My books have helped thousands to step back, and away, from the damaging effects of a narcissistic person, whether it’s a present-day relationship or one that has haunted them from the past. Now, they may help you, too.

Narcissist ruining your life?

Maybe you love one. Or work for one. Maybe you’re related to one. Or were raised by one. Whatever the relationship, you’ve likely been hurt by the narcissist in your life.

From Surviving the Narcissist: 30 Days of Recovery

Perhaps it is simply not healthy for me to see them.

It is a resolution I only tell myself.

It is not something I announce.

What good would it do?

I’m angry:

At the time I’ve lost

Because I’m not through it yet

Because I’ve lived like I don’t exist in order to make them happy

Because I’ve been used

Because I’ve participated

Because I’ve worked so hard not to see reality—but the reality I think they wanted me to see…that I was damaged (not them)

That they didn’t want me just for me

That they used me

And I looked up to them

They fed off of me and acted like I was using them

And I still looked up to them

Brainwashed

I’m sick and bored of putting so much effort into being fake

This is the part I can claim—my awareness—and put it to good use to help me recover, accept responsibility for my part, and begin to heal.

It doesn’t have to take forever, but it is a process. The moment I take the first step, change—a return to sanity—becomes reality.

I start.

—Meredith Resnick

A little unhealthy narcissism goes SUCH a long way. Here’s a few ways narcissism can roll right over a so-called friendship. Make yourself aware, so you don’t get crushed.

  • Pretending what happened didn’t, even though they caused it and it did happen and you were hurt by it. Then refuse to own any part of the exchange. “You always do this—turn something simple into a complex mess.”
  • Telling you to lighten up and not be hurt. “Other people have it worse than you. Your life is easy. Be grateful!”
  • Making a point of saying, after they did something hurtful—while looking you in the eye—that their own “growth” HAS TO BE about learning they need to stop apologizing all the time. “I’ve spent too long apologizing to people who have no interest in understanding ME.”
  • Telling you that you need to be responsible for your own feelings and that they are done taking care of you when in fact you’ve been the one walking on eggshells. “Grow up already—I hate having to watch my words around you.” (Recognize the co-dependent quality of this dynamic…what do you get out of coddling a person so intent on hurting you?)
  • When you are having a tough time expressing yourself, look at you almost contemptuously and say: “I’m sorry—you make absolutely no sense” or “Speak up already.”

It might be true that you can have these conversations with people who are not narcissistic, or who tip the scale less in that direction. If so, good. Either way, pay attention to your inner voice. Try not to react. Is the exchange with this person dragging your spirit down? If so, that could be a sign to ask yourself what you’re getting from this relationship, and if it’s really what you want.

 

This is not about politics. This is about personality. Note…the words include nothing about the self. (One has to wonder, is there a “there” there?) Blame and shame toward everyone else. Here you have it, published by the New York Times. Note the pattern…nothing really substantial, just throwing spaghetti at a wall.

Here, from the New York Times: The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List.

When Alisa Bowman, author of the memoir Project: Happily Ever After asked me questions sometime back about narcissism, one of the things she asked was this:

I have a friend who is dating a narcissist. He’s really good at convincing her that she’s the problem. It takes an army of friends like me to prove to her that it’s the other way around. Do you have advice for people who are probably married to narcissists but who blame themselves for their failed marriage?

Here’s how I answered her:

One of the underlying themes of narcissism – though not said directly – is the sense that it is always the other person who is responsible for the narcissist’s happiness, contentment and, more globally, life. Since the partner cannot provide the cure to make the narcissist happy, devaluation comes next.

It’s important to understand that the interior life of the narcissist is equivalent to a black hole. Narcissist’s have a very fragile internal life. Deep within they feel a dense of profound emptiness, of being null, void, empty, a shell.

Think for a moment how frightening that would be, to live like that day in and day out. But instead of finding a way out of the hole, the narcissist projects his or her fear of nothingness on another person. Once we take it on – always unknowingly – we feel their pain and desperation. But we cannot fix it because the original problem does not belong to us.

Narcissism is a slippery, and convoluted slope. It can take years for one partner to realize the other is narcissistic. In fact, it can take decades. One of the greatest gifts we give ourselves is becoming aware of its effects, and how, in turn, it affects us. This we do have control over, which is very good news.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): “The essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts. When diagnosing, the DSM calls that five or more of the traits listed below be present.

I have found it helpful to think of the various ways these clinical descriptions can look in the real world. This helps makes the general descriptions more recognizable and therefore, more relatable. Once something is relatable, it’s easier to see how it shows up in your life. I have used red/italics to show some of the ways the general description provided in the DSM might show up in your life, either via the narcissistic person or how you feel when in contact with one.

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (along with the need to cut down anyone else who might in the slightest way threaten the fragile, out-of-proportion crafted self portrait)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love (and will likely tell you they have one or all of these things; and that they were achieved solo, as in no help…or because he or she was a super-great leader and others wanted to be lead)
  • Believes that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) (not just “only the best for me” but “only the best are attracted to me because they want to be with the best”)
  • Requires excess admiration (you’re only as good as your last compliment of them)
  • Has a sense of entitlement (whether verbalized or not, gives off the sense that he or she alone is deserving of whatever he or she decides)
  • Is interpersonally exploitative (prepare to feel used sooner or later)
  • Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others (it won’t take long for the frost to set in; typically, others will wonder what they themselves did wrong)
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them (their identity feels so precarious it seems to them that it could be stolen at any moment)
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes (keeps people at a distance to maintain facade)

Honeymoons don’t last. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

What hurts is when we want to keep going back to the honeymoon because the here and now isn’t so good. Or because it’s bad. This is often the case in an intimate relationship with a narcissist.

