Are You a Magnet for Narcissists?
Please Note: You can skip whatever part you are not interested in – I’m assuming you’re interested in a part of this as you’re reading it – and go straight to whichever part you are looking for. PART ONE indulges my need to understand NPD due to my being the only child of two Narcissists. PART TWO is my experience of what attracts Narcissists. PART THREE is my experience of what having a relationships with a Narcissist means for the person who is a magnet for Narcissists like I am. PART FOUR is a bit of a rant about Narcissists and what I’ve learned about myself and self expression due to repeatedly attracting them and learning shit from them.
I read a blog post the other day written by a woman who became alarmed that her propensity to attract Narcissists was a sign that she herself could be one. She had applied the relationship rule that we attract others who express who we are subconsciously, our shadow self, our unclaimed parts. That we project ourselves onto those with whom we have relationships and they reflect us back at ourselves.
I understand her alarm at the possibility that attracting Narcissists means she may be one. If you do a search for information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder the results are ugly. Whether the information comes from a mental health professional or a victim of a Narcissist, the picture portrayed of the disorder is The Picture of Dorian Gray. If in a moment of clarity, and they do have them, a Narcissist were to suspect that they had NPD, what they would read would be too awful to accept and they would retreat back into their disorder to protect themselves from the very wound they became a Narcissist to escape.
It doesn’t help that many people confuse Sociopathy with Narcissism. The two conditions have similarities, but they are not the same. Narcissists are mostly unaware of what they are doing. Sociopaths always know exactly what they are doing. Narcissists manipulate others because they need to control their reality, and others are part of their constructed reality, it is partly conscious, they do think that they are very clever, but it is largely subconscious. A Sociopath is always conscious. Narcissists do have feelings, much of their behaviour stems from a need to not feel what they are feeling because their emotions are those of a young child, frightening, huge, uncontrollable, and they never learned how to process and deal with their emotions because the Narcissistic wound occurs during the phase when children learn to do so. Sociopaths do not feel, their wound occurred before the emotional nature developed.
Sociopathy occurs before the Narcissistic phase of development, and is usually the result of an infant undergoing abuse the likes of which most of us do not want to imagine. It has also been linked to early brain damage. The trauma which creates a Narcissist is very different from the trauma which creates a Sociopath.
A large percentage of Narcissists are created by one or both parents invading the fragile boundaries of a young child and pushing the emerging identity out of the body and replacing it with their own. They project themselves into the child and the child becomes them, losing touch with themselves and their real identity, which is why a Narcissist can change their identity easily, discarding one for another, because they have no fixed identity of their own. This kind of abuse is often unseen by others, as to the outside world the parent or parents of a Narcissist appear to be very loving, perhaps too loving, over-protective, sacrificing everything for the child. Parents who think that their very young child is a genius and who do everything in their power to nurture that genius, pushing the child to fulfill its potential often at the expense of the child having a childhood, run the risk of creating a Narcissist.
In some ways you could equate the Narcissistic wound to a country which has been invaded, the original inhabitants, the natives, are rounded up by the invaders and exterminated or exiled to an inhospitable, uninhabitable, part of the country. The invaders call themselves settlers and proceed to build a home in this new land, yet without any visceral connection to it all they see is the potential therein, the fertile fields which can be farmed until every nutrient is removed from the ground, the abundant wildlife which is hunted to extinction, the resources, the ore, the gold, the oil, removed from the earth, every inch exploited without thought for the consequences of the exploitation, because it doesn’t matter, once this country is empty of value, the settlers will unsettle themselves and move to new territory, repeat the cycle, because they have no real roots in this land. They have a homeland, but they choose for whatever reason not to live there, perhaps because they are unwelcome there and don’t feel a sense of belonging anywhere. The Earth is a temporary home.
Those who inflict the Narcissistic wound which creates a Narcissist never claim responsibility for what they have done. They did their very best, obviously the child was a bad seed and a bad egg. Either that or they never see the bad side of the Narcissist and tell their child that the world just isn’t prepared to accept such a superhuman being.
