Narcissism

"Touch the Bird" The Collier Trophy by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire



I. Symptoms of Narcissism

Narcissists display extreme selfishness, a lack of empathy, and a craving for admiration. Freud aptly named the disorder after the mythological figure of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and was doomed to never receive any love back from his reflection.

There are degrees of narcissism, ranging from excessive self-importance to full-fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is natural to enjoy praise and admiration, particularly given our current media culture, which prizes recognition for image, power, and status more highly than wisdom, responsibility, or a sense of meaning. However, narcissists don’t simply enjoy occasional admiration; the craving for admiration is THE PRIMARY DRIVE in their lives.

To obtain the praise and admiration they seek, they will exaggerate their talents and accomplishments. Their desire to be viewed as superior can lead to misrepresenting their history and accomplishments. They may even lie and cheat in order to get promotions, win races, or seduce people.

Narcissists are preoccupied with self-aggrandizement to hone public opinion of their image. They fantasize about and seek power, fame, status, or money, and are often envious of others who have an abundance of these resources. With grandiosity and arrogance, they demand that others treat them as special or superior.

High-functioning narcissists present themselves well and are socially adept, because they work hard at creating a praiseworthy image. In casual relationships, they are likable. However, in intimate relationships, they frequently display envy, arrogance, and entitlement. They protect themselves from criticism, humiliation, and rejection by over-reacting with contempt or outrage. Underlying all these emotions is often a feeling of emptiness.

Feeling entitled and lacking in empathy, narcissists tend to exploit others to serve their own needs. Focused on their own needs and frustrations, they become skillful at controlling and blaming others. As you can see, superiority and entitlement do not promote mutually-satisfying, long-term close relationships.

You cannot change a narcissist, as they rarely, if ever, believe they need to change. However, whether your husband is merely selfish or narcissistic, you need to take care of yourself to avoid being exploited and hurt. You can’t expect him to set the boundaries needed to protect you. Nor can you expect him to fulfill your needs and desires, unless it suits his goals for stardom.

Generally you should not count on anyone fulfilling your deepest needs and taking care of you. However, it is definitely desirable to be with someone who is considerate, loving and thoughtful—traits, which the narcissist can temporarily fake, but cannot truly embody.

II. Causes of Narcissism

Narcissism is basically a psychological coping mechanism for low self-esteem. Ironically the narcissist rarely believes that he or she has a problem with self-esteem.

Very young children naturally feel they are the center of the world. They need to experience healthy narcissism to feel good about themselves, to gain the confidence to grow up and take care of themselves and be able to initiate social interactions.

Children generally grow out of this healthy narcissistic phase if they experience “mirroring” and “idealization.” Mirroring means receiving empathy and approval from one’s parents. Idealization means being able to look up to a caregiver as a respected person separate from oneself.

No Mirroring:
Lack of mirroring occurs in one of the following ways:

1. Approval is erratic or lacking all together. The child is ignored.
2. Admiration is too unrealistic to believe, while realistic feedback is lacking. “You’re the cutest, smartest…”
3. Criticism for bad behavior is excessive. “You are bad, evil, stupid!!”
4. The parents are excessively permissive and overindulge the child, implying a lack of caring. “Sure, have a bowl of candy, more juice, toys, throw your food if you want to, I don’t care.”

No Idealization:
Children are deprived of idealization in one of the following ways:

1. The parents are unpredictable, unreliable, or lacking in empathy.
2. The parents are emotionally or physically abusive.
3. The parents have no interest in the child’s needs, but exploit the child to feed their own self-esteem.

Without receiving empathy or the ability to look up to others, children do not develop empathy for themselves or others. They may grow up being psychologically stuck in the narcissistic phase.

As a result, they feel flawed and unacceptable. They fear rejection and isolation because of their perceived worthlessness. To avoid this pain, they focus on controlling how others view them by embellishing their accomplishments and skills.

They feel deep shame, which causes them to develop an artificial self. While we all develop an artificial self to some degree, narcissists IDENTIFY with their artificial self. Preoccupied with presenting the right image, they are ironically rarely aware of their own low self-esteem.

People with adequate self-esteem are usually willing to look at themselves with honest self-reflection and consider areas in which they could improve. This makes sense because they have empathy for the flaws and inadequacies in both themselves and others.

Sadly, the narcissist believes that flaws are to be hated and concealed, and that only perfection and superiority can be displayed. Thus, they view themselves and others with a perspective that swings from over-valuation to loathing. In their quest for approval and acceptance, they use their charm and charisma. Once dependent on others’ approval, the smallest hint of disapproval can send them into a state of punishing vengeance.

To protect oneself from the emotional pendulum of the narcissist, it’s best not to make your self-worth dependent on one by perpetually trying to please the narcissist. While the charisma bestowed on you might feel irresistible at first, it could soon turn into punishing scorn and retaliation.

III. Avoid raising Narcissistic Children

Children who grow up to be narcissistic adults seek praise as addicts seek their drug of choice—in increasing quantities from anyone who will give it to them. Neglect, abuse, harsh criticism, and erratic or exaggerated praise can lead children to feel unloved for being who they are. To avoid raising a narcissist, a parent needs to be present, empathetic, accepting, and consistently responsive to the young child’s needs.

1. Presence

We can be busy most of the day but it’s important to take some time every day to simply enjoy your young child. When you have a child on your lap while talking on the phone, you’re not present to the child. The mental/emotional presence is the important factor, even for an infant. Ultimately, spending time and playing with a child is one of the most fulfilling things we can do.

2. Empathy

Showing empathy when children express their feelings and ideas allows them to develop empathy for themselves, and eventually for others as well. Parents shouldn’t deny, downplay, or redirect their children’s feelings. Nor should they overreact when children disagree or share experiences. Otherwise, they will develop shame and learn to hide their opinions and experiences in the future.

3. Consistently responsive to the child’s needs

Parents should become aware of ways in which they project their own needs for status or convenience onto their children. By becoming aware of our own biases and desires, we can become more open to really listening to what the child needs and desires. This doesn’t mean becoming an indulgent parent; it simply means being open to the fact that our children are distinct individuals. So, rather than projecting on them our own desires that they become football quarterbacks or Olympic stars, we can allow them to develop their own direction.

4. Acceptance

Accepting children means interacting with them without constantly judging them positively or negatively. When we play referee with regard to every action they take, we miss out on really knowing and loving our children.

Excessive praise often causes kids to secretly fear being found out that they are not really as talented or smart as thought. The child may also hyper-inflate the importance of the attributes praised, while neglecting or concealing other perceived weaknesses.

While parents have to have expectations and give guidance, children should not be made to feel that they can’t do anything right. Criticism is much more effective when it’s constructive and given in reasonably small doses.

No parent is perfect. But if, for the most part, we can provide guidance while be accepting of our children, they are likely to become compassionate, authentic, and self-reflective adults.

