Origins of Narcissism
Narcissus was a mythological creature with whom the nymph Echo fell in love. Echo had difficulty in finishing sentences and so was only able to utter the words ‘I love…. Love …love’ in an echo fashion to tell her beloved how much she loved him. Narcissus, while admiring himself in his reflection on a lake became transfixed by his own beauty and his good looks. Unable to attract her lover away from his reflection Echo died of a broken heart.
The Gods punished Narcissus by throwing a stone in the water thus the ripples of the water revealed his true reflection as he had been years transfixed by his image of the beauty of his false self. He was an old man and died from the shock of his reality and in his place grew the narcissus flower in memory of this fateful event.
People who are narcissistic often feel empty inside and that emptiness is difficult to fill.
Narcissists are made and not born. In therapy, you have to teach narcissists how to be empathic in relationships as if teaching them a skill.
It comes down to parenting – parents over indulging and under-indulging a child. Children grow their sense of self as they learn to be separate from their parents. The connection that the parents make with their child (attachment theory) has to remain strong, available and flexible as the child slowly pulls away from their parents. As they pull away, the child will face loss, disappointment, failure as well as success in the different areas of life. The child will need to return to the emotional safety of their parents to cope with loss. This is the heavy lifting of parenting whereby the real emotional connection is maintained as the child struggles with life developing into a teenager and then an adult.
With a narcissist, there is no emotional connection with at least one parent. The child can be indulged on one level i.e. always bought new school clothes and books in order to make the mother look good but when the child is being bullied by a teacher or a school friend, the mother simply turns her head and says ‘ you can deal with that – you probably even have deserved it’. The child is under-indulged emotionally because they don’t listen to the child’s feelings and are not present with their connection with the child. Its almost as if they don’t care about the child.
Therefore, the child only feels valued for those exterior qualities such as being first on the soccer team or in their exams. The child does not learn how to cultivate their inner world especially because they have no adult mirror to copy this cultivation. It can lead to a life of challenges if neither parent is emotionally present. So, you may have a picture-perfect family but neither parent is capable to do the ‘heavy lifting’- which is what prevents narcissism.
If kids see enough of entitled behaviour such as screaming at a waitress waiting to be served then in later life, they will model this behaviour. Kids do what they see being done.
Parents need to be present for their children. A narcissist doesn’t think they need to change. You can train a narcissist to be on time but you can’t train them to listen. If you remain in a relationship with a narcissist you must manage your expectations. Focus on your friendships, your healthy people so you get your emotional needs met there.
People in relationships with narcissist ultimately always feel like they are not worth anything and it’s important to not lose yourself in the relationship.
What to do if you are in a relationship with a Narcissist?
Seek therapy with a therapist that understands narcissistic abuse and the Stockholm Syndrome. The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition whereby the abusee becomes totally dependent upon their abuser for their life force. It’s akin to getting caught in the headlights of your own worthlessness and believing that you are absolutely dependent upon your abuser.
What is a Narcissist, Psychopath and Sociopath.
Narcissism is a mental psychological condition whereby the person has an inflated sense of their own importance (grandiose behaviour), a deep need for excessive attention or admiration, troubled relationships and a lack of empathy for others. They feel shame and have low self-esteem. Narcissists are capable of feeling empathy whereas a psychopath is incapable of feeling empathy.
The difference between a psychopath (anti-social behaviour disorder) and a sociopath is that a psychopath is born that way and a sociopath is made that way through life’s experiences. Psychopaths have no guilt and no shame.
They have no remorse when someone gets hurt. In business, they don’t care who gets in their way as they must win at all costs whereas a narcissist may act in a similar fashion but will say ‘I hope no one gets hurt’.
Psychopaths and sociopaths will not seek therapy and do not think of the consequences of their actions as they act first and think later. Psychopaths are great salesmen as they study other people’s vulnerabilities i.e. so that they can sell them a car and therefore use the other person to achieve what they want.
It is generally accepted that up to 15% of the population may be narcissistic. There are four types of narcissists – classic, malignant, covert and communal.