They do what they do to their child because they can and because they think it is good for them, and they tell themselves that they do it for the good of the Narcissist. They know better. Because those who create Narcissists are always in a position of power over the person, the child, who is made into a Narcissist, and they abuse that power, consciously sometimes, but often unconsciously. They often believe they are doing what is best for the child, and for themselves, but they often think they are sacrificing their good for the future of the child. They are noble in their quest. They often feel that they are harnessing the potential of the child, which the child will spend years wasting while being a child, while having a childhood, and which the child might waste as an adult too.
The Narcissist creator wants control of another’s life because they could live it better than the person to whom it belongs, because they feel that they have wasted their own life in some way and are angry about it. They need redemption, a second chance… and they take it, because they believe that you can make your own dreams come true by seizing whatever opportunity is available, even if it means kicking someone else, a child, out of their own body, and taking that body and mind over. The sacrifice will be worth it.
If you’re going to hate a Narcissist, spare some hate for those who created the Narcissist. Those who wounded a child so deeply that the child grew up to spread that wound around, and inflict the pain of the wound onto others. They did not do this to themselves. They did not wound themselves. Why would anyone do that to themselves, especially not a child. Human beings are designed by nature to avoid pain. We only hurt ourselves and others when we are already hurting.
There are a lot of Narcissists in our world, psychologists have come to the conclusion that we are living in a Narcissistic society. So the chances are that all of us will attract a Narcissist, maybe more, at some point and have a relationship with someone with NPD. This could be a boss, a colleague, a friend, a lover or a partner.
There are some traits which are particularly attractive to Narcissists, and if you display these traits you will be more prone to being a magnet for Narcissists. Many of the traits which Narcissists find attractive are the same ones we are encouraged to develop to be socially acceptable. They vary slightly with gender.
There is a myth that those with NPD are predominantly male. In my personal experience I have met more female Narcissists than male ones. I think the reason that there seems to be fewer female Narcissists than male ones can be explained by society’s behavioural excuse system – stereotypes. All women are crazy. Thus a female Narcissist is less likely to be seen as having NPD and more likely to be labeled as a woman being stereotypically crazy, prone to irrational emotional outbursts, and emotionally manipulative, in other words, hormonally challenged. Female Narcissists also tend to be very sexually aware, often displaying what is known as sexually inappropriate behaviour, and will do things which will turn a man’s brain to mush. Thus men are less likely to realise that a woman has NPD. Other women will label such a woman with names which will be put down to envy and jealousy. A female Narcissist will often have few if any female friends, and she will be rather proud of this often stating boldly that she prefers men to women. A female Narcissist also makes very little distinction between seducing a male and seducing a female. Seduction is a very useful tool, people who are no longer thinking with their minds are easier to manipulate, and less likely to notice what you are doing. If they come to their senses, their embarrassment will protect the Narcissist. They will blame their own weakness, be ashamed of their own desire, and not blame and shame the Narcissist. The Narcissist will be gone before that penny drops, if it ever does.
So what does a Narcissist find attractive in others:
1/ Niceness. A willingness to compliment others and a reticence to criticise. A tendency to promote the positive traits of others and to overlook anything which might be negative. A desire to put the pleasure of others before your own. You make the needs of others your priority over your own needs. To please. To do what others want to do. A need to be liked and a horror of being disliked.
This is attractive because Narcissists need an endless supply of reassurance that they are wonderful, intelligent, talented, gifted, beautiful, and the most amazing person you have ever met. Their self image is a balloon which is constantly deflating and they can’t blow it up themselves, they need others to fill it with air for them. This is what is primarily known as Narcissistic supply. If compliments are withheld a Narcissist will have a tantrum because they are panicking due to the deflating balloon. Thus Narcissists will surround themselves with Yes men and women who are too afraid of them to ever say No. If you ever say No you will be discarded and bad mouthed to the other Yes men and women. An example will be made of you to discourage mutiny in others.
