10 WAYS NARCISSISTS DRAIN THE LIFE OUT OF YOU

Courtesy of: http://www.projectmanbeyond.com/narcissism/

Masknarcissist

Read time: 15 minutes

Many years ago, when Facebook was still new, I was chatting online with a friend of mine from the other side of the globe about what he was witnessing on his news feed. He was witnessing a bad post-break up going viral in his network. It was about a girl who’d been dumped and started smearing and bashing a guy where a lot of people could see. She was determined to spill it all with whatever she can say about him. It was excessive and shocking to the point that a lot of her claims were questionable and were obviously blatant lies. What’s more shocking is that for every time she posted, a multitude of likes and comments followed.

“Yeah what a douchebag”; “Oh my god, that is so wrong” or “You’re gonna find your prince charming or man of your dreams someday” were the typical comments that ensued. She went further on posting status updates to gain more sympathy on top of posting tons of vain pictures excessively. She was self-pitiful and self-loathing. She became abusive and started name-calling when questioned. The victim card she was playing then became very telling as eventually somebody pointed out that she’s being an emotional vampire.

Emotional vampires, attention whores, leeches, drama kings and queens, entitled prince or princess, egomaniacs, megalomaniacs, authoritarian dicks, love-deluded-hopeless-romantic-fanatics are often other ways to label a narcissist, but they are part of a cluster of personality disorders that tend to overlap. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV and DSM-V), aka the bible of Psychiatrists, addresses these types as part of what is called the Cluster B Personality disorders.

Narcissists would typically involve doing anything to put them at a better light to get the attention they crave; to look & feel good even at the expense of everyone or someone else along with a bunch of unhealthy coping strategies. It involves a grandiose view of oneself and they’ll constantly find ways to sustain their narcissism, hence they are always finding something or someone they can use to get their ego boost or to be more precise to get their narcissistic supply.

They are the types who begin with idealization (love bombing) then eventually would bleed or suck you dry of your positive energy or your self worth (hence the name emotional vampire). They will make you feel as if you’re not worth anything. At many times it’s as if it’s even their job to help you out. They are forever feeling entitled and that it’s as if you owe them a favor. And once they bleed you dry, they’ll discard you or throw you under the bus without any hesitation as if nothing really happened.

They do all of these things for they have the inability to receive healthy validation and find truth by and for themselves that they have to get it, “steal it” from someone or force it upon others.

They tend to get someone to falsely agree with them just to get some short term satisfaction about a serious matter; force an apology; lie about a story; or are always in a superficial type of interaction or relationship.

The term narcissism is often thrown around but it exists on a spectrum. We’re all narcissistic but everyone is not necessarily a narcissist per se. At times someone may just be up on the higher end of the spectrum. But when it gets to a really high degree, it increases its chances of becoming a full blown personality disorder.

The battle of he-says-she-says thing with rumors, what has been said behind their back, arguments, conflicts and drama increases. The bad air will be prevalent in the environment with which a narcissistic person finds his or herself. Narcissism is infectious, like a vampire ready to infect as many victims it can.

This should lead you to be more aware of the kind of people you deal with or you’re intimate with. If some girl you broke up with started crying “played with my heart” all the way to crazy accusations such as “rape” on Facebook or telling a story about you to a selective group of people that is far from what really happened, then it’s time to re-evaluate.

Narcissism is something very subtle for a lot of us. A lot of us tend to tolerate toxic behaviors or even emulate toxic behaviors as if it’s the norm, especially if one comes from an environment where collective narcissism is involved (i.e. craziness runs in the family).

Narcissism is costly for us men too. So here’s a little challenge – If you’re feeling a bit adventurous here are 10 narcissistic traits you can ponder on about others you’re surrounded with and, more importantly, something you can ask for yourself.

1.) THEY INVOLVE TRUTH SUPPRESSION AND CONTROL

They force upon others a controlled narrative combined with sensationalism for there is the ulterior self-serving motive. They’ll sugarcoat the truth that everything is just fine. They’ll find ways to mask the issue. The lack of acknowledgement of a serious issue is very telling.

The challenge for many of us is on how we should believe the stories we are told or hear. Stories are always complex yet we have the habit of taking them in as if they’re so simple. We are prone to narcissistic conditioning by pushing buttons on a lot of our unmet needs or if it entails a major unmet need.

