Someone recently asked me to assist them with a problem.
They were concerned that a person they knew might be a narcissist, however they were also concerned that perhaps they were the one being narcissistic, and that their narcissism was seeing this person as a narcissist.
They had one of those moments of wondering if perhaps they were the narcissist.
How could they know if they were the narcissist or if this other person was the narcissist?
This is a brain teaser along the lines of this:
problem (and the answer) via PFC
Am I the narcissist or are you the narcissist? – can you look something like this up and get the answer to it?
Yes, you can, especially online with so many people weighing in on it – but is it the right answer?
In this kind of scenario right and wrong depend more on you and your criteria for such things, and what you want and need, than they do on facts, figures, statistics and other things like that created by humans to know something with certainty about other humans – which is always going to be biased, usually in our favour (in favour of the person created the criteria).
Humans are complex, trying to simplify them, us, is never going to be easy. Yet we still try to make it easy, in as much as – we want to classify others with a black or white system, but hate it when others do that with us.
Someone commented today on one of my ‘Capricorn’ posts to make clear to all that all Capricorns suck. They did not specify their Sun Sign while doing that, which is a pity as this Capricorn who sucks would like to know what Sun sign they are who thinks all Capricorns suck no matter what so I can avoid their Sun sign so as not to bother them with my brand of suck and there life can be lovely without any Capricorns in it.
The formula for NPD, compiled by and for experts, and also used by anyone who happens upon it, in that guide for ‘crazy’ (as in personalities which form a disorderly orderly queue) known as the DSM is:
via Out of the Fog’s guide to NPD
This guide is accurate… however many of these accurate traits aren’t displayed obviously.
The narcissist in your life (even if that narcissist is you) isn’t going to be a machine, a robot, about their Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or disorderly order).
1. A grandiose sense of self-importance… can be exactly what you think it’s going to be – I’m the greatest, I’m the biggest, smartest, bestest, mostest… or… it can be the opposite of that.
Covert Narcissists in particular will appear anything but grandiose, however that appearance of being the least grandiose person in the world will be grandiose.
They’re the worst person ever. Everyone hates them. No one could ever understand them. They’re the weirdest, worstest, stupidest, leastest, invisiblest, insignificantest…
You’re still talking… working your way into a very loud silent treatment.
Argue with them about it for their benefit, in support of them, to help them, to bolster their non-existent self-esteem, and they will make mincemeat out of your sympathy for them.
You’ll feel guilty about your happiness, your self-esteem, your few good things in life and about yourself.
How dare you! How dare you have a happy when they have a sad! How dare you have anything when they have nothing! They’ll make having nothing seem trendy and desirable in some way which will make you feel bad about having anything which is more than nothing, even if all you have is less than they have.
2. They can be very preoccupied with themselves, their brilliance, power, beauty, etc… however they are also just as preoccupied with others, their brilliance, power, beauty, etc…
In fact they’re very adept at obsessing over others more than they do about themselves. Their obsession with others is about themselves. But it can go unnoticed because they make everything about others.
If you become the focus of their obsession, they will get to know you and your life, past, present and their chosen future for you, in a way that no one else ever has. You’ll find it overwhelming and will be seduced by it whether you want to be or not.
They will get to know you better than you know yourself (and worse than you know yourself)… and then they will try to fix you because U R Doing It Wrong!
Their fixing of you is all for you, not for them… or is it?
3. They are special – that can’t be denied. The term ‘special’ was never more accurate or sinister.
They know it. You know it.
And you’re special for knowing them and them acknowledging your existence. They’ve chosen you as their special friend… sounds so appealing until you read (in chilling hindsight) the smallprint of this very special contract.
They’ll tell you secrets they’ve never told anyone else, share with you their deepest and darkest, and bind you into silence.
4. Requires excess admiration. Yes. In the obvious way – You look marvelous, you’re amazing, you’re brilliant, unique, out of this world, an angel, a goddess, god, etc… but also in a not as obvious way. You’re the worst, evil, demon spawn, demonic, you’re just like a Bond villain, satan, etc… those work too. As do many things in between those common extremes…
It’s not about the obvious, that’s ordinary, mediocre, it’s about what makes someone different from others, makes them extraordinary. Each individual narcissist has a different admiration requirement.
Their unicorn is no ordinary unicorn.
Don’t worry, they’ll train you without you being aware of it to say what they want to hear. You’ll get a dog biscuit every time you do things the right way, their way, and will get admonished when you don’t… and retrained until you’re almost but never quite good enough.
5. Has a sense of entitlement. This can be in your face, and in those instances their lack of reason is splattered all over your face and the place. The minor (or not at all) celebrity screaming – Don’t you know who I AM!!!!… but it can also go on behind your back with the face to face interactions seeming very reasonable.
