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.

I have a parenting blog over at PsychologyToday.com. When Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved came out, I put together a post that addressed the issue of difficult parents. From the post titled: “Is the Carpool Swimming With Narcissists”:

“I’ve overheard conversations and spoken with parents who indicate that dealing with the parents of their kids’ friends seems to be as complex, perplexing and aggravating as the situations their kids (of all ages) are dealing with: competitiveness, one-upmanship, snubbing, over-anxiousness that leads to being cold and terse, broken promises, self centeredness–the list goes on. The more forgiving parent might call the other parent “intense” (wink, wink); the less forgiving might label the other parent a narcissist.”

In that post I asked several parents to weigh in on how they deal with those adults who annoy and aggravate. Click here to read the responses o:

•Monica Bhide-food, travel, parenting writer, chef and cookbook author www.monicabhide.com

•Barbara Bietz-educator, writer, blogger, and book reviewer who has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee www.barbarabietz.com

•Hollye Dexter-mom of three, author of two memoirs and co-editor of Dancing at the Shame Prom Theshameprom.com

•Marian Henley-creator of comic strip Maxine, and author of three books http://www.marianhenley.com/

•June Sobel-award-winning children’s book author http://www.junesobel.com/

Narcissism is easy to misunderstand. Many people believe that the narcissist is deeply in love with himself or herself—the true self, that is. If the narcissist is in love with anything, it’s the image of himself. The narcissist is in love with the image of the self he or she has created. That image is an illusion (hence the term “false self”). The image, worn like a mask, might have even been stolen from…you.

Images take a lot of crafting, and require a ton of upkeep. Since the image is external, it requires the “help” of others. Kids don’t typically understand this, particularly when it comes to their own parents. When people talk about narcissists feeding off of other people (in their quest for narcissistic supply), this is the kind of “help” we are talking about. Again, kids don’t “know” this on a conscious level. They may know they feel bad about how their parent views them, but they don’t understand why they feel that way. In fact, the same goes for adult children. Narcissists are parasites; they feed off a host (whomever that may be, depending on the moment). Ironically, they have the “host” believing that they, in fact, are feeding off of/using the narcissist!

Tricky. (Then again, with narcissists, life is always tricky, complicated and not what it seems.)

If you are in a relationship with someone afflicted with narcissism (I am not talking about what is often called healthy narcissism or the ability to take care of oneself) you just never know what you’re going to get. The outside is always changing. And the outside is everything. Being a caregiver to a narcissist can be hellish because, to borrow and interpret freely from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there, there.” While Stein was referring to place, here I am referring to depth, to a sense of true self. It’s missing. At best, extremely underdeveloped. The goal for the narcissist is to not let this deficiency show.

Not showing it can take on an array of themes. Do any of these sound familiar:

  • Blaming someone else for causing their discomfort
  • Accusing another person of exactly what the narcissist is doing…being cold, being selfish, manipulative, and so on
  • Comparing you with another sibling or other person
  • Withholding or lying about key information about their care so that it puts you, the caregiver, on the hot seat with the doctor or others

The caregiver who is not also a narcissist is typically caught completely off guard and left confused and wounded. The narcissist (parent) may withhold communication, love, attention, or may go on the offensive by publicly (inside or outside of the family) blaming, lying and then acting like he or she does not understand why you are behaving this way!

This is called projecting. (Think of a motion picture projector, how it projects an image out there, on the wall.) For the narcissist, other people are the walls (in more ways than one!) 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.”)

Sound familiar?