2/ Self Control. The tendency not to want to bother others with your problems. To handle your own shit privately on your own. To not burden others with your issues, your feelings, your needs, your emotions. Self reliance and self sufficiency. Not only do you handle your own shit, but you’re very good at handling the shit which belongs to others. A parental figure. A hero or heroine.
This is attractive to Narcissists for several key reasons. They are often looking for a parental figure. Their true self was replaced by one or both of their parents, and this relationship in their formative years created the template for their relationships in their adult years. They also seek to be in control, they are control freaks, but they never feel that they are in control even when they appear to be. They live in fear of losing what control they believe that they have. So someone who appears to them to be a master of self control is someone they want to absorb into themselves. They want to become you, and they will often do a Single White Female (even if male) identity theft on those they want to become. To them this is how an identity is created. Through shape-shifting mimicry. This trait is also attractive because they feel safe in the knowledge that someone who is in complete control of themselves will not make any demands on them. That you will not ask them to shoulder any of your problems. They admire this. Anything they admire, they want. They also feel that your shoulders are big enough to take on all their problems and that you will solve them for them, take care of them, and, most importantly, that you will take their wound out of them into yourself and heal it for them. This is an identity swap contract of sorts, you take everything from them that they don’t want and deal with it, and they take everything from you that they want and thus they can create the perfect identity for themselves.
3/ Empathy. The ability to know what others are feeling without others telling you. To meet the needs of others before others know they have those needs. To pick up subtle hints and to cater to them.
Many Narcissists believe that they are very empathic. This is because they have huge unexpressed emotions which they experience as being outside of themselves, thus belonging to others. An empath has fragile boundaries. Narcissists have no boundaries. There is no difference between them and others. Others are an extension of themselves. Because the Narcissistic wound occurs at the stage when a child is still in a symbiotic relationship with mother, with father, with the world around them and they have not yet learned to differentiate between self and other. Thus their emotions in their eyes are the emotions of others. The main reason Narcissists find empathic people attractive is because those with a high level of empathy absorb the emotions of others easily and are often open to taking them on and into themselves. Empaths are also reluctant to give their emotions to others because they are aware of the inner pain and confusion this can cause and so they are very considerate to the point of self-sacrifice. Narcissists have a god complex, so someone willing to sacrifice themselves on the alter of the Narcissist’s self-image is very desirable and pleasing. They can give you their rage, their pain, their hurt, their wounding, their darkness, and any other emotions they are too afraid to feel, which they can’t deal with, process or release, and thus they are free to not feel a thing and thus proclaim themselves a god or goddess.
So now that you have an idea of why you attracted a Narcissist, what they seek from the relationship, and what they get from being with you. The gifts you give them. And since all relationships are a two-way street. The question is, what does a Narcissist give to you?
What do you really get from having a relationship with a Narcissist? Why were you attracted to them? Not the conscious reasons, such as the fact that most Narcissists are very charming, larger than life, and usually swoop into your life on a chariot of fire, sweep you off your feet and carry you off into a wonderful fantasyland for a while. Stop blaming yourself for falling for them, they are irresistible. Stop raging at them for having ruined your life, abused you, and made you feel worthless, and thank them for it. Sound weird? Wrong? Let me explain…
1/ You’re too nice. Your niceness is a lovely trait which many people find wonderful and attractive. You enjoy being nice. It has many perks. BUT. It is not all of you. You have a fierce side too. We all do. The Narcissist abusing your niceness is there to inspire you to claim your darker side. The side which you may be being too nice to express and thus you’re not tapping into all the power within you.
A really good book to read, which I highly recommend and which helped me enormously is – The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. In it he outlines why being too nice can cost you your safety, your life and your sanity. And how balancing out your niceness with fierceness, doesn’t take away from the joy of being nice, but adds to it. Be nice, but learn to protect your right to be nice with a fierce dragon who burns those who want to take advantage of your niceness. Learn to say NO with the same enthusiasm with which you say YES.