They’ll have you making excuses for them, and fighting their battles before you know it. You’ll be committed to getting justice for them for whatever mistreatment they’ve suffered at the hands of others… which is never their fault, never their responsibility, never their problem (even though they have a big issue with it)… it’s the problem of others and now it is also yours if you care about them. You do care about them, don’t you?
Their sense of entitlement can be so subtle that you’ll never see it coming, entering and taking over your life. And you’ll never question how come your life now belongs to them and is all about them, because they’ve got you thinking that it is all about you – this person was mean to me, made me cry and stuff, how can you let them get away with being evil to us that way!?! They said you were stupid (for liking me), I didn’t defend you (I agreed because it’s true), because they were mean and bullies (whom I was provoking against you), please defend poor, poor me, you can’t let them get away with treating me, us, we’re together in this, this way! Help me, my saviour (Put yourself on the line while I hide behind you and root for them)!
6. Is interpersonally exploitative. Yes, but isn’t always as aware of this as has been credited with being.
Narcissists, as long as they are really narcissists and not sociopaths with narcissitic tendencies, are mostly oblivious to how much they’re playing mind games with people. The mind games they think they’re playing aren’t the ones which get us as much as the ones they have no idea that they’re playing because… narcissists didn’t start this game play, they became it due to extenuating circumstances.
They’re messing with us because they were messed with, and are passing on what was passed onto to them.
I get it… you want them to be Hollywood evil. They’re not that orderly in the mess that they make.
This issue really messes with people trying to figure things out. Does the narcissist know what they’re doing? Have you been used, a pawn, all along?
Yes and No.
Using others is a survival basic for the narcissist. They do it without necessarily knowing they are doing it. Some narcissists are more aware than others. Those who aren’t aware actually cause more damage to others than those who are aware. When someone believes their own BS, they sell it far more convincingly to others because it comes across as genuine.
This lovely self-improvement quote (above), which is so inspiring… if you follow it to the letter it will help you become a magnet for narcissists, especially the ones who think they’re as far removed from being narcissists as is humanly possible.
The worst narcissists are the ones who don’t know… the ones who know, they tend to want you to know that they know even if you refuse to hear and listen.
7. Lacks empathy. Yes, but doesn’t know they lack empathy. In fact they are the ones most likely to see others as lacking empathy and see themselves as the greatest empath in the world… who suffers the at the hands of the lack of empathy of others.
A narcissist will regularly tell you how much they care about others, how much they feel what others feel (and how it impacts them very deeply, usually always negatively – how come it is never positive? – Empathy is a predominantly positive experience, imo), how much they suffer because of their highly sensitive selves, and how much they get used by others because of their uncontrollable empathy, sympathy, pity and sorrow for others, and depth of feeling… the kind of sensitivity which is completely irresponsible and always blames others while pretending not to do that because that would look bad for their persona.
8. Is envious of others and believes others are envious of them. This may be up front… as in someone who regularly tells you they have ‘haterz’, and it sounds more like a boast than a concern.
Why do they pay so much attention to their ‘haterz’ and those who ‘unfollow’ and ‘unfriend’ them online and offline, diss them, etc… than they do those who are ‘loverz’, who follow them, who are friends, who compliment and support them?
Answer is… bad stuff gets our attention more than good stuff because it hits us in our gut, our survival instinct gets turned on (and not usually in a sexy way). When we feel unsafe, threatened… we pay attention to the source of that threat to our safety (in a ‘this person needs to be killed before they kill us’ kind of manner) and react with the claws of fear.
Some people have learned that the way to get our attention is to threaten our safety.
Narcissists play this out in a myriad of ways. Both as the attention-seeker and the attention-giver. Their admiration for others is a threat to their identity and self-esteem. So is their envy.
Their envy is admiration, their admiration is envy.
They see that in how others look at them too. They want you to envy them more than admire them, because that’s more powerful = they are more important.
The more they envy someone, the more that certain someone is who they want to be = someone special enough for them to envy.
Their envy is exactly the same as admiration. They see no difference between the two… except that when they say they admire someone, it means less than when they rip that person to pieces due to envy. If they ignore someone very deliberately… then that person may be their ultimate nemesis. Someone beyond admiration and envy is a threat even a narcissist keeps quiet about. They want to be them so bad… it hurts where a narcissist does not want to feel…
If Susie says nothing about Sally really loudly… watch out, Sally!
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours and attitudes…
…you may miss this, especially if the Narcissist is Covert.
