We all like to attach labels to people. People do it instinctively in respect of someone who they have just met, someone they have read about, a person they have known for a long time or someone they have seen on television. It is rare for someone to say that they do not have a view or an opinion about someone. Examples might include: –
“He’s a dependable chap, always there when you need him.”
“He’s a funny looking fellow.”
“She is very catty.”
“She is stunning looking.”
“A complete attention seeker.”
“A genius musician.”
“Really annoys me, I don’t know what it is but he does.”
Those are just classifications based on looks and personality. One can classify somebody by race, religion, birthplace, occupation, gender and so much more. Labels are used all the time as people are placed into boxes and compartments. Our kind do the same, but we differ in a fundamental way. We have an instant classification of people which is very straight forward. We will place people into further categories after this initial categorisation often using labels you would not and then we may well attach additional labels similar to the ones you use. What is this initial categorisation? It is simple.
A person is either good or bad. That person is either with us or against us. They either do what we want or they do not. There are no ifs and maybes about these classifications. There is no grey with us when it comes to deciding into which camp someone should be placed. You are either white or black. You cannot be light grey, mid-grey or dark grey. We do not do the middling; it is one or the other. Let me give you some examples of those around me at the current time.
Julia (my boss) – Good
My mother – Bad
Paul (a lieutenant of longstanding) – Good
Andrea (predecessor primary supply) – Bad
Rachael(sister) – Good
Eric (colleague) – Good
Tania (lieutenant) – Good
Lesley (It Girl) – Bad
Elizabeth (litigious former girlfriend) – Bad
Phillip (lieutenant) – Good
Colin (competitor at work) – Bad
Not one of them am I indifferent to. You should be aware that this categorisation is based on my view of them irrespective of their behaviour towards me. Lesley for instance responded to a hoover a little while back and still messages me with pleasant comments from time to time. I play along as I am a far from finished with her but she is a bad person because of what she has done and moreover I know she will be looking for an opportunity to unseat me and seek some form of revenge over me as a consequence of my repeated thwarting of her ambitions. I know her game.
These categorisations are fluid. In fact, they are extremely fluid with some people, usually our intimate partners, especially the Intimate Partner Primary source, but it will apply to secondary sources also (be they intimate, family, colleagues and/or friends). We will switch in an instant from black to white and to black once again. There is no slow change over time, there is no strand of white amidst the black. If you try to bring up the good things that you have done for us when we are attacking you in some way (as you are now viewed as black) you will be challenging us and therefore our first line of defence ( see The Narcissist’s Twin Lines of Defence ) will kick in and we will deny that you ever did any of those things for us – which only confuses you further and is how the gaslighting occurs. Remember, the Lesser and Mid-Range do this always by instinct and does not see the inconsistency or the contrarian behaviour . The Greater does so with some instinct but also calculation and is aware of the contradictions but we do not care.
You may begin as a good person when I wake-up but by breakfast you are a bad person. Sometimes you will be utterly unaware of why your status has altered and it may appear capricious and arbitrary but it is not; you will have done something or failed to do something which has shifted your classification. Most often it is linked to your failure to provide me with fuel and therefore you will be designated a bad person and subjected to treatment in accordance with such a status; devaluation and denigration. Conversely, one can also move from bad to good in the blink of an eye. You won’t necessarily realise why this is, but we do. It is entirely logical to us.
Your status as either white or black is also affected by other movements in our fuel matrix, often ones you have no idea about. Accordingly, you may be busting a gut to please us, thinking you are doing all of the things that we apparently like, allowing us our own way and being compliant but it is not working – you cannot shift from being viewed as black. This is because when you are painted black, everything you do is viewed through that filter. Whereas once we delighted in your status as a board director at a listed company, we now lambast you saying you think more of your job than you do of us. We once praised your signature dish but now we say it is bland and uninspired. This occurs because you have done or not done something, you have been painted a black and furthermore there is someone else in the fuel matrix who is outshining you, they are seen as white and despite your best endeavours to try to return to our favour, you are failing because that white status is ascribed to someone else.
