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A Mirror of Dread
A Mirror of Dread

Narcissus’s Reflection
Ink, high gloss polyurethane on linen on wood panel.
16 x 12 x 1-3/4 inches

A comprehensive understanding of domestic violence, coercive control and narcissistic abuse. Knowledge is power.


In the final weeks the violence escalated, I feared going to my own home, yet if I didn't, I feared it would be destroyed, like he did in the past when I did not return. I dreaded weekends. Going to work was my refuge. It was where I felt safe, I would call my therapist, family, and friends.

Smashing the Narcissist’s Mirror:
"Smashing the narcissist’s mirror allegorizes destroying the narcissist’s complex, which is extremely unlikely and might even be impossible. Narcissus could still see himself if the pond were disturbed; it would have had to dry up or become roaring rapids in order to no longer function as a mirror. The narcissist’s mirror is similarly resistant to smashing because it dynamically disavows anything that doesn’t reflect back the narcissist’s self-concept. We can and should still try, however, because failing to intervene and allowing the pool to remain steady is what maintains narcissism.
It is ethically important to hold narcissists accountable for their behaviors, and I think that with enough accountability the narcissist might finally be able to realize how thoroughly colonized they are by their image. Our goal should be to get the narcissist to stop looking at their reflection and instead look up at all of the people around them who are trying to get their attention. We can make this happen by undermining the reflectiveness of the narcissist’s mirror. This is dangerous and difficult work, but it must be done in order to protect ourselves from narcissistic abuse. Narcissists depend upon other people for validation, and it is these other people who might have the leverage to disrupt the narcissist’s ego investment. This means that people who are close to narcissists must first acknowledge that the person is a narcissist, and then find the motivation to intervene on their ego-attachment by metaphorically “throwing a rock into their pond,” i.e., disrupting the narcissist’s self-concept by challenging their bullshit.
Calling out a narcissist on their bullshit is dangerous, risky, and also sometimes necessary. It is not going to go well; it cannot go well, for what is happening during these encounters is a rupture to selfhood that has to be met with derision in order for the narcissist to continue their narcissistic investment in themselves. These moments are when narcissists will accuse you of doing the thing that they’re actually doing, painting you in the colors of their disorder with projected denial using techniques like gaslighting, displacement, reaction formation, and anything else the narcissist foresees as a means toward stilling the rupture to their image and grandiose sense of self.
Throwing rocks into the pond affects narcissistic rage, which is why doing so is dangerous. The number of people the president has fired — including those on his hit reality TV show The Apprentice — are those who threw rocks into his pond and/or did not reflect his image. He is quick to release anyone who threatens his image, and is so thoroughly narcissistic that he might be unreachable. I don’t think anyone is actually close to him, and those who claim to be are more like whipped dogs conditioned into learned helplessness than close companions.
Less pathological narcissists — the abused husbands, the clamoring bosses, the disaffected professors — are more likely to respond productively to interventions. They will still become enraged, and you will still be punished for challenging their attachment to their image, but I think (or maybe I just hope) that their self is still reachable. We must work toward getting narcissists to disengage with their image and connect with their self, and should take any means necessary to do so.
I hope that I have helped provide a fuller understanding of how other people and environments maintain narcissistic complexes with the hope that those who are in relationships or close proximity to a narcissist are able to begin thinking of ways to intervene of their narcissism. Be aware of the consequences, and do so only if you have a safe backup plan. Do not challenge your narcissistic boss unless you have the support of their superiors or another job to go to in case you are fired, and do not confront a narcissistic husband or partner while alone. Use tangible consequences to leverage against the narcissist by figuring out what they get out of you, and using this to get them to begin taking responsibility for their behaviors. With enough collective accountability and leveraging I hope we can begin to mitigate the harms caused by narcissistic abuse."

Definition of mirror (Entry 1 of 2)
1 : a polished or smooth surface (as of glass) that forms images by reflection

2a : something that gives a true representation
the press
b : an exemplary model

dread verb

dreaded; dreading;
Definition of dread (Entry 1 of 3)
transitive verb
1a : to fear greatly

2 : to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face

intransitive verb
: to be apprehensive or fearful

dread noun
Definition of dread (Entry 2 of 3)
1a : great fear especially in the face of impending evil

b : extreme uneasiness in the face of a disagreeable prospect

2 : one causing fear


dreaded; dreading
Definition of dread (Entry 1 of 3)
transitive verb
1a : to fear greatly

2 : to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face

intransitive verb
: to be apprehensive or fearful

dread noun
Definition of dread (Entry 2 of 3)
1a : great fear especially in the face of impending evil

b : extreme uneasiness in the face of a disagreeable prospect (see PROSPECT entry 1 sense 4c)
dread of a social blunder

2 : one causing fear

dread adjective
Definition of dread (Entry 3 of 3)
1 : causing great fear or anxiety