Some will be very Overt, but you may still miss this because we can all be A-holes, prone to mockery and faux-arrogance. We all have moments of lashing out in the hopes that it will cover up our lack of self-confidence. We can all be trolls to others.
Bluffing our way through life every now and then. It’s kind of encouraged by society at large.
We all posture a bit, sometimes a lot, especially when we’re nervous and trying to pretend that we’re not.
Narcissists use this differently, but the difference can be hard to suss, particularly when we’re using empathy to understand them.
Oh, they’re just doing that stuff and bluff we do.
Some of the greatest displays of narcissist arrogance… are in the reverse of what we would recognise arrogance as being.
The common garden variety narcissist does it in an expected way, and is easily outed as a narcissist.
Are they really a narcissist?
The most insidious narcissist is the kind who fools you into thinking that they could never be a narcissist because… they’re busy outing others who are narcissists… for your benefit, not theirs.
How did I answer the person who asked me the question which inspired this post?
I told them to focus on how they felt when they were with this person.
If you think someone is a narcissist – you think they’re a narcissist, that’s all you need to know.
If you are seriously considering that you may be the narcissist. Take a time out.
Narcissist are consistently narcissists.
Get to know this person for a while longer.
Get to know yourself for a while longer.
Things will gradually become clear.
We’re all complex… take the time to explore that complexity before you make a final decision.
This is good info to have. It’s very well laid out and easy to understand. Thank you!
Thank you 🙂
blah! I know my ex husband is a narcissist. but I still like to read these things and just AAAHHHH… it normally is a “yeah i married a narcissist. oh you think they just like to look in the mirror a lot, and are like that one song…’you’re so vain’…yeah thats totally it. uh huh…” whatever no big deal im over it! but these feelings of OMG THAT LITTLE SOB when I get validation again make me cringe.
especially when i can so easily associate alongside each criteria a specific example…
literally copy and pasted this from AN EMAIL he sent during our separation/potential divorce/divorce (he communicated merely through email, as though I was his client. yes. and i need validation here and there?)
“I’m sorry. I thought that when we met, I could fix you. I wanted to help fix you. But you’re just too broken. You need professional help, now. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. Please believe me when I say how hard I tried….”
Good post, though! very VERY informative. I think I’ll reblog it 😉
Thank you 🙂
So much of what narcissists say and do is mind-boggling, and it can be hard to come to terms with it, to make any sense of it, as the world gets flipped around, reality turns topsy turvy. When you go over the interactions you have with them, you can end up questioning yourself because it all sounds so crazy, so getting confirmation is invaluable to your sanity.
I recently had to hire a lawyer to deal with my mother in a matter which I knew she would end up making impossibly complicated. I warned my lawyer that my mother would be illogical, and would handle things in whatever way she pleased regardless of the law, or anything or anyone else, so they should not expect anything to be straightforward. I predicted a lot of what she would do and tried to get ahead of her mess, but … Let’s just say that my lawyer had to find out the hard way that I was not exaggerating about just how illogical my mother was going to be.
When you try to explain a narcissist to others, they often think you’re unhinged… until they have to deal with a narcissist.
It can take a long time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together so that you finally get the real picture. The most important piece of the puzzle is trusting yourself.
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Reblogged this on confessionsofacrazybitch101 and commented:
Wanted to share this blog because I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the narcissist is explained in this. Very informative and awesomely laid out. I do want to just say though, that if you are in a narcissistic relationship and you aren’t sure if it is for certain or not a narcissist you’re dealing with…remember this.
NPD is a personality disorder. A DISORDER. So, naturally, we as people who do not suffer this disorder do not think like they do. They think with APATHY-lack of empathy. lack of anything. We all generally can feel some sort of sympathy or if you’re like me, TOO MUCH empathy at times. So we when read things or hear an abused victim of this PD, you can’t understand.
You’re taking what they say, yes, and you believe it…no doubt. But you also make sense of it the best way you can. “Oh no she’s just extremely angry. He did love her at one point, he had to have…but he lost it in such cruel way.”
NO. What we tell you, is what it is. Nothing more nothing less. It’s that simple yet disturbingly intricate and fucked up. Don’t try to read between the lines. If you are not a narcissist, you cannot think like a narcissist. It is a disorder, not something (I don’t hope at least) you would want to LEARN.
SO. Supporters of victims of these relationships with NPD individuals, we know how crazy CRAZY all of these things sound when we tell them to you. Truuuust us…we know. But when we say “He didn’t love me. He can’t love. It’s a part of the disorder, they only want love of self…and he fed off my attention, care and love that I am able to provide someone. He lured me in pretending to do the same. But thats part of the abuse. It’s an unrequited love. That he will only possess for himself.”
