December 29, 2008

Heidi's Real Problem On The Hills: She's In The Wrong Movie

I can no longer find the link, but someone-- Us Magazine?  Entertainment Weekly?-- did a Most Memorable TV Moments, and the season 3 finale of The Hills was one of them.

They were right.

I realize this is a scripted show, not "real" (whatever that means anymore) but for illustration's sake let's pretend it''s a documentary.

By the end of Season 3, Spencer and Heidi have had a series of fights, while simultaneously she gets a job offer from casino mogul Sam Nazarian in Las Vegas to be a project director (of something.)   She packs up and leaves in two days flat, and doesn't tell Spencer.

Spencer, meanwhile gets kicked out of his apartment for being controlling (and dirty), and slithers over to Heidi's.  She's gone.  He waits all night-- nothing.  He freaks out, and finally his sister (Stephanie) discloses Heidi moved to Vegas.  What?!  He goes after her.

When Spencer learns she's at the Palazzo working over drinks, he speeds toward the posh hotel.

Abandoning Stephanie at the valet, Spencer strolls into the club and straight to Heidi's table. Interrupting her business dinner, he tells Heidi he needs a moment outside and walks away. Clearly mortified, Heidi begins to lay into Spencer and reams him out for disrupting her during what is clearly an important meeting with her employers.
I've so far seen a season and a half of The Hills (it is strangely compelling television), which I mention as support for my opinion that Spencer is a classic narcissist (though some leeway allowed because he is young.)

In the argument that ensues, Heidi identifies many of the traits: it's always about him, he wants to be with her when he wants, and then leave when he wants, etc.

And he inadvertently lists some of his character flaws himself, though of course he thinks he is being romantic:

I can't have you living in Las Vegas with how we ended things...
If it was really about missing her, it would be living in Vegas that would bother him, but it's not.  The second part is the one that matters: the way they ended didn't involve him.  She up and left, in two days, no warning, no message.  She didn't break up with him (so that in his mind: cue music, cue dramatic long distance shot, and then pan back to his reaction); she simply dropped right out of his movie.  That's what hurts a narcissist.

(What you're looking for here is not evidence that Spencer thinks he is the greatest guy on earth, but evidence that he thinks everyone is merely supporting cast in his movie.)

Spencer thinks nothing of interrupting her important meeting, in front of her bosses, making her publicly have to choose him over them.   That it's her job he's messing with, that this conversation can very easily wait until tomorrow or an hour from now never occurs to him, not because he is stupid but because it's important to him now, so it must be objectively important period.

Narcissism is not egomania: he isn't sure this is going to work.  It is entirely possible that she might reject him-- he isn't in denial about this.  But that she wouldn't be compelled to talk to him, or yell at him-- to have an interaction with him-- that's impossible.  After all we've been through...

Pay attention, I'm going to give you gold: don't get fooled, like so many women do, that this has anything to do with getting her back.  There is only one reason he made this trip:

"This (meeting) is really important, and obviously you don't care enough to respect that," Heidi says.  "What are you doing?"

"I need to talk to you...."

That's not a lead in, that's the whole reason.

For narcissists, outcomes are irrelevant-- process is what matters.  Getting her back is way less important than being connected to her-- sorry, her being connected to him-- whatever the form: love, hate, fear.  It's all good.

I sense you are drifting to sleep.  I'll repeat it: getting her back isn't the goal.  He doesn't really love you, he just wants you in his movie.

We could ask, what would happen if Heidi didn't get up from the table to talk to him?  He'd make a scene, of course.  He'd yell and scream he loves her as the cops drag him away and taser him.  If he makes a scene and gets taken out, he still wins, because he reactivated their "connection."  And if nothing else, he's the one who gets to decide how it ends.  He decides what emotions she leaves with, he decides how she remembers him.

NB: this is why suicide is the narcissist's trump card.

It's helpful to look at the relationship from the perspective of neutral observers.  What do her bosses think while this is going on?  Not, "I know this is important, go ahead, talk to him."  Not, "this guy is extremely destructive, evil, get away from him."  They think this, and only this: "umm, can this nonsense wait?"

That's the limits on narcissism's power: it only has the potential to work on those you aim it at.  Other people don't share the worldview that they are simply bit players in your universe-- and so their attitude is to dismiss you.  You don't count.  Letterman once did an interview with Spencer that can be summarized: "who is this dope, again?"  Spencer can't con Letterman into thinking he is who he wants to be.

(Hence the popular narcissist mantra:  when I make it big, when I get discovered, then all these people will acknowledge me.) 

And since he can't, he doesn't try to.  Letterman isn't going to be in Spencer's movie, so Spencer doesn't really build a role for him.

But the direct target of a narcissist's powers can't do that, once the narcissist lures them into his movie, they're stuck because they become convinced that his movie is the only movie.  Again, they don't have to play the part the narcissist wants, they don't have to like the guy, but they must operate within his movie that they now accept as their own. 

It's easy and popular to blame Heidi for being vapid, but she can't be entirely stupid-- three men thought her at least capable enough to fly her out to Vegas and make her the project director.  Nor is she necessarily a needy, empty, gullible girl who falls for this kind of crap: she doesn't fall for this with every guy, right?  If you tried this on her, you'd fail, agreed? 

Narcissism doesn't exist in a vacuum, no personality does, it is always a dialogue, a dialectic, with other personalities.  God included.  He pursues her not because he loves her, but because it worked.  Not worked meaning she liked him; worked meaning she allowed herself to be a part of his movie.
And now she can't get out, she's always operating under the premise that it's his movie.  As evidence for this, consider that Spencer had no insight about the importance of the meeting to her, in his mind him talking to her is way more important, it can't wait-- and she agreed.  She eventually gets fired-- actually left in Vegas by her bosses-- but it doesn't even register. She's completely bought into Spencer's urgency, timetable, needs.

That's what makes narcissism dangerous to other people.  The force of personality preys, or warps, weaker personalities-- I don't mean weak in an absolute sense, I mean weak in comparison to the steroid fueled bodybuilder who spends every moment on his identity and nothing else at all-- the narcissist wears these other people down, whether through outright seduction or relentless, manipulative, soft sells ("oh, so you only like people your friends approve of?"  or "I know the real you...")

Every girl in the world has been down this road.  Every guy in the world has at least attempted to pull this off.

Stop.  Just stop.  It's that simple, start looking at other people as people with their own movies and backstories and don't try to bring them into yours.  It is destructive, you will never be happy, you will never be at peace, you'll always be thinking about how she might one day get tricked by some bad guy (read:  awaken from her trance) or get caught up in material things, external things, that aren't as important as love, as commitment (read: succeed on her own, discover she doesn't need you.)  And if you're a woman you'll always be wondering how you'll survive if he leaves you.

None of this is real.  At best, it is a huge waste of years of your life.   If you manage to break out of this cycle then one day, when you try to look back on it, it will all be hard to remember, like lost time, or it will seem unreal-- not like you're remembering your life, but like you're remembering a movie you saw, or a movie you were in.  Bits and pieces, maybe some scenes, but that wasn't really me, that was a character I played...