You already know that we should be suspicious of simple yet invalidated remarks or stories. In any group conflict or tension, as you hone in on the root cause involving a narcissist, you’re still better off with getting a comprehensive picture and different sides. You need to make a concerted effort to think about what really is going on. Sometimes, talking about something with those concerned in a group conflict means you’re sorting things out and may take time and need all the information & processing you can get.

Talk with others if you must. For a lot of us guys this is difficult. A lot of us men don’t like to express or articulate about what is going on in our daily lives. We, especially, don’t like to express or address our emotions. We have a bad habit and tendency to think that shutting out our feelings and not talking about them is the only way to go as it is often considered the status quo for men to talk less. Don’t worry about sexist comments that are thrown in like “talking like a girl” or “being girly.” What do they mean by that? What’s wrong with being a girl right?

This is considered to be more of a disability among us men; our rates are said to exceed compared to women. As a man you may disagree but there’s a lot of truth in this again due to the fact we are led to believe that emotions are not for us or that they are only for the weak. As in yeah, you got to be the douche or the forever strong schmuck.

Narcissists don’t have a lot of emotional resilience. In fact, they are too scared to dissect or process their emotions. If not, they suppress them, which prevents maturing their emotional well-being in the first place. They are just not that emotionally mature to understand, process or comprehend especially difficult life situations. They would rather make up circular stories which are not verifiable. They get angry or are often impatient when they are proven wrong or called out on something.

If in the public eye, you see major companies polluting the environment relying on evidence to be suppressed for matters of “privacy”, they are the types who would rely on the excuse that “it’s between them” or “it’s between us.” 

“Forgetting is the key and not being emotional” is another sentiment they foster. It’s also known as the Forgive and Forget trap or the “let’s move forward” type of crap. They would rather not go into details of a bigger picture for they are too afraid to show their true selves. They are afraid to show what is going on for it would only make them look bad. Ask any women who’ve been with a self-centered narcissistic douche and they’ll confirm this with you. The same goes for men who have been with a narcissistic princess or queen.

They are very much afraid of confrontation, especially a group one. They prefer to deal one on one in moments of high conflicts as this would allow them to selectively create false stories.

Since they can’t survive without constant validation, looking bad to others is something they would try to avoid as much as they can. They’ll do anything for their own “protection” and benefit.

2.) THEY HAVE EXCEEDINGLY HIGH & UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

There’s a term called the Grandiosity GapBorn out of their delusions of grandeur and high sense of entitlement, narcissists are too broken to bridge the gap or disconnect between the grandiose of way of how they perceive themselves or their expectations and the reality of how people truly view them or what people truly feel about them. You can also put it as the big difference of their delusions versus the reality.

 

image: http://www.projectmanbeyond.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/3075thenarcissisticdisguise-1024×683.jpg

PageLines-3075thenarcissisticdisguise.jpg Beneath the beautiful disguise are layers and layers of false pretenses they’ve built up through the years.

 

As a consequence, overcompensation, overwhelming expectations and/or demands becomes a constant part of their life equation. They then foster the image of an overbearing man baby or a princess who thinks the world owes them everything while clothing themselves in an appearance of superiority and some sort of life fantasy.

Self-perceived notion of grand roles or creating some sort of “life fantasy” adds up to the many layers of their false pretenses. Religion (or religiosity) for one, is often used as a cover or escape while association to words such as “Perfect family, man/woman of my dreams, prince charming, life savior” and other means of attaining or getting some sort of ‘fix’ would be another evident symptom.

Expectations vs reality is a struggle for them. They can’t relate to a process but just see the results they want to get. If you tell them what’s really happening, they see you only as somebody who’s making an excuse. This is one of those many things you realize you can’t win, for no matter what you do, it’s always never enough for them because they are unable to see or acknowledge the so called ‘little things’ yet critical that happens behind the scenes.

3.) TRIANGULATION

Triangulation is often found among highly conflicted family situations involving a family member who’s narcissistic but it can happen among varying social circles outside of a family setting. Triangulation or splitting means the rise of tension or conflict among family members because one person (the narcissist) is not fully communicating the truth or selectively communicating the truth, lying and creating different versions of the story that it creates tension for the rest of the members. And often the solution for the narcissist (together with a cooperating participant) is to find a scapegoat.