THATS IT. All of it. Seriously, it’s insane we know…WE KNOW. But don’t read in between the lines…just take in what we say as what it is. Because that’s what it is. Just thought this might help as I’ve recently been having to, err, aid my support group (family and a couple friends) understand. They just couldn’t. That helped, though, so maybe this might help others who are supporters or who want to explain to others a bit more for them to attempt to, ATTEMPT to, understand what we endured……
Thank you very much 🙂
Brilliant post Ursula !!
Thank you 🙂
This is extremely well done, and for me, particularly the part about envy. My ex-narcissist initially spoke to me a lot about his “admiration” for me; this gradually degenerated into attempt after attempt to take me apart, each worse than the one before it. When I started divorce proceedings, he really ramped it up. There were threats against me and my friends and family. It’s one of the reasons why I bought him out.
Excellent post – so informative and accessible. 🙂
Thank you 🙂
The admiration/envy dynamic is an intricate part of the narcissist’s experience of life, themselves and others, relationships. It can be a tough one for others to figure out because it does not make sense. They hate what they love and love what they hate, and they flip-flop constantly between love and hate. In some ways they love to hate, because of the way it feels.
There’s an intriguing Indie film called Lovers of Hate, which captured this quite well.
I’ll look for that film. 🙂 Btw, I watched Broadchurch – 8 episodes over two evenings. Reminded me of The Killing (US version) which I stopped watching because imo it wandered off into the weeds after season one. But I thought Broadchurch was very well done. I liked how the town becomes a character, in and of itself, and because of that the townspeople can’t countenance the possibility that they could contain that evil within them.
I tried watching the US version of The Killing. The US version changed the Danish version (which was awesome) too much for me, and I couldn’t get over the crime they had committed by doing that 😉
There’s something about Scandinavian crime dramas which is just yummy, perhaps it’s because I can’t understand what they’re saying (although after a while I think I can) and have to pay attention to what they’re doing. They’re also rather enigmatic, and it’s harder to predict what’s going to happen next.
When the Danish version of The Killing was shown on UK TV everyone went a bit insane with love for all things Scandinavian. The actress who plays the lead ended up on a Special of Ab Fab (Absolutely Fabuluous – which, if you haven’t seen it, is brilliant, it’s a Narc-a-licious, especially the mother/daughter relationship).
Broadchurch reminded me also of the old style of British crime drama which can be seen in shows like Midsomer Murders. Idyllic little chocolate box villages with dark underbellies. Very Agatha Christie. Fiction reflecting life, accentuating certain human behaviours.
Have you ever seen Wire in the Blood. It might be a bit too gruesome, but it’s a very good series.
I like these posts, Ursula, I find them rather informative, especially with the excerpt from the DSM (great book btw). I find it interesting what you said about “right and wrong depend more on you and your criteria for such things, and what you want and need, than they do on facts, figures, statistics and other things like that created by humans to know something with certainty about other humans – which is always going to be biased, usually in our favour (in favour of the person created the criteria).Humans are complex, trying to simplify them, us, is never going to be easy” This is entirely true as people will always see things in their own way. That said could it not be possible that your constant blogging on the subject can seem narcissistic? The responses left by your readers seem narcissistic in that they mention how THEY were treated poorly by the narcissist in their lives, how this person affected THEM? Some of the criteria listed above for NPD and what you stated is that narcissists at times play more the “poor me” rather than “look at me I’m so great” role. Could these posts and responses not be taken the same way by some people? “I was screwed over by the narcissist in my life and they did such and such to me”.
The reason I bring this up is not because I necessarily think someone who does these things should immediately run out and insist they are diagnosed with NPD. I say this from my own experience, whenever I’ve discussed the “this person did this to me and it was bullshit” I was portrayed as a petty gossiper and making things all about me because I was not seeing things from their point of view. It really does all boil down to your own tolerance for bullshit and who you are willing to tolerate that from and for what reasons. Anything can be seen in any kind of way depending on whose lens the person is viewing it through…people are crazy that way, myself truly included.
