In a post on Psychology Today titled “Why Narcissists Thrive On Chaos” Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. chronicles a study conducted by Sindes Dawood and Aaron Pincus of Pennsylvania State University. The study determined a link between narcissism and frenzied behavior. Whitbourne writes:
“It might strike you that people who insist on coming across as unbelievably busy and harried actually enjoy this constant state of confused over-commitment. Sure, you think, they may indeed have important jobs or roles in life, but there must be a way they can be better organized and calmer. As it turns out their continually chaotic lives may be a function of a high degree of narcissism. They may not actually enjoy the state of frenzy, but instead are driven to give off this impression to cover up their own feelings of despair and lack of importance.”
Whitbourne explains the results:
“…people high in the pathological type of narcissism are likely to experience the extreme high of feeling that they rule the world, but when things don’t turn out as planned, become despondent and out of control. The disruption they cause in everyone else’s lives, according to this view, is part of the pattern of needing to fuel their sense of self-importance.”
Read the entire post here
When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, it is important to recognize the difference between power and control.
“I have lived in an illusion that I could control the outcome of the relationship, that if I wanted something bad enough in a relationship I valued, I should be able to make it work. While I do have power, I only have power over my own behavior, not the narcissist’s. It is not my place to try to elicit a certain response from the narcissist. When I try to do this, I am trying to control.”
Adapted from Surviving the Narcissist:
30 Days of Recovery
Using scientific facts, research, and data, Eric Barker’s article on The Ladders explains the “narcissism epidemic.” The article also offers five ways to deal with narcissists. Barker writes:
“Dealing with a narcissist regularly is like having a pet tiger: you always have to be careful that one day he’s gonna see you as dinner. But if you don’t have a choice, negotiate hard. This is nobody to be win-win with.”
Read “5 Scientific Secrets To Handling a Narcissist” here
“It’s important to understand that the narcissist parent cannot see what’s real—the real you or anyone else. There may be moments when the parent appears to connect. The closeness feels very personal and rich. You may not want to believe it is a manipulation. You may fiercely defend your parent. You may take on traits of the parent and unwittingly act them out with others, coming to the parent’s defense. Then you are blamed for it and you are hurt.
Your age doesn’t matter—you are the child and you want to be loved by your parents—and much of this is happening on an unconscious and, perhaps, energetic level.”
This excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s 1949 play “The Cocktail Party” encapsulates the narcissist experience.
“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
In a blog post titled “Narcissistic Friends: What’s the Attraction?” featured on Psychology Today, Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D. explains what being friends with a narcissist often entails. White also explains why so many people, especially women, struggle to disengage from these toxic friendships.
Although befriending a narcissist isn’t quite the same as engaging in a relationship hallmarked by abuse, there can be a similar dynamic in that the narcissist is able to draw back in a friend who is trying to break from the relationship. Narcissists can be master manipulators who are driven only by the need to gain power through any means possible that allows them to come out looking good on the surface even if inflicting unseen wounds to the psyche.
Read the blog post here
Feelings are not reality, but they are often excellent indicators of my thoughts about my relationships and the actions I’ve taken in my relationships. Do I feel lousy? Like a failure? Like I’m not blessed the way others are? By no longer dismissing my feelings, I can use them as tools for healing. If a relationship does not feel good, why am I staying?
If I must or choose to stay in a relationship—or if I need to have contact with the narcissist—what can I do differently that feels better, without hurting myself in the long run?
Dwelling on negative thoughts, known as ruminating, is understandably detrimental to mental health and wellness. However, in an article titled “The Hazards of Rumination for Your Mental and Physical Health” featured on U.S. News, Stacey Colino points out that persistent ruminating can cause physical consequences as well. Colino writes:
“…research has linked this tendency toward overthinking with numerous harmful behaviors, particularly overeating and drinking too much alcohol, as well as health consequences such as an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and other toxic effects. A study…found that when people ruminate after a stressful experience, it takes them longer to recover physiologically…compared to those who use distraction tactics. Previous research…found that people with a tendency to ruminate experience exaggerated and prolonged increases in their blood pressure and heart rate…”
Read the article here
You will likely be caught completely off guard and left confused and wounded by what the narcissist in your life does next. One minute, it’s all sweetness and light. The next, it’s the silent treatment. The narcissist may withhold communication, affection, attention, or suddenly act like they do not understand why you are behaving a certain way.
This is called “projecting.” Think of a motion picture projector, how it projects a picture out there, on the wall. For the narcissist, other people are the walls and they are the projector. Bad feelings are relegated to the other person (“Why are you always in a foul mood?” “Why do you always have to have your way?” “You are so sensitive but you never hear me.”)
Adapted from NARCISSISM: SURVIVING THE SELF-INVOLVED
I have options. I need not hold onto the fantasy of my relationship any longer. How I see myself and the narcissist is evolving on a daily basis. I’m allowed to change my mind, to stand up for myself. I also know that I’m not always the expert—nor do I need to be. I am growing, seeking to learn, to better myself.
What a relief to learn that I also have choices as to when not to act, to speak, to engage. It’s a humbling part of my recovery.
An important step in healing is focusing on myself. Focusing doesn’t mean blaming and it doesn’t mean pointing out flaws. It means being aware of what I need in the present moment. I notice how meeting my own needs and putting myself first is getting more comfortable.