Understanding the self-absorbed, demeaning, manipulative, controlling, and competitive narcissist and how to stop being a do-gooder and losing yourself…aligned with the Biblical Cain and Abel story

Posts tagged ‘narcissism’

There is no honour among thieves.

“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed”

~J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

church kindergartedA widespread criticism at the self-absorbed, cainistic church I attended was the lack of closeness among members due to its large size. One day a layperson developed a small group program to juxtapose attendees. Administration recognized the value in this idea, expanded and rewrote the program to fit the needs of the church and launched it as a new, fresh church initiative. Now attendees could connect with others in over thirty small groups of varied interests. It was exactly what the congregation needed.

The church involved the creator of the idea just enough to give him credit for his proposal and to make him think he was part of the chosen few, but from the outside it looked like he was utilized for all the obligatory record keeping and paperwork and not much more. He never achieved status equal to the powers to be, nor could he claim the small group idea as his own because it had been redrafted to further Cain’s career and notoriety. Like Abel’s blood, Cain’s cryptic needs cried out from the ground.

I started a small outreach group because the church had  only two community missions: (1) A large Christmas project with an adjacent school; and (2) a “Souper Bowl” Sunday when churchgoers donated a can of soup or $1 to give to the needy on Super Bowl weekend. The latter had continued at the church only because it was the passion of a former employee, and although she no longer attended services there, she maintained the project by showing up each year with a truck to transport the canned goods to a local food bank.

One of the first activities launched by my outreach group was to spend an afternoon at a poverty-stricken school just before Thanksgiving, helping young kids decorate sugar cookies to resemble turkeys. Not only did the kids have a great time, but also the teachers appreciated us as they had no time for specialized crafts. It was a win-win for all.

However, our group’s greatest achievements was when we filled forty-two gift boxes to send to U.S. soldiers, fighting in Iraq, loading them with everything from long distance telephone cards to per-packaged beef jerky, from writing paper and stamps to crossword puzzle books, from beauty products to candy and nuts, from tooth brushes and tooth paste to razors and so much more. As word traveled throughout the congregation about our project, attendees swamped us with items for the boxes. We were thrilled even as the church administration pretended to ignore the event.

Can you imagine doing something that important at your church and having the entire church administration ignore it? Cainists do that, along with their followers who are blinded by their desperate need to be part of the elite group. Just follow his lead, they think. Otherwise, they might be ostracized from sitting at his right hand.

It was unforgivable what happened next. Giving to those in need should never be an uphill battle in a church, yet, from start to finish, the cainistic minister and his chosen followers created roadblocks. In the Biblical story God looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but Cain was upset when his brother did well. The cainistic minister was always upset if others skated into the limelight and stole his glory. He would not help our group succeed because he was not center stage. Small groups that received acknowledgement took place in outside agencies and institutions not at his church. Instead of working with us, he tried to discourage us by making everything doubly hard.

First, I sent him an email, asking permission to use an available room at the church to fill the gift boxes. He ignored the email. I waited several weeks and asked again. Finally, he answered by redirecting me to the operations manager, who was a staunch disciple, a puppet who did everything Cain told him to do. Like Cain he dragged his feet for weeks but finally told me to complete a requisition form to request the room, implying that use of the room was “iffy” based on whether there would be space available on that particular Saturday afternoon. It seemed bizarre that he would not know the availability of a room on a specific date. In truth, nothing moved forward without the approval of Cain. The operation manager was a lame duck until Cain decided what would happen.

I waited more and heard nothing. This kind of treatment was familiar due to a subversive attitude that the minister and the elite chosen were the church. Whenever I had an idea, those in authority would wait me out, hoping I would forget the request and move on. If the idea didn’t advance Cain directly, it was devalued or ignored. This time I was persistent and followed-up a third time.

Finally, the operations manager said we could use a large room that was divided by an accordion-like door, but there were strict instructions that we were to stay on one side of the room only and not open the divider. There was no explanation about why this was the case, which was mysterious because no one was using the other half of the room. It was just more of Cain’s control issues, always micromanaging, particularly when he was not the focal point or in charge. We could use the room only if we did exactly as he ordered.