All of a sudden we treat you favourably and you wonder why this has happened, perhaps you did something right for once. It is more to do with someone else behaving in a way so that they become black and therefore in order to maintain contrast (and with it the freshness of the fuel) you become white once again. The difficulty you have is that you often think this shift is because of something you have done, for instance, you bought us tickets to a particular event. Thus, when you find yourself black, you try a similar move to return to white, but for reasons explained above, it fails and you are left bewildered as to why it did not work this time.
As I mentioned once we have classified you as good or bad, we will classify you further, usually linked to the fuel you provide and how under our control you are. After that we will use similar labels to you – an interesting, handsome person and so on. Thus, take Paul my longstanding side kick. He is naturally a good person but I also regard him as a very good source of fuel, a highly reliable source of fuel and completely under my control, loyal and dedicated. My mother is a bad person. Whilst she is a good source of fuel for her emotional outbursts and temper tantrums, she is only fairly reliable. I have little control over her, she is a traitor and scheming to dethrone me, she has no concept of loyalty and is actively plotting against me. Thus whilst she may provide fuel the other factors cause her to be placed in the bad classification. I do not consider her to be grey just because she provides fuel but cannot really be controlled.
Why do we regard people in this manner? Why is it that we cannot take a holistic view of them? For instance, one might suggest that with the ex-girlfriend Lesley that she at one point was loving, dedicated and did much for me. Yes, she became a broken appliance and let me down, she also caused affront to me for which she must be repeatedly punished. She continues to try to be pleasant to me. Do I not look at this myriad of attributes and factors (plus more besides) and place her on some kind of spectrum between good and bad? No I do not. Why?
In order to drive forward and also to defend ourselves it has to be an all or nothing approach. You are viewed as wonderful, amazing, loyal and functioning – therefore we interact with you in a committed and dedicated manner (for instance the love bombing which occurs with regard to those we seduce intimately) so that we are able to extract the maximum amount of fuel and keep you bound to us through the application of benign behaviours. This applies to all appliances – from spouse to lover to friends. Should you wound or challenge us, our self-defence mechanism which is narcissism must provide an absolute defence. To deploy this you cannot be viewed as grey, you cannot be seen in a wish-washy way, you have become the enemy so that all defences can be mobilised with suitable aggression and application to draw fuel to heal the wound or to quash your challenge and assert our superiority once again. This sudden shift from white to black to white again is a necessary device to enable us to function. We cannot do half-measures for if we did, this would result in indecision, a less than total approach and this would lead to reduced fuel, ineffective healing of wounding and partial suppression of challenges and all of that reduces our effectiveness and diminishes our control on the world around us. This then makes us feel worthless, insignificant and unimportant and returns us to a place where we must not ever go again.
This lack of object constancy, the fact we forget all about the good things you have done for us in an instant as you are painted black is bewildering for those who are ensnared by us, but it is entirely necessary for us to function, thrive and survive. The response must be total, it must be instantaneous and it must give us the maximum prospect of success whilst leaving you confused, stunned, bewildered, providing fuel and remaining under our control.
You should have learned by now that because we look at the world through a different lens to you, there are many things that you will do (which you will not be aware about) which cause us to oscillate from regarding you as good to bad and then back to good, often in the space of an hour or less. This is all based on how we perceive your compliance to be. During our seduction of you, you are only ever a good person because you represent that wonderful potent source of positive fuel which we desire. You represent the prospect of an undimmed source unlike the bad person we are devaluing and about to discard. You always respond positively to our overtures, our love-bombing and you give us what we want. Hence you remain a good person. Those who are in our coterie, our lieutenants and those who form our façade remain good people. Challenge us, defy us or even worse see through us and you are challenging our need for superiority and self-worth and you must automatically be designated as a bad person, irrespective of what may have come before, that would create a more complex view. You failed to do what we want; you are a bad person. You then change and do what we want, you become a good person. It is a simple and necessary classification that we utilise.
Accordingly, everything is either good or bad with our kind. Admittedly, though it usually turns ugly as well….