Specifically addressing one of the criteria you elaborated on, I do not believe there is anything wrong with admiring someone, especially if what they are doing is where you’d like to be and your “admiration” of them helps get you there. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to know “everything” about a person because they intrigue you and you’re trying to get a better sense of why that may be, or they have the potential to really hurt you and you want as much of a heads up as possible (that’s the narcissistic psychopath in me talking I suppose). And I most certainly do not believe that deliberately avoiding someone is because you think of them as your arch nemesis, although I find the timing of the word choice there quite astonishing. There are a number of reasons someone may purposely ignore someone, but usually if they aren’t even giving a response it’s either because they are an a**hole or they’ve tried to explain things to the best of their ability in the past and gotten nowhere. I’ll my narcissistic intrusion on your post here. ~Cheers
Thank you 🙂
All humans are narcissistic. Narcissism is a natural part of human development. It is healthy for us. Being narcissistic is not the same as having NPD. NPD is a distortion of natural narcissism. This is partly why it is so difficult to figure out if someone is a narcissist or not, as much of what narcissists do is what we all do with varying degrees of healthy to unhealthy expression of it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring someone, it’s one of the joys of life. It’s inspiration flowing through them into us. They’re a muse for us. Those with NPD do admiration differently, the admiration is always tinged with envy, and becomes more envious over time. They want to be the person they admire in a body-snatching kind of manner. They want that person’s life and they usually think they can live it better than that person is doing. That person, in their eyes, has been given what should belong to the narcissist.
Their need to know everything about a person is an insidious kind of interest. It’s not the kind of interest which is so lovely to have and to do, they don’t want to know more about you because you’re someone they’d like to get to know – you’re a thing they’re dismantling to find what makes it tick, what its weakness is, or a treasure trove they’re plundering.
We all use avoidance to deal with people and situations. It can be a good tactic – He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. Sometimes running away is the best option. Sometimes ignoring someone is the best way to deal with them – especially if they have NPD. It’s not the behaviour which is narcissistic, it’s how a person uses the behaviour. The intention and motivation, the purpose behind it.
A hammer is just a hammer – a wonderful tool, useful for building things, etc. It is a creative tool in some hands. It can also be destructive, cause harm and sometimes even death in other hands. It’s use is determined by the person using it.
Pain in particular brings out the ‘poor me’ side of narcissism in all of us, and mostly that is healthy for us, we’re acknowledging our pain, giving expression to our hurt, getting things out of our system. Telling our story so that we can hear it. Most people work through their pain, their poor me, they don’t want to stay stuck and want to heal. It can take a long time depending on how deep the wound is, and other factors, but you can see the healing curve, the gradual progression up and out of it.
They may be saying the same thing over and over again, but each time they say it, they’re working through it, and you’ll often hear the gradual shift in their tone, or see it in their eyes. The fog is gradually clearing. The pain is healing. The pain has the healing within it, but to get that healing your have to go into the pain.
Everyone heals at their own pace.
Someone with NPD does the ‘poor me’ very differently, their pain is an altar. When they repeat the same thing over and over again, the changes are ones an actor makes while rehearsing a role, adjusting the script, adding more, altering, for dramatic effect. Sometimes they have a miraculous healing… and then reset themselves. The performance is over, but the play is not, the show will go on. The more they change, the more they stay exactly the same.
Yes, what I do on my blog is narcissistic. Blogging is narcissistic. I enjoy what I do, and I do it because I enjoy doing it – it’s all about me 😉
And some people may think I’m a narcissist, perhaps because I blog about NPD, or because this blog is egocentric, or any number of other reasons.
Such is life a la human!
You might find this article interesting – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201204/it-s-fine-line-between-narcissism-and-egocentrism
I’m glad you shared, I always find your ‘intrusions’ interesting 😉
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Dog biscuits. Yet again you hit a nerve. And your discussions about empathy and envy really hit the mark too. Then there is that discussion about – how much do they truly realize what they are doing? That would have to be the burning question of absolutely every single victim of a narcissist that there ever was! A couple of years later and that question still burns inside of me.
The thing about narcissism is – I see it everywhere these days.turn on the TV, watch a reality show. watch a feature movie, watch any one of a number of those crime shows on the ID channel, primetime, you name it. turn on the news – oh yes it is there every single day.get on your computer. I have heard advice that we should get away from the forums in order to break free of the psychological hold that this has on us. but it can be quite difficult when it truly is all around us. of course others around us who do not know it, cannot see it.
I don’t know if you can view Dr Phil where you are, but he is on the web. Today’s show was so pathetic it had me laughing my head off at the absurdity of it all. A twice divorced couple that was so a wash in narcissism that for a while they had Dr Phil pulling out hair that he does not have. He did not make the call on this particular show but he has been calling out the narcissists more and more on many of his shows.
Check it out, it’s a doozy.
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I wouldn’t watch Dr. Phil unless my life depended upon it, and even then I might opt out.
Narcissism is indeed everywhere.
As to whether that narcissism is healthy or unhealthy, belongs to someone with NPD or not, depends on the individual perspective. What we see is what we see. But are we seeing what is actually there or what we’re projecting onto what is there? And if we’re projecting, what are we projecting? Is it us or is it something else?