In the beginning, particularly when there is a strong physical attraction, we tend to see the terrific parts of the other person’s personality. I’ve read and heard that, in fact, this “seeing the best in the other” is actually us projecting our finer qualities (I call this reverse projection) onto the other person. You might have heard it called the honeymoon period.

At some point in the relationship, both parties will acknowledge their own assets and liabilities (we hope), and move forward as two individuals coming together in a union–but remaining the individuals that they are. The alternative is one feeding off the other, which is what happens when you are involved with a narcissist. This is where the term “narcissistic supply” comes from.

If you are involved with a narcissist, you’ll notice signs of trouble when you take back your own assets, which means you have stopped “seeing” and projecting them onto the other person (so, ceasing the reverse projection). Trouble is, narcissists like the reverse projection; it makes them look better. The narcissistic person has begun to wear the projected assets as his or her own mask, and will experience your assets as his or her own! Then, when you attempt to own them again, he or she might say that you are copying them, stealing from them, trying to be like them.

Once this happens, you can become the object of the narcissist’s rage (which can be very loud or icily quiet) and soon finds yourself apologizing, because this rage (again, loud or quiet) can be frightening and intolerable.*

*This excerpt originally appeared on Alisa Bowman’s Project: Happily Ever After. The site no longer exists, but you can purchase Alisa’s book on the topic here.

Several years ago I appeared on Alisa Bowman’s former site, Project Happily Ever After. The site is no longer—though she does have a book of the same name—and yet I wanted to share some of the dialogue Alisa and I had about narcissism and union. I will be posting snippets in the coming weeks that might help broaden the way you view what narcissism is.

Alisa had asked, back when Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved (the first book in the Surviving Narcissism series) launched:

“Just about everyone thinks they know someone who is a narcissist. I’m guessing, however, some of the people that we think of as narcissists are just your common everyday jerks. How can you figure out if you’ve accidentally married a narcissist?”

And I had answered:

“Though a common everyday “jerk” is not necessarily someone who is great to be in a relationship with, what might set him (or her) apart from the narcissist is that, despite the stupid things they do or say, a particular “jerk” might still be able to feel and express empathy for others. If one feels the protracted absence of empathy in a relationship, and feels a cold frost in its place, this could indicate that narcissism is present.”

It’s important to be able to differentiate between someone who gets on your nerves and someone who is unable to truly express or feel empathy or compassion. This doesn’t mean a person has to be gushy; personality style varies from person to person. But if the compassion/empathy chip is missing, that is a problem that only the individual with the missing chip can decide to work on. Remember that the next time you attempt to fix something that doesn’t belong to you. It might preserve your sanity just a bit…or maybe more.

Toni Bernhard, author of the Buddhist-inspired How to Be Sick, How to Wake Up, and How to Live Well, interviewed me sometime back over at Psychology Today about caregivers and narcissism. Here’s an excerpt and link to Is Your Caregiver Self-Absorbed and Manipulative?

Toni: What are some of the signs that someone who is the caregiver for a person might be narcissistic? What is the difference between a narcissist and person who can’t stop talking about him or herself? Why does it matter?

Meredith: While narcissism can present itself in different ways, and is made up of a variety of traits, given the focus of your blog, it seems appropriate to discuss empathy, or rather the lack thereof. For example, the DSM IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association, indicates that people who are narcissistic are generally unable or “unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.”

This would be of concern in a situation when one requires care, as illness, chronic or acute, can make us feel more vulnerable, more in need of support, acknowledgment and kindness, even in passing. This is natural. But a person who veers toward truly narcissistic, especially when experiencing the deepened or exacerbated needs of another, will likely not be able to deliver the empathy. Oddly enough, they may demand empathy from the person who needs the care, as the narcissistic person’s own feelings of abandonment, rage, emptiness and anxiety are triggered. (Another facet of narcissism is projection, meaning that  uncomfortable feelings are relegated to the other person – you!). Keep in mind, this does not happen on a conscious level, so if you point it out, the other person might say you are the one doing the attacking, just when he or she needs you most. Some narcissists might appear to care at first, but then go cold. Interactions, in my experience, can be very confusing and crazy making.

On the other hand, a person who is rough around the edges, bossy or curt, or who can’t stop talking about themself might be anxious, nervous, inconsiderate and annoying, but might still be able to express empathy and caring, and follow through appropriately and consistently to provide the care another person needs. This might be the case with some family, hired caregivers, neighbors, healthcare professionals, and others.

Visit Toni’s blog Turning Straw Into Gold at Psychology Today.

I’m in a kind of pleasant shock to realize that my first two ebooks about narcissism have sold more that 10,000 copies (going on 11,000 now).

I often hear from readers. Your heartfelt emails mean so much, as does knowing that what I’ve written has helped foster your journey of healing.  I also want to thank the many therapists and attorneys who have written, letting me know my ebooks are a resource they share with their clients.

I am in the early stages of a second book of meditations. More to be revealed…soon.

Again, thank you.
Meredith

As we move toward “The Days” (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) I wrote a piece for PsychologyToday.com about looking back across the family life cycle as a way to understand, holistically, the narcissist/narcissistic dynamic.

I started thinking about the issue of aging, and how the individual roles shift as family members get older. And I started thinking that age and intellect do not alone make the pain go away. In a way, as I write over at PsychologyToday.com, it’s actually feeling the sadness and synthesizing it that can help make what feels like ingrained pain begin to finally subside.

I go into more detail about it in the book, When Your Parent Is a Narcissist, using Erikson’s stages as a framework for exploration. In the meantime, have a look at the post if you are so inclined.

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