The Age of the Narcissist – The Best and the Worst of it

Charles-Dickens

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Have you ever been in a relationship with a narcissist?

That’s a bit of a trick question… tricky to answer.

Why?

Partly because the term ‘narcissist’ hasn’t always meant what it means now.

It used to mean someone who was very vain…

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… in love with themselves, with their reflection which they saw everywhere, in street windows, in the eyes of others, in pools of water like Narcissus.

If you called someone a narcissist or if someone called you that… it could be as much of a compliment as a criticism. It didn’t really matter… you might even call yourself a narcissist…

I came across a post a while back on a blog which was called something like – The Narcissist’s blog. In this post the blogger was trying to come to terms with the fact that when they had called their blog that, the term meant something else… but not anymore…

These days when we call someone a narcissist, we usually mean someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder… or someone who we think has NPD.

Someone we have decided is a ‘bad’ person, ‘toxic’, ‘negative’, and other terms we use to describe people who have hurt us, caused us pain, frustrated us, deceived, disappointed and generally screwed us over in some way.

We go online and search for – person who is selfish, mean, nasty… doesn’t care about me only cares about themselves – or something like that and our search results answer us by saying – Oh, you must be talking about a narcissist!

Yes! Yes, I am! Tell me more Google!

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Googling

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My apologies to other search engines, but Google is a narcissist… maybe, and I really need for it to be on my side as I use it a lot, it’s my default search engine, so I’m sucking up to it to stay on its good side.

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Flattery gets you results when dealing with a narcissist…… it also gets narcissists results when dealing with others.When you first meet a narcissist, before you know that’s what they are… they’re so charming, so perceptive, so good at making you feel good about yourself. They’re easy to love, to fall for…

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During what is now termed ‘The Honeymoon phase’, a narcissist will sweep you off your feet, place you on a pedestal, worship you… heady stuff.

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And we would never dream of calling them a narcissist or diagnosing them with a disorder during that time. In fact we usually think we’ve found our ideal person, our dream lover, our perfect partner, friend, etc… It is the best of times and we think the best of them because it makes us feel on top of the world to think that way……as much as humans can be critical, we also can be generous with our praise… our critical abilities tend to only kick in once we’ve been kicked… enough times for it to hurt so bad we never want to be hurt that way again, so we kick first to protect our wounded self, where we’re bruised from the kicks we’ve taken.

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We prefer to think well of others if we can… and narcissists encourage us to do that with them and make us feel good about it… feel blessed, touched by an angel…… which is why it is devastating for us when they fail to live up to who we thought they were, imagined them to be, who they promised us they were, who we believed they were, who we needed them to be for us to be their special, chosen one.

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Our idealistic, perfect dream shatters and we get sliced to the bone by all the jagged shards of our burst bubble… and bleed profusely… numb from the pain… can’t feel anymore, can’t stop feeling the emptiness of not feeling…

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Perhaps we could get over it… survive the fall from grace… the tumble from cloud nine… perhaps we flew too close to the Sun and it melted our wings…but……it’s not just the loss of the best of times which we have to deal with…

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Our Prince or Princess Perfectly Charming who stepped out of our dreams… turns into an evil pumpkin… and we are forced to endure a period of the worst of times……the death of our dream is a slow and agonising descent into nightmare, all our monsters which were only supposed to be imaginary become real… just as the dream came true, so does the nightmare.

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A narcissist is not usually obvious as a narcissist… they live in the shades of grey between black and white, as do all humans, so the black and white guidelines for recognising a narcissist aren’t helpful until afterwards… until we’ve had the kind of experience we wish we hadn’t had, and even then… we often have to repeat the lesson.

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Why? Because people can’t be categorised so easily, whether they’re a narcissist or not. We can all be narcissistic because narcissism is natural and normal, it’s healthy for us…it’s a phase of development which we all go through, some people get stuck there, and that’s when it becomes a disorder.