Many years ago I was looking at a painting with a friend, and I criticised the painting. My friend pointed out that I wasn’t seeing the painting as it was, I was seeing what I was projecting onto it. I got annoyed with him. He couldn’t see what I was seeing, he couldn’t understand the story held within that painting. He was blind and I was all-seeing… and then I realised I was the one being blind and he was the one who was all-seeing. I was really annoyed with him… because he was right. So I cleared my head and looked at the painting again. It was a beautiful painting which I had made ugly because of my projection.
The same scenario can work in reverse. We see beauty in something ugly and refuse to see it as anything other than beautiful.
What we see… is what we see. Our perspective can be changed depending on how open we are to seeing more than just what we are seeing. Sometimes this works positively, and sometimes it works negatively. Being open minded can be as problematic as being narrow minded. Both views have pros and cons.
Someone can poison our mind against someone else just with a piece of gossip or an opinion. We’re all aware of this, which is why when we tell someone else about a person being a narcissist, those people prefer not to believe us on our word. We also sound unhinged when we discuss narcissists, so that tends to go against us being believable. Describing a narcissist to someone who has never known a narcissist is like saying the colour blue is actually orange. If someone said that to us, we wouldn’t believe them.
Even within the community of those who’ve known narcissists, opinion about NPD varies greatly due to personal experience and other personal factors. Some of the things I say about NPD are anathema to other people who discuss NPD.
We see what we see, and even if we’re looking at the same thing, and see something similar… viewpoints may vary.
In my view, certain narcissists are as fooled by their NPD as others are. They really have no idea that they’re narcissists, and may well see others as being the narcissists. Other narcissists have more awareness of their NPD, but the degree of that awareness varies.
My mother is completely oblivious to her NPD. My father was aware of his manipulations, but that awareness fluctuated. He had that issue with others which manipulators sometimes point out – people only tend to listen to what they want to hear. They see what they want to see.
We live in a weird world, full of weird people trying to be ‘normal’… that can make people seem narcissistic when they are not intending to be that way, they’re just trying to belong, fit in, find friends 🙂
Sorry I just had to say in response to one comment. How is it narcissistic providing information for people who literally end up suicidal after being head fucked by a narcissist when it is such a tricky disorder and often our wounding draws us to it in the first place. In the end we have to take responsibility and heal but continuing to explore the subject, educate and inform is such a critically important thing. I don’t think that is narcissistic. I see someone who has gone through a deep process providing valuable information and perspectives to other who are struggling and questioning. One thing the narc does is by consistent criticism lead you to doubt the truth of who you are. If you had a stronger centre going into it you could walk away, if you had your own narcissistic wounding you are vulnerable and your healing involves sorting that out. In the end its healthy to let go of the attachment to the pain the narc caused us and realise why.. that is a long and painful journey. And not an easy one to take, but essential never the less.
This is part of the conundrum of trying to figure out if someone is a narcissist or not. Often those who have been in a relationship with a narcissist sound more narcissistic than those who have NPD when they give voice to their pain and confusion, and relate their story.
Those who haven’t been there, can’t empathise, and therefore can only go with what they’re seeing and hearing, and what they’ve understood intellectually about NPD.
Adult children of narcissists find this one of the most hurtful aspects of speaking up and breaking their silence. And since most children of narcissists live in that place full of doubtful fear that anything they say may be taken the wrong way and all hell will break loose, that their words will be twisted, taken out of context and used against them, that they will never be believed, that they will be falsely accused, that the narcissist will get away again and leave them to yet again pay for something they didn’t do… it can be harrowing just to say ouch.
The narcissist tends to be more conscious of how other people hear what they say, they’re aware of having an audience even when no one is listening. So they tend to appear more visually acceptable, because they’re controlling their appearance, therefore controlling how they are perceived.
It has to be said that those with NPD who ‘play the victim’, especially when they’re ‘playing victim of a narcissist’, do make discerning who is a narcissist and who is not but is expressing their pain after having been in a relationship with a narcissist a difficult task.
To an outsider, we may all sound like narcissists. Narcissists do pass their wound on to those with whom they are in relationships, and the healing process may appear similar to NPD to those seeing it from the outside looking in.
It is not up to us to convince others of anything, we’re not narcissists, we don’t need an audience for our pain, that’s not why we’re sharing our pain out loud, in public, we just need to share our story for our own benefit, so that we can hear it, acknowledge it, say it out loud instead of hiding it and being trapped in the silence, and find our healing along the way. Sometimes sharing our story helps others too. That’s not why we do it. We do it for ourselves, to trust and believe ourselves and challenge old patterns. If others doubt us or think we’re the narcissist, so be it.