IV. Celebrity, Power and Prestige

Narcissism brought on in adulthood by celebrity, power, or status has been called “Acquired Situational Narcissism*.” The attention received as a result of celebrity or prestige intensifies any EXISTING tendency toward narcissism.

Adult narcissists with status or celebrity become more self-centered because of the favorable treatment and praise they receive. They thrive on attention, and conclude from the fact that people fawn over them that their own satisfaction is what’s best for everyone.

Praise and admiration boost the narcissist’s self-esteem, but only temporarily, because it merely reflects the false self. When faced with criticism or solitude, the shadow feelings of worthlessness grow in corresponding proportion. To fight off this inner doom, narcissists double their efforts in pursuit of self glorification.

Most people are glad to enjoy some status or admiration. However, true narcissists feel ENTITLED to attention, and shamelessly pursue their own desires at all cost. In extreme cases, they will exploit those in subservient positions or at least those assumed to be subservient. Maids, housekeepers, and interns are convenient targets as they are less likely to resist those with power and prestige.

In their drive for stardom, narcissists hone the ability to exhibit socially appropriate behavior if it serves them to do so. In public, they may act like the perfect husband or wife, charismatically expressing admirable family traits such as warmth and devotion. In private, however, they may show little regard for the family’s well-being and feelings. In fact, they can be sarcastic, arrogant, and insulting.

Deceptions and lack of concern may cause you and your children to feel rejected, humiliated, and angry. It’s important to realize that the negativity is not a reflection of you, but of the narcissist’s limited ability to empathize with other people. The betrayals and attacks are not personal, but result from a craving to be seen as superior even at the cost of degrading others around them.

Nevertheless, it’s vitally important to protect yourself from demeaning behavior. It’s usually a good first step to point out that the culprit’s actions are affecting you negatively. However, it’s probably impossible to persuade a full-fledged narcissist to change given his or her primary motivating force. It’s better to know whom you are dealing with and then decide how to enjoy and/or limit the relationship.

V. Dealing with a Narcissist

Don’t Trust a Narcissist:
Don’t look for intimacy with a narcissist. If you decide to enjoy the narcissist’s charm and charisma, make sure that doesn’t translate into trusting him or her with inner secrets. Don’t set yourself up for betrayal and hurt by having confidence in his or her loyalty. Don’t let your feelings of self-worth depend on a narcissist’s love, actions or behavior.

Speak to the Narcissist’s Self-interest:
It’s usually helpful to express your feelings or needs. But if you’re dealing with a true narcissist, don’t expect empathy and understanding. It’s more effective to show how something will benefit him or her.

Don’t Disagree:

Beware of disagreeing with or contradicting narcissists. They behave as though they are confident and strong but they are easily offended. They don’t want to be found to be inadequate. If you confront their weaknesses, they may become vengeful and punishing. Keep your discussion focused on practical goals rather than personal accountability.

Be on your Guard:
Narcissists hide their own flaws and project problems on to other people. Beware of allowing them to blame you for too much. If you are doing business with a narcissist, keep a paper trail. In marriage or divorce, hire a good attorney.

Separating from Narcissistic Parents:

It’s sad to be raised by narcissistic parents, because they view their children as extensions of their own false self-image they present to the world. If the child disagrees or doesn’t abide by the family image, the parents lose interest in or become hostile toward their own child. It’s helpful not to take this personally, but to see that the parents’ preoccupation with their own image and their callousness toward the child are caused by their low self-esteem.

Don’t hope for Change:
It takes a lot of motivation for anyone to change. Unfortunately, narcissists rarely have the desire to change, because they don’t think they need to. They rarely seek counseling, but if they do go, they tend to manipulate the situation in order to look good rather than self-reflect to improve their lives.

Yet, it is helpful to recognize their traits. Then you can choose when to encourage the narcissist’s self-image, to bring a sense of humor, or not deal with him or her at all.

Avoid being Narcissistic:

We all have some narcissistic tendencies, and should beware of becoming dependent on others for their compliments and approval to boost our feelings of self-worth. Psychological dependence on others comes at a cost. It’s good to be reflective and thoughtful to make sure we are considering both our own self-interest and that of others.

There is a big difference, however, between being insecure or self-centered and having the condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If you are self-reflective enough to even wonder whether you are a narcissist, let alone read a psychology blog, it’s highly unlikely that you are!

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Pleaser and Receiver”

Read “Dealing with the narcissist.”

Recommended: Sam Vaknin, PhD’s all-encompassing book, “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” — a far-reaching book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and abusive behavior — and other books about personality disorders.

References: “Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.”

* A term coined by Robert B. Millman.
For an easy-to-remember acronym, try “Acquired Situational Super-narcissism.”

102 thoughts on “Narcissism

  1. Misty Weldon

    Thank you so much for sharing and making this information assessable. Just by reading this, it helped me to make sense and clarify the struggles that I have been endured, being in a relationship with a narcissist. Things can only get better for me from here!! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge on this subject.
    Sincerely, misty in the bay.

    Reply
  2. Amanda

    Hi R,

    You sound a lot like ME!
    Wow! I have questioned if I was the N as well but I after a lot of research I realize that we have similar ways of handling matters. I encourage you to look up melonie tonia Evans and think about how well you think about or fight for others and how much you do that for yourself. The fact that you cut yourself off from your N parents and people who do you wrong shows proper boundaries. You have high values and worked hard to get where you did but maybe you still have this negative imprint in your self talk that needs to be healed and nurtured in away that benefits you and others that allows you the freedom to live on a logical and emotional level together and freedom to not be in control all the time but responsible with who you choose to be vulnerable with. Being honest with yourself and compassionate with yourself first allows you to be loving in a whole way to others. Will power only gets us so far and we still feel empty so then that takes a different kind of work. It requires coming home to ourselves and showing up and living ourselves. For real.

    Reply
  3. Lisa

    Codependents Anonymous (Coda) could help you with these personality traits. Codependents suffer from mental and emotional addictions. Usually one hears about codependents being addicted to unhealthy romantic relationships, but this condition also includes traits such as addiction to what other people think, rage addiction, a compulsive need to control others, and more. Coda can help a person to live out the principle that they are perfectly fine as they are, with or without the approval of others.

    Mindfulness practice can also help with narcissistic traits. I have some of these traits myself. I find that if I catch myself during or just after acting out one of my pompous behaviors, I can pause, and will myself to observe my own behavior, in a nonjudgmental way. This action causes me to slip into an observing state of mind, which is free from the compulsive neediness of the narcissistic state of mind. I have also used mindfulness practice to deal with obsessiveness and general anxiety. Although I didn’t know the term at the time, I first learned how to practice mindfulness by listening to the guided meditation “Let it Be,” at a website called Meditation Oasis. Eckhart Tolle’s YouTube videos and audio books have also helped me to go into this state of observant detachment. Tolle uses the term “consciousness” instead of “mindfulness.”

    Good luck with your self-improvement effort. Being vulnerable and open like this to yourself, and to others, is already a step away from the narcissistic self.