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It could be very loosely likened to getting stuck on a level in a video game. Getting stuck in jail in Monopoly… everyone one else just keeps going and somehow you don’t, you can’t. You’re stuck… stuck in a rut, and at some point you begin to make that rut a home. Put some spin on the rut and soon enough you might even be able to make it the place to be. Decorate it attractively and you might even be able to lure people into believing that their moving on is the last thing they should be doing – this level of the game is the only level worth being on, jail is where it is at in Monopoly!

.Great Mistakes.

If someone is offering you a couple of easy steps to recognise a narcissist without fail every time, telling you that people can be that easily categorised, judged, sussed out, split into good or bad, hero or villain, black or white, narcissist or non-narcissist… just follow this formula they’ve created by treating others as one-dimensional things…

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And if they’re also offering you a miracle cure for all the pain a narcissist caused you… just sign on this dotted line, pay some cash up front, and all your worldly worries will be gone… and if their miracle cure doesn’t work for you, it’s your fault not theirs because they’re perfect and it worked for them and everyone else who has ever tried it…

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Remember that narcissists aren’t easy to spot, especially not when they’re on their best behaviour, selling you the dream, promising you the best of times which you are so desperately seeking, and often first appear in your life as someone rather lovely making everything better, making you feel so good… it’s only later on that the perfect veneer fades, the facade cracks… and the saviour turns into a devil who tempted you with everything you wanted.

.keyser soze.

Narcissists rather like this new version of the term narcissist… and the more they learn about NPD (they research it as much as you do because they are interested in what’s trending, a hot topic, etc), the more they can use it to… deflect any responsibility from themselves for their own lives and actions, for the consequences of their words and deeds, and they can use it to control others… as always, and keep everything perfect, ideal, keep their delusional bubble intact.

Narcissists are quick to accuse others of what they are guilty. If they get the accusation in first, you’re screwed and they benefit from it… they don’t necessarily do this deliberately, with malice aforethought, sometimes they genuinely believe their own BS, and it ain’t BS when they’re saying it – it’s only that when you say it.

They see themselves reflected in others, they project themselves onto us… all we are is a pool, a reflective surface, a mirror for them.

When we are happy, they see themselves as good people, our smile is their smile, belongs to them, our beauty is theirs, our love is self love for them…

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When we are sad, mad, not giving them the expression they want reflected back at them, they don’t like what they see, they hate our faces for being ugly, for making them feel bad about themselves… when we make them feel bad about themselves, then we must be a narcissist…

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Oh… and look… when they accuse us of being a narcissist… and they play the victim of a narcissist… oooh… they get rewarded for it… by us… as we try harder to please them, to show them that we’re not a narcissist, that they’re wrong about us – now, they’re never going to stop using this accusation against us because it makes us do what they wanted us to do.

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…and they get attention from total strangers who relate to them, with them… when they tell others about the nasty narcissist who won’t do what they want them to do… those strangers say – don’t let the nasty narcissist get away with what they’re doing to you! Fight the monster! Fight them for everyone who has ever known one of those narcissist devils!

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And so they do… they’re a hero now when they accuse anyone and everyone who doesn’t do what they want them to do of being a narcissist…

.Russell Brand-DreamDisney - annie Leibovitz.

That nasty narcissist wouldn’t give me money to buy myself a diamond tiara, after everything I’ve been through living life and stuff, which always hits me harder than anyone else because I’m super sensitive and empathic, more than anyone else, I’m special that way… I deserve it and they refused for some narcissistic reason such as they had to pay the electricity bill, or get the kids some food… sheesh! I’m the victim here, I need compassion! Why am I always surrounded by narcissists!!!

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If you think I’m being OTT about it, then check out – Puppygate – on The Narcissistic Continuum.

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They take everything about us personally… they make us responsible for their personal welfare, their sense of self, their identity, ego, and everything else.

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We have to smile because they want to feel beautiful…

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I once fainted and chipped my front tooth due to the fall, my mother was there and when she finally noticed, which took forever (thank goodness as it gave me time to come to terms with a rather bewildering experience), all she could say was – You’ve ruined your beautiful smile! – and she said it like I’d done it on purpose to hurt her. That this hurt her more than it hurt me – which it always does with a narcissist.

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or we need to cry because they need to quench their thirst with our tears, wash away their grime with our water.

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Once my mother became aware of the chipped tooth, she pestered me, harassed me, would not let me be until I finally burst into tears (which requires for me to be under a lot of stress as she taught me never to cry when I was an infant), and the moment she drew tears from me… she told me not to cry about it, why was I making such a fuss about it. There, there, there… what a wuss!

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One minute they need you to be one thing, the next they need something else from you…

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One minute you’re an angel of mercy who is saving them… the next minute you’re evil incarnate who is dragging them to hell…

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One minute you’re the last person on earth who could ever be a narcissist… the next minute you’re a narcissist, he’s a narcissist, she’s a narcissist, everyone they’ve ever known is a narcissist… they’re surrounded by narcissists and they’re the only one who could never be a narcissist…

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Oh… but they might ask – Could I be a narcissist?… because they’re done a search online, done the same research you’ve done, and found that narcissists never wonder that about themselves, so if they wonder it about themselves, openly and get attention for it, then… that proves they could never be a narcissist. End of. Just be careful how you answer them when they ask that question… it’s not a question. You’re just a mirror mirror on the wall… your job is to tell them that they’re the fairest of them all.

.Mirrors - jean cocteau.

I got called out on my blog recently in a comment for not confirming or denying whether I was a narcissist. For letting others decide about whether I was or not rather than trying to control that.

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Perhaps I shouldn’t let others make their own minds up…

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There were a few confusing elements in this comment for me, one of which was the commenter’s view of what defined a narcissist, their diagnostic criteria, the other was that they seemed to imply that this putting me on the spot had more to do with them wanting me to comfort them by saying – I’m not a narcissist, therefore you can trust me…

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If only it was that easy…

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So, if I tell you to trust me… you’ll trust me, right? Aren’t we told never to trust someone who tells us to trust them?

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If I say – I’m not a narcissist… – a narcissist would never say that, right?

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Frankly (never trust anyone who says that) if I said – I’m definitely not a narcissist… – that’s when I’d suspect that I probably am, so not confirming or denying it is my way of… keeping things in the grey area… I’m human so… I’m probably narcissistic some of the time, hopefully not all of the time… but to be honest (never trust anyone who says that) I don’t have a frigging clue whether I am or am not a narcissist.

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I’m not going to a professional to get a diagnosis… you can’t be sure that they’ll diagnose you properly. My godfather/uncle was a child psychologist… he really didn’t understand children at all, but he thought he did. I was a very shy child, his cure for that was to make me feel bad about it and tell me to get over it.

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If only it was that easy…

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And besides, whether I am or am not a narcissist… in relationships it’s more about whether you experience me as one or not.

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Take one of the most famous self-confessed narcissists online – Sam Vaknin. He’s always telling all of us that he’s a narcissist… and yet he still gets loads of flack when he behaves exactly like the narcissist which he tells us he is. Go figure…

.Be yourself - no - society.

I’ve learned a lot from narcissists about being human and the human tendency to try to not be human, to transcend being human and become… what… inhuman?

In some ways narcissists are just humans who were never allowed to just be human…

It can be hard for us to look at the story behind the narcissist, especially if they’ve screwed us over so much that all we want to do is hate them and dehumanise them… kind of do to them what they seem to have done to us.

We turn them into the ultimate unfeeling, inhuman villain… and we just can’t afford to feel anything for them, that has already cost us too much, and they’ve made that very clear – every time we feel for them, they use that feeling against us, to hurt us, take advantage, hit us where it hurts, again and again… they make us feel weak for caring…

But… they weren’t born that way, even if some people bandy about that whole born that way, born evil, genetic devils theory… sometimes buying into that kind of theory is what people need to do to heal their own wounds, and they’re not necessarily aware of the wounds that kind of theory may cause if they don’t consider the consequences of holding onto it a bit too rigidly.

We live and learn… life is about learning… learning to live… as a human.

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* speaking of not being a robot… WordPress just completely messed with my post’s formatting, sorry if it’s more of a mess than usual!