Growing up in as the daughter of a career cinematographer, we watched a lot of movies. We have several family favorites that we have collected and talk of and quote often. A lot of them are movies that either people haven’t heard of or that they don’t remember.
One of those extremely underrated gems is the movie Labyrinth with David Bowie. We have watched it several times with my little family. We recently watched it again with a friend that hadn’t seen it. This time I saw it through new eyes, empowered and more learned eyes. The impact of this movie is amazing when you watch it through the right lens. For me, it was the lens of narcissism.
Narcissism is a word that is used very liberally in today’s society. We use it to describe any sort of a person who demonstrates egotism or extreme confidence or arrogance. Granted, those are certainly characteristics of it, but that isn’t what I am going to be referring to.
The narcissism that I am referencing is that of severe destruction. It is a personality in which the narcissist is obsessed with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others. They do not see or value needs of anyone other than themselves. They use their powers of charm to manipulate and control those around them, and usually find those people willing to fill that role.
Narcissists are generally very charming and charismatic people that can draw a great deal of admirers to their sides. They change stories and histories to fit their personal needs. They are compulsive liars who manipulate the truth to garner a following. They live two completely separate lives, both public and private. These two lives are completely independent of each other.
Even when you are keenly aware of the behaviors of a narcissist, it can be very difficult to spot one. One is easy to be lured into their web of deceit and then buys wholeheartedly into their story, to the point of even standing behind the narcissist will full determination that they are in the right. It isn’t until you get past their facade that you realize the extent of what you are involved in. It is at that point, that we try to find our way out, which is one of the biggest struggles that one can imagine.
A good portion of my adult life has been spent in the presence of narcissists. It has taken me years to identify, realize, come to terms with, deal with and cope with these personalities in my life.
So, back to the Labyrinth. As I was watching this movie, I was hit with its amazing similarities to the power of a narcissistic relationship. If you haven’t watched it, WATCH IT! It is a great show and it is great for the entire family.
The story is based around Sara, who is unhappy with her current life. She escapes as often as she can to her own world. The beginning scene is where she is in a park reciting lines from “The Labyrinth.” She gets caught up in her speech as it begins to rain. I love that this is the first scene and I will tell you why later.
Her dad has remarried and she has a baby half brother that she resents. She wants to live her own life. In the movie, she wishes the baby away, and the Goblin King gives her “what she wants” and takes the baby. She immediately regrets the decision and asks for him back. The Goblin King appears to her and tells her that he was doing what SHE wanted and HELPING her and was being kind in his actions. She can get her brother back, but she must go through the Labyrinth to find him, and only has a limited time to do just that.
That is the pattern of a narcissist. They do what THEY want, but under the guise of doing things in YOUR benefit. They are very convincing in their tactics. You will be in a conversation with them, knowing what reality is, and end up confused and almost convinced of their perspective. It leaves you flustered enough that you can’t argue, but you don’t agree. You can see that the sky is blue, but they can talk you into the fact that it is green. You still know that it is blue, but can’t argue that it isn’t green.
So, instead of being in a relationship, we find ourselves in a labyrinth, seeking and searching for the truth, trying to discover a true reality in a web of deceit, manipulation, control and lies. However, with each step closer, we find that the labyrinth changes and no matter how much we seek and work, we are no more closer to our goal. We find that we are now in a position of strategizing in order to stay afloat and get out.
This clip so accurately illustrates how I have felt in situations where I am having a conversation of discovery with a narcissist. Everything changes and nothing makes sense. What I know to be true, changes in front of my eyes. Even though I KNOW what the truth is, I can’t dispute the falsehoods put before me.
Along the way, the Goblin King puts road blocks and distractions to divert Sara’s attention away from his deceit and manipulation. He puts challenges in her way to occupy her as he escapes further and makes it harder for her to catch him and escape with what she truly needs and wants.
The last scene with the Goblin King is the one that clinches my heart. Sara comes face to face with the Goblin King. She can see her goal and her abuser at the same time. She is caught up in the very most dangerous part of narcissism. When the abuser realizes that he may lose his victim.
He goes on to tell her that everything was her fault. That everything he did was for her. He tells her that he did everything out of love and that that is all he ever wanted was to love her. He flashes her dreams before her eyes. However, for the first time, she sees him for what he is. A manipulative dictator wielding a false power to make her feel inadequate and dependent on him for what she needs.
She remembers what she knew all along and kept forgetting. He has no power over her. What a bold statement to say to someone who is standing directly in front of you and has disguised himself so impressively behind a labyrinth wall. He used this series of lies to control her and make her feel powerless. However, in the moment of truth it came to her. He had no power over her. She exerted it. She demanded it. His world burst apart. His empty promises and illusions burst before his eyes and she was swept back to the life that she knew before, free of abusive control.
What a powerful moment this was for me to watch. As I watched this part of the movie with my children, it was as though a dagger plunged into my heart. THIS is what it takes. It is the hardest moment for someone who is caught up in a narcissistic web. It takes strength of character and bravery beyond anything that was summoned previously to realize that they have NO control over you.
Now, unlike in the movie, this does not happen in a matter of moments, days, weeks, months or even years. A skilled narcissist does not give up easily and is extremely competent in reeling a victim back in. This cycle will continue over and over and over, until we are stalwart in our decision that they have NO power over us. It is at that moment that we gather every ounce of fearlessness that we can muster, and stand strong against the forces that WILL AND WITHOUT DOUBT come in raging with fire, wind, torrential storms and fury. It is hard. It is painful. It seems nigh unto impossible, but it isn’t.
I know. I have been there. In some ways, I am still battling this. You CAN be strong and brave and overcome. The labyrinth is conquerable, and YOU are the one who holds the power.