails my husband telling him how much she is hurt and how it is all my fault.
She is the most sneaky type, always sweet, and quietly demanding to be the center of the universe. Total lack of judgement and "We Are Six" personified!

Thank you for what you have done here. The truth has set me free!
I can now save my marriage, be a better parent to my daughter, enjoy my life without guilt that I am choosing to take care of myself instead of her. I am catching myself smiling when alone, the lifelong serious face is gone. So much is clear now. Therapists never had a clue, because I defended her so thoroughly. I always credited my difficult (bizarre actually) childhood with making me a better person. and mostly it did. but the vampire had to be revealed to the sunlight!
I held up a mirror to her in my letter, and it is up to her if she chooses to look into it. Not my responsibility anymore.
What you say about therapy. She went to therapy for a few months several years ago. Just when they started to get to the root of her childhood trauma, she QUIT HER JOB to have an excuse to quit the therapy. and came running to live in the same city with me (actually the SAME apartment complex). omg.
I mentioned this to her recently and she denied it vehemently. It was clear to me at the time, and even more clear now after this epiphany.

Anna Valerious said...

Congratulations, Alex! Now that you've gained your freedom don't surrender it. Stay free. I hope your husband will block his email address or refuse to respond because I'd hate for him to be the back door for her to get back into your life. I hope he's on the same page with you.

Thanks for your comment. Wishing you the very best.

Alex said...

Thank you. Yes, he understands her tactics, and did not respond. We are allowing written communication over practical matters (she lives in the same city as my daughter), and she understands she has to respect boundaries or that is at risk.
He has been coached in the proper broken record response if needed.

I am working on reading all the posts to steel myself against the relaxation of my guard. It is confusing. I do see that there are much more horrific examples of outright abuse (this is one reason I was in denial for so long). So I feel bad for everyone who had so much more evil. I catch myself saying "it wasn't that bad". But then I remember it was bad enough!
I didn't mean that she is the worst kind. I meant she is the kind that is hardest to recognize.

It finally came together for me that she never wanted a child, then "did the best she could" raising me, and then she realized she had a free pass to being taken care of in her old age. Even though no one in her family was ever incapable of living alone until they died, she has insisted for years that she is coming to live with me when she needs to. She even pitched a fit because we want to take out a badly placed bathroom in our house, but she considers that "her" bathroom, even though she has been here twice in a year.

It is very hard to resist the guilt trips and expectations that an only child is supposed to care for their aging parent. Your site is giving me strength to realize that is her responsibility. Her lifelong welfare mentality does not entitle her to my home, my money, my time, my life. Yes, many people choose to care for their parents. It should be a choice.

If I had not moved 150 miles away last year, I don't know if I would have figured this out.

and without your site, I don't know how much longer it would have taken.

thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying on this blog the difference between NPD and the garden-variety narcissistic behaviors exhibited by a lot of people in our "me me me" culture.

Here's one for the NPD record books: After three months of romantic involvement with my N, I was told that we needed to be "just friends." I was devastated. My N decided to put me through a weeks-long, self-developed "self-improvement" regimen designed to help me gain back the self-esteem that he had so handily destroyed. At the time, I framed it as benevolent. I now recognize it for what it was: ultimate arrogance. "I broke you! Only I can fix you!"

The good news? I have healed from the hurt. I have stopped blaming myself (you see, I bought in to all the gaslighting that was thrown my way by my highly intelligent and highly evil N) and can now see him for what he is: a sick, sad individual with no hope of ever achieving true happiness. Thankfully, I *am*.

Tundra Woman said...