They usually would need to find a submissive partner that they can be dominant over or somebody who can cover up for them and/or someone that they can basically put their blame on.

Note that they can only fool someone who wants to be fooled. They can’t hide. They are always found out in the process, be it short term or in the long run.

One of the many difficulties they have understanding (and will never be able to get away with) is that their stories are not consistent and many other pieces of relevant data they try to block you from knowing. They are not willing to delve into details. They combine this with their truth suppression methods such as “Forgetting is the key and not processing emotions” or back again to the “It’s between them” or “It’s between us” type of narrative.

Their mental blind spots is something they can’t even notice. The responsibility then relies on the enabling person for letting it slide or not acknowledging it when they know what’s going on.

4.) IT’S NEVER THEIR FAULT

They don’t or are not willing to take responsibility for their actions. Admitting to a fault for their actions or what they say would make them feel they are going to lose as if everything is always a game. On a deep level they feel they are deeply flawed or that they are defective from within or have a sense of inadequacy. Admitting to a fault would mean a confirmation of the inadequacy they fear.

With this, they would often blame someone as if it’s entirely someone’s fault even though that someone is not the root cause of the problem.

Other notable lines would be “Why didn’t you tell me?” or “Why didn’t you say anything?” as if they need to be told. They are very good at playing the innocent card to pass the blame back to you.

Another common narcissistic trait is blaming others for their own emotions (emotional blackmail). An example would be: “Oh look at me I’m now feeling this way because of you.” 

It is very common too for those who have been involved with narcissist that they will never remember all the things you did right, only what you did wrong. This arms them further of not admitting to any fault.

5.) THEY LACK EMOTIONAL DEPTH & EMPATHY

Since they are truth suppressors, they suppress their emotions as well; or are incapable of processing their emotions to begin with (as it can start from childhood and regression happens as an adult). They are basically emotionally immature or their emotional intelligence is impaired.

I remember once I was in an airport and I witnessed a father lose his temper and get angry at an obviously young child and say “You know I feel hurt when you ignore me?!” I have to say I was shocked to hear it. At the same time I was thinking to myself that, for crying out loud, it’s only a kid, what does the kid know about your feelings dude.

The lack of emotional depth doesn’t allow them to recognize a multitude of human expressions that they can only see the face value of or they are unable to read between the lines. They can only imitate or parrot someone else’s words or language. They have no originality. Others describe narcissists as robots, being linear, black and white and overly procedural in their thoughts.

 

image: http://www.projectmanbeyond.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/12772612narcissistic-1024×683.jpg

12772612narcissisticNarcissists are known to be imitators of a persona for the range emotions they themselves couldn’t genuinely understand and create.

 

The lack of empathy is the most telling. Their inability to empathize blocks them from connecting well with others.

At many times their own truth just happened to have been suppressed by another narcissist. Their own emotions have been suppressed so much that it drives them crazy and that they just have to go with it. Thanks in part to authoritative parenting.

6.) THEY GUILT OTHERS FOR THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE

Channeling the guilt of others is one of their classic MO’s as well. If they themselves ask for remorse, what they’re really asking is to guilt you to further hide what they don’t want you to know. And since it’s never their fault, this gives them another way to pass the blame. (i.e. it’s a therapeutic release for a group of collective narcissists to always be demanding and getting a public apology).

Gaslighting is a known method they use – “Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

7.) THEY HAVE AN ENABLER

It could be a spouse, a parent, a partner or anybody where they are getting their main source of validation which eventually becomes a superficial validation. The enabler usually is what is called the codependent. Typical codependents are those who have developed a caretaker mentality. Having a caretaker mentality is heaven for the narcissist since they would love to have somebody who is willing to take responsibility for them for caretaking codependents have been conditioned to do so for a long time. Codependents are their perfect victims.

These enablers would be like their horse and if you’re battling with a narcissist, you’d have to be aware of the horse first.

Narcissistic husbands are usually covered by a codependent wife; Narcissistic girlfriends are covered by a codependent nice-pushover-doormat guy; Narcissistic partners force codependent relationships over time – forcing submission on the part of the other half.

It’s simply unhealthy. To know you could possibly be acting like a horse, the enabling one or you’re dating one, here’s a link to check later.