    Reply
  4. Lisa

    Codependents Anonymous (Coda) could help you with these personality traits. Codependents suffer from mental and emotional addictions. Usually one hears about codependents being addicted to unhealthy romantic relationships, but this condition also includes traits such as addiction to what other people think, rage addiction, a compulsive need to control others, and more. Coda can help a person to live out the principle that they are perfectly fine as they are, with or without the approval of others.

    Mindfulness practice can also help with narcissistic traits. I have some of these traits myself. I find that if I catch myself during or just after acting out one of my pompous behaviors, I can pause, and will myself to observe my own behavior, in a nonjudgmental way. This action causes me to slip into an observing state of mind, which is free from the compulsive neediness of the narcissistic state of mind. I have also used mindfulness practice to deal with obsessiveness and general anxiety. Although I didn’t know the term at the time, I first learned how to practice mindfulness by listening to the guided meditation “Let it Be,” at a website called Meditation Oasis. Eckhart Tolle’s YouTube videos and audio books have also helped me to go into this state of observant detachment. Tolle uses the term “consciousness” instead of “mindfulness.”

    Good luck with your self-improvement effort. Being vulnerable and open like this to yourself, and to others, is already a step away from the narcissistic self.

    Reply
      1. Lisa

        Thank you for the reply, Alison! I’m encouraged to hear that you think it’s helpful.

        As you may have guessed from reading it, I meant to address my reply to Robert. Somehow I posted in the wrong spot. But, maybe others would be interested in reading it, as well.

        Reply
  5. Alison Post author

    PS. I can’t relate to the fact that you enjoy it when others envy you (admiration, yes, but envy, no.) I wonder whether your first successes in school or in life were met by envy or displeasure by one of your parents. Perhaps you enjoy envy because in your childhood your successes happened to have triggered such emotions in one of your parents. So envy now indicates that you have succeeded.

    Reply
  6. Alison Post author

    Hi R,

    Thanks for your question. Well, like any personality trait or disorder, there are degrees, and although you may have scored a 36 on a particular questionnaire, here a couple of facts in your favor that do not hold true of people with strong cases of NPD:

    1. You are questioning whether you have NPD, and you are concerned about the possibility.
    2. You appreciate your wife.
    3. You have empathy for your wife, your kids, and those whom you might potentially hurt in a fight.
    4. You are looking into therapy and improving yourself.

    However, it sounds as though you have some narcissistic tendencies, which makes sense given your challenging childhood. Labels do help in explaining patterns and determining what kind of help might be effective. Yet it’s important not to dwell on the labels. Since you are wanting to be the best person you can be and improve your life, that’s what you should focus on.

    Let me respond to a couple of things that you’ve said.

    I think a very bright and experienced behavior cognitive therapist could be helpful especially regarding your anger issues. I would interview several of them, and you’ll know after meeting with several whom you relate to best and who would be able to help the anger issues.

    Regarding cutting off people, in cases of abuse, physical or emotional, it may be the best way to free yourself from very unhealthy dynamics. But now you need to develop “differentiation,” the ability to withstand the discomfort of anxiety (from disagreement, apparent disrespect…) without over-reacting, that is, without blowing up or cutting the other person off. This is the number one quality you will need to develop by the time your kids are teenagers in order to avoid serious relationship problems with them.

    The sooner the better, because your temper can cause one or more of your kids to become super accommodating and obedient because they fear your anger and don’t know how to stand up for themselves. I would read up about fusion and differentiation (Bowen and Kerr, Schnarch, or you can read my articles.) I would also watch my video on authoritarian vs permissive parenting: https://www.sowhatireallymeant.com/video/authoritarian-vs-permissive-parenting/ The tricky thing about parenting when you’ve had bad parenting is that you tend to do the opposite of what your parents did. the opposite might seem great, but it is often extreme in a completely different manner. The best thing you can do as a parent is to improve yourself. For some that means developing boundaries, for others it means being able to have boundaries and consequences without becoming angry.

    Most narcissistic people don’t think they have low self-esteem, but their defensiveness, focus on image, fear of failure all show how fragile their sense of self can be, despite amazing capabilities and intellectual and social confidence. However, again it’s not important to determine whether one’s self-esteem is high or low. I think it’s better just to focus on how you want to improve your life.

    People need to develop a persona in order to interact with the world. It sounds as though you have had great success in interacting with people socially, doing well academically despite lack of familial support, and doing well in your career. When people do well early in life, they either struggle to get more of the goods they are seeking–fame, success, money, friends, etc., or they are able to relax a bit and see how else they can make their lives better and more whole. It sounds to me that the latter is something that you might be doing–at quite a young age. I’m not suggesting that with “success” one should drop the persona one has developed, such as being smart, tough, and funny, but that one can slowly start to develop some other qualities as well, in your case, probably some qualities that your wife exhibits, even though they are less flashy personality traits.

    “I genuinely feel superior than most on the above (such a terrible thing to admit but I am just laying out all the facts.”

    I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps you are better athletically, intellectually and socially than most people. It’s enjoyable to be athletic, intelligent and socially adept. The problem occurs when you must feel and appear superior in order to feel worthwhile. Another problem occurs when people aren’t able to enjoy the ordinary parts of life that don’t have to do with being better than others– such as taking a walk, being alone in nature, smiling at a stranger, interacting with your kids.

    If I were you I would find a good CBT therapist and work on dealing with your anger when feeling slighted, as well as not nagging your wife. Your wife may be amazing now, but if the nagging and slamming doors continue over the years, she will develop a surprising amount of resentment and her vitality will diminish, which will not be good for your relationship. People who are more passive and accommodating don’t always show their unhappiness until it becomes overwhelming. If you want your life to be the best possible, you’ll want to learn to stop nagging and losing your temper. You don’t want your kids to secretly fear making you upset.

    Let me know how it goes and what you think is most helpful to you.

    Alison

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      I only do short-term work with some local people here. I would recommend a good cognitive behavior therapist. It’s good to ask them the question you’ve asked, and try a couple of different ones to see which one seems best for you. Good luck and all the best.

      Reply
  7. Alison Post author

    Hello,
    I started reading this, but realize that it will take me a long time to read thoroughly and I just don’t have the time. Could you please summarize the situation and your question for me. I’m sorry but I work and have a lot of other things going on. I would like to answer you though.
    Thank you.
    Best,
    Alison

    Reply
    1. Confused

      Hi Alison,
      Thank you very much for your response. I greatly appreciate the effort and would just like to request that my post be removed since it’s to detailed and too close to home. Thank you for your help.

