Why is it so difficult to figure out if someone is a narcissist or not?
You’d think, after reading up on the traits and behaviours of NPD, that narcissists would be easy to spot.
They are selfish, rude, manipulative, critical, nasty people, right? Entitled, grandiose a-holes who don’t give a shit about anyone else, right? They use and abuse everyone, right?
It should be obvious, right?
Read or hear anyone’s story of their relationship with a narcissist and, if you’ve never experienced a narcissist up close and personal, you may wonder how come they stayed in that relationship, put up with that kind of behaviour, allowed themselves to be suckered by such a person, and repeatedly let themselves be used and abused, and used and abused again and again.
If someone describes a person they know who is like most of us end up describing narcissists, you’d probably advise them to ditch that bitch or bastard, avoid that toxic waste dump of a soul, that black hole of negativity, that dark matter. Get away, get out, and get smart. Get over it and move on.
Remember that by the time we share our story of our particular close encounter with a narcissist, we’re in the angry zone, in the betrayed fury arena, the outraged inning… we’re gladiators and we’re done with showing mercy, this is dog eat dog, the rat race, and only the ruthless and strong survive, right? We’ve sussed out that they’re a narcissist and everything that means in its most awful, painful, horrible deep end.
We’ve made it easy for others to find the baddie in the story… we’ve also made it easy for them to find the chump (that’s us, circled with a red sharpie by us due to how we tell our story). So we make it easy for others to scoff at us for being such fools… they’d never be as dumb as us, not based on how obvious we’ve made the villain in our film version of our true story. They feel smart compared to us… and we get mad at them for feeling that way!
We once thought we were as smart as they think they are… we also scoffed at the idiots who fell for such villains… ruh roh… are we now not just victims of a narcissist, but also victims of karma which is having a laugh at our expense!?!
Did someone once tell us about their story with a narcissist and we… were dismissive, too cavalier, insensitive, unsympathetic, unempathic, a bit too cocky…? No, no, no… surely not!?! We’re good people, empathic, sympathetic, sensitive… except… no… surely…not…
No one believes in narcissists… until narcissists become real to them. And even then… what is real and what is not? Are they the fantasists or are we?
Once upon a time we may have thought they were gods, angels, heroes… but now we can only see them as demons, monsters, malevolent beasts, villains.
By the time you share your story with others your narcissist is Hannibal Lecter or Cruella De Vil… and so others may be perplexed as to how you could have ever fallen in love with such a person, or wonder if perhaps you’re making this shit up… a woman scorned or a man on fire… especially if they’ve never met them.
If they think you’re crazy… consider this, particularly if you never believed in narcissists until you experienced one, if someone came to you and told you about how they once loved Charles Manson… what would you think about that and them, and their story?
It’s hard to be empathic when you don’t have a personal reference point. You can be sensitive and give sympathy, superficially you know that’s what they want so you give it because you know your social cues… however you have your own problems and so does everyone else… and listening to someone else’s problems when you are caught up in your own is the last thing you want to do – you need empathy, sympathy and sensitivity from others too.
And if they’re sharing a story which sounds more like a plot from some film… fiction! You’re living real life, you don’t have time for this!
And listening to the story of someone who is in the worst part of their relationship with a narcissist can be too much to hear, information and emotional overload. Their life drama can trigger things in us which perhaps we’re conscious of or perhaps are hiding from ourselves. Stop, please stop… I don’t want to go there!
One person’s problems can have a domino effect on our own.
It’s important to be aware, when sharing your story with others, that you don’t expect too much from them. Expectations = disappointment. And telling the whole story of your experience of a relationship with a narcissist to someone else can be very draining and confusing for them – it is for you, so why do you think they’ll be okay with it?
We need to be empathic, sensitive and sympathetic towards those who offer us a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a compassionate moment to share. They’re not obliged to give us any of those things, so appreciate what they are doing when they do it… and try to understand when they can’t do it, or can’t do it anymore. We are not entitled to their understanding, especially if we are not understanding towards the reactions they might have towards our sharing of our story.
That shit has fucked you up… so it may fuck others up too, even if it is secondhand fuckuppery.
