When you type ‘Narcissist’ into your search engine, millions (literally 138 000 000 on my search of ‘The Narcissist”) options will appear.
According to Margalis Fjelstad, PhD, LMFT a narcissist is: ‘someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a clinically diagnosed personality disorder characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others.
Narcissism seems to have become a buzzword of late, with everyone shouting out at the ‘narcissist’. In the early 2000s studies showed that because of the way we were (back then) starting to use social media, we were running the risk of an increase in narcissistic tendencies such as self-importance. Here we are in the year 2022 and people who have done little more than promoting themselves and their lives – be it the family intrigue of an American family, Instagrammers or YouTubers travelling the world – through social media, are all the rage today. Many of us get our daily fix of the news from people who have an opinion about just about everything and anything.
And so yes, we have certainly moved towards a society where individuals feel less heard and seen, and therefore are shouting even louder and becoming more ‘out there’ than ever before. Rudeness is the norm. My importance overshadows your existence. All the self-aggrandized Karens and Kens.
But even bigger than this socialite, privileged, in-your-face narcissistic personality, which might fall into the ‘Overt Narcissism Spectrum’ – and we all have an ego so we all have a level of some narcissist traits – is the various other levels of narcissism, until you get to the ‘Malignant Narcissism Spectrum’.
On the playing field in society, many of us have learned to observe and to keep quiet. It is not worth the energy to get involved in mudslinging and abusive language. Therefore the rest of the population turns around and walks away…which is ironic as the one thing the narcissist desires more than anything else, is NOT to be invalidated, to be ignored, or to be perceived as irrelevant.
But coming closer home, how do the narcissist and his/her actions play out in your life?
1. Self-doubt and diminished self-love and validation.
At the receiving end of the narcissist’s behaviour, it is very difficult to remain sovereign. Initially, you will be love bombed, nothing will ever be too much to do for you. You will be complemented and praised – privately and in front of other people. And then suddenly, it will all disappear. You will know and feel that something is different, but you will not be sure what. Then there will be a huge emotional outburst, either from you or from them, tears and hurt. The narcissist will step in as the saviour and you will forget that they were part of this whole bust-up and you will look at yourself. You will start to criticise yourself, how could you ever have thought that it was that way? The narcissist will be very kind and caring, and then the breaking down process will just start again. A vicious cycle has started, which will become part of your life pattern with the narcissist. All that is happening is that you are beginning to lose your self-worth, your self-love, your self-value, independence, etc. Remember, the narcissist cannot afford for you to be independent – you are in this relationship to boost their self-esteem…do not ever think that you are in a two-way relationship.
You have the right to your worthiness as a person and to be loved – by yourself and others. You need no validation from anyone to feel and be loved and worthy.
2. Keeping the peace.
The narcissist will not settle for a ‘battle axe’. That is why they like to focus on and pull the empath in. They want the person who will rather keep quiet and not confront them. Confronting the narcissist can be outright scary at times. You will find yourself letting go of your desires and dreams to ensure that there is no emotional upheaval concerning the narcissist. Eventually, you will pre-empt the mood of the narcissist so as to know how to behave around the narcissist to avoid confrontation. And so, the narcissist can now be as unsympathetic, unloving, rude and obnoxious as they want – you will ensure that there is always harmony. You will be impressed because you hardly ever have a fight with the narcissist and you will start to think that you have a magical relationship – NO, you are selling yourself to keep the peace.
It is not your responsibility in any relationship to keep the peace. It is through us that people learn about themselves – and it is through other people that we learn about ourselves.
3. Constant criticism.
Even though you will be the best thing since sliced bread initially, the narcissist will lose their ‘appetite’ for you soon enough. It will be small things like: “are you sure it is the right colour for you? You always drive so slowly. I would not put the chair there.”
Remember you are there to be of service to the narcissist, never think of moving out of the ‘box’ they have fitted you into. You were targeted and pursued initially because it was and is to the advantage of the narcissist to have you ‘attached’ to them. But when your time is up, they will move on to the next person. Some narcissists will stick with you because you still serve the purpose of boosting their ego when they have had a ‘tough’ day out there in the greater world where the other people are not prepared to play along with their game – they need you around as their ‘punchbag’. All the frustration and anger they have experienced during their day they now take out on you. Their criticism will intensify: “You are too thin. Why can’t you cook like my friend/mother? You always complain about something, you are happy about nothing”. Because most of their criticisms are veiled, you will not even recognize that you are emotionally in an abusive relationship.
Know that you are good just as you are. You are beautiful and caring. You are loving and giving. Be you.
4. Guilt & Excuses.
The next step for you is guilt. You start feeling guilty because you seem to always mess up and make it difficult for the narcissist – he/she has already had such a bad day and now you add to it. You feel guilty because you do not live up to the (their) image of you. And whenever you start that internal conversation you will say to yourself: I am good enough. When will it be my turn to be recognized? That was not fair.” Whenever you have inner conflict, you will start making excuses for the narcissist. You will explain it away with: he/she had a bad day. They are under tremendous stress. People are unfair to them. It is similar to Stockholm Syndrome. You are suffering from mental, emotional and/or physical abuse – you are in trauma.
Never make excuses for other people and when you start doing that, get out. Guilt is a terrible emotion that grows and grows, and it eats you like cancer from the inside.
5. Control / perfectionist.
You will constantly live under the critical eye of the narcissist. They do not have to utter a word; their look and attitude will say it all. Very dismissive because you are not conforming to their standards. Initially, it might be laughed off as being a perfectionist. You know, they just want things perfect. Perfect by who’s standards? Theirs, because you have no opinion as far as the narcissist is concerned. You have no bigger vision, you are too weak, and you need to be looked after.
Nobody has the right to tell you how you should live your life, how you should handle yourself, what you like, and what you do with your likes. Nobody has been appointed lord over you.
6. Always giving emotional support and receiving none.
You will always be the one giving the emotional support. When stresses are high at work, you will put extra effort in and keep the children quiet or cook or bake their favourite meal or cake. You will take charge of things around the house so as not to add to the narcissist’s stresses. Just remember, down the line, you will be criticized because you ‘are not doing it right. And when you need assistance or emotional support, know that they will be Missing in Action. Nowhere to be found – too busy with meetings, work, or too tired.
Emotionally, this is a one-way relationship. The cost to you is that you eventually ‘switch’ your emotions off so you no longer need their support.
Know this is not normal, you are an emotional being, you experience life through your emotions.
7. No boundaries.
What is yours is mine. What is mine is mine. That is material goods, time, emotions, and everything you might experience in your life. According to the narcissist: You deal with your ‘stuff’ on your own, not in my time but know that when I require any of those, you better jump. Only know that you will often be reminded of how you take everything and give nothing. Exactly what they are doing will become one of the criticisms towards you. There will be no respect for alone time or pampering. It does not matter the hour, it does not matter what you are busy with, it does not matter if it suits you or not. When they call, they knock, or they phone, you are expected to be ready to comply.
Boundaries define our self-love, our self-respect, and our self-worth. These are the things the narcissist will rob you of, little by little, and once you have capitulated, they will lose interest or they will keep you on just so as to boost their inferior confidence.
8. Communication is very difficult when they are confronted.
The narcissist does not like conversations about emotions. They are very good at targeting your emotions and using them against you, but because of whatever their past trauma is, they do not like it when emotional content comes into play and the focus is placed on them. They then become cold, distant, factual, and are not beyond laughing at you.
You better have enough ammunition if you are taking on an argument with a narcissist. If you can stick to facts, you will disempower them. But remember, they will keep wanting to bring you back to the emotion behind the fact. That is their battleground.
If you were hoping for an apology after a confrontation, forget it. They are incapable of apologizing. They will say to you: I am sorry you feel that way (not sorry at all – note the ‘feel’ is about emotion), but … There will always be another point of view but the one you have. Your point of view is negated, it is of no importance, and it is not their place or responsibility to apologise for anything that might have hurt you.
This is not normal; we are compassionate beings. We are supposed to acknowledge our role in the hurt of another person and learn from it. What you feel and how you experience life cannot be denied by another person – it is rightfully your reality.
9. It happens without you knowing it has happened.
This is likely the scariest part of being involved with a narcissist. Initially, you will be so love-bombed, you will be treated to the best, and nothing will ever be too much to do for you. The next moment you will have all that thrown in your face – distancing or indifference, you always just want to eat out or have new clothes, can you do nothing for yourself. And the first time around you might cry and feel hurt because you will not understand where this is suddenly coming from. The tiniest things will set them off. Then they will step in, care for you, make it all right – but without any apology – and things will be great for 4 or 6 months. Then boom, out of nowhere, the criticism will again set in. All the while they will overstep the boundaries. You will start avoiding certain topics. You will check in with yourself all the time if this is the right moment. Your self-doubt will eventually reach an all-time high where you will be completely lost to yourself. And this cycle of building and breaking will repeat and repeat. Because you were so busy questioning yourself, you did not notice what was happening to you on a mental or emotional level. They have been chipping away at your humanness without you realizing it.
If you do not get out of the relationship you will eventually commit emotional suicide.
It is vitally important to the narcissist that you are trapped in your co-dependent relationship with them. When you have no other person to speak to, and you only have your own thoughts, it is much easier to manipulate and abuse you. They will initially always be too busy to join you for meetups with friends. Then they will start to criticise your friends. You will be criticised because you are not making an effort to be with their friends and their partners. And eventually, they will alienate you from your family. These are the people who unconditionally love you and will accept your word and will step in to help you. They cannot afford to have people out there who might stand up for you. And the way they will do it is to say: your father does not trust me. Your mother thinks I am not good enough. And the first opportunity where it might remotely seem as such, they will put it under the spotlight and never take it off the billboard.
You have a right to your own friends and time with your family. It is okay if you do not like all his/her friends and prefers him/her to visit them alone. It is fine.
Sadly, some narcissists will be cruel in their actions. They turn aggressive, and paranoid and will take joy in the emotional or physical pain of other. This is the deepest, darkest corner of the narcissistic spectrum. In these relationships, it might be a matter of time before you lose not only your mental faculties but also your life.
There is no way to deal with a narcissist. Get as far away from them as you possibly can.
Narcissists are most likely the most insecure, unsure, self-loathing people walking this earth. Their behaviour stems from something that happened in their past, most likely before the age of 15, that rocked their world to the core. In the process to survive, their ego took total control, and they now see everyone and everything as a threat to their survival. It is in an effort to boost their self-esteem that they will systematically destroy their target. They are the ‘Mother of All Bullies’.
Sometimes we are caught in a situation where they are the manager or CEO, and we need them for our monthly income. Find another position as soon as possible – never stop looking. Get out of the marriage or romantic relationship as soon as you can – do not think it will be easy. The narcissist does not like rejection.
The narcissist is not going to change. They do not think there is anything ‘wrong’ with them. They see themselves as ‘me against the world, and I, therefore, must have total control if I am to survive. To them, it is a matter of the very incorrectly interpreted Darwinian theory which was interpreted as “Survival of the Fittest’ and for the narcissist at ALL COST – I, ME, MYSELF. (Which is not what Darwin intended with his theory: The fittest will survive – this has a totally different outcome than what we live by.)
Know that there is life after the abuse of a narcissist. You can build yourself back and become great – the greatness that you truly are.
Transformation Life Coach
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