I notified all thirty-three small group leaders, asking if their group would like to take part in the activity and/or make donations for the gift boxes. Many expressed how much they had always wanted this kind of activity at the church. Many asked if we could do more of it. I found out later that more would be done, but not with the credit, recognition or help of our group.

We were cramped for space as the congregation dropped off items and goods all afternoon. When one group member heard that the cainistic minister had ordered us to use only part of the area for our undertaking, she marched to the middle of the room and without a word, slid open the divider, giving us twice the space. We spread out and went to work. Cain’s arbitrary, ludicrous dictate that we use only half the room for no other reason than he dictated it was a clear-cut example of the destructive, power-hungry antics of a Cain.

We packaged the boxes as instructed for mail delivery to Iraq. Each mailer required  triplicate forms attached to the boxes, addressed in a strict, correct style defined by the United States Postal Service. At the end of the day, we were exhausted but had forty-two gift boxes signed, sealed and ready for delivery to Iraq.

My co-leader, who was not privy to the self-absorbed underpinnings of this cainistic church, called me at home that evening, praising my management skills, stating that he was certain that when the church learned of our successful project, they would want to air it on the local news. I knew that would not happen. Every month one specific  group leader was recognized at our monthly celebration meetings for their ingenuity in developing their particular small group. The church videotaped the group in action, then showed the video at the monthly meetings. Almost every group was acknowledged except ours before the cainistic minister was pressured out and the groups dissolved. No one showed up to videotape our activity that day. We were invisible. We didn’t exist.

Although the effort was a huge success, we ran into a big snag: We needed postage to mail all those gift boxes to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. We spread the word, asking for donations. Predictably, the church administration was non-responsive. We received some money from small group leaders but fell short by two-hundred dollars. Incredibly, my co-leader’s boss, who attended a different church of a different religion, heard about our circumstances and paid the necessary postage. Someone outside the church had a heart and contributed the needed funds to mail the boxes to the soldiers.

The story does not end there. Our gift boxes were not only ignored but the idea of performing community outreach was pirated and kicked off as an ongoing church event. Cainists are thieves, lifting any idea that will make them stand out. First Cain stole the idea to create small groups, and then he stole the idea of church outreach when he caught on that the congregation liked the idea.

However, Cain solicited a different small group leader–one with whom he had trekked to Europe on an organized church trip–to execute the new outreach programs at the church. I overheard her praise him and his wife and knew instantly that she was his latest source of cainistic supply–feeding his insatiable need for praise and attention.

This other group leader worked with various community agencies to develop and supervise monthly volunteer activities through the church, such as, filling emergency food boxes (sounds familiar), serving food at shelters, and sorting and organizing clothing for homeless people. Our group idea was good enough to steal but not good enough to acknowledge or give us credit. When it comes to cainism, there truly is no honor among thieves.They will take from anyone at any time if it benefits and glorifies them.

I am glad those outreach volunteer activities continue at that church today but under the direction of a different lead minister.

 

 

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Lack of Empathy for Others

“When a person is solely focused on the pursuit of their own interests, they have all the potential to be unempathic.” —Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen (more…)

Aside

I Gave You Everything, and Still You Were Empty

1426470_554136038004702_621961254_nDuring a recent book group meeting, we discussed the extremes in personalities and behavior between two sisters, Anna and Maria, portrayed in the book The Island by author Victoria Hislop. The sisters were as different as night and day; Anna, beautiful and selfish; Maria, obedient and compassionate. One group member remarked that one family would never find two siblings with such diverse scruples and values raised in the same household.

Knowing about the current neuroscience of cainism, I totally disagree. For the record, the infamous, serial killer Ted Bundy had four siblings, whom he spent much of his time babysitting. All of which leaves me wondering how they might have been emotionally terrorized by him. They were sitting pigeons for his low-to-no levels of empathy, manipulation and lack of conscience and remorse.

In the book, The Island, the younger daughter, Maria, remained a caring daughter to her kind, generous father after the girls’ mother was sent to a leper colony in Greece and later died. But the oldest daughter, Anna was contrary and self-absorbed throughout her childhood and grew into a cold, deceitful woman. These sisters grew up in the same household, raised by the same doting father, yet, their personalities were the difference between evil and sainthood.