From the time a was a small child I was ruthlessly manipulated and terrorized into being my MN "Mother's" Savior. When I was ~3 I was playing quietly by myself in my room when my MNM burst in the door and with great theatrics/faux tears said, "Oh TW! TELL ME I'm a GOOD MOMMY!"
It was disconcerting to say the least: Seeking validation for your role as a "mother" from your 3 yr. old?! What is the child going to say? "Well, actually you terrorize, terrify and abuse the hell outta me but aside from that you're the bestest "mommy" on the planet?" ;)
The process of relentless Parentification not only steals our childhoods but sets us up for every other Predator/Professional "Victim" who wanders into our lives. Of course we have "Savior Complexes." Our only and very transient "value" was our ability to bear the unbearable, tolerate the intolerable, soothe and placate as a means of Self-Preservation. Like any other coping "skill" we developed in childhood it didn't work-for long-then: It will not work NOW.
I well remember the overwhelming guilt I felt as a young woman when I took my first behavioral step to limit my MNM's ability to reach out and poke me at will. The obvious benefits to my well-being started to pay off quickly and concurrently, my guilt decreased exponentially and vanished completely over time.

Dio said...

Hello. As someone with NPD, I find this inherently harmful, and here is why.

• People with NPD are not inherently abusive. We have the tendencies to be so, yes, but that does not mean that we are by default. Anyone, personality disorder or not, Cluster A, B, or C, can be abusive.

• Narcissists do need attention, yes. It makes us feel good about ourself, and if we don't get it, we spiral into depression. That is called narcissistic injury, the same that happens without insults.

• It is not exactly difficult to praise a narcissist on their appearance, work, art, etc.

• If a narcissist is abusive, it is not the NPD causing it. It's the fact they are an abuser. People with NPD don't typically ask for help, no, but over years of dealing with it, we learn to cope in ways that don't push others away or hurt them. Actually, most of us don't want others to find out we have NPD, so we either cope with it extremely well or hide it in very unhealthy ways. Do you know why? Because of articles like this. BLOGS like this. Because we can't even try finding answers as to how we can cope without finding things about how we are burdens and how OTHERS can cope with us and eventually get away from us. NPD is commonly comorbid with BPD, and both disorders are known to have a fear of abandonment, especially from friends. Friends that you are saying need to leave us as soon as possible. Imagine how someone young and just diagnosed looking for coping strategies for their own savior complex would feel if they saw this!

• Do you know how you keep yourself from getting stuck in an abusive relationship with a narcissist? Talk. To. Us. Don't just say we're too demanding and you can't keep up, ask us about compromises. What kind of narcissistic supply do we like best? Would a few compliments on our outfit get us through the day? It's about communication, the same as any relationship.

• Do you know how people end up with personality disorders like NPD? Usually abuse. And those with personality disorders are statistically more likely to repeatedly end up in abusive situations. The fact you'd have your readers believe that we're all the abusive ones is disgusting.

• We are not bad people because we have lowered empathy. Just because we can't understand how one is feeling does not mean we can't feel concern and express compassion, it just means we may not be able to help as eloquently as someone with higher empathy levels.

Don't say you didn't mean people who are simply egotistical. The use of the word narcissist says this was aimed at US, and honestly, your willingness to throw us under the bus speaks volumes about how you would treat someone who acted like us. Either reconsider your wording, or work on your internalized hatred of people with personality disorders. You are hurting us.

People are not victims of narcissism. They are victims of abuse. The only victims of NPD are the sufferers.

Your loves one hurting you is not because of their NPD, it is because they are abusive.

Anna Valerious said...

Tell ya what, dear abused narcissist. I'm going to post my response on the front page of this blog. How about that for some supply?!

Cecelia K said...

"There is no filling their vast reservoir. You can labor intensively for the rest of your life only to find yourself being condemned by the narcissist for never doing anything for them."

I laughed at this statement because of its profound truth. The fact itself is not funny, I realize, and I do not consider the pain that people endure at the hands of Narcs to be funny. I endured a painful relationship with a guy who at least had N tendencies, if he was not an actual N, for about two years. At the time, this realization that I could never do enough to satisfy him was very painful and frustrating; now, about four years out (which is hard to believe), I can laugh at someone else pointing out this truth; I think it's the absurdity of it that I find funny, but also the way you express the truth, Anna. I enjoy your blunt writing style. :-)

And I hope it might be encouraging to anyone else out there who might be freshly out of a relationship (of whatever kind) with an N, that although you are probably reeling from the craziness right now, eventually you will hopefully be able to laugh again.