2/ You’re too controlled. Your self control is admirable, but if you’re overdoing it, then you’re a prisoner of it. Learn to let go and let loose.
One of the things which really annoys me about some of the advice given about How Not To Attract A Narcissist is that it mostly relates to controlling who you are. Stopping you from being you, because being who you are is dangerous to yourself. Rubbish. There are a lot of Narcissists in this world, you’re going to bump into them, and if you have to live in fear of who you attract, and the solution is to be less of yourself, to control self-expression more than usual… that sucks as a solution. In fact being more of yourself is the real solution. Because then, even if you do attract a Narcissist, you will scare the crap out of them and they’ll run away in awe, or stick around and not mess with you.
3/ You’re too empathic. Your empathy shows you your connectedness with others. Empathy is a very valuable trait. However you need to strengthen your fragile boundaries between you and others.
Empathy should not make you weak, but stronger. If it is making you vulnerable to others, then shut it down for a while, focus on yourself, find your emotions, learn to recognise them so that you can differentiate between yours and those of others. Your emotions have a very personal marker. Listen, focus, and get to know that marker. Then, once you know it, open yourself up again, but remember you can shut your open boundaries any time you need to. You are not responsible for the emotions of others. Personal responsibility and accountability is key, and very healthy. If you allow the emotions of others in to you, to your awareness, that is your responsibility and you are accountable for that. What you do with your sensory knowledge is your responsibility. You can learn to control your empathy without becoming heartless and losing the joy of having such a beautiful gift. It takes time, practice, making mistakes, and having empathy for yourself too. That is compassion. If your empathy excludes you, it is incomplete. Start with yourself, then work your way outwards.
Narcissists absolutely hate authenticity. They do not know how to be authentic, and they long to be authentic, burn and yearn for it, but they can’t be it, so they hate it. It is kryptonite to their superman/woman self/non-self.
Their main tools of controlling others are blame, shame, criticism, censorship, and anything else which makes another person adapt their self expression to suit others. They encourage political correctness, politeness, social niceties, and compromise in others to suit them. They use emotional blackmail to get you to willingly do what they want you to do. The prize for your subordination is that they may use you again.
So. Speak your mind. Express your emotions. Smile when you’re happy, frown when you’re angry, cry when you’re sad. Don’t say you’re fine if you’re not, say exactly what you are really feeling. Ignore their attempts to shut you up. If they have a tantrum, scream louder if you want to, or walk out and leave them to it, but don’t let their display of grandiose and overwhelming emotions stop you from expressing yourself.
They are not a child, don’t treat them like one, and don’t become their parent.
Don’t be sensitive to their needs if it means being insensitive to your own. They are not, no matter what they tell you, sensitive to your needs in any other way than to use your needs against you to manipulate you.
Put yourself first, because what they want is for you to put them first, and to put yourself last or even better forget about yourself completely.
You being you, all of you, uncensored, is a frightening and horrifying monster to a Narcissist. Because you are being real, and real people scare the shit out of Narcissists. They are not being real, they know that they are not being real, even if most of that knowledge is buried in their subconscious and they think that they are very real. They think everyone else is as fake as they are, in fact they think others are more fake than they are. They are their reference point for the world. They can’t express genuine emotions, or voice their real thoughts, and they apply this to others. They don’t actually know how to be real, and the very thought of it scares them. So when you are real and genuine, it stirs up the real person buried deep within them, and they live in fear of their real self because they don’t know who their real self is, it is unknown, and the fear of the unknown chills them to the marrow. This fear of their real self is the spur which governs their entire life, and all of their subsequent behaviour is an attempt to escape and kill this real self off, and replace it with an idealised self of their own creation.
The ultimate lesson and gift that a relationship with a Narcissist gives you is this… Be yourself, all of you.