While there are many levels of narcissism, when you are the object of a narcissist’s hatred and anger, it can feel horrible. When you are raised by a narcissist, you may have learned to “be less” so the parent can “be more.” Many of these patterns can play out in your adult life, and will come to the fore in a caregiving relationship. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Some ideas:

  1. Remember, the narcissist projects. Understand that the patterns of communication are complex, and never actually about what they appear to be about.
  2. If you were raised by a narcissist or are under the influence of one, understand that you will need to relearn how to be in such a “relationship” (I use the word relationship loosely) and learn how to take care of yourself.
  3. Grieve the loss, not only of the relationship you thought you had with the parent, but also of the relationship with yourself that you neglected. The good news is, you can repair the relationship with yourself.
  4. Be open to the concept. Notice the signs.
  5. Hold off on confronting the narcissist until you understand why you’re doing it, and what you expect from the confrontation. You may need to confront to set a limit; or you may chose to wait. The more aware you become about narcissism, the better able you will be to make an informed decision on such things.
  6. Read (and reread) books like Trapped in the Mirror, by Elan Golumb–Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self With such chapter titles as “They Make You Conform to Their Will, Even in Your Thinking” and “No Right to Live if You Cannot Love: How a Narcissist Put His Inability to Love onto his Child” the books reaches deeply and explains thoroughly how narcissists operate, and the effects on the child, even as an adult. In one chapter she asks: “How do you confront the negative inner parent when it attacks you? How do you get rid of it, refute its hateful message, and make its influence less destructive?” and explains how. This stunning book is a must read—and it will be useful not only for the child of a narcissist but also the sibling of one as well.
  7. And of course, when appropriate, seek the help of a licensed therapist who understands the nuances of narcissism and who can help you navigate the ever-changing terrain as you build skills and awareness of your own.

{This post originally appeared at PsychologyToday.com on my blog, MORE THAN CAREGIVING}

 

The many masks faces of narcissism.

This is a really, really good post from Dr. Anita Kelly’s Psychology Today blog, Insight. It’s about narcissism and it’s titled, “Who Falls for Dishonest People? Not Who You’d Expect”

An excerpt:

“If you are an honest person with a narcissistic partner, I hope you can forgive yourself for tolerating the lying, cheating, and exploitation. It is because of your wonderful qualities of sincerity, fairness, and modesty that such a haughty, dishonest person could wiggle into your life. Please don’t think of yourself as a target or “sucker.” Next time, you will be more sensitive to signs of callousness and exploitation, and no doubt think twice before letting a narcissist into your life.”

Read the entire post by clicking here to get to Psychology Today.

This book review in the New York Times about a a biography by Adam Begley about John Updike (an author whose work I happen to like so very much) made me think about desperation and narcissism. (Not the book review specifically, but about what it says about John Updike.)

And it made me a little sad.

From the piece, by Dwight Garner:

John Updike (1932-2009) grew up to like high spirits, gags, party games. At The Harvard Lampoon, where he became editor, he organized elaborate pranks that required great mounds of elephant dung and the destruction of cars. At The New Yorker, he’d pretend to faint in elevators. He played Twister and Botticelli at his dinner parties. If things got dull, he’d fall off a couch.

He satirized his need to entertain in an early poem called “Thoughts While Driving Home”:

Was I clever enough? Was I charming?

Did I make at least one good pun?

Was I disconcerting? Disarming?

Was I wise? Was I wan? Was I fun?

I’m not saying whether or not Updike was a narcissist – I have no idea. But the need to be liked, to be “just right”…these things, while present in all of us, are present in toxic degrees in a narcissist.

Also from the piece:

That Updike had affairs, sometimes with his friends’ wives, is not news. “I drank up women’s tears and spat them out,” he declared in one late poem, “as 10-point Janson, Roman and ital.”

Brutal honesty? Bragging? Brilliant writing? Maybe all.

But also a desperation, if I read between the lines.

Which is the thing about the disease of narcissism, so much time must be spent reading between lines and in the reflection of mirrors.

Again, here is the link to the piece:

A Writerly Life, Beneath the Surface – ‘Updike,’ Adam Begley’s Look at a Novelist’s Career

I came across this post over at Forbes written by contributor Rob Asghar called All Work and No Play Makes Your Child…A Narcissist .

In the piece he cites another article from a post in Psychology Today by Peter Gray, PhD, called Why Is Narcissism Rising Among Young Americans?

Dr. Gray’s piece can be summed up in the subhead: “Play deprivation may underlie the increase in narcissism and decline in empathy.” This deprivation is being linked to parenting styles, namely the hovering and controlling, over-parenting parents.

It’s fascinating. And it got me thinking about the why’s – why and how and to whom this might happen –  from a decidedly unscientific standpoint (see Dr. Gray’s article for the footnotes and references to the scientific data both quantitative and qualitative). Could it be that lack of play, of expression, of satisfying one’s own curiosity might, in part, for some, lead to the development of a kind of altered form of what being a child is meant to be? In other words, lead to becoming a shell of a child? In other words, a kind of false self? An angry self? A narcissistic child that grows into a narcissistic adult?

Often we don’t think of the narcissist as they might have been as a child, as the recipient of someone else’s manipulations and neglect.

It helps to think about this to gain perspective of why the person is this way – lacking empathy, manipulative, etc – today. Why? Because it can help us to remember that narcissism is a longstanding and serious issue that has deep roots that a winding and complex, and completely out of our control.

 

 

 

It took me some time to figure that out – and then some more time to accept it. You, too?

This article, 18 signs you’re dealing with a narcissist, points out the variations in how narcissism can manifest in different individuals. Some of the qualities seem in conflict with one another. But then again, narcissists are chameleons. They are forever changing, morphing, putting on a different mask.

Here’s the link: 18 signs you’re dealing with a narcissist

At the intersection of writing and narcissism, this article in The New Yorker (though excellent and compelling and important) nauseated me – and for good reason.  The title of the piece, Seduce the Whole World: Gordon Lish’s Workshop, written by Carla Blumenkranz,
is a must-read for any writer, any artist, any student who puts their trust in a professor who really cannot – should not -be trusted.

I have known such “teachers.”

I once took writing class up in LA. I was in my early 20s. The teacher was intimidating yet seductive. It was clear that he bestowed “specialness” on certain students. He would insult one writer’s work (we had to read aloud), make faces in the class, then turn to another student who “might show the class how it’s supposed to be done.” Or he’d read his own work and go on and on about how great it was.

This “teacher” made writing seem like something only a few – himself included – could grasp. It turned out the writers whose work he “liked” were people who had taken his class for years – writing groupies. He fed off them because he was a parasite.  (And they thought he actually liked them.)

I understand all that today. Back then I was too young to know what was going on and didn’t make it to the end of the course. Self- preservation kicked in.

Maybe today self-preservation will kick in for you, too.

Again, here is the link.

I have grown to really dislike the Comments section in many online sites. Even respect news sites, sometimes, have comments that I wish I could un-see. I can’t stand the cruelty, the purposeful nastiness, the fight-picking, superiority…the list goes on. It sucks my energy, like a parasite. Like, perhaps, a narcissist? Certainly like a sadist.

This is an excerpt from a terrific article in Slate by Chris Mooney, which explains the original research succinctly:

“The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).”

Read Mooney’s article, and scroll down for the graphic that further illustrates the results of the Buckels et al study.

The results are quite shocking, yet not really surprising.

 

This post from the Harvard Business Review, written by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, an international authority in personality profiling, provides a pitch perfect assessment of how narcissistic traits transfer to the workplace where, at one time or another, we’ve all been confronted with a narcissist (or two) – as a coworker, HR manager, supervisor or owner of the company.

The post, Why We Love Narcissists, offers us three reasons why we actually don’t love them and why they confuse the hell out of us (to put it mildly):

1. Narcissists are masterful impression managers

2. Narcissists manipulate credit and blame in their favor

3. Narcissists fit conventional stereotypes of leadership

Sound like someone you know? Read the rest of the post now.

 

The Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (HSNS) was developed by Holly M. Hendin and Jonathan M. Cheek over 15 years ago.  A blog over at Scientific American highlights this scale in a post by Barry Kaufman called 23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert.

In Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved, I write about narcissists who have a way of flipping everything so they are the “most-est” at everything. The most shy, the most sensitive, the most misunderstood. Most people first think of narcissists as loud and blustering, but this is not always the case. Kaufman’s article offers the quiz. Might be interesting to take a look, no? If not about you then about someone you know.

Follow the link above, then scroll to the bottom of the article. What does it reveal?

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