8.) THEY ARE SMEARERS & SPINNERS

Engaging in a smear campaign is one classic MO of a narcissist. It doesn’t matter be it in public or be it with a selective group of people. It happens usually when the relationship at hand has come to an end, especially to cover their tracks on being found out.

There’s a big difference when narcissists talk about normally sane people versus normally sane people talking about narcissists.

Narcissists would simply twist, outright lie, make up stories to make somebody look bad while making themselves look good with a controlled narrative and total disregards to…*drum roll*…facts. Facts or inconsistencies usually are glaring. They would even go with after a fallout: “Oh I never really knew the guy” as if they are so innocent and completely had nothing to do with the person they are in conflict with. But the person they are in conflict has actually been their “bff” or “gff” for a long time.

Another classic example is when the one dumped ends up telling everyone that he or she did the breaking up. A complete opposite of what really happened.

When normally sane people talk about narcissists, they talk about it in a level as if it’s a sad thing that it’s happening. They feel that it’s a shame that it’s happening. They would talk about how they viewed the narcissist positively in spite of it all.

Misery loves company. Narcissists constantly feel alone so it makes them feel good about themselves knowing that there is somebody who can be miserable like them. They feel good about themselves when they feel they can bring someone down as it makes them feel higher.

As friend of mine once said, “They’re pullers; they pull people down.”

“I am a recovering narcissist. I thought narcissism was about self-love ‘till someone told me there is a flip side to it. It is actually drearier than self-love; it is unrequited self-love.”

– Emily Levine, American humorist, writer and public speaker

It was obvious with one narcissistic ex-roommate I encountered 6 years ago that he was so focused on destroying my character or obsessing on my flaws or miseries to everyone he knows. He shared the stories of misdeeds and flaws of other people to me. He was so obsessed on the character and misery of other people he knows. It didn’t take me long enough to realize that he does it to make him feel better. It made him feel “high” by putting someone so low. It made him feel that he’s not the only miserable one.

Other common things narcissists tend to obsess about to make themselves feel better is when they love targeting someone else’s financial situation. As an example, if someone used to own a house but decided to move out of state and is just renting, they would easily assume that someone had a foreclosure. It’s a negative conclusion upfront. They love using the ‘financial situation’ scenario to make them feel good with known expressions such as “oh their business is doing bad” or “he’s broke.”

Sometimes they would also make your life their business where it’s not theirs to begin with, giving unsolicited advice due to their inability to empathize. It could be anything about your life, dishing whatever they think on matters such as your love life as if they know better. This is because they demonstrate an “abnormally developed capacity to criticize others (as in, “dish it out” to them).”  They can only ‘box’ you in a reality that they can only comprehend.

Their smearing goes hand in hand with their spinning methodology. If you call them out with something negative, they’ll find a way to spin the obvious negative things observed about them into something positive.

9.) THEY’RE BLACK AND WHITE THINKERS

The shades of gray or middle ground is very difficult for them to make sense of. This is often considered to be an unconscious defense mechanism for when they behave a certain way, which is not unhealthy, but they aren’t able to recognize it due to their low levels of emotional maturity or whatever developmental impairment they have. The only way for them to cope with the denial or rejection is to think in extremes that they are right and everybody else is wrong. It then becomes a major part of their thinking process.

It is their unconscious way to make sense of the world yet it is maladaptive, often leading to confusion, inciting anger and arguments.

10.) THEY’RE OPPORTUNISTS

Narcissists are opportunistic, manipulative or exploitative. If you’re not strong with establishing your boundaries, you would just keep letting a lot of things slide until they all blow up. They’ll find ways to take advantage of you or make you look silly to anyone they can talk to, especially to their friends and family (or their enablers).

They’ll take advantage of you to pass on the blame, their issues, their conflicts, and anything that would get them what they want. Consider them as psychological thieves. After all, they would do anything to protect their false selves as ‘perfectly cool’ angels. If they are not perfect, they quickly swing to acting as somebody you can sympathize with such as being the hero, the savior, the martyr or the victim.

Narcissism is considered to be a psychological immune response. The tougher it is to go back from as it becomes a full blown one. But the more all the traits described herein are simultaneously and consistently present in an individual, the likelihood of full blown narcissism along with other Cluster B traits becomes higher.

Mind you, they are persons just like you. They are persons too but happened to have been hurt pretty bad or never got the chance to truly develop or grow. But let’s be honest. They need intervention, they need serious help. This is not something that can be solved by “love” or by letting it be; or even talking with the actual narcissist about it as if you can you change him or her. Recognize the signs. The 10 narcissistic ways or traits mentioned herein are often tolerated as if they are okay. They are not okay.

Narcissism is on the rise and in high likelihood together with other Cluster B traits. The challenge begins in striving for and fostering a healthy environment not conducive to these traits, and to acknowledge and address the presence of these traits — especially in yourself.

 

MAC RIVERA

MAC RIVERA

Founding Writer at Project Man Beyond
He woke up one day and decided to write. He currently focuses on self-development and is exploring many fields of human knowledge. In this site you will find his writings and perspectives about our society & culture – most of which are counter-intuitive yet backed by experience, common sense and science.

Read more at http://www.projectmanbeyond.com/narcissism/#6cGt1lD0pz3X70rz.99

Meditate like a boss

Check this out…. courtesy of: http://www.hundredblog.com/chatter/how-to-change-your-life-through-meditation?rq=meditate

Ah, Meditation.

I feel with meditation it’s like, when you know you know – and for so long I did not know.

Meditation has sooo many benefits for people that do it regularly, and the benefits only maximize over time.

Its been shown to:

  • increase memory and attention (through increasing grey matter in areas related to memory)
  • increase brain volume specifically in areas related to emotional regulation, positive emotions and self control (Yes please! Ladies you feel me!)
  • Decrease depression
  • Increase immunity 
  • Improve your sleep
  • Decrease anxiety 
  • regulate hormone levels (which helps with weight loss, appetite) 

This short list includes only a few of the amazing benefits all proven by science. It’s rad right? Natural, free and accessible for everyone. 

Including all of these things on that list and more, meditation has changed my life.

Have I ever told you that Justin always says I’m ‘cool but not chill’. LOL I’m serious.

It’s true I just don’t sit around easily, I can’t/don’t watch TV or movies period. I’m bored soooo easily. I just can’t really sit around and relax, like, ever.

But meditation has helped me to chill, be present, and reeee-lllaaxxxx.

It’s has enabled me to eliminate my nagging loop thoughts (‘what am I doing with my life’ sort of stuff…), anxious feelings, or any quick reactions of impatience I had previously. Because of it I’m a better girlfriend, friend, employee and stranger (like I manage on the NYC subway everyday).

I’ve been meditating daily for about 2 years now. I increase and decrease the amount of time I do it based upon if I need it or if I have time – I’m not so strict about it. This teacher on our Patagonia trip taught me, and although it didn’t stick so much then, it does now.

Okay so, full disclosure. It’s not easy to meditate, per say, just takes patience. The difficulty lies in continually trying to quiet your mind, and clear your thoughts.

There are numerous ways to meditate, with various methods and philosophies all basically in the same vein. I’ve done workshops on Transcendental Meditation (TM) and I know there are four other ways, but let’s keep it simple.

These are some of the easy steps I pulled from various centers and teachers from the Tibet House to the Chopra Center, that are helpful to start your medi journey.

IMG_7830.JPG

Let’s get to it (medis’ for all):