Over the last two decades, neuroscience and genetics have shown that on some level cainists are born the way they are. They possess low levels of empathy, if they feel anything at all. Cainists don’t respond to normal childhood experiences in a normal way. At the same time, Enablers are born with an excessive empathy gene, indomitable hope and helpfulness. The difference? She is able to learn from experiences and manage her behaviors. She needs to scale down her compassion if it prevents her from enjoying a life of her own.

For instance, Maria, refused to marry someone she loved deeply because it would take her far from her father who she felt needed her, especially after the death of his wife by leprosy. Most Enablers automatically understand that depth of compassion. A cainist would never give up his own life for the benefit of another. He might arrange it to “look” that way, but it will always be under his terms and conditions, and it simply doesn’t matter if it is the best for the person in need.

In the opposite direction, the older sister, Anna, rarely found time to visit her loving father. It was an inconvenience. She seemed to give him little thought, engaged in an extramarital affair, focused on her own pleasure. Although The Island was a fictional, historical novel, it delineated the Cain and Enabler Complex precisely. The uncaring cainist (Anna) and the overly compassionate Enabler (Maria.)

When a parent has a cainistic child whose brain is neurologically deficient at birth, it can be extremely hard to ascertain whether he’s experiencing normal jealousy over the birth of a new baby brother or sister, but within time the difference is evident; his jealousy and anger fail to dissipate. In fact, he will be angry with all siblings born into the family just because they exist, robbing him of precious parental attention. He will show the same reaction over and over, and hang on to his anger forever. Nothing changes.

As parents try to teach this cainistic child how to nurture and respond with love to his sibling(s), there is a total emotional disconnect based on the neurological defects. He doesn’t “get it.” He doesn’t learn and he doesn’t change. He’s constantly angry and irritated. He might come through under pressure, but he’ll do it with no more emotion than if he were counting jelly beans in a jar. And only if authority is nearby, watching, all the while resenting the forced lesson.

In a recent blog radio show, counselor Jennifer Young at the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction Public Psychopathy Education, explained: “These disorders are indicative of little to no conscience, little to no empathy, little to no emotional depth or insight, and little to no sustaining change. Those parts of the brain are broken. Clearly people without empathy cause dramatic, intense mounts of harm to other people.”

Think about how a normal sibling feels, growing up with a hurtful cainistic sibling. There will never be any depth of caring from this cainistic sibling. Whatever Cain does is based solely on what he wants in the moment, and he will manipulate and control his environment to get it, including all his siblings. For example, he might agree to play Monopoly if his sibling sets up the board game (time consuming job), but when they are finished with the game, he says, “You got it out, you have to put it away.” He’s constantly in control. Nothing will be for the best interest of the sibling over Cain’s interest.

He’s rarely ever cooperative unless it is to look good in front of others and thereby gain something for himself. He loves a doting audience who he has conned into thinking he is kind and cooperative. If the sibling asks or demands that his needs are met, Cain reacts with hostility. If the sibling gets his needs met, Cain makes sure someone pays, most likely in a passive-aggressive way to hide the abuse.

Cainism is not a brain disorder where one can go back and do inner child work or regression therapy and change the personality. It is what it is. Cainists lack the whole emotional range that normal people have at their fingertips, especially the Enabler who is hard-wired with excessive empathy traits. There are no warm fuzzies hidden in Cain’s heart that you will somehow extract by a magic formula, such as, saying the right thing or doing the right thing.

The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction Public Psychopathy Education points out that our conscience and our empathy are how we connect with others in the world, how our species has survived all these centuries. Look how people came together after the tragedy of 9/11 to help others in need. As Sandra Brown, M.A. stated during the same blog radio show with Jennifer Young: “Empathy is our humanity. Impulse control is generated from the ability to be empathetic.” Cainists simply don’t have the full emotional spectrum with which to relate.

During Cain’s childhood, it’s a matter of what doesn’t develop in the personality under normal circumstances. His brain is broken. He doesn’t experience normal empathy or compassion. Take this example. A sibling falls and breaks his leg. The only emotion a cainist feels about the incident is that the broken leg robs him of parental time and attention. His emotions consist of jealousy and anger that he’s not center stage. He resents his sibling for existing and doubly so for breaking a leg and needing more parental time. There are no normal feelings of care and concern for his sibling during this difficult time.

