Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde and Narcissism – a common theme?

A phrase that is used quite frequently with narcissists is “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.  The original movie actually had to do with someone who actually had split personalities, which came about because of dissociative disorder.  Dissociation is a defence mechanism – commonly used by children who are enduring abuse and basically energetically “leave their body” to avoid pain.

Perhaps there’s a connection between the two disorders, as some experts theorize that maybe narcissism is a product of something traumatic happening to the child when they are young, which stops them from emotionally growing beyond that point.

Nonetheless – we all see it.  The guy/gal we started with doesn’t even begin to mirror who we are dealing with now.  I think, actually, that the shift starts to occur most frequently from Jekyll to Hyde at the point in the relationship when the narcissist feels that the relationship is solid.

Yesterday, I had a very even keel conversation with my ex.  We discussed kid’s parties for the weekend, and he suggested that I take the kids to the party on Saturday when he needs to be working anyway.  The odd part is that he wanted something in return for that – more time on the end of his weekend.  It’s a win/lose game, isn’t it?  And the children are the monopoly money.

He then left with the kids and they report having had a really fun time with him.  This is the person that we all wish we he was – that this is the parent that our kids were hanging out with – patient, playful, fun.  But then there’s the Mr. Hyde side… where he, within a split second, can turn into a scathing beast, and lash out in anger at you.  Minutes later, he can completely change his tone and say he didn’t mean any of what he said and it didn’t bother him – so why should it bother you?  Or he can not say anything, and act like it never happened.  It’s disorienting, to say the least.

When I hear the term from someone else in a relationship, and they refer to their spouse that way, the proverbial hair on the back of my neck stands up.  It isn’t always easy to figure out someone quickly – are they narcissistic, or is it that they just were having a bad moment, as we all do?  I recently heard someone I am close to used Jekyll/Hyde to describe their spouse, and felt nervous.  Could it be? I’ve known this person for years, but there are definite parts which feel sketchy to me, and similar to most abusive relationships – it shows up mostly to my friend in private.

Oh how I wish my children’s father was always the Dr.Jekyll, and that when they were with their father it was easy, peaceful and stress-free.  But.. Mr. Hyde lives in there too, and I have to be constantly, diligently wary of that truth.


19 Responses to “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde and Narcissism – a common theme?”

  1. Kay says:

    Very helpful thanks.
    I nurse a broken heart over the wondeful man I let go. And who then very quickly moved on -to my incredulity and hurt and shock and distraughtness and married quixkly thereafter. But he was prone to rash decisions I knew that. As time goes by I recall the wondeful days at first and think to myself “why did you let him go? ! ” Yet those were the good times – and they were many and wondeful . But- but – I didnt marry him as, months into our relationship, out of the blue came another side. He could turn . I had had no cause to consider personality disorders in my life so had read nothing – I recall saying “it’s like Jekylll and Hyde”. But it frightened me. The gradient from “Wonderful” to a different man was so steep . And rarely did it come out with angry words – usually it was passive aggression -& that was scary. He’d dissociate from me. He’s punish me for precious little . He’d never be out hurt. Maybe it was the pain of a very difficult first marriage . Whatever – his punishment did not fit my crime and I was left just not knowing when the other side would come. And so the prospect of significant times of walking on egg shells through the rest of my life was much part of why I didn’t say “I do”
    And why we parted company. So lonely now – but I’m Not afraid and trapped . Thank you for your article – it reminds me why Iade the choices Indid and shows me Im not alone in this situation !!!

  2. heather says:

    Dealing with it right now. Literally went in the store to get some ice cream, while we waited in the car. He left blowing me kisses and came back snarling. I thought something went on in the store that upset him but no its just Hyde. Then after ignoring me for three hours, he does the ‘lets have sex tonite’ sign like I’m supposed to be in the mood. What a real jerk.

  3. sherry says:

    I’m with a Jekyll and Hyde personality he has been married four times I see why when I first met him he was the sweetest guy you could meet after a year we moved in with each other that’s when I started seeing his other side. I would hear him yelling at his ex and his mom being a jurk big red flag yesterday I told him his anxiety was getting bad he yelled and talked down where I had to leave the room he said it was my fault if I wouldn’t put him down he wouldn’t do it the only way it will.get better is if he serious about getting help witch he is not so it’s time to move on for my peace and health done being talked down to and lashed out at the reason I stayed so long was for the good side

  4. leo capatra says:

    i know im like i am like a jackal and hyde im bad very bad yore stepbrother beats you on iin a bike rase you swich into hyde and bust his lip and nose with a stone. then all of a sudden you fell bad then i say im sorry he shrugs it off. as jackal and dont have a amoshion of sorrow. but hyde just comes back and i let go and pick up the bike and throw it at him angree and mad i never say im sorry unles im jackal to day i dont talk to my nabers next door i am hide a lot i wish he wold die some time but whin im jackal i dont lash out at him a perfet jackal and hyde persanality. one time i pupesly drove his truck into the river why you asked? becouse i remember he put his truck in my yard. mostly im cunning very inteligent foxy and a chamer as jackal and hyde. i did apolagise for ruruing is truck we are not freands and mostly im hyde than jackal

  5. Irena says:

    I have been living with a daughter since she was l0 with a jeckel/hyde personality….Even her teacher asked me why acted like a jeckel/hyde person.

    She is now 40 some and its very rough, as she has a daughter….I need help….Is there a group that meets somewhere to help??? thanks, Irena

  6. Kaz says:

    I have just been in mediation with my ex Oh my what an eye opener that was. I suspected he was a narcissist only last month when I became aware of the disorder and he fits the bill to a tee. Today I have been subjected to him lying at every turn to make himself look great except he has hung himself quite badly contradicting and behaving like a spoiled child (the I want it my way or the High way) even when I was compromising. Telling me that my two year old didnt want to come back to me when he was with him cause he enjoyed being with him so much( he is going to miss his dad of cause he is no question) but to say he doesnt even want to be with me is too far. Looking on my Facebook to see if I had put anything etc about him.(Not glad he is taking the time out to do that ill tell you) and wanted me to stop putting how I felt on there (didnt name names tho)but it must be to do with him obviously control. Not acknowledging when my son asks or mentions me either 🙁 just ignores it and makes a huge fuss about missing our son crying sometimes then just leaving him or being okay suddenly with a big smile on his face when damage is done.

    Then all changed when we was finished nice as pie but then text every two mins about things that could have waited seems like one extreme to another with no calm or space in between. Either all guns blazing im taking you to court or extremely nice.

    worrying to say the least egg shells are under foot and also you loose hope of it ever changing as the amount of let downs etc or changes from good to bad in an instant really confuse and make you feel like you cant trust again.

    All men cant be like this surly?

    It is a challenge to raise a child with this sort of thing going on as being a solid base without stress pulls on all your resources and tires you out mentally. Any tips Natalia please would help 🙂 dont want to be run down so it effects my son.

  7. Karin says:

    I used that exact phrase to describe my ex too many times to count during our marriage. In thinking about starting a new relationship I am definitely looking for someone who is the same person in the morning as they are in the evening – a trait that my ex did not have. You never knew who was going to walk through the door, which left you in a constant state of worry.

    • So true, and this is what our kids are growing up with. Their brains are developing in what is likely a constant or often state of heightened anxiety, unsure of what reaction they will get.

  8. Jenni says:

    We so experienced this the weekend of my engagement to my husband, which also happened to be the weekend of his son’s 5th birthday. He and his ex were putting on the party together. She heard from the boys the day before that we had gotten engaged. She hugged me when we arrived at the party, made a comment like “Welcome to our crazy family!” and was quite civil through the whole party, and then as we were packing everything up and cleaning, WHAM, her creepy random neighbor serves my husband court papers to reduce time with his kids… I have never felt so blind sided in my life! It was then that I realized I was not going to be dealing with a “normal” ex. She could smile and drip syrup from her lips, only to turn around and bite you in the keister.

  9. Heather says:

    Oh god this so hits it. The cursing at me yesterday while I’m doing him a favor. Kids come back saying they had a great time but acting like a train wreck. And of course once he got what he wanted… Dr jekyll never comes back out!!!

  10. Trina says:

    This just reminds me about how volatile they are! I really don’t want to keep this war going but have no choice as my son’s life is hanging in the balance. It just seems like the more we fight the more we end up under attack… Is it just me or does it seems like we are feeding into them and the chaos that they love so much when we fight back!!! Will the battles or war ever end?

    • I think that you are right in that the more we fight, the more they fight. Even if they just perceive us to be fighting or doing something that might wrong them… I know some people see a narcissistic parent fade from their lives, but I don’t know what that magic pill is that makes them do it (wish I did). Stay strong for your son!

  11. JenelleMarie says:

    I have also noticed since I finally ‘saw the truth’ with my ex N that I have had a much easier time identifying the difference between just typical human nature and then BPD issues. I had a similar situation and it gave me goose bumps and my heart starting racing and i thought, “but no i’d have seen it sooner”. But would I?

    I was so secretive in my own marriage about the abuse and Mr. Hyde when the entire world saw Dr. Jekyll and part of my enabling was that I WANTED to be married to Dr. Jekyll and so I worked my butt off at helping Mr. Hyde be hidden from the world, even my closest friends and family. Only making me look crazy when I finally started to come forward with the truth. The irony is my family is familiar with mental health issues, my mother is bi-polar . . . but none were able to see the BPD in my ex until the very end and when i had hard proof and finally spoke parts of my story.

    It is crucial for those of us who have been through this to speak our story, no matter how hard it is or how crazy the courts and our exes want the world to believe we are. Strength is in numbers and the more we share, the more OTHERS will start to identify and see that there is no healthy marriage with Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde!

    Your blog has been one of the empowering tools for me because it has helped me speak up louder and louder, and now my ex cannot silence me. By empowering women you are not only helping others learn how to raise solid, well adjusted adults you are helping us heal ourselves and help others as well. That is the positive I choose to take from this wretched situation our children are in: that our children WILL be strong, healthy, well adjusted adults who will have had strong and truly loving mother figures who not only healed themselves and others, but helped to change the world a bit at a time with peace and love instead of destruction and pain. Keep blogging!

    • I agree, it is vital that we speak up about it. I have found it liberating – and (at least for me), speaking up can be done in a matter-of-fact way. It’s not to get even, it’s that these are the challenges that ex’s and children face in dealing with someone who is disordered (I have always loved when people point out that it is “DIS-order”… i.e. there isn’t any order with them). Thanks for cheering me on. I hope you’re feeling stronger about what’s been going on this week for your kids.

  12. Emma says:

    Fingers crossed….. You’ve just inspired me to re-read it, as I can’t remember the ending (although I suspect it might simply be that he dies).

    I am glad to read your blog, i wish you werent in this position of course, but it’s a great companion in this crazy world involving my boyfriend’s npd bpd behaving ex, severely psychologically disturbed teen stepson and so-far-well-adjusted preschooler daughter. Every situation is a little different but your posts have a very positive vibe that’s still realistic. We live day to day, never planning for the future, as the possibilities are infinite and often horrendous (family court dispute still underway and we have an independent children’s lawyer who has no idea, amongst the rest of the PD lies etc). But the turning point has been reaching some sort of acceptance – she will always be trying to wreck things and it’s ok to emotionally let go of that and reclaim some of our lives

    Sorry for the rambling comment – just wanted to say thanks, really!

    • Thank you 🙂 You are right – every situation is different but the frustration and pain is the same (difficult!). One of my biggest goals is raising solid, well adjusted children despite what they have to deal with – and understanding what it takes to do that clearly enough to pass it along to others! (now there’s the real challenge…)

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