Susan has learned to write down what is said, and then somehow she gets really mixed up and can’t make heads or tails of how it all got derailed and how the loved one scorns her for the mistake.
She inevitably ends up thinking she’s losing her mind.
Kara gets a blank expression and sags visibly when she describes the latest, very loud ‘incident’ with her husband, and invariably concludes her explanations with “But, he had a really hard childhood and he’s doing the best he can.”
Keith is perpetually trying to win the approval of a parent, and has jumped through a myriad of hoops, but to no avail. He just can’t seem to strike the exact combination of traits and
behaviours to win some acknowledgement.
As a coach I help people deal with relationships. In fact, most of the ‘issues’ that come up in a session involve relationships: Spouses, children, parents, friends, coworkers, etc. My philosophy is that all relationships teach us about ourselves. We use relationship issues to help my clients become more aware of themselves and to find ways to empower them to become the leaders in their own lives.
Recently I’ve dealt with clients who are or have been deeply impacted by ‘not normal’ people. These people are dealing with, as Martha Beck describes in “Steering By Starlight”, ‘Dark Artists.’
What is a Dark Artist?
Psychology would define them as psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists or sadists or as having a personality disorder, I am not a trained diagnoser (that’s a word!) but I am trained to recognize the evidence of a Dark Artist. In the company of a Dark Artist you may encounter some form (mild to extreme) of one, some or all of the following:
you may feel out of sorts, lacking inner clarity and or like you’ve been drugged and mostly a general sense of ‘wrongness.’ You know the Dark Artist causes this because the feelings disperse when
that person is absent.
Because the Dark Artist is a gifted, habitual liar, things you thought would happen don’t; things you thought wouldn’t happen do, promises are made, broken then never mentioned again.
You will be perpetually confused and become increasingly doubtful of your ability to remember.
Am I Crazy?
If you are constantly plagued by this question in relation to one individual, it is a strong clue that you are dealing with a Dark Artist
Shame on You:
Even if you really like the D.A. and find them impressive, you may feel shame or like there’s something wrong with you after being in this persons’ company.
Needing to numb out either physically or emotionally (with food, alcohol, any distracting behaviour) is the way we instinctually try to avoid being destroyed. If you are reacting this way around a D.A. you must watch out. If you go numb even thinking about them, when you’re around them or after you’ve talked with them you are having an aborted fight or flight reaction.
Pity the Fool:
Interestingly enough, the D.A. is a master at getting you to feel sorry for them! He/she is really
trying, he/she works really hard, he/she had a bad mom, unhappy childhood, unfair disadvantage, etc. But most telling of all is that he/she has no compassion, sympathy or empathy whatsoever for any difficulty you may experience.
How to Break the Spell?
1) Become Aware.
Start noticing the symptoms mentioned above. Make a note of when and what is happening.
This is the first step in gaining back some of your confidence in yourself. Confidence to know that
‘it isn’t you.’
2) Get Help.
Depending on the length of relationship with a Dark Artist, you may need brief, lengthy or even deep coaching, counselling and support. Having a trained reflective mirror will enable you to restore a healthy, grounded foundation.
Accept that someone in your life may be too destructive to engage with. Grieve.
Know that part of grieving is anger. You will feel angry as you walk through recovering from the ‘spell’ of a Dark Artist.
Build new or reinforce relationships that reflect back to you who you really are. Allow the hard experience to open you up, strengthen you and make you more insightful about yourself and others.