The 4 types of Narcissists:
1. Classic narcissist
This is the classic definition of a narcissistic – egotistical, arrogant, grandiose, argumentative, never wrong, highly controlling, little sense of self, controls the other person. Incapable of starting a sentence with the word ‘I’ so uses the word you, never wrong, usually partners with empaths and constantly needs others to ‘supply’ them with emotional sustenance. Very little loyalty. They are highly manipulative and exploitative.
2. Malignant narcissist
The malignant narcissist is far more prob because in addition to lacking empathy and entitlement, they also are really mean, will really do bad things i.e. steal from a friend or cheat on a partner. Often, they may be sorry if they hurt a family member but not other people.
These people seem to be very put upon by the world but still narcissist. Almost comes across as depressed. Why can’t people see how great I am! Look at how victim they are. Won't take ownership.
4. The Communal narcissist.
These people are always out there trying to save the world but always want to be seen as great. They will show little or no empathy for the people they are trying to help but will seek validation for all their good deeds. They do this, as opposed to the opposite behaviour – ‘do good quietly’- because that’s the right thing to do. They become CEO’S, heads of state, celebs.
Narcissism will win in consumer society because it is about putting ‘yourself’ first and not really caring about others as much. They can be generous if it gets them what you need i.e. show off by buying everyone dinner in a restaurant.
Signs you have suffered Narcissistic abuse.
A person no longer trusts their own judgement. Has lost faith in life and mankind.
Feeling of hopelessness – nothing seems to work. The light has been sucked out of their world.
Social withdrawal – Often does not see a way out of getting out. Often feels judged and may feel silly to be in a situation.
Will possess a lot of anxiety. As their trust in their own light diminishes with the constant barrage of abuse from their preparator.
Chronic sense of self guessing their decisions in life especially in purchasing big priced items. An inability to make decisions.
Will possess mood swings from depression to anger, from rage to anxiety. Narcissism victims are the one class of people that find their emotions swing violently in a myriad of directions.
Narcissists view human relationships as conveniences.
Gaslighting and Narcissism
Gaslighting is a specific form of sneaky mental abuse where the narcissist tries to get another person or group to question their perception of reality, memory or actions. An example is when a narcissistic mother accuses her husband of not caring, providing or supporting his family. In reality, the father works nine hours a day comes home has to buy the shopping on the way home from work, has to cook the dinner for the family and the time is now seven-thirty.
The mother criticises the dinner and accuses him of deliberately cooking substandard meals to ‘get back at her and the family’. Rages at her two-year-old child for being a pest just like his father because he dropped some juice on the floor and spends all evening on social media and refuses to put her child to bed till twelve midnight. When the husband advised to put the child to bed at eight o clock she ignores his advice but says she is all alone all day childminding, he’s gone all the time, doesn’t care about her or her feelings and shuts her out as she refuses to even lift her attention away from her phone. She engages with her husband at eleven-thirty when she wants to buy a hall table for six hundred euro.
The Female Narcissist
Are fearsly competitive – they have to be the prettiest and smartest of their group usually takes up the Alpha position of the group. They will need a constant narcissist supply of people to feed their emptiness. Daughters of a narcissist will have to deal with the envy and jealousy of their mother. Same for daughters in law of narcissist mothers who rob their son by marrying their beloved.
Overly concerned with their appearance and their families’ appearance. Must achieve perfection but everything is so superficial.
They are materialistic whereby they surround themselves with powerful people and money. They will use expensive clothes and handbags to make a false sense of being.
They are jealous and thinks people are jealous of them. They talk behind other people backs and are incredibly two-faced.
Overtly critical to other people’s criticism. Takes everything personally and has a false sense of superiority.
A drama queen and loves drama.
Will pitch people against one another especially in family situations. They will trigger problems and infighting between family members.
Uses her sexuality to her advantage to seduce men. A primary tool is to dress provocatively to get attention. Will commonly have affairs with their friend’s partners. No ethics or morals in obtaining what they want. They can be quite lazy.
Shameless disregard other boundaries. Female narcissists don’t respect anyone’s boundaries. Everyone’s belongings belong to her.
Will manipulate you with punishments. An expert at the silent treatment. Will withhold emotions or intimacy as a control mechanism. While a male narcissism will ‘blow up’ with anger a female narcissist will hold back her attention. This is the difference from the anima/animus as to how males and females express anger in different fashions.
Over a period of time, exposure to the destructive behaviour of a narcissist will erode not only your confidence but your moral integrity and beliefs. To some degree, you will adopt some of their behaviour.
The Narcissistic Mother
The narcissistic mother will embody the qualities of a female narcissist but will relate to her children as per three succinct categories.
The first child category will be the ‘performer’. They must prove the self-worth of the mother by being best in class, first in exam grades, captain of the school soccer team. They will be made to take extracurricular grinds to attend the best third level university in order that the child ‘proves’ that the mother is such a wonderful mother.
The second child category will be the ‘hated’ child. This child will rebel against the control of their mother and will prove how awful, barren and desolate the inner world of their mother. This child will be neglected, ostracised, constantly critiqued and alienated from the family.
The third child category will be the ‘emotional golden child’. This is the child who will have the ear of the queen in that he will be loved and accepted as a surrogate husband to provide emotional sustenance for their mother. This will be the male child who will end up sleeping in his mother’s bed till age fourteen. He will get away with murder and become spoilt. He will suffer rage and anger issues due to the fact that he has to emotionally carry his mother – a task that is doomed to failure because he can never fulfil emotionally his mother. He will have difficulties forming relationships.
Eleven things to never do with a Narcissist
- Do not minimise their dysfunctional behaviour.
- Don’t take them at face value – everything about them is a deception.
- Don’t overshare personal information with them – they will store this information and use it against you at a later stage.
- Don’t assume they share your virtues. The victims of a narcissist are usually an empathy. Empaths mistakenly have the belief that all people share their values. Examine objectively a person’s pattern of behaviour to determine your belief about this person.
- Don’t try to beat them at their own game. Most narcissists have spent years perfecting their smear campaign. They only care about one thing and that is winning at all costs.
- Don’t take their actions personally. They will hurt the closest people to them the most.
- Don’t ever depend upon them financially, accept their help or sign contracts with them. Anything to do with money will be done so to control you and not support you. If you loan them money you will never see your money again. Be aware of the signs of love bombing. At the start of the relationship, they will bombard you with help and support. This is done to make you dependent upon them and gradually they will withdraw their help while blaming you in the process leaving you lost, empty and dependant.
- Don’t expect empathy and fairness. They are incapable of feeling empathy for other people. Empathy is based on the assumption that other people are worthy, equal or deserving of compassion. Narcissists view other people as inferior. What is yours is theirs.
- Don’t expect them to change. They don’t. They may alter their behaviour from time to time but that is covertly manipulation. They view other people in two categories: a threat or a potential victim. They are trapped in a never-ending quest for approval.
- Don’t trust the people who work for narcissists e.g. solicitors, accountants, mediators etc. They only work with weak people that they can easily manipulate and lie for them. Narcissists are incapable of telling the truth. They are delusional and believe their own lies. Communicating with one is like trying to grab water.
- Don’t underestimate the power of narcissism. It is a profound distortion of their sense of self. Their life is governed by gaining narcissistic supply. They usually get worse as they get older. You can have compassion for their loss but you cannot excuse their behaviour and allow them to hurt you any longer. The ‘holy grail’ for a narcissist is to turn their victim’s family against their own family member. This is the ultimate control and destruction of their victim that is trying to break free from their narcissistic control.
Covert Narcissists operate under the radar whole overt narcissists operate in public. Always trust your gut instincts. If something does not feel right – it usually isn’t.
Covert narcissists care deeply about their reputation. They want to be well-liked and appreciated whereas an overt narcissist does not care who they hurt. A covert narcissist will lie, cheat or manipulate the situation in order to save face. They usually like to be connected to organisations in order to promote themselves.
There is no limit to the length that they will go to cover up their behaviour – set others up to take the fall, smear people, lie etc. Many times, they will behave in a self- depreciating way. They want to give the impression of humility but what it really hides is disgusted pride.
They will seem concerned about others welfare and inquire as to how to help the person but will never seem to be around when the heavy lifting is needed, was never told by you, therefore, it’s your fault or no agreement was definitively agreed. Usually, their pretence of concern is a way to get you to share vulnerabilities in order to use them against you at a later date.
Covert narcissists pit people against each other. They will drop seeds of information about someone with the intent of causing problems and knowing that it will cause problems but wanting to escape any accountability for causing the drama. They are gossips and spread lies within their family circle. They get bored easily so they incite chaos and drama.
They gain narcissistic supply and an ego boost for being so clever in manipulating the situation. They know they are smarter than others and are fully entitled to do what they want. They are every bit as deceitful as an overt narcissist but in a covert way.
Coverts loved to be viewed as a victim whereby they can manipulate you into feeling sorry for them and so get what they want. They try to make you indebted to them by making you feel sorry for them. They will be jealous and dismissive of someone who truly has a hard life. They communicate their displeasure through tone of voice and body language.
Coverts narcissists won’t explode in rage like an overt narcissist and may communicate through a nasty look, condescending or demeaning tone as if talking to a child. At times they may come across as aloof, bored, dismissive or yawning impolitely to signify their contempt.
Behind their shy covert demeanour, Coverts seethe with envy. They cannot stand the success of others. While they may congratulate and celebrate the success of others inside, they are full of jealousy and envy often explaining others success as a stroke of good luck.
They may plot and plan others demise behind their back such as minimising their accomplishments or attributing your success to others or luck rather than hard work. They may sabotage important event such as interviews or deadlines, causing an argument or depriving you of sleep the night before.
Coverts take things personally as due to the fact they are like a shell with no real inner substance they are sensitive to their outer world. They may feel extremely under-appreciated or misunderstood. They are smug and view people as inferior. They can get overwhelmed by feelings of being under-appreciated which can lead to depression. At the extreme, this can lead to suicide.
The name of the game with a narcissist is controlling. Coverts narcissist will use things like demands, threats, fear or intimidation to control others. They use things like guilt, self-pity, victimhood, obligation, duty to control others.
How Narcissists handle disappointment:
Narcissists cloak themselves with grandiosity and lack of empathy etc to protect themselves from the world whereby they focus on themselves in order to protect their security. For narcissists disappointments always comes through a self-referential lens e.g. if a narcissist had a sick family member, they would register disappointment if say, this meant they would fail to be on time for a business appointment – this is the important point.
They don’t handle disappointment well and can react much like a 3-year-old. It can be unsettling to watch as the blow-up happens very, very quickly. Most of us would not start screaming at such an event. Almost always with a narcissist disappointment results in an almost rageful response. They start by feeling victimised. Their vulnerabilities get all fired up. They may get angry if you try to help them. Even if you had nothing to do with the disappointment, they will try to blame you e.g. if they promised to book tickets but somehow didn’t, they would blame you. They won’t take responsibility – ever. They will blame you and it’s a cycle that never ends.
Many narcissists are good with money. Money is power and can be used to manipulate others. If a relationship end’s they may use the money to lure back the person. If this fails it ramps up their rage even more. In a relationship with a narcissist, there is usually a lot of walking on eggshells.
A child of a narcissist will sense their parent’s anger when they come home from work and their parent is in a bad mood. This can be scary for the child and will leave the child vulnerable to anxiety in the future. Be aware that even in the early stages of a relationship you can see narcissistic traits in a partner emerge in such situations as waiting for a restaurant table or a row over a parking space. Narcissists consider disappointment as a personal injury.
Narcissists are a mind fog because they confuse us. They turn us upside down with their gaslighting (manipulating someone psychologically to doubt their own sanity), some days can be good (charming, charisma, excitement) and then they can turn and disregard us. They change the rules, they move the goalposts, throw tantrums and then apologise. They always leave us off balance which is why we make excuses for them. Your mind will keep you in a narcissistic relationship longer than you should be.
If you deal with a narcissist yourself or know someone who might need help, you can contact me and book an appointment.