That wasn’t what that comment was about, at least I didn’t read it that way. It was about seeking understanding and sharing perspectives. That’s always valuable even if it sometimes can hit a sore spot. We can learn a lot from having our sore spots poked, especially when it is by a gentle finger, not one intending to cause pain – it can take us back to being poked by narcissists, and can show us that not everyone pokes us deliberately to hurt us, sometimes they really just want to know about something, sometimes it is accidental.
It’s all part of the process. Keep on keeping on, and let yourself roar! 🙂
Acutely perceptive, Ursula. You highlighted something really deeply important which can trouble all of us “coming out” and giving voice to pain. The narc will use that to beat us up. Maybe that is the sore spot that got poked in this case. And I get what you are saying about that.
The shame over speaking out takes SUCH A LONG TIME TO LEAVE… mmm… and then to be re shamed for that. But part of recovery is learning to let it wash off and recognise when a person is threatened by a powerful darker truth.
The recovered and recovering know the pain so well and the entire conundrum so will validate it, as you do which is a gift beyond price.
And also there is a phase where the pain is so intense it consumes everything, and we are a little narcissistic in that our energy has go there and into our own healing. Part of recovering as you said is recognising we have the sore soft hurting spots left from earlier wounds and learning to lighten up and not be so overly sensitive which is easier to do if real recognition of the wound and its cause has come. That’s why its good to use a term such a narcissistic wounding rather than a label as such as its a behaviour that evolved as a response to someone else’s behaviour… which takes it out of the personal assassination category…and the behaviour can be learned about and we can develop better coping skills around the sore spot. Being able to lighten up and laugh at it all comes with time and with healing. 🙂
Those who are the important allies are the ones who point things out which help us to see things more clearly. Sometimes it can feel as though they are poking us where it hurts, which they may be doing but not with the intention of hurting us, but to help us. They’re sharing their perspective, which may give us a much needed view.
If you’ve been around narcissists, the first reaction to being poked is a defensive one, because the narcissist does it to provoke, and things may spiral from there.
Catch yourself when you’re spiraling and you may see something which will release you from the cycle.
It takes a while to realise the difference between a friendly prod, nudge, and the kind of poke which a narcissist does.
I find that asking myself why I am being poked, or why I feel provoked, is a good method. Is it me or is it them? Is it both? What’s actually going on.
I like to pause before I react, and if I react first, then take a pause to examine the information within the reaction.
I learned that from a book I read a long time ago which said something along the lines of – pay attention to every time you want to throw this book at the wall or in the trash and call it rubbish. In those moments consider what set you off and what it is actually showing you, therein lies the healing for your wound.
Most narcissists know where to poke us to hurt us because that’s where they are vulnerable – they use a ‘bad’ empathy of sorts. If they poke you where they’re hurting and you react, they feel better. If you don’t react, they feel worse and ramp up the poking until they hit a sore spot, your pain is their release.
I used to watch my parents doing that with people. They’d get a rush from hitting someone’s sore spot. They’d feel a rush of power over another, that was their cure for what they were actually feeling which was vulnerable, in pain, in need of a quick fix.
Most people don’t mean to prod you in your soft spot,aren’t narcissists and aren’t doing it deliberately, and they may be mortified if they find out that they’ve done that. Give people the benefit of the doubt when they do it, cut them lots of slack – they’ll appreciate it and repay the favour. I definitely need that kind of thing, I’m very clumsy. We’re all a bit of a mess when it comes to interactions.
Pay attention to your soft spots and learn what healing they have within them for you. That healing may also help others who have a similar soft spot.
That soft spot may sometimes alert you to a narcissist, some things which seem to be a pain, are sometimes pain being an ally.
Take good care of yourself, and let yourself heal in your own time 🙂
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I saw this and can only assume that you are referring to my post. Ursula is absolutely correct in how she took it, I meant no disrespect to her. I was simply relaying the way I have been treated in sharing my own stories. People who do not understand, or fall for the charismatic attitude of an abusive type of person will go to bat for them before they listen to your tales of woe. How do you think they end up in relationships or with friends in the first place? Chances are quite good that they talked a good game.
You have a very keen eye for observation of human nature. It’s something I admire, and always appreciate. I particularly enjoy the devil’s advocate side of that trait, it is rich with insight. The willingness to see, sometimes unflinchingly, to look at things from other perspectives, to listen with all the parts which can listen, and to question everything, to find your own answers, and question those too. A very valuable ability. Not a popular one where narcissism is concerned, which makes it all the more valuable 🙂
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I’ve just read your comment. I may have misunderstood initially where you were coming from, but understand better now. Thanks.
Wow, this has been like a major epiphany for me. Thanks for writing this!
Thank you 🙂
Hi Ursula, something the DSM doesn’t quite convey is that the grandiosity of the narcissist is compensatory. In order to maintain thieir ‘specialness’ their inferior feelings have to be continuously offloaded. I find that the terms ‘interpersonally exploitative’, and ‘lacking empathy’ don’t quite cut it. The narcissist does more than exploit. Their lack of empathy is the tip of the iceberg. Rather than the simple lack of something there is the malificent presence of an attitude which urgently needs to deposit anything that contests their grandiosity into others, all the shame, humiliation and longing is offloaded, usually into their defenceless children, so that the fantasy of how amazing they are can be upheld. In the trade its called ‘projective identification’. This is why the question of whether or not you are in the presence of a narcissist can often be answered by how you felt afterwards. If you feel useless, unattractive and failed, there is your answer. As for getting one to love you, well yes, but only at the expense of your own esteem because your value to them is not rooted in who you are but in the services you can provide as repository for their psychic crap. Of course, once you have filled yourself up to the point of wishing yourself dead you’re no longer a fine catch anyway and the narcissist has to move on to some other sucker who is foolish enough (grandiose enough?) to try and take on their inferiority beleiving that this service will secure genuine affection.
I love your blog. Have a nice day.
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Thank you very much 🙂
That is a magnificent summation.
The litmus test for a narcissist is very much in how you feel in their company.
Whenever I feel as though I should ‘get my coat’ because I’m not needed as I’m with someone who is creating who I am for them, and they would prefer it if I left my identity in their hands rather than interfere with their creation with my actual self, then I tend to conclude that this person may well be a narcissist.
However this isn’t easy to explain to those who’ve not experienced regularly how a narcissist operates. It also requires a certain amount of self understanding.
Narcissists have an instinct for where a person’s weakness lies, especially where their vanity lies within them. I used to watch my parents doing this with others. It was harder to unravel how they did it with me. It’s always easier to see it when it isn’t being done to you, and harder to see when it is being done to you.
Thank you for sharing that, it is very insightful!
Thank you very much for sharing your insights.. That helped to articulate something very important.
Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:
It was serendipitous I happened on this article this morning because it was exactly what I needed to read to deal with an issue I’m struggling with. I thought I’d pay it forward. 🙂
Thank you 🙂
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Knowing about what narcissism is now, I had a boss was an overt narcissist. Gad, he was extremely vicious and mean, grandiose, stole from the company, and almost the business, sexual harassment suit, etc.. But years later, he finally got his from many failed business schemes. Knowing about what narcissism is about now, makes me think I may be the narcissist? I think I know love and empathy, but so do they. I don’t like the thought, but thanks for the thought.. I think. Ugh!
Every human is narcissistic, sometimes it is healthy, sometimes it is not, it varies – NPD is different from that. So having narcissistic traits and behaviours, being narcissistic, is not uncommon, having NPD is not the same as being narcissistic.
Is there a spectrum with NPD as well? Again, a hope.
I think my narcissist is just a narcissist (thank god) he actually makes me feel lovely when talking to him after a year of being ‘together’ (I will never live with him) but only because we have distance he doesn’t get to be ‘irritated’ by me and visa versa as we don’t see enough of each other which actually works for us. He has shoved bad behaviour in my face and l disappeared for a month he didn’t chase l knew he wouldn’t, I eventually contacted him to which he was so grateful he apologised said he loved me blah blah blah. Through your blog l have come to the conclusion he is certainly not NPD however he has a number of narcissistic ‘symptoms’ more than most. I now understand how to walk away if necessary to lessen the grip and to keep myself in check, this gives me the confidence to continue. I know he need/want my adoration (amongst others) of him not to end therefore he rewards me with my need/want for adoration, is that so bad…we fill a void for each other certainly not the ideal for everyone, l accept him as he is but l will however remain diligent of my own amount of attachment, having said that though l am not afraid of pain it passes so l freely give. Thank you for pointing out the difference between a disorder and being narcissistic it has allowed me to be empathic to his ‘issues’ but to also understand l can accept or reject what l want from someone else’s behaviour whenever l want it has nothing to do with them.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
I think that as long as you are aware of who the other person is, and you feel comfortable accepting them for who they are, and this works for you, then it’s copacetic. Real relationships are messy, complicated, have contradictions, and often aren’t as ideal as perhaps we’d like for them to be. Life is flesh and blood, sweaty, dirty, chaotic, not a romantic film or a pretty photoshopped picture in a magazine. As long as both of you get something out of being together, then it sounds like a good pairing, keep being mindful, and make sure things flow both ways, that there is a give and take from both sides.
Best wishes on your journey through life, and for your relationships. Keep trusting yourself!
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