  1. Number one baby. Eliminate any excuses you could have to not take time to meditate. Like, put the phone on silent, make sure your roommate knows what’s up for the next 20, just commit to that time. In the morning is good, because theres often less distracting you (hopefully not yet at least!) They say you should do it, after you wake, before you eat, and start your day. I’m too hungry so I eat, and then sit, but just so you know what it’s like by the books.
  2. Sit in a comfortable, dark, quiet space. Just a place you can be sure to relax and not fidget. I have a blanket folded up in our bathroom (NYC Life) that I sit crossed legged on. I like that it’s dark, small and quiet in there so I can focus. You can meditate with lights on, anywhere technically, but when you first start out you want to be able to relax. Dark is good because you’re not so alert (light signals to your brain it’s day and you should be active), and you can fall into it much more easily. So quiet, dark, seated comfortably. Checkkkkkk.
  3. Close ya eyes but don’t fall asleep! LOL meditation is relaxing but not sleeping. Sometimes I swear Justin just takes naps when he says he’s meditating haha.
  4. Feel all 5 senses. Like, feel your sit bones connect to the ground, feel the weight of your body, feel the air around you, feel your breath, and feel the clothes resting on your body. Going through these helps you to really be present and in your space. (Another trick: if you don’t have time or are not in the right space, you can also connect to your physical senses sitting in a chair to bring yourself to be more present by using this awareness technique).
  5. Focus on your breath, continuously, or your mantra. In the practice of Transcendental Meditation, you’re given a mantra which helps to signify to your body that you’re going to release and fall into meditation. This focus and release, is honestly the part where people get frustrated and quit. It took me at least two months of sitting there trying to shut off my thoughts, getting frustrated because I couldn’t turn off before I let go and fell into it. It does take time. But if you think about it, your brain is on all.day.long. you give your body a break from working out but not your brain from working all day erryday. It needs that shut down, that release, to help you perform optimally. You don’t need a mantra, but it’s helpful for focus. A few mantras (a word or phrase you repeat over and over again) I use are: ‘I am’ or ‘clear’ which signal to my body and brain to drop into a meditative state much more quickly.
  6. Don’t judge your thoughts, but notice them. what sort of continuously shows up when you’re trying to quiet your mind. I read once to ‘see your thoughts as a sailboat, drifting by’ as in, you are not attached to those thoughts or the emotions that come with them, you are watching them from afar drift by in your mind. You watch them, remaining calm. LOL I see sailboats, I know I’m a loon whatevs.
  7. If you can’t get into it, appreciate that you took time for yourself.
  8. After 5-20 minutes, however long you decide to dedicate to your relaxation, your clear mind, your health, you can slowly ‘start to bring awareness back to your body. Wiggle them toes and shit so you don’t fall or anything when you try to get up.

This shouldn’t be torture. Again, if you’re hearing that you want to get up, get up, follow that. Maybe try it again later if you’re more able to get in to it. Use that time sitting on the floor in your bathroom to be grateful as fuck you are alive, for the ones you love, and find joy as much joy as you can in the present moment.

Sometimes you can get in it, sometimes not, depends on the place, how you’re feeling, your energy level, etc. it just takes practice. There are times when I literally drop so hard into a meditative state and others when it just will not happen. Both, are okay because you allow them to be okay.

If you want to read more about meditation, and the benefits you can read here. If you live in New York City, there are two places I highly recommend going to the Tibet House or Transcendental Meditation Center of NYC.

I’m hopeful this helps provide baby steps to clearing your mind and making you a little happier. Any questions, ask away, this shit I love! 🙂

Krista xx

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Ho’oponopono (Ho Oh Pono Pono) roughly translated as “to make right”“to correct”, is an ancient transformational and healing technique originating in Hawaii. Its simple message of 100% responsibility, repentance, and gratitude has been changing the lives of all it touches. Originally practiced by the native Hawaiians Ho’oponopono was primarily a group based ceremony, used to solve community based problems, and disputes and it has ties and similarities to many indigenous shamanic practices found throughout the world.

The Ancient Hawaiians understood the power of the mind. Centuries before mainstream science they identified the distinction between the Conscious, Subconscious, and Super-Conscious minds, and the part they play in forming our present day circumstances.
This knowledge was considered so important that they built their whole belief system Huna (The Secret) around it..
So what exactly is Ho’oponopono? Is it really so easy? Does it work? Why does it work? How do you do it? What can it do for me?
This book will answer these questions and many more, examining its origins, development, and the philosophy that underpins it.
It will provide you with all the knowledge and information you need, guiding you through the Ho’oponopono process step by step with sample mantras so you can begin practising right away.
We’ll look at why this deceptively easy, but extremely powerful process, is changing the lives of all it touches.
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Courtesy of: http://ho-oponopono-explained.com/

How One Event Can Cause Someone To Make A Complete Change Of Lifestyle

Aurora borealis

Aurora borealis at Prelude Lake

Two years have gone by since I first laid eyes on the aurora borealis. At the time, I was one of numerous tourists who make the pilgrimage to Yellowknife. Since then I’ve seen them countless times, and  I can never be bored with them. If you’re wondering where to see northern lights, Yellowknife bills itself as the aurora viewing capital of North America, so it’s a tourist haven. There is even a web site where you can check the forecast for the northern lights tonight. One of the things that’s intriguing about living in Yellowknife is how the fascinating can be so ordinary.  On some clear nights when I’ve been downtown, I have looked up and seen the aurora borealis, despite all the city lights. It is wondrous to me that there is something dancing in the sky, yet people who have lived here for a long time don’t even look up. I am the equivalent of the person who has never seen the sea, who takes up residence on an island. Something as mundane as going outside to put out the garbage can take me a long time, because sometimes I see the northern lights directly overhead, so I stay out for a while.

