Feelings, Narcissism, Relationships

the scorpion, the swan and the phoenix

My life is often full of synchronicity and “coincidence” the meaning of which is sometimes glaringly obvious and other times not so much.

I’m writing a memoir of sorts about my experiences with narcissism and narcissists over the course of my life. Part of the process involves examining and reflecting on the pathological love “relationship” (PLR) I had with a covert narcissist over a period of about eighteen months between 2018 and 2020. Wading through the tens and thousands of messages he and I exchanged during that time is proving to be an eye-opening exercise. It’s amazing how clear hindsight can be.

This week, synchronicity has popped up in abundance. Following is an example I’d like to share; I think it will resonate with many survivors of narcissistic abuse in intimate relationships.

On Christmas Day 2018, my then-future PLR partner and I chatted back and forth most of the day, exchanging close to a hundred messages. It was the love-bombing/idealization phase, and he was in full-on hot pursuit despite the fact that he was married (unhappily he said) at the time. I had been resisting, but my defences were starting to crumble. He was playing into my passion for self-development, stroking my ego and feeding my desire to be helpful.

Here’s a snippet from the Yuletide chat:

The way I see it, the more
self awareness one has the better.

I would love to be able to get tested
and see if I do indeed fall on the high-functioning autism spectrum.

It would explain so much…
I could say “ah you see, all of that odd
behavior was because of my asperger’s.” LOL 🙂

Self awareness….first I became very aware…
now I putting the self into it…
and it’s becoming very rewarding…


Being Odd ducks is good…but you an odd swan!

A beautiful swan with odd glasses.

Why thank you sir 🙂
Also, I am glad to know about your ASD,
because it helps me to understand
your comments etc.

Yep now the mud is clearer for u

Honestly, I thought you were
very strange LOL,
but now I understand.

Before I felt uneasy with you.
Now I understand and I feel safe.

u touch me in new ways
it feels great…
i needed this awareness
and challenge


The day after I saw this sms exchange again for the first time in more than two years, I began reading Dr. Ramani Durvasula’s book “Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The introduction to the book is a parable. Dr. Ramani tells it like this:

“A scorpion sat on the shores of a river one day needing to get to the other side, but the river was too wide and there were not enough stones to jump across. He begged various water birds — mallards and geese and herons — asking if he could catch a ride, but they pragmatically turned him down knowing all too well his cunning and his sting.

Then he caught sight of a lovely swan making her way down the river. He turned on his charm and pleaded with her: “Please, beautiful swan take me across the river. I couldn’t imagine harming something as beautiful as you and it is not in my interest to do so. I simply want to get to the other side of the river.”

The swan hesitated, but the scorpion was so charming and convincing. He was close enough to sting her right now and yet he did not do so. What could go wrong? The trip across the river would take only a few minutes. She agreed to help him.

As they traversed the river the scorpion expressed his gratitude and continued to offer compliments about her loveliness and kindness compared to all of the other negligent river birds. As they arrived at the other side of the river, the scorpion prepared to jump off her back. But right before he did he lifted his tail and stung her.

Crying and injured, the swan couldn’t understand why he had stung her after all the promises, the flattery and the logical explanation as to why he would not do so.

“Why did you sting me?” she asked puzzled and hurt.

The scorpion looked at the swan from the riverbank and said, “I’m a scorpion. It’s who I am.””

Wow! Did that ever resonate with me, particularly as I had just read the old chat in which he called me “a beautiful swan.” What are the chances of that happening? The coincidence of me reading these two things within a day of each other after more than two years gave me goose bumps. Clearly, the universe wishes to help with my healing – and maybe yours too.

Dr. Ramani goes on to explain further in the introduction to her book (which I highly recommend):

“In my clinical work with clients who find themselves in the devilish and toxic web of a relationship with a pathologically narcissistic or exploitative person, this fable is a painful and powerful teaching tool. They get stung over and over again and even when they know harm is coming, they still believe this time will be different. Invariably the outcome is always the same: more bad behavior from their partner, more self blame for the problems in their relationship, no change in behavior by the “scorpion.”

In this haunting parable about the scorpion, he has more insight than the average narcissist at least owning up to the fact that he is what he is. Those who become involved with human narcissists should be so lucky as to have self-aware narcissistic partners who know that their bad behavior is simply who they are.

Unfortunately, narcissists, unlike the scorpion, are masterful at blaming other people for their discontent. In essence, the scorpion would blame the swan for agreeing to take him across the river. After all, she could always have said no.”

The key is to be able to recognize a scorpion and the danger it represents. Tough to do when the scorpion is masquerading as a sheep or butterfly or whatever, or if you have never seen a scorpion before and you don’t know how poisonous they are.

But once you’ve been stung, it’s time to wise up and protect yourself. Wising up is also tough when you are a loving, compassionate, trusting and forgiving swan. It’s in the swan’s nature to be a swan, just as it’s in the scorpion’s nature to be a scorpion.

I carried the same scorpion across the same river about a dozen times before I realized I needed to be a powerful phoenix instead of a beautiful swan.

Now, I am rising from the ashes.


© 2021 Susan Macaulay . I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.

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see the me that’s me

who will make it right?

see the me that’s me