      Reply
  8. Silvana

    I am happy to have found and read this article because I am in a serious relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies but I do not know if they have the disorder. Is the disorder brought up through genes or is it a conditioned issue or both? I know that he grew up with an avoidant relationship with his mother and his father was hypocritical in raising him with values the father didn’t posses and used his son for selfish gains. My boyfriend is very honest about his flaws, he is very honest about everything but he has automatic negative perceptions about others that aren’t necessarily true. He believes he is amazing at everything he does (he is very good at achieving things and is charismatic which reinforces that belief), but he admits that he is very insecure too which I find uncharacteristic of a narcissist. He has become very emotionally independent because he wasn’t able to rely and be supported by his parents, which gives him an air of apathy and coldness. I found out from his friend that my boyfriend doesn’t feel worthy of me because I am so good to him. As you might guess, it has been an emotional pendulum for both of us and I hope that his past can be worked with to have a more stable relationship. Do you think this is a classic narcissistic disorder or his insecurty’s attempt to recover from a difficult past? Any advice would be so very appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      As with any personality trait or psychological condition, there are variations and degrees. Your boyfriend may have some narcissistic tendencies without being having NPD. The fact that he admits he’s insecure and is honest about his flaws indicates that he does not have NPD. I’m sure there is some genetic influence to NPD, but my guess is that there is a large environmental aspect–the parents or caregivers have a tremendous impact. It would be quite difficult to be grounded and secure with parents as you describe your boyfriend’s parents.

      My advice is to work on yourself and how you react in the situations that trigger you the most. Don’t spend all your time trying to fix him or to prop him up. That usually backfires. If there are particular situations that occur that bother you, focus on how to talk to him about those situations in a positive way. And focus on how to react (words, actions, and tone of voice) in those situations where you tend to become reactive. If you want to describe one of those, let me know.

      Alison

      Reply
    2. Dannette

      Silvana, RUN! Seriously, get out now! Even if he doesn’t have npd, didn’t mean he can’t have many symptoms and traits of narcissim. If your already experiencing so many issues, I’m telling you it’s not a safe, healthy relationship! You can’t fix him. You can’t save him. I spent 19 years married to someone like this. He admitted certain flaws, and always said he was “trying”…but I’ve come to learn so much about his deception, so many lies. He likes to look good in front of others. He wasn’t physically abusive, but very emotionally abusive. I didn’t even know what emotional abuse really was. But narcisist do! He was always sorry. But continued to do the same things over and over! He had no empathy. None. He was very sensitive I’d it had to do with his feelings. But not anyone else’s. He was extremely selfish. He always tries to cover that up by doing nice things after ward. He was very depressed. Always. I felt it, our kids felt it. He would say inappropriate and often untrue things to people about me, his wife. It’s so hard to explain. Read more about narcissim. Educate yourself. But seriously, you should get out, and save yourself!

      Reply
      1. Alice

        Leave him alone yourself. He is simply human recieving less love care and security than yourself. He is surely doing his best everyday with little resources. Have compassion and think yourself well off. Have compassion for people with less love and care attachments in their lives.

        Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Dear Alison,

    Thank you very much for your theories on warmth. I used to think loneliness was a gnawingly painful and empty feeling, because it had adversely affected me in social settings. Now, although I am still alone at sporadic moments, loneliness is something that I have become operatively conditioned to so that the previously ‘affective’ pain is replaced by a unique immunity. Am I making sense? It’s been ages since I took my college-level psychology courses! Please do re-educate me if necessary. Thank you so much for your helpfulness, Dr. Poulsen. Are you currently a professor? I would love to be wholeheartedly engaged by your thoroughly thought-provoking theories!

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Dear Anonymous,

      Yes, that makes sense. What I find interesting is that extreme extroverts often feel much lonelier than introverts or people who are used to spending a lot of time alone. Extroverts may be warm and good at interacting with others, but sometimes feel quite uncomfortable spending time with only one’s own thoughts and company. This is just to say that everyone has his or her own challenges and opportunities to grow.

      No, I am not a professor, just interested in psychology and an occasional therapist.

      Thank you for your compliment!! All the best.

      Alison

      Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Dear Alison,

    Thank you for imparting such intriguing information about narcissism. To some degree, I will abashedly admit that I am somewhat of a narcissist. For instance, while I do not post ‘Selfies’ (since I never liked and probably never will like taking any individual photographs of myself….!), I do enjoy posting a plethora of grandiosely elegant pictures on social media- e.g. genuinely vintage automobiles (especially those gorgeous convertibles from yesteryear!, although I am not a Baby Boomer…), half-a-century-year-old celebrities and exotic places, and just about any awe-inspiring image that I can come across in this technologically wondrous age!

    On another tangent, there is also the ultra-sensitive and complicated issue of gratuity: Food is singularly my most intense passion and so naturally, I dine out frequently on account of both preservation and palpable observation, and so my general standard is at least a twenty-percent, and significantly more depending on the occasion or unique situation (in those instances, the percentage increases twofold). Does this gesture come across as appropriate or rather pompous…?

    Lastly, and probably most significantly, my mood elevation is solely derived from monetary sources because of an externally and rigidly difficult environment (e.g. if a barbed or slighting remark is projected towards me, or if someone acts as though I have been an offense for no particular reason, which is sadly pretty much the norm or fight-or-flight response in my case; people don’t like me even when I earnestly present myself in a polite and pleasant manner….). Is there an effective way to be accepted and liked by people? Some people are ‘magnetically’ magic in being liked. Please feel free to be totally honest and succinct in terms of your advice. Thank you so much for your time and support.

    Warm regards,

    Anonymous

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Hello,

      Thank you for your comment and question. The term “narcissism” is typically used to mean slightly self-absorbed, concerned about one’s own image and selfish. But when I use the term, I mean the psychological term “narcissistic personality disorder,” and perhaps I should emphasize that more. NPD refers to a much more extreme psychological state than how you are describing yourself. In fact, your desire to be liked differs from a true narcissist’s desire to be admired and to seem superior. Perhaps most people like to be be admired, but the narcissist lives to be admired and lacks empathy for others.

      I don’t think anything you said about eating out or tipping well makes you a narcissist or even pompous. It’s nice to tip well, and most people like to be seen as being generous. I would not be so hard on yourself. In fact, people who totally lack any concern for how they appear to others have their own set of problems, which can greatly affect those around them negatively. It’s not that one shouldn’t care at all about how one appears to others. But one’s image should not be the only and primary concern in one’s life.

      People generally respond to a person’s demeanor and energy, not so much to what they say and do, unless that’s extreme. Tipping well and ordering good food in itself shouldn’t draw any negative reactions.

      Posting photos of fancy cars doesn’t make you a narcissist either. You probably have a great appreciation for them, just as some people have a great appreciation for well-made clothes, good architecture, good food, or well-written books. Yes, they are fortunate, but that doesn’t mean that they are narcissists.

      Your last paragraph is the most interesting to consider. First, it just so happens that sometimes narcissists are extremely charismatic and magnetic people, often because they have always been so focused in being admired. As a result they have honed the ability to charm others.

      I can’t tell why people don’t tend to like you, if that’s really the case. However, I really like the psychotherapy method of “voice dialogue” with a good therapist, because you explore different “parts” of yourself, those that are primary as well as those that are disowned or not developed. Primary parts of the personality are those that you might think of as who you are (e.g., responsible, articulate, an expert, or fun, spontaneous, studious, sexy etc.) You develop certain parts of your personality to survive or thrive in your environment, and as a result, you often become less comfortable with other potential sides of yourself. The idea of voice dialogue is not to get rid of the developed parts, but to become aware of the parts, and gradually develop other parts and then choose what mixture is appropriate in varying circumstances (e.g., warm and friendly in a restaurant, businesslike in a business meeting, etc.)

      So, for example, if you tend to be impersonal and formal, you may not have developed the part of yourself that is warm. As a result, people may feel uncomfortable around you. Yet if you haven’t developed that part of yourself, you may feel fake and awkward when you try to be warm. You might think “that’s just not me.” Yet everyone feels fake and awkward when they learn new things, including new ways of interacting with others. Once you make it into adulthood, it’s time to start developing new parts of yourself so you can live a more whole multifaceted life.)

      In addition to good therapy, certain types of classes can help one to develop certain traits. Acting classes and ballroom dancing classes can be wonderful in terms of learning to develop new parts of the personality, as well as developing one’s confidence. The waltz exemplifies grace and elegance, salsa exudes sexuality, cha cha flirtatiousness, tango-power, etc. All dancing classes tend to increase one’s confidence. Martial arts are wonderful for developing one’s comfort with inner power for those who are excessively warm and friendly.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Or you could send me a short video of yourself and I can give you more feedback.

      Good luck.

      Alison

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Dear Alison,

        Thank you very much for your insightfully informative response in regards to clarifying the psychological definition of narcissism and the intricately complex psychotherapy method of voice dialogue.

        By nature, I am introverted and reserved. At some point, I have been called ‘numb and withdrawn’, ‘self-absorbed’, and in middle school, sarcastically ‘The Princess of Silence’ (in retrospect, she was quite juvenile and sadly caustic when conversations were attempted…). Now as an adult (although I am perpetually young-at-heart, which is probably why you thought I was somewhat younger), most people regard me either curtly or nonchalantly and rarely do they warm up to me, except in monetary situations… I yearn to be the epitome of warmth and elegance, but those quintessentially aspirational attributes will take another lifetime to develop, and I have yet to ‘discover’ those dormant attributes that are waiting to evolve in their entirety in due time….

        Is warmth hereditary? Both of my biological parents are warm and gregarious, and I turned out to be quite the opposite. Conversely, negative traits are a hereditary factor and I have unfortunately inherited them from some relatives. Lastly, is warmth intrinsically developed at birth, or is it a learned behavior? I would also be thoroughly interested in Carl Jung’s and B.F. Skinner’s theories on human warmth. Thank you again for your highly fascinating feedback.

        Sincerely,

        Anonymous

        Reply
        1. Alison Post author

          Hello Anonymous,

          It seems as though many personality traits, such as warmth, have quite a large genetic component, although how they manifest themselves exactly depends on environment.

          For example, if a child’s parents are excessively warm, perhaps intrusive, mollycoddling, or suffocating, the child may develop protection from such invasiveness by becoming introverted, and perhaps appearing cold and withdrawn.

          I believe any trait can be positive or negative depending on how extreme it is and how appropriate to the circumstances it is. Warmth can be comforting or annoying and inappropriate. Being gregarious can be fun or obnoxious. Being reserved can invoke mystery and create desired distance, or it can lead to loneliness. So I wouldn’t look at your personality traits as negative. Instead, gradually learn to develop more options.

          Best, Alison

          Reply
      2. alice

        Hi Alison, do you offer any support services for those who have been damaged by broken trust attachments, – now suffering from severe narcissistic traits?
        I miss feeling supported with warmth.

        Many thanks,
        Alice

        Reply
  11. Susan

    Just got an update but don’t see new postings…anyway thought I’d give an update…Alanon is helping me a lot to detach from parents’ narcissism. I notice now that after they pull their crap with me (whenever they need relief, maybe 1 or 2x a week), it affects me in subconscious ways.

    But I’m getting better.

    I used to lash out at the first person I saw after I was manipulated/gaslighted/rejected/blown up on by parents. This affected my other relationships (neighbors, people in my community etc). But now I stop and allow myself to feel the pain BEFORE it comes out sideways.

    I have a method of recovery I do. I pray and get out a own and paper and God guides my pen. Today what I wrote was “No reacting. Don’t take away their guilt or their dignity to deal with themselves.” This one is HUGE. Never react to a narcissist!

    I also wrote “Just treat them with respect. Period.” Which is what you (Alison) said in your response to someone’s questions about a co-worker.

    I also wrote something else you alluded to: “Be very selective about what you share with them.”

    Tonight instead of getting angry, I was able to do the work and RESPOND to a very manipulative email – not react. My response was honest, beief and respectful.

    Darn, this is hard. Always waiting for the next show to drop sucks. But if I trust in God and use my tools I might be ok.

    BTW, you were right about smoking, caffeine, health and finding a nice church or other fellowship. I haven’t done it yet but you are right.

    Thanks for your wisdom

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Thank you for writing back. You’re on the right track and it will get easier, especially as you try to surround yourself with more positive voices, and also be compassionate with your own inner voices that may be mirroring your parents when they’re not around. I obviously agree with the three sentences you wrote down. It’s very helpful to think/pray/practice/visualize such responses before the potential situations occur. It will make it easier to respond in the most effective manner when they do occur. Just keep remembering that the attacks and manipulation are not about you, but about the narcissist. But it is important to protect yourself from such behavior. Doing so wisely is best (not necessarily through logical argument.)

      Keep it rolling.

      Reply
  12. Billy Bob

    Allison: Great article and series of comments. My question is how to best deal with somebody at work, who unfortunately I need to quote unquote partner with to obtain my objectives. We are both on the same level but he engages in all of the described behaviors above manipulative dishonest conspiratorial Machiavellian condescending excetera. Any suggestions on how to manage this?

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Hello, If you have to work with a narcissist, I would avoid putting him or her on the defensive by being critical. Rather than criticizing, I would start with flattery, and then phrase an objection in a delicate manner, such as, “What if we considered doing it…” A narcissist is predominantly concerned with his or her image and has little or no empathy for others. So it’s most important not to shatter his or her image by implying that he or she is wrong. When narcissists are on the defense, they can become dishonest and Machiavellian, as you mentioned. So treat them with respect, even if it has to be feigned.

      At the same time, you need to protect yourself. Don’t discuss any of your own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and any kind of secrets. They can be used against you. Don’t gossip or say anything negative about other people. That can be used against you as well. Keep a good paper trail.

      If you need the narcissist in order for you to obtain your objective, find ways of showing how your objectives will satisfy his or her objectives, primarily image and prestige. That is what motivates a narcissist–looking smart, appearing nice, seeming capable. Motivate him or her by appealing to his or her self-interest. (This is not how you would want to base a true friendship or love partnership, but it is the best way to protect yourself in a relationship that you are forced to have with a narcissist.)

      It never hurts to work on your diplomacy, but it is difficult to remain vigilant to protect yourself around someone.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  13. Susan

    I recently read an article that hit the nail on the head.

    What the narcissist does when hurting/slandering/yelling at/blaming others is this: he is projecting all the parts of himself he hates onto the other person. He is trying to amputate from himself the things he hates then dump them into you.

    If you listen carefully to his words, they describe himself. Sick stuff.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Yes. I also think that whenever people are highly emotional in their anger or their admiration of others, there is some projection of disowned parts going on. That is, the parts of yourself that remain unconscious get projected onto others, even the good parts. So you can learn a lot about yourself and others, and the potential for growth, by observing projections. In the narcissist’s case, anything viewed as weak or “flawed” is projected onto others. Yet you need to accept your vulnerabilities in order to love others. So it is quite sad that the narcissist so adamantly rejects vulnerability, and in fact attacks it in others as a way to fend off becoming aware of it in him or herself.

      In case you’re interested, here are a few of my articles on projection:

      1. Negative Projection:“I never had children, because my husband didn’t want to, and now it’s too late.”

      2. Positive Projection:“He is so amazingly intelligent and articulate!”

      3. Childhood Impairment: The Family Projection Process— “What are we going to do about her? We’ve got to watch her carefully.”

      Reply
  14. Carl

    This article does a very good job of summarising the main causes and traits of NPD. Alison states many of Vaknin’s views, but in a more concise way.

    However, like so many other articles on the subject, it fails to address the biggest problem: the way forward for the narcissist who wants to change. Everyone is so quick to point the finger at the adult narcissist for his (and her) lack of empathy. Let’s try showing some – the poor guy is a victim of child abuse. Let’s call it for what it is: in many cases he has been ABUSED.

    It’s not good enough to say “it’s very hard to change” and offer nothing. There are plenty of people with traits of NPD who want to change but nothing has been offered to them. The typical answer offered is “go and see a professional”, and guess what? They’re equally clueless.

    Present a workable treatment plan.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Thank you. You’re right about there not being any guidance for narcissists. Most of the literature says that there is no “cure” for narcissism. However, if someone wants to change, I’m sure there are ways to change.

      I think a good start would be to learn how to communicate more effectively when the narcissist is angry or when he or she is dealing with a person who is angry, upset, or hurt. I think Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s method called “nonviolent communication” is excellent in this regard. It involves a process that I believe can be learned by someone who does not feel empathy. It starts with expressing facts, then one’s feelings, one’s desire (or fears), and finally making a request. Of course, the tone and intention is all important. There should be neutrality and no tone of condescension or attack. The most difficult part would be expressing feelings and desires, since the narcissist’s lack of empathy is not just a lack of feeling for others but for him or herself.

      There would be common feelings that narcissists tend to share, such as feeling unworthy, inadequate, empty, and ignored, and common desires and fears, such as wanting to be perfect, important, or desirable, and fear of failure, fear of being laughed at, or fear of being wrong. People who are not narcissists have these same feelings, desires, and fears. Yet, when the narcissist experiences them, they feel momentous, as potentially life and death.

      When the narcissist learns to express these feelings, I think that others will feel more empathy for him or her, and the vicious cycle of attack and defense to hide one’s vulnerabilities might be stopped.

      Please let me know if you have any ideas as well.

      Reply
      1. Susan

        The most important book there is for recovery (not “self-help”) outlined the method for anyone to recover (especially someone with narcissistic traits).

        The narcissist absolutely has feelings and is in fact hyper-sensitive which is why he reacts as he does.

        This book I’m speaking of helps him see what he wanted in a situation where he caused harm, why he wanted it (it’s usually emotional), what the lie he tells himself is (how he extracts what he wants from others), how God can fulfill those needs instead, what he did to try to get what he wanted, what he did as a result of not getting it, and what he is afraid of (usually his image or not getting his needs met either emotionally, financially, sexually, societally etc.)

        Believing that God and performing acts of esteem, living by principles like making amends etc can fulfill his needs can not be done on blind faith; this work is very tedious and long and requires daily prayer and writing without the presence if others (few people have the willingness to do it). But it produces a true spiritual awakening (if you’re not sure if you’ve had one, you probably haven’t.

        Knowledge only goes so far. I was to to put away all my self-help books and focus on this spiritual method and it works. For them and for us.

        The “narcissist” is just like us…someone wounded in childhood whose symptoms are the opposite of ours in some cases. That’s why we’re attracted to each other like magnets. Same problem, different symptoms. Unfortunately we put ourselves in the position to be harmed by them because there’s also something we want. Our only job is to do our work to see what that is, so we can outgrow our patterns.

        But the spiritual component has to be added in for it to “take”.

        Reply
  15. leonor

    When i first met my husband, about 8 years ago he seemed different, unique. I told myself it was our age difference 20years. As time passed he still showed some traits and he even mentioned that when. He divorced his first wife he was diagnosed with npd. Since at the time things where great at the moment i didn’t stop to observe him and he workedout of state so i didn’t see him to often. But the red flags where there: the boasting, too critical of others, the lack of warmth and empathy, lies, if i confronted him with anything hed go into a state of denial. But what really got ne thinking was our sex life(or lack of).
    When we first met he was on fire. He liked porn and kinky sex i did too. But he would always ask me to dress up but i didnt like it. When we’d have sex it was only to satisfy him i wasnt allowed any pleasure and if he gave me what i wanted it always felt like he was doing it by force. After about 3 years our sex life didn’t exist. He refused to toich me knowing i liked my healthy doses of sex.
    Well now where divorcing and he still finds ways to punish me

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Yes, that all fits NPD. I suppose now you know to watch out for people who lie, boast, and have selfish sex. None of that can ever lead to a good relationship. I recommend being diplomatic during the divorce to avoid more punishment from him. But however it goes, you will be much better off. Good luck!

      Reply
  16. carol rodriquez

    I walked away from mine yesterday, she probloy thinks it was a nasty argument again but day after day I started withholding and protecting my self from that negative behavior, she started stepping back when I started to figure out what she was about, we all try in some way to love as normal couples do they sound sincere when they don’t feel threaten and they got it all under control but I took control and let her know shell never control me it aint love it has no patience but in one ear out another I also figured out her love affair was more important because she couldn’t control me but I sat back and used that time for myself to gather thoughts feelings and allowed her to believe I was helpful but lil did she know my self esteem got stronger as the days went bye , and by yesterday my mind was already made up to leave so when anger and bitterness flew from her mouth and the threating words of this marriage aint going to last ( inside I smile because TO LEAVE YOU I GAIN EVERYTHING TO STAY I LOSE EVERYTHING ) So honestly I won this battle and thank her for showing the real her as many hoes , tramps, bitches I was I walked away faithful and un damaged THANK YOU LORD!!!!!!! Always Sadie…..