What is a Narcissist – someone who doesn’t know who their real self is. What attracts a Narcissist to you – they think you know who you are and they want you to teach them how to know who their real self is. What do you get from a relationship ship with a Narcissist – the ability to see what not being yourself can do to you and to others.
The ultimate goal of a Narcissist is to be superhuman. To escape being human. The purpose of life is to be human. If we were not meant to be human, we would not be having a being human experience. The purpose of death is to be super human. As in we cast off the mortal, human being, coil and that’s that… the bit afterwards depends on your beliefs.
Be yourself. All of yourself, the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the positive and the negative. Embrace it all into one. Only you know who that is and how to be you. That’s your gift. That is what makes life worth living. And don’t forget you’re a human being… mistakes are a part of that, make them, learn from them, regret them, and be kind to yourself, even when you’re not.
Just a very long thought.
If you would like to know more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder please visit:
Narcissism – Living Without Feelings – A very long and detailed analysis of NPD, which explains how someone develops the disorder, what goes on behind the facade, how the disorder affects the individual who has it, and its effects on others, and so much more. If you want to understand NPD, this is an excellent article. Comprehensive and insightful.
Narcissism and the Fruit of Suffering – – the blog of my favourite author, whose book Going Mad to Stay Sane helped me to figure out and explain many aspects of my own experience with narcissistic parents, especially my tendency to be self destructive.
Out of the Fog – Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – an excellent resource for information on NPD. There is also a forum.
Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed – An inspirational blog about NPD and how to heal and empower yourself.
Narcisismo Patologico – An NPD blog in Italian. Thoughtful and insightful.
Raised by Narcissists – a forum for children of Narcissistic parents
Surviving the Narcissistic Parent: ACoNs (Adult Children os Narcissists – a superb account of what it is like to be the child of a narcissistic mother, also applies to a narcissistic father.
Selfishness and Narcissism in Family Relationships & The Drama Triangle by Dr. Lynne Namka – different ways to view and understand the effects of growing up with a narcissist, being in a narcissistic (abusive/unhealthy) family or in a relationship with a narcissist.
5 Signs You’re Being Played by a ‘Victim’ by Thomas G. Fiffer – This is an excellent article about covert narcissists. Covert narcissists prefer to play the victim (sometimes they play the role of victim of a narcissist).
UPDATE: I just came across this excellent article – Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that? by Christine Louise de Canonville – about a new term – Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome) – which psychologists are trying to have recognised. It relates to those who are and have been victims of narcissists. It is an in depth look at the traits and behaviours of victims of narcissists and the process of recovery from narcissistic abuse. If you suspect that you may be the victim of a narcissist but are unsure this may help you to figure things out. If you are a victim of a narcissist you may find this article and other articles on this site useful and helpful. Please check it out, it’s very informative.
Worth reading if you’re thinking of telling a narcissist that they have NPD:
Narcissists in Fiction:
Honest Science vs. False Friend: A Contrast Study of Temperance Brennan and Angela Montenegro – This is an interesting post examining two characters on a popular TV show (the Narcissist as a TV & film trope is very common), one of which could be perceived as being a Narcissist but isn’t, the other is a Narcissist but may not be perceived as one (because Narcissists are focused on how others perceive them thus they are better able to manipulate their image and control how others view them). Like the person who wrote this, I find the character of Angela Montenegro intensely annoying and distressing (I have been known to shout at the TV when watching this show when her character appears and does her ‘thing’) because she is very narcissistic yet gets away with it, everyone makes excuses for her (including the resident psychologist who is supposed to be very clever) and thinks she’s lovely, very ’empathic’. Episode 6, season 5 was particularly explicit in showing Angela’s Narcissism and I got intensely angry about how it was handled). This episode reminded me of CZBZ of The Narcissistic Continuum’s post of Puppygate – Part Two Online Narcissists: A case study called PuppyGate.
A couple of related posts:
An insightful guest post about NPD: