We hear the word Narcissism in reference to traits of self-interest and vanity in a world of social media.
However, Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder PD is a mental condition. A well-balanced perspective is needed along with some tips for those on the other end of Narcissistic behaviour.
The excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, the inability to handle any criticism and a sense of entitlement along with criticism and manipulation, grandstanding (the list goes on) are all facets of Narcissism. Researchers have reported associations between NPD and high rates of substance abuse, mood, and anxiety disorders. For more symptoms see the bottom of this article, we have some excellent references.
“Narcissus, the Laconian, was a young hunter who loved everything beautiful.
Once, during the summer, he got thirsty after hunting.
He leaned upon the water and saw himself in the bloom of youth.
He fell in love with his own shadow, as if it were somebody else.”
Being in a relationship or friendship with a true Narcissist can find you drawing in toxic sludge.
Many an injured heart, broken life and mental anguish can be the product of such behaviour. So what can be done?
1) Never admit vulnerability to a Narcissist.
It can and will get used against you in a typical 123 Gaslighting maneuver. Do not appear fragile to a Narcissist, you are a duck on a lake, graceful, your legs might be going nuts underneath, but all anyone can see is serenity. Vulnerability is important with the right person. A Narcissist is not that person.
2) Understand Gaslighting behaviour.
A type of psychological manipulation whereby a person covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem.
3) While many people tell you a Narcissistic person is self-centred, mean and arrogant, it is MUCH more complex.
Manifesting in many ways, including an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, grandiose behaviours, sensitivity to criticism, the list goes on. The point here is- the condition is layered and varied, so unless you are a trained psychologist or therapist; seek professional assistance if you believe you are on the receiving end. It is very dangerous for your mental health and not always obvious. Gaslighting, in particular, can be very insidious.
4) Understanding that while the condition remains somewhat of a mystery to psychology experts; behavioural disorders are often deeply rooted.
You cannot talk a Narcissistic out of anything. Some studies suggest many Narcissists know precisely what they are doing, they believe they are on a higher pecking order than others, view themselves as more evolved, and they are never ‘wrong.” There is no reasoning here. Try and reason, and you will soon find yourself attacked verbally and wounded.
5) If stuck in a verbal corner, try using non-critical words and don’t attack or question their motives.
There is no win here. Use phrases with sincerity. Phrases such as “I’m trying to understand what you are saying, leave it with me and I’ll come back to you on that one” can help disentangle. You have the option to smile sweetly and say “Well, I’ll take that into consideration. I am sorry you feel that way.” Make your polite exit. Walk away and keep the tone light.
6) You can have objective empathy, so you can spend less time with the person and try to remember it’s okay to do this.
Just because you live near a poisoned lake, doesn’t mean you have to drink from it every day and it can still have lovely elements on sunrise. Focus on the positive, but remember it’s okay to say no.
7) Do not believe the love bombing.
The Narcissist enjoys making you feel loved up and joyful; this may come in the form of gifts or favours. This makes you fodder; it makes you open up and become vulnerable for an unfortunate future personal attack. Be pleasant, but don’t soak it up or take it as gospel. Be objective and don’t get attached to incoming feels. They become weapons later.
8) Do not encourage codependency.
Be warned! You need you. Be self-sufficient and do not rely on the person. Relying on people who care about you for support sometimes is okay, this is the essence of community, looking out for each other. But do NOT do this with a Narcissist. This will foster a sense of dependency, so when you do wake up and realise what is happening, you will have emotions, not unlike an addiction.
9) Pay attention!
Long term exposure to Narcissism can make you immune to the behaviour. Keep a note of when you feel awful or manipulated and when you don’t. Are you okay at work and with other relationships? Do you have strong bonds with others and feel good? If you only feel poorly around one person, this is a sign of a deeper issue. Ongoing mental manipulation is damaging and will have consequences.
10) Get educated.
You have power in your life to make choices, so make them! Reclaim your personal power and find out more about these aspects showing up in your life. Why are you making room for them? Do you have to? What will happen if you don’t make any changes with this relationship or within yourself concerning this person? What might happen if you do? Seek help professionally and use the situation to learn about the events in your life.
According to Erika Carlson and co in extensive research; the Narcissist is often fully aware of their reputation and simply do not care.
They believe they are genuinely the right one, the most important. Consider for a moment that narcissistic people do not really lack empathy, but instead, their vulnerability and need for self-protection limits their freedom to express it.
Exploiting and bullying others while being the best on show is a standout feature of NPD, and some very strong tricks are used to keep everyone playing out the illusion. So the warning here is if you listen for long enough, even the strongest of minds can and do break under pressure.
Calling a person with NPD out can inflame the situation making life much harder for you. Stay calm, collected and reduce your exposure.
**Always seek medical assistance and professional psychological help. Helping yourself is the first step to a positive life.
Journals and websites for further reading:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Kacel, E. L., Ennis, N., & Pereira, D. B. (2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Clinical Health Psychology Practice: Case Studies of Comorbid Psychological Distress and Life-Limiting Illness. Behavioural Medicine, 43(3), 156-164
Carlson, E. N., Wright, A. & Iman, H. (2017). Blissfully blind or painfully aware? Exploring the beliefs people with interpersonal problems have about their reputation. Journal of Personality, 85, 757-768. 10.1111/jopy.12284
Getting to Know a Narcissist Inside and Out
First published: 20 July 2011
Written by Kirsten Macdonald
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