Are you in relationship with a Narcissist?
The word ‘Narcissist’ is a loaded term, however – if you have ever been on the receiving end of a verbal, psychological or even physical attack delivered by a ‘Narcissist’ or someone with narcissistic traits – you will have first hand experience of what ‘loaded’ actually means. Bullying is far from ideal but Narcissists take bullying to another level of torment for the target.
The character traits that spring to mind when we try to understand the term ‘Narcissist’ are concepts like ‘selfish’, being self interested, having an inflated view of abilities, importance, talent – even relevance. There are also growing statistics regarding the prevalence of narcissism among certain professions or positions in the world.
We know, for example – a person with narcissistic traits will seek power and try to get themselves in to professional roles where they are ‘important’ or are perceived to be ‘important’, where they have power and control over other people. Often these same roles associated with significant responsibility, which is where – the trouble begins.
We all need people in roles of responsibility to be able to meet the challenges of those responsibilites. A Narcissist has a completely different agenda and wants nothing at all to do with responsibility much less provide care or anything else to others. Their focus is entirely on themselves.
How would I know if I am with a Narcissist?
I know we live in an era where we all practice the art of self diagnosis via Dr Google, so it is with trepidation that I list some diagnostic criteria. It is true, the practice of medicine, psychology and psychiatry – is shrouded in obscurity – (just quietly I suspect a protectionist policy and attempt to keep this knowledge secret) but as you know I am all about transparency, empowerment, self determination and autonomy.
So I am going to give you some road signs, but self diagnose cautiously – a label does not a treatment or solution make. It can help you understand what you are dealing with and can point you in the direction of growth. But – labeling yourself, your partner or another person as a narcissist is a back handed way of asserting power … it is neither powerful, nor empowering or transformative of yourself or the other. It is more similar to the habits and actions of a narcissistic person than any of us would like to believe we are capable. So label cautiously Dr Google.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
A diagnosis of NPD is in part determined by the presence of at least 5 of the following symptoms.
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
What motivates a Narcissist?
A Narcissist in very simple terms speaks the language of empathy to establish rapport but is entirely incapable of any real empathy because their personality construction is disordered. They have a ‘condition’ known as a Personality Disorder.
Explaining what a Personality Disorder looks like is a bit tricky. If we assume our Personality is a kind of attention management system, a kind of perception organ – and it grows in a relationship with someone, when we are young, who gets us – gets the way we feel. Through our interaction with this person, often the person is our Mother, we build up an internal representation of who we are, or our felt experience of “I”. Freud called this sense of “I”, the Ego.
A person who has significant Narcissistic Traits or meets the criteria for a formal diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) relates to everyone and everything as if they were … their Mother. This is not good. The person with NPD or NPD traits does not evolve or grow because they project their emotions, feeling of love, admiration and also hatred, jealousy and rage, on to everyone around them – but to the Narcissist, this behaviour seems perfectly appropriate.
Narcissists are prone to addictions of all kinds, chaotic outbursts of emotion (crying, screaming, smashing things), distorted perception, cruelty, immaturity, rages, impulsive behaviour. Interestingly Narcissists often attract a very empathy partner who, unable to comprehend their extreme patterns of thinking and doing, keeps trying to reason with them and nurture them through their pain.
What else is there to say …?
Maternal Narcissism leaves wounds in the psyche that sear the Self. They can be healed … but like anything of value, it takes time and patience and time and persistence and patience and … time.
There is a lot more to say about Narcissism and NPD. It is also true that a certain amount of narcissism is needed for healthy functioning and even survival. Too much, however, is diabolical. I will speak more about this in the future. You will know you are around a Narcissist when something deep inside you, where your Authentic Self sits – starts screaming and feeling completely … invisible and sort of ripped apart. The person you are speaking to conveniently draws you in close, but never quite gets you. If you have ever had this experience … RUN! And do not look back!
We will talk more on these things soon.