    Reply
  17. Mish

    My father was a celebrity and a narcissist. Critical, domineering, violent, opinionated… all the good things! He told outright lies in front of me to others, proclaiming he’d been to places he hadn’t for example. It was quite scary; so weird.

    He definitely had some seriously negative effects on myself and other family members and I doubt I’ll reach my full potential because of him. I have also had trouble making good friends as I have tended to gravitate to narcissists as friends!

    Education is the key, but unfortunately a lot of people can’t see a narcissist at work. When I identify one now, I cease contact. There seems to be a heck of a lot of them though!

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      That would be very disconcerting and scary to have a father like that. Education is key, and avoiding narcissists is helpful as well. I wonder why you tend to gravitate toward them as friends–or maybe that’s in the past. Is it because you had to hide your opinions and thoughts and couldn’t develop a strong sense of self in face of a narcissist, while a narcissist seems to have a strong personality?

      Reply
    2. ez

      Yep, helluva lotta narcs around, unfortunately narcs breed more narcs, hence the demonic circle of narcs get bigger day by day. I’m in the process of leaving my narc hubby, lucky no kids involved..however, the best way for me to leave is to pack ALL of my belongings and move out while he’s at work..to tell him I’m leaving will only set off another raging mantrum and I can’t be bothered with that or crocodile tears of bullsht.

      Reply
    3. Anonymous in Hollywood

      Mish,

      My ex husband and father of my kids is a narc working in Hollyweird. I would appreciate it.. if you would like to as a friend to my tweenage children give me your insights as to how you survive around your narc Dad. You are strong enough to keep your feet on the ground and obviously wanting to make real friends so I think you will live up to your potential. I am assuming you are still somewhat young. My thoughts… as to how I can give my kids support are that I have to teach them to be resilient and not afraid to know what they want even if they are afraid to tell their Dad what they want. There is a lot of not being allowed to communicate freely for fear of retaliation going on over there.. at the other house. I am trying to get stronger myself. He keeps trying to take the kids away from me (we have half custody each). He uses it as a control thing to try and make me afraid of him and he lies about me to the court. I am getting stronger. I am really searching for how to help my kids keep their wits about them and information about that. Would value any tips from you. Keep strong.

      Reply
  18. Susan

    An explanation of this, this state of HUMANISM that describes most of us, begins on page 63 of AA’s “Big Book”. You can do a search on Google for Big Book search and read about the “actor”.

    It describes me too sometimes.

    But the Solution is further on in Step 4 in that book. I look at MY PART. I am not an innocent if I am engaged with these people. There is something I want. And THAT is where the freedom and recovery is. THAT is where the change is.

    However – I will say that although the instructions for how to do my own work are in that book, it is only with the help of a Big Book Steps sponsor I will be given the answers. It can’t be done alone.

    So if you are sick of being angry and stick in the problem, the thoughts of revenge, the muttering about or yelling at people who aren’t there and justifying your right to be angry, there is a way out.

    If you have given your self-esteem away over and over to others, if you’re depleted and lashing out at others, if you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, there’s real help available.

    But you have to be willing to do the work. You have to believe you’re worth it – and you are.

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Yes you are right. I think following from Alison’s comment, it is hard to tell the false self from the real self of a narcissist.

      I think we have to accept that the narcissist’s real self is really a child. A child in need of attention, adulation, unconditional love. They do not want responsibility, they do not want to their fair share, they want to be free of morals and restraints, they lack empathy towards others. They want it all but do not want to give.

      Like a small child that never learned to share his/her toys, but would greedily take the toys of others, mistrust others, even their nearest and dearest. Its a sad truth.

      Reply
      1. Alison Post author

        That fits the notion that a lot of psychologists have that children go through a healthy (normal) narcissistic stage where there’s a sense that world revolves around them. During that stage they are developing their “persona”–the image they present to the world to be accepted, liked, feared, or simply to survive. The theory is that narcissists don’t grow out of that stage because they never feel that down deep they are okay. So they get stuck in presenting an image to the world to get admiration, etc.

        Reply
          1. Susan

            I asked myself what I was getting from being with these people. When I saw the answers I realized I was the same as them but with different symptoms
            I didn’t really want a solution I just wanted to keep blaming others I was getting something from that too
            We live in a world full of “victims”. Everyone’s a victim of something out there. And there are plenty of people who will validate your victimhood. Just watch one of your Facebook friends complain about what someone did to them that day and watch everyone rush in and pay their backs.
            The solution is a way different way of life, a real spiritual one. But be prepared to leave a lot of people behind as you change…

  19. Andy

    Hi,
    wonderful article. I am a 30 year old male, and I ran into one of these narcissists, almost married her!. I never knew about narcissism before. The woman was very charming, mirrored by interests and desires very well. She was humble, seemingly caring, thoughtful and many other things. Secretly though, she was planning, scheming, alongside her narcissistic mother. She pretended she loved me, she pretended to genuinely want to get married.

    But in reality, marriage was just to fulfil her own selfish desires, to gain financial security, then divorce at any time she felt it desirable.

    Funny thing was, she was not only a narcissist but had sociopathic traits – no empathy, pathological lying, remorseless, uncaring. At the same time she was sadistic, laughing only with cruel jokes, enjoying other peoples vulnerabilities and pain, and getting a kick out of deception.

    I had to get out of there.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      You sure are lucky that you saw who she is in time! I just saw the movie “Gone Girl,” which has some gruesome parts, but it reminds me of the extreme of what you are talking about. There is a little cross-over between a narcissist and a sociopath in that they both lack empathy, but the former is much more dependent on praise and adulation. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
      1. Andy

        yes she did get high on admiration and adulation, but I soon found out that it didn’t really matter from whom she receives it, as long as its there.

        Narcissists love to receive admiration, gifts, etc. but they are very selfish characters, like cats, they like to be stoked, fed, but don’t really care about anything but themselves.

        Reply
        1. Andy

          To live with a narcissist you need to be one of two things: A very, very giving person, or a mean narcissist yourself. Either way, its not a very good life.

          Reply
          1. Alison Post author

            Often someone who is with a narcissist for a long time enjoys the facade of the narcissist, not realizing that it is a false self. They gradually get beaten down emotionally, and often end up losing the confidence it takes to leave. They question themselves instead of the narcissist.

  20. Susan

    In response to the man who posted in his twenties, I don’t believe anyone that young could verbalize narcissism that well or have enough wisdom to do so. I may be wrong. Either way, I would say that in order to achieve a right-sized ego, if substances are part of the equation I would consider 12-step recovery.

    Even where substances aren’t part of the equation I still suggest it for all people today for various reasons. Codependency and adult child disorders (which we almost all have today) can be absent of substances but the addiction is to people, obsessions, etc.

    The way others see us is not the solution to these maladies; the way God sees us is. This means we may be hugely disliked by many but free nonetheless. He will provide our needs.