There are many variables, and the more variables of which you are aware, the easier it will be on you… and on others.
One of the things I find slightly disturbing is the accusation of apathy which those who now know all about narcissists hurl at those who still remain naive about narcissists, especially at those who seem to be aiding and abetting a narcissist – your narcissist whom you have unmasked and now want everyone else to see what you see (which you didn’t always see).
I understand the frustration, and the reasons for being pissed off at those who seem apathetic, but… be honest with yourself, you know the score, you know what it is like to be completely spellbound by a narcissist, or oblivious to people who are narcissists, you know what it is like to not want to see beyond the facade of them or to know that such people exist, it hurts… it hurts horribly to remember those times… but that’s your personal reference point which should inspire empathy in you for those who are still unable to see what you now think is blatantly obvious.
If you’ve really and truly been through the vicious cycle of being in a relationship with a narcissist, a person with NPD, then you know apathy… and you know why others do it because you’ve done it too. It hurts like hell to admit it…
Before you label me as a schmuck or whatever (whatever = apathy of a sort about labels, accusations and such. Narcissists give those out like after dinner mints)…
I’ve done the apathy thing… I’ve had my long moments of not giving a shit about anyone or anything, mostly due to no one giving a shit about me and my things (lousy excuse but a very human experience).
Growing up with narcissists you learn early on (before you know you’re learning it) that other people don’t give a shit about you… unless you’re useful to them as some sort of object, a pawn in their plans for themselves. This kind of lesson can make you go in several different directions. The easy way is – you become a narcissist yourself (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em). The hard way is – you keep trying to fight the easy way, stupidly hoping that you’re accumulating good karma by doing things the hard way (while a voice keeps whispering seductively – give up, give in, give everything to everyone else…).
In the human version of good and bad karma, networking, making lucrative connections, profit, gain, screw everyone else, no consequences required, narcissists are better at the game.
For some this is just a writing prompt for a piece of fiction… for those who know a narcissist, especially children of narcissists, this is anything but fiction… good luck getting anyone who hasn’t experienced this, a narcissist, to believe you… you’re imaginitive, you are!
When I was younger I kept expecting that good would win over bad. What a moron, an idiot, a fool, a lucky survivor of Darwin’s law, a fantasist! But those sort of things are subjective… and most people didn’t agree with my version of my particular narcissists, my parents, because they benefited more from the bad than the good… which therefore made the bad = good and the good = bad. They prospered from being on the side of the narcissists… being on my side got them punished by the narcissists who ruled! They pawned anyone who dared to challenge them!
As I got older I didn’t necessarily get any wiser but I wised up and… realised apathy was quite a good tactic to survive the narcissistic reality I was stuck in.
Not many people sussed my parents out as being not as charming or beneficial as they seemed and pretended to be. They had influence, I didn’t… so they always won when it came to recruiting acolytes. My father excelled at this more than my mother, he was famous (sort of, in his circle, she was just his wife whom he hated)… frankly I was my mother’s only acolyte, her one loyal soldier of fortune (to my misfortune).
But every now and then, when a blue moon rose, and pigs grew wings and had a bit of a flight… someone would see through the veneer of my parents’ Wonderland.
I recounted an incident recently in a comment – basically once upon a time someone took me to one side and revealed to me that my mother was a monster. Yes… and…? I know… What am I supposed to do about it for you?
This person was a newbie to this whole rigmarole… perhaps I should have been more sensitive, sympathetic, empathic… but… all they were doing was switching sides between warring narcissists. They’d been on my mother’s side, it didn’t bear successful fruit for them, so now they’d moved over to my father’s side. I knew that wouldn’t work out for them either, but they didn’t know that and didn’t want to know that. It was slightly more complicated than that… but you really don’t want me to explain that mess to you. Really you don’t… neither do I (as that’s part of my selective amnesia years).
That wasn’t my finest hour… but I didn’t really have many of those at that time. I could make endless excuses (growing up with narcissists you learn to be an excuse generator) for myself, but… I was just being apathetic.