You can imagine how this coldness impacts siblings who grow up with Cain. Often they blame themselves (that’s what children do) as if something is wrong with them that their cainistic sibling won’t love them. That is totally wasted effort. That’s why parents need to educate themselves about cainism and then teach other siblings the difference about emotional abilities and reactions and give the normal siblings a strong background in self-worth by praising and noticing their empathetic qualities. Too often parents are afraid of Cain’s anger, dropping the lessons of compassion because they rile Cain, making him impossible to live with.

Unfortunately, this cold, uncaring and selfish behavior of cainism is pervasive and enduring throughout his life which means it affects how the cainist thinks, feels, reacts, and behaves when he turns fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty-years old. His behavior won’t change because his dysfunctional brain is incapable of learning lessons or connecting with emotions. He will learn what kinds of control methods work or don’t work to get what he wants, but there is no compassion or caring attached to what he learns. He controls his environment to meet his whims at the expense of others.

If parents, themselves, are insecure and looking for their children’s love, they may give in to Cain’s every desire erroneously thinking it will be an exchange for love. But due to his broken brain, Cain is incapable of real love. It won’t happen. He can’t feel things. Some parents spend their entire lifetime trying to get a cainist child to love them and subsequently they allow a terrorist to develop and control the entire family.

So, while a parent is teaching the same lesson to a Cain and an Enabler within the same family under the same roof, there are two very different emotional responses and outcomes. “One of the perils of having a huge heart is that it breaks almost daily.But this is a sad fact with which I have learned to live.” (Harriet in The Invention of Beauty). That quote is something the Enabler knows daily. And one the cainist will never understand.

The diverse characters in the book, The Island, reminded me that cainists are born and incapable of change. So whether it is your parent, sibling, mate or child, stop hoping for change that will never come. It’s a game you can’t win. Instead learn how to deal directly with his manipulations to prevent destruction of the entire family. If it’s an adult relationship, run in the opposite direction as if your shoes are on fire.

The Ongoing Process of Overvaluation and Devaluation

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Cainists go into adulthood expecting everyone to take care of them in the same way their parents treated them—adored, admired, praised and applauded for everything he thinks or does regardless of merit. He is special, the sun who sees the planets revolving around him, and he comes alive when the attention is solely on him. In adulthood, the Enabler, now this person who must be his all-compassing parent, must speak positively about him at all times, spread his ideas as gospel, and immerse him with compliments both privately and in public.

If she contradicts, questions or resists him, however gently, he’s enraged. His abrupt anger and later devaluation of the Enabler hinges on basically three actions or in-actions: (1) Not seeing how special he is, (2) Exposing a truth that he wants hidden, or (3) Questioning his authority. Once angered by what he perceives as disloyalty, he abuses, humiliates and diminishes her in a myriad of ways.

He might exaggerate her faults and makes fun of her in front of others. Out of the blue she might be accused of being stupid, pathetic, weak, and wrong. Or tell her and others that she lacks ambition, vision, understanding and insight. By now, he has discovered her Achilles heel and strips her of power by attacking her weakness to harm her or deprive her in whatever way he can. He withholds what he thinks she wants and needs, or dumps an overabundance of what he knows she doesn’t want. A common frustration tactic is to argue with everything she says to prove she’s wrong and he’s right. She can’t win ever. And these hotbed accusations are acted out with high-intensity anger and disgust. Indeed, he spins into an unparalleled bully, doling out fury and humiliation like an errant fire cracker.

As a source of attention and admiration, the Enabler becomes Cain’s ally overvalued by him. Missing that, she morphs into the enemy and instantly devalued by him. He will criticize her not only for considering a thought of her own that is in opposition to his, but now he also blames her for his bad choices. I recall one such person making a dim-witted comment, then pretending I had made the remark, not her. She laughed over the comment, calling me a “dumb blonde.” I was stunned the way she twisted the situation to remove the mistake from her palette and blame me. When I pointed out that she had made the remark, she quickly turned her attention to another matter as if the incident never happened. One should never underestimate how a pathological person can turn the tables to make the Enabler look wrong so he can look perfect and then refuse to deal with the truth when it’s pointed out to him.