    There’s too much to go into but my experience is I have never seen recovery, humility and confidence like I have among certain members of AA Big Book people. Some of these people are folks in respect more than any other people the world-over.

    Only a sinner can become a Saint.

    Reply
  21. JohnnyQ

    I am in my mid twenties. My older sister is a graduate psychology student and in one of her classes she was taught about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She told me I had a lot of personality traits that fitted the description of a Narcissist. I was amused at first but after making an extensive research online I not only realised that she was right but that these traits were unhealthy and were ultimately making me and people around me unhappy. Only then did I realise I was in a state of absolute denial. I am currently in a relationship with a great human being but I am afraid my narcissistic tendencies could harm it. Being a narcissist, I falsely believe that all people are narcissist themselves. This makes me suspicious and untrusting of people, my girlfriend included. I create a psychological barrier in my mind that does not allow me to unconditionally love my girlfriend in order to defend myself emotionally due to the fact that I have the underlying fear of being left or replaced for someone “better”. I understand this is due to the fact that I have low self esteem. I am very superficial. I am constantly worried of portraying an image of being an affluent, well travelled, educated, interesting and sophisticated person by closely monitoring every thing I say or do. This has led me to associate myself with people I secretly admire and to my narcissistic satisfaction I have achieved this. I charm my way into these social groups and closely befriend them, after some time I grow bored of them and seek a new group of people, neglecting and acquiring a feeling of superiority over the previous group. This cycle is constantly repeating itself. Being from a middle high class upbringing I have interacted with upper class individuals throughout my life and I am somewhat obsessed with their lifestyle and customs and deeply envy them. I subconsciously “social climb” assuring I am always surrounded by affluent individuals. I cunningly hide these ploys presenting myself as a humble and “down to earth” person. I have a bad relationship with money. I make decent earnings but splurge and incurr in irresponsible debt in order to finance a grandiose portrayal of myself. I am constantly comparing myself with others, judging if im “better” or “worse” than every person I encounter. I also smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and occasionally do other drugs. I dont overindulge on them only because of the fact that I am afraid of harming my social image. I am aroused by dominant/submissive roles sexually. I am constantly looking for sex with women to gain approval. I pride myself in seducing, convincing and tricking women to sleeping with me. It is the absolute accomplishment for me because it confirms I am desirable to women and makes other men envy me. I now realise that my parents have always known about my narcissistic traits and have tried to help me in many ways but I have always neglected their help, growing remorseful of their attempts and thus damaging my relationship with them. I want this to end because I know that I will not be a happy individual in the long run and may become an emotionally abusive spouse or father one day which deeply frightens me. What can I do to solve this?

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Johnny,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s very interesting how you describe your personality and behavior. Yes, it all seems a bit narcissistic, though I would guess that you do not fit the description of having full-fledged Narcisstic Personality Disorder for two reasons. First, you seem too self-aware of your behavior, and second, look at the last two sentences in your comment. You are frightened at the prospect of hurting others and you want to change or improve the situation. Someone who is a full narcissist (not simply narcissistic) would not be concerned about hurting others except as it would impair his or her own image and supply of praise, and would not try to improve. The fact that you are gaining self-awareness of the narcissistic traits you have in your twenties, rather than in your fifties, is also a good sign. By the way, in order to gain ego strength, most healthy people are go through a narcissistic stage when they are children. In other words, they focus on developing a “persona”–an image to present to the world to help them survive and thrive in it. They want to look good and seem capable, etc.

      You ask what you can do. The first step is reading about narcissism–Sam Vaknin’s book and writings on the internet are very comprehensive, and he writes from the standpoint of someone diagnosed twice with NPD. Through reading, you’ll gain even more self-awareness and see more clearly how lack of empathy and narcissism work and wreck relationships.

      Secondly, I would read more about healthy relationships, and take note of when you truly enjoy interaction with another person, whether in conversation, being together, or having intimate relationships. Try to find more people that you really enjoy the moment with, not because they are wealthy, powerful, etc, but where you actually feel alive, good, and challenged when you’re in their company. Take note of those people and moments you enjoy and focus on spending more and more time finding those people and moments.

      Third, I would take small steps to avoid presenting the right image. Don’t make a dramatic transformation, just small steps, and see what happens. Image is still important to function in the world, but identifying with a certain rigid image will own lead to unhappiness.

      I want to mention that I don’t think all the things you are doing are bad. They may be excessive, but in moderation they may be necessary or at least helpful. For example, you talk about being suspicious and not trusting. Acting suspicious in a relationship will hurt a relationship and sometimes even helps cause the feared behavior in the other person (cheating, for example.) However, it’s always good to have your eyes open and not be overly trusting until the person has earned your trust.

      Fear of being replaced and abandoned in moderation is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s part of life. People are abandoned and replaced. You simply have to find a way to live with the uncertainty of life without letting it cause you to build walls. When you learn to gradually share your vulnerability and allow yourself to love other people (which requires openness and honesty), life and relationships become deeper, more meaningful and more exciting. But there will still be the danger of abandonment. So it’s always good to open up to a person slowly.

      Presenting an image of being down-to-earth and humble, yet knowing how to impress others is part of living within society. It’s what Jung called developing a “persona.” (You might read my blog on the persona and the shadow.) It’s not evil to do this. It’s actually necessary to get along in society, to get and hold a job, etc. As you get older, if you’re self-aware, you learn to hone your persona so that you are not repressing important parts of yourself. You also will develop different goals. For example, you might find that many people whom you’re trying to impress are no longer so interesting to you. So you will not make such an effort to impress them. Being obsessed with affluent, high-society types may be your unconscious way of trying to get validated and to feel worthwhile yourself. If they accept you, than you are acceptable. Yet the irony is that their acceptance based on how you present yourself in a very rigid way (not your whole true self) never quite makes you feel adequate. Thus, you will either try harder, or you will become aware of the impossibility of what your unconscious is trying to do and lose some interest in that high society. The other alternative is that you are fully accepted and over time, feel ungratified, and either start drinking more, spending more, and trying harder, or you will seek to become more multi-faceted and whole and look inward and elsewhere for wholeness. At that point, it will be easier to “individuate”–another Jungian notion, which means to become more whole, to become more multifaceted and authentic, which leads to a more interesting and happy life.

      Even the fact that you are aware of your spending habits, your desire for dominate/submissive intimate relations, and your alcohol consumption, which are not dangerously out of control, but causing some insecurity and malaise, indicate that for someone in your twenties, you are desirous of figuring out how to improve your life on many levels. And you can do so incrementally.

      Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  22. Susan

    Narcissism can be generational because of family dysfunction but all it is, is a deflated ego.
    The ego had to be deflated to offset insecurity.
    Insecurity happens for many reasons. Lack of love or proper attachment in childhood. not being able to defend an abused sibling or parent, being shamed, etc.
    To protect one’s psyche and emotