How I discover a book that described people I knew.
My first inkling that some people act in similar ways, and so can fit into categories, came as I read the Canadian author Margaret Atwood's book The Robber Bride. As I read how three different women described Zenia, the femme fatale villain, I was struck by her resemblance to women and men I knew. There is some speculation that the character is based on a woman in Toronto society with a nasty reputation for using and abusing friends, male and female. (Can a woman be accused of misogyny when she hates another woman? Evidently this person received her comeuppance)
Zenia plays the character usually reserved for a man, someone who climbs to the top without counting the lives she destroys. She is chameleon like, manipulative, seductive and often admirable. The three woman friends in the book have good reasons to hate her.
After reading the book, I realized Atwood had described someone I knew who had been very toxic. I recommended the book to several people - asking them if they saw the similarities - some did, others didn't.
I knew that I was seeing a pattern of behavior, but I lacked the knowledge to give it a name. I was 'vacuuming in the dark.' As I read other books, I saw the same type of person described, over and over. In my personal and professional life, I had seen variations of the same kind of person.
Who are these people? I eventually found out.
Prologue - a few years before.
When I was young, I watched a Twilight Zone TV show about Aliens who came to earth in friendship bearing gifts, one of them a book. The wonderful charming aliens started transporting Earth people to their planet. Meanwhile a team of scientists try to crack their language and translate the gift book. In the final scene they discover the title of the book; How to cook Earthlings. It scared the dickens out of me.
Now I understand why. My unconscious understood the TV program was a metaphor of what it is like to live with certain people; how they eat you up and destroy you. All the time they are smiling, while no one has the slightest idea what is going on. Wolves in lamb's clothing - Narcissists.