Once an Enabler has goofed up, it takes an exceptional idea or action on her part to change or elevate Cain’s image of her again. Now she is in the devaluation phase. She could be ostracized for months. In fact, she will need to adore, applaud, idolize, even worship him for whatever time limit he sets down, before he acknowledges or accepts her into the fold again. And probably never into his inner circle of close confidants. He blames her, and she blames herself. It works well for him until the Enabler says enough already.

Initially, I could do nothing wrong in the cainistic church. The minister would seek me out, sit alongside me at meetings, listen to my opinions, and repeat them from the pulpit as if my ideas were his ideas (steal them). But the first time I disagreed with the inconsistencies at the church—and there were as many as flies at a picnic—I was devalued faster than a car driven off the lot. From there, I could do absolutely nothing right and was bad-mouthed as insubordinate, unhelpful, and disloyal.

Being approved, then disapproved takes a heavy toll on a person’s emotions especially a perceptive people-pleaser in a church where one hopes to feel safe. Once I stepped over the invisible imaginary line, I was either at the height of bliss or the cavern of torment, banking on his approval or disapproval of me. And that is how he treated everyone, depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with him.

When someone failed to do his bidding, he often used the “silent treatment” to punish violators. Depending on my offense, there were days or weeks or months when he rushed past me, eyes fixed straight ahead, pretending he didn’t see me. One time I stopped him midway through his sprint out the sanctuary and said “Can we move past this?” Whenever Cain or the church staff refused to deal with an issue, they habitually answered, “We just want to move past this,” inferring that they didn’t want to remain stuck in negativity. The real meaning behind the words was that they wanted to overlook the issue and get off the hook without retribution.

Of course, different rules applied when Cain devalued someone. Now, he wanted to clutch his resentments close to his heart, needing “time” to process his emotions. Truthfully, I wondered if he had ever read the story of the Prodigal son—a parable demonstrating how the father received the return of his wayward son with open arms because his love, like God’s love, never changed. This cainistic charlatan preached that we were to demonstrate God’s infinite ability to forgive on a daily basis, but he couldn’t forgive. He drew more pleasure from setting people aside or punishing them for their slip-ups than forgiving them. His arrogant, self-absorbed cainistic personality was in opposition to the homilies he preached.

In fact, a cainist in the ministry will eventually grow disillusioned with the idea of God and devalue Him like he idolizes, then devalues every relationship in his life. But he continues the pretense because being a man or woman of God affords him authority and superstar power with his parishioners. The church is his source of cainistic supply, bulking up his insatiable ego. Even when he engages in misogynous behavior, worshipers are reluctant to confront him based on his position of authority. They comply because they are afraid to do otherwise. He’s the alpha and omega. He’s Billy Goat Gruff to the trembling trolls terrified to cross the bridge to truth. It’s the Cain and Enabler Complex on a mass scale rather than the one-on-one connection.

The insatiable envy of a cainist

handcuffsAlthough similar, there are clear differences between the emotional states of envy and jealousy. Aristotle defined envy as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others.” Thomas Moore called it “the longing to live someone else’s life while spurning one’s own life.” Those two quotes describe Cain’s envy precisely. He will become spitefully envious if the Enabler has an idea more important than his. Or for that matter if her idea is valued at all. Likewise, he lives for praise but takes potshots at anyone who steals his thunder.

That’s exactly what happened in the church I attended. When a new minister joined the ranks, he preached an exceptional first sermon. Attendees were raving about it and praising him. No one outperforms or outshines Cain—ever. He’s insanely envious if the congregation loves or venerates any staff member. For the next year this new cleric sat in the front pew every Sunday listening to Cain’s sermons before he was given another opportunity to preach again, and only then because Cain went on a vacation.

My Prince Who Rode in On The Horse with No Name

Blue_and_Red_Horse_by_MightySquirrelThe line “cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain,” from the song, A Horse With No Name certainly captures the relationship I had with a man who possessed cainistic traits. He would disappear for days, weeks, sometimes months after we enjoyed good times, returning only after the warm, positive embers died down.

Deep affection terrified him, and he eclipsed his fear with physical unavailability. If I expressed my own needs and feelings, he tossed out the title of a popular song by Mac Davis, Baby, Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me. My relationship with this cainist was the yin and the yang of interpersonal closeness and emotional distance. It was the up and down bouncy movement of horseback riding from start to finish.

When he returned later, it was on his terms only. Whenever I confronted him about these long absences, he grew upset–“I don’t want to be tied down,” he would spat. He always had a disclaimer—“Maybe some day but not now”—which reserved my hope. He used threats of abandonment to have his relationship or no relationship.

People who engage healthy relationships would have walked out of that relationship quicker than corn can pop, but I capitulated which is typical of the Cain and Enabler Complex. Conditioned to become invisible and selfless, the Enabler ignores her own needs and feelings to prevent criticism, rejection, confrontation and abandonment from a cainist who is in it for himself.

For instance, I was taught in childhood that my invisibility during Cain’s presence might buy me attention and some conditional love after he was gone; I was repeating that dysfunction in my adult relationships to reduce Cain’s negative reaction and to keep my man. I lived on hope.

Enablers don’t make waves. They sacrifice their boundaries and apologize for being too much trouble or for creating an atmosphere of negativity when Cain is displeased. They become selfless and re-frame it into a virtue. They choose a lonely, empty life of self-sacrifice and wistful thinking in exchange for a hopeful five minutes of love.

Aside

Remember the psychological game of  projection discussed earlier?

Remember the psychological game of  projection discussed earlier? Specifically, that Cain projects his character flaws onto others in an effort to dump them?  For decades a woman named Piper was conditioned to believe that Cain’s character defects were her flaws.

Due to her overweight, she was judged abnormal, lazy and lacking in will power. Unfortunately, society as a whole passes these same judgments about obesity, but Cain illuminated Piper’s imperfections to deflect his own shortcomings.

She recalls how strenuous and exhausting it was as a morbidly overweight child to walk eight blocks uphill to school. About midway she struggled for the next lungful of air. When she was very young, she simply sat down on the grass or sidewalk for a spell to catch her breath. Because Cain was interested in one agenda——his own—with no empathy for her, he projected his impatience, calling Piper lazy and deciding that she only wanted to play.

These myths went unquestioned, perpetuated within the family. Yes indeed. Piper was lazy. She just liked to have fun. No one ever considered that she was, in fact, carrying two people uphill every day due to her size. She wasn’t lazy, she was out of breath. The truth was, Cain didn’t like to be inconvenienced—ever. “But I grew up feeling as if I had to strive twice as hard as anyone else to verify that I wasn’t lazy,” explained Piper. Now, as an older adult suffering many health issues, she says it makes sense why her body wore out at an earlier age.

About a decade ago, while she worked tirelessly on a project, her mother announced emphatically, “You certainly aren’t lazy!”

“It seemed to be an original awareness for her,” explained Piper. “I was momentarily astounded, knowing how hard I worked on everything all my life. But finally, she felt vindicated because her mother had seen the real Piper. This mother had automatically accepted Cain’s opinions and impatience without ever editing them for accuracy.  Piper had been viewed by her family as lazy for half a century simply because a cainist had little tolerance for anyone but himself and projected his limitations onto Piper.

All of which sets up the Enabler for further cainistic connections and abuse. This abuse is familiar, therefore, she draws the same exploitation into her life time and again. And it isn’t just laziness that’s projected. It’s any affirmative attribute which threatens Cain’s weak ego.

If she’s empathetic, then he announces that she’s too dramatic; if she’s adventurous, then she’s unstable and doesn’t comprehend risks; if she’s spiritual, then she’s gullible; if she’s smart, she isn’t nearly as smart as he is. Piper remembered feeling absolutely dumb all through school and was shocked when she went to college and landed on Dean’s list and received multiple compliments from professors about the term papers she wrote.

If Cain can’t compete with a quality or talent, such as being inventive or artistic in a certain area, then he dramatizes his shortage. Now, the Enabler’s creativity is nothing compared to Cain’s unimaginative side. His inability usurps her abilities. It’s astounding how many ways he can nullify the Enabler to regain center stage. 

She must relentlessly insert a question mark behind everything he says about her and to her. Otherwise, she will breathe life into his self-absorbed, trumped-up proclamations, giving him the power of projection to devastate the very fabric of her existence.

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