I’ve heard it said that you can call the aurora borealis to you by whistling, but I haven’t tried it. Given that it’s 100km away, I suspect that my whistling might be in vain. What I do know is that it has a presence, which must be felt to be understood. Sometimes it hovers overhead with a tail, like a genie that has escaped from a bottle, at other times it’s a narrow streak across the sky, and on occasion it presents as a magnificent shimmering stage curtain in the distance. Its forms are endless, and its energy is always beneficent. I’m told that the colder the temperature, the better the aurora. That was certainly the case the first time that I trekked to Yellowknife and witnessed a spectacular show in the sky, on a bitterly cold night.  Despite all of the subsequent viewings, that first time was the most dazzling, and it remains seared into my memory. This is my account of that trip.

It all began in the month of December, when a friend showed me photos of the aurora borealis over Yellowknife, and encouraged me to experience the unique appeal of this northern capital city. I had recently returned to Toronto after spending Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago, and I was resolved to do some things out of the ordinary in the next year. Travelling into the inhospitable winter of 62° north of the Equator certainly wasn’t something that I’d ordinarily do, especially having just left the life-sustaining warmth of 10° north. Back then I lived in Toronto, the alleged centre of the universe, where “up north” was  mentioned with a dismissive wave of the hand, as if it were a galaxy far away.

Since I’d never been up north, early in the New Year, I made the decision to explore the far-away galaxy. In preparation, I bought a balaclava, extreme weather thermal clothing, and boots guaranteed for warmth at sub-zero temperatures. They were also guaranteed to be the most ferociously ugly, clumsy footwear I would ever own, although, to my amusement, the salesperson thought that my choice was “the fashionable version”. When I tried on the balaclava I looked like a bank robber, but in those ungainly boots, I’d never make it to the getaway car.

Aurora borealis - bootsFashionably ugly boots

The day arrived and the journey from Toronto commenced rather inauspiciously. A late flight departure resulted in missing the airline’s sole connecting flight, turning the 7-hour trip into a 16-hour endurance test. Luckily, there were other passengers in the same predicament. So after some eight hours in the Edmonton airport, I acquired two new friends, secured a dog-sledding partner, and managed to arrive in Yellowknife that night. As the plane approached the city, I scanned the dark skies for anything like what I’d seen in the pictures, but was disappointed to find them as unexciting as the skies in Toronto.

The next day, my first stop was the Visitors Centre, where I armed myself with a tourist map and some advice from the staff.  I then set off to explore the city on foot. During my first 2 days, I browsed the exhibits at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, toured the beautifully symbolic Legislative Assembly building, and walked around the quirky Old Town. The city was intimate, enchanting, politically remarkable and historically fascinating.

However, my quest was for the aurora borealis. On the first two nights it evaded me, as the sky was cloudy. Truth be told, I fell asleep waiting up on the second night. For my third night, I decided to take one of those northern lights tours, which were done north of the city, to escape the clouds and light pollution. I was fortunate to be referred to Joe, a tour guide of the Dene First Nation, and I made arrangements in no time.

Around 11pm, he picked us up from various locations – a group of six in all – in a big SUV. We drove about 20km out of the city, along the Ingraham Trail, to the frozen Prosperous Lake. We stood on the frozen lake in the cold, staring at the sky for some time. The temperature was at least -34°C, and with the wind chill it was about -45°C. Silly me, I had the absurd idea that the northern lights would grace the sky all night, but I learned that it was a waiting game. Nothing appeared, so we drove some 10km farther, to Prelude Lake, another frozen expanse, where a bitter wind howled freely, making the place as cold as Hell. My days of Catholic school are long behind me, and I’m now wise enough to know that all that talk about the fires of Hell was utter nonsense. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that any hell absolutely must be a freezing cold place.

As we waited and watched the sky, some faint, milky streaks eventually began to form, like clouds stretched into the shape of a broad jet-stream. Joe informed us that the aurora borealis moves from east to west, so if we were ever to get lost, we could ascertain our direction by it. That was good to learn, but by no stretch of the imagination was I planning to wander off and get lost out there. The streaks moved around, sometimes in parallel, at times forking into each other, yet still faint and white, not particularly captivating, nor vaguely akin to the supernatural green shapes that I’d seen in the photos. They didn’t show up on my camera, which began behaving erratically in the cold, issuing low battery warnings and shutting itself off, despite having been fully charged. Whenever it humoured me and decided to work, my frozen fingers didn’t, so I soon abandoned all attempts to take any pictures.

We were somewhat disheartened that not much was happening, but Joe maintained that the lights would brighten and with luck, they might even dance. He then warned us that unusually large wolf packs had been sighted recently and if any appeared, we were not to panic, but we should return to the vehicle, quietly, in an orderly fashion, and immediately. The aurora not co-operating, the temperature hellish, and now we had to worry about being eaten by wolves. Strange enough, the tourist guides had omitted even the vaguest hint of any of this. I had stuffed three layers of clothing under my goose-down coat, and I was wearing gloves inside my mittens, a hat and a hood, running tights and jeans, plus two pairs of socks inside my godawful, hideous boots. So although I did scan the surrounding area for any sign of man-eating creatures, I consoled myself that only sabre-toothed wolves could bite through my Michelin Man outfit, and I decided not to worry about it.

Joe is very passionate about preserving the Dene culture. While we waited, he talked about the dying generation of elders and regaled us with tales of his childhood: that he used to lie in the snow to watch the aurora and that, when he misbehaved, his grandparents would threaten that the lights would swoop down to get him. Funny that regardless of the culture, it seems universal that children are threatened with bogey-men.

Despite being warmly attired, my feet soon began to turn into blocks of ice, so every now and then, I was forced to return to the idling vehicle to warm up. Nothing much was happening in the sky anyway, so there was no sense risking frostbite. I wasn’t the only one hopping in and out, so I felt vindicated. By 1:30am the streaks had brightened a wee bit, which had raised our expectations, but then they had faded again, along with our hopes. Joe declared that we’d stay for a few minutes more, then we’d call it a night. Shortly, we filed dejectedly into the truck, but as Joe was folding up the last chair, he urged us to get out quickly, because the aurora was starting to dance.

Aurora borealis Prelude LakeAurora borealis at Prelude Lake

We scrambled back out and what an exquisite dance it was! The sky had turned from faint, white, horizontal streaks into wildly gyrating, intersecting, colliding figures of light green. They danced a swooping and swirling dance, rippled like the sea as the wind passes over it, circled and shimmied, formed funnels like tornadoes, rocketed into the heavens, dove back to the earth like meteors, and they danced the most breath-takingly beautiful dance, like an ethereal Tango that spoke to my soul. It was the most moving, awe-inspiring sight that I’d ever beheld. It was well worth every frosty minute of waiting, to witness this magical spirit in the sky, and to feel its soothing presence. I don’t know how long it lasted, but when the dance was over and the lights had faded, I had to remind myself to breathe. We remained transfixed in our tracks, continuing to stare at the heavens, not sure what to expect, speechless. Reluctantly, we wrenched our eyes away, slowly piled into the truck and headed back to town, in mesmerized silence.

Two nights later, I dined at a popular restaurant in Old Town, and as is the custom, I found an inch of space and added my scribble to the other writings on the ceiling. Seemingly of its own volition, my hand wrote “I’ll be back”. Deep down, I suppose I already knew that I’d be returning to Yellowknife.

Aurora borealis over the Great Slave LakeAurora borealis over the Great Slave Lake

Aurora borealisAurora borealis over the Great Slave Lake

Copyright © Kathryn Birchwood and FrozenTrini 2013. The use and/or duplication of this material without the express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are unauthorised and strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kathryn Birchwood and FrozenTrini, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Courtesy of: http://frozentrini.com/2013/02/28/aurora-borealis-a-dance-out-of-this-world

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