A couple of days ago I was thinking about the movie The Matrix and started noticing parallels between the story and narcissistic abuse. I quickly identified at least 5 analogies right from the get go and the more I thought about it, the more evident it became, that the brilliance of the movie speaks about much, much more than meets the eyes. I have watched it enough times to be extremely familiar with most scenes and many times in the past have noticed possible analogies with a variety of subjects and paradigms, completely unrelated to abuse. So it was quite easy for me to start identifying how many aspects of narcissistic abuse can be better explained and understood through the narrative and its subtleties. Analogies are powerful tools in understanding concepts that can be difficult to grasp.
I started watching the movie again to see what else I might be missing. I’m still going through this process and I’m sure I’ll have quite a long list in my hands by the time the movie is over. But in the meantime, I figured more people surely must have noticed the same similarities I did. Sure enough, I did find quite a few mentions and the video below. I will split my own findings in a series to avoid excessively long posts, so stay tuned more on this subject if you’re interested. For now, let’s start with the video and the analysis of one scene in particular.
Neo is silenced and “bugged”
In this scene, the agent first tries to gaslight Neo into a deal, making it sound like somehow it will be beneficial to him. Of course, nothing about this deal benefits Neo, but is being presented in a manipulative manner in accordance to the agent’s agenda. When Neo stands up for himself and presents the agent with a statement about his rights, he is silenced through intimidation and an actual blocking of his mouth.
This is exactly what the narcissist does. They will first try to gaslight you into buying into their version of the facts. Non compliance with their agenda results in intimidation (“the compliant has a future, the non compliant does not”). If you dare to stand up for yourself, the narcissist will find a way to show you have no active voice. Silence you. To make sure you are unable to speak. Something similar to what happens to Neo’s lips happens to victim’s brains. We become unable to speak up, to reach for help, to make our rights validated and our words heard. I have personally lived many, many instances of this dynamic: “If you don’t go, I will divorce you”, “I don’t care how you feel, act like you’re having a good time” (after intimidating me by violently punching the steering wheel as a result of me standing up for myself). Intimidation, coercion into silence.
Next, they proceed with the process of “bugging” Neo. The device inserts itself through his belly button and is intended for tracking. Neo then wakes up in his bed and assumes it was a nightmare. But it feels so real!! Was it real? Did he imagine this?
This analogy is a bit off, but still worth mentioning. The narcissist will do something very similar: “implant” a mechanism in your brain that doesn’t exactly track you, but provides the narcissist with a sense of enough control over you that ensures you are doing self tracking and monitoring. Which in turn will still lead you to exactly where he needs you to be. Under his or her control.
The narcissist will exploit any vulnerability you may have to try and manipulate you. In this scene, Neo’s vulnerability is being a hacker. When we take this outside of fiction and bring it into real life, victims’ vulnerabilities are of a different nature. It could be low self esteem, past abuse, fears, confrontation avoidance, poor boundaries, or even things we consider positive, such as empathy, a sense of fairness, giving people the benefit of the doubt, putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. Whatever the case may be, the narcissist will pay close attention and keep track of all possible vulnerabilities he can exploit – then use them against you as means of coercion, intimidation and manipulation for his own benefit.
“You are going to help us whether you want to or not”, the agent says. This speaks about the sense of entitlement the narcissist has, believing that what you want or think you have the right to is irrelevant and he will get you to comply to his needs and wants, do what he wants you to do and act as he wants you to act, even if it has to be done through fear, coercion and, ultimately, aggressive imposition. The narcissist typically succeeds at this: through a series of different types of psychological, emotional, or even physical abuse, you’ll be left constantly walking on eggshells. Watching your words and actions diligently in order to avoid narcissistic rage and punishment. It will affect how you run your whereabouts, your decision making processes, what you think and what you do through an intentionally implanted perception.
The narcissist will, then, question your sense of reality. Make you feel like the things you heard weren’t said or meant. What you saw or what he did, you are misinterpreting or weren’t real at all. Meanwhile, as you try to make sense of the madness, you wake up the next morning, after an episode of gaslighting, with an unsettling feeling: was that real or not? Did I really imagine what he said or have I blown it out of proportion? I shouldn’t have confronted him. I feel unsettled about this, but I can’t quite put my finger on what “this” is. But it’s in you, regardless. It’s called abuse. Being gaslighted, manipulated, intimidated is the same as being “bugged”. It keeps you under the narcissist’s control, it feels like a nightmare and, guess what? You’re still trapped in their Matrix.
I will add more to this post as I go. Stay tuned.