Narcissism is a term that is banded round with such frequency nowadays that it can be hard to work out who ‘isn’t’ being accused of the fate of the narcissistic personality.
So what does it mean?
Whilst one school of thought will brand the narcissist as the person who is in love with themselves, posting endless selfies on social media and going out of their way to ensure that attention is focussed on them the true narcissist which entered the psychology books and magazines has a deeper secret.
A narcissist is defined as being ‘a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.’
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the process affecting the lives of innocent women and men every day is a pattern of abnormal behaviour which the narcissist not only has this excessive interest in themselves but combines it with a pattern of non-empathy in which they have no understanding of other people’s feelings and in their pursuit of power, success or self-satisfaction will often take advantage of those around them. Often arrogant, self-confident and manipulative involvement with them is often to catastrophic affect.
“The fairytale beginning to the relationship sees itself falling into the clutches of the evil dragon as it holds you above a fire pit desperately hoping to be able to continue breathing as the reality of the situation sinks in.”
We will regularly read stories of individuals who have found themselves struck by such an individual, bowled over by their over the top gestures, attention and film like romantic gestures only to later discover an individual who is living a double life, duped out of money or objects, living with a serial liar or fraud and quite the polar opposite of the person that they thought. The greatest issue? The narcissist sees absolutely NO issue with their behaviours – they will even go so far as to make it your fault and in their ability to develop patterns of conversation in which they lay down psychological confusion you may even find yourself blaming yourself for something that you honestly would have had no clue about. You can argue with them until you are literally blue in the face and there will be no response, the crocodile tears for affect, the words for your own benefit, a promise to change and if you give them another chance – a repeat of the behaviours. These traits are most common in men but can be found in women and generally start in adulthood, although signs can be seen earlier in some cases.
Psych central explain that the narcissist ‘often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today……People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronising attitudes.’
So why don’t we notice?
When we are brought up our parents teach us to be ‘nice’ to one another. To trust those we care about and to help those in need. As we grow up we will learn to gauge (in most cases) those who fit into our pattern of beliefs and those who do not. Those who we find patterns of similarity with we will develop relationships with, those who don’t will remain acquaintances and occasionally people we do not wish to spend time with.
When we meet someone with a narcissistic personality we often do not register initially, often we are impressed with their forward approach, their confidence and their supposed desire to spend time with us. They often make grand gestures or maintain contact in higher frequencies than others which fulfils a desire in us and when developing a relationship with said narcissistic we will be flattered by their attention. Unless previously impacted by a similar personality our guard is down and they enter our lives in a grand gesture. Here lies the problem.
Why would you NOT want the attention from someone who appears so desirable? Who shows such interest in you?
In most cases, even if you attempt to prevent the attention they will try a little harder and in most cases they will succeed.
They will impress friends, flatter your family and on the surface appear the perfect partner…
Until something shifts…. however it shifts so subtly we often do not even notice at first…
“I didn’t even see it coming, I thought he was the love of my life”
Once netted in a narcissistic relationship the desire in us to be settled and loved will mean we will try our best to ‘make it work’ the victim of the narcissist will often find themselves tied in knots as they attempt to appease their demands, their expectation that their every need should be fulfilled. Very subtly at first everything becomes ‘your fault’ and before long arguments are all centred on you – even if they started it.
The issue with arguing with a narcissist is that they never think that they are wrong. So they will make any element of an issue ‘your fault’.
- Whether it is finding messages to another woman on their phone – it’s your fault you didn’t pay me enough attention – or the woman’s fault because she won’t leave me alone (attempting to make you feel guilty)
- Or you were ill and their plans were changed so you have to feel guilty that they missed out on time to themselves
- Perhaps you had a nice evening with friends and come home to an argument that they ‘needed you’ and you didn’t spend the evening with them – despite them earlier telling you to have a good time
- Or they get into trouble at work and before you know it you are dragged into their drama and more upset than they are
The examples are endless….the warning signs were there – so why did we miss it?
Narcissists are clever – not IQ going to change the world clever – they are manipulatively clever. Nothing is ever their fault and they have become the master of twisting situations and reverse psychology that you will find yourself twisted up inside with gut instincts and red flags yelling at you – yet still apologise to them!
And it’s NOT your fault.
Narcissists lack empathy and believe that they are above the rules, if they cannot get what they want subtly they will take any approach required to get it. They have no issue or conscious to believe that what they are doing is wrong, and their lack f empathy means that they feel no guilt about the impact of their behaviours. They will plead to be reformed characters, but know no different. They vast awareness of emotions is in direct conflict with their lack of ability to feel them and the damage that they can cause to they unsuspecting victim is priceless.
However you won’t see it coming – because we weren’t bought up to believe that evil walks among us. The fear, guilt and worry that the narcissist creates will mean that even the most clever person can find themselves sucked in and going out of their way to please this individual. The fairytale beginning to the relationship sees itself falling into the clutches of the evil dragon as it holds you above a fire pit desperately hoping to be able to continue breathing as the reality of the situation sinks in.
On walking away from a narcissist the initial relief is often coupled with emotions such as:
- over analysing
- a belief that it can be fixed
- worry and anxiety
- utter disbelief
You were not trained to see it coming. You were trained to recognise the signs of the ‘school bully’ not the signs of the ‘warped prince’. Our belief that we should help those in need is played on by the narcissist and therefore we often stay to try and help the ‘troubled soul’ believing that we CAN fix them. You can’t and it is at your own detriment.
How do I know?
I survived the narcissist.
Not before he took everything he could from me, emotionally, physically, mentally and monetary.
But I survived.
What do I know about survival?
- You were not ‘meant to know‘ – they go out of their way to ensure that you don’t.
- You were not going to stop it – even if you went back the likelihood is you would not have noticed the signs any quicker or stopped yourself being sucked in
- Your friends did not know first – just once the puzzle pieces came together it becomes obvious to everyone
- It’s not your fault – you went into the relationship with good intentions, they didn’t. That is NOT your fault.
- You were enough – they weren’t.
- You did make an effort – more effort than anyone else.
- You can’t fix them – No matter what you do or did it would not change the behaviours of a narcissist
- You can recover – it will take time and if you can have support to change your mindset towards the self-blame it will be quicker
That ‘warped prince’ will become more obvious as each day moves forward. As you grow and find your confidence you will discover that your instincts are still in tact, and whilst those first steps are tentative and slow you will grow and flourish once again with a greater sense of self. The sooner you forgive yourself and let go of the blame the easier it becomes.
More than ever I find myself working with victims of narcissists, as they reclaim their power and step forward into their own destiny, the destiny that they deserve. That treatment programme includes (but is not exhaustive):
– Changing reactions to their trigger behaviours
– Forgiveness of self
– Breaking connections to any trauma
– Letting go of any guilt
– Trusting own instincts
And when ready developing confidence in dating again.
There is a light at the other end of the tunnel…. you can survive