What was the point of my getting involved more than I already was, and I was in deep… this person was nice, they’d once been innocent of all things narcissist… then the narcissists had gotten hold of them, they wanted the mirage the narcissists offered – but for those dreams to come true there’s a price to pay…
…most people seize the day, the dream, the offered magic, the gift of the narcissist… ignore the price and then whine later and try to worm their way out of the fine when they have to pay up.
If I’d stuck my neck out for this person, to save them… I’d have only had my head chopped off again. Which is okay because that was always happening to me… I knew how to stick it back on. But… this person wouldn’t have done that for me, they just wanted me to do it for them… so they could get away.
Would they come back for me, helped me as I helped them… nah!
As nice as they once were… and perhaps still saw themselves as being so very nice, that kind of nice is a one way ticket for one person – them. Maybe they’d have told tales of someone (me) who’d sacrificed themselves to save them, an act of kindness for which they were grateful and which inspired them to do random acts of kindness for others (which they bragged about while pretending to be humble about it). Doubt it… most people prefer to be the hero of their own story… but if they had given me that role… they’d have forgotten to mention that part where they could have returned to save me, but decided to let me die or whatever… once they were out… yeah!
And that’s just a best case scenario… you can’t trust those you help to actually get out when you sacrifice yourself for them to do that… many screw you over and stay, maybe that was their plan all along, to worm their way into the heart of the narcissist… then the whole bollocks begins again, only this time you’re doubly screwed!
When people are apathetic… more often than not it’s because they’re trapped and can’t see a way out of it, they’ve given up, they’re overwhelmed, drained, really don’t give a shit anymore about anyone… everyone wants you to care about them, no one cares about you other than to care about you caring or not caring about them… they’ll screw you over in the blink of an eye to save themselves.
Trust no one when you live in narcissistville – not even yourself!
So, next time you label someone as apathetic because they didn’t care for your plight, weren’t empathic, sympathetic, sensitive enough for you towards you… a bit of empathy, sympathy, sensitivity flowing the other way might… might explain things to you about their apathy, even if it pisses you off and you hate them for it because you want them to give a shit about you… but they just can’t, they’re exhausted of such things.
Life is difficult enough even if we never encounter a narcissist, but those who end up getting sucked into the version of reality of a narcissist, into a relationship with one… get the life and energy to live sucked out of them. You know what I’m talking about, right?
A narcissist expects you to be empathic, sympathetic and sensitive towards them 25/8, maybe 26/9… more than that, they need more and it’s never enough.
They take it all from you and you really have nothing left for anyone else… and not for yourself either… which is why you seek it from others.
When we’re victims of narcissists…
we may not realise how much we grow and feed off our story… off of our victimhood, off of what the narcissist did to us, our suffering due to them, especially when we share it and others relate to it. Suddenly we have power as a victim, and may feel inclined to stay that way because we’re getting attention for it.
we may inadvertently cause others to become secondhand victims of our narcissists.
We don’t mean to do it, but we’re the walking dead and we’re starving, have been that way for a while and… food! Everyone becomes food…
the wound, the virus, the narcissist has… they infect us with it and we become carriers, passing it on as we try to find a cure… we call it healing, but how do others experience our healing?
Some viruses manipulate the minds of humans to get them to pass it on… humans aren’t the only ones with survival tactics.
I’ve learned many lessons from the narcissists in my life, some of which are very twisted, but one of the most valuable ones is – Pain connects us all, more than anything else in life. It connects us not just to other human beings, but to every aspect of life, to nature, to Earth, to the Universe.
We all experience our own personal version of the Big Bang.
We’re all made of star stuff… not all star stuff is light and sparkly.
What you want… others want it too… what you want from others… others want it from you too… and sometimes the best thing you can give to yourself, to others is… nothing.
That void is soon filled… nature always fills a void.
Once you realise that your nature fills your emptiness… then you don’t need anything from anyone, and strangely… that’s when people start giving to you…
Sometimes when you get things from others for nothing… well, that nothing ain’t nothing anymore.
Okay… I’ve lost the plot, not sure if I ever had it to begin with…
Just remember… we’re all in this together even when we feel alone… so very alone… others feel that way too.
Trouble weighs a ton… and we all carry it… seek to lighten our load… some do that by shifting their weight onto others, then those others carry their own and those of others… and…
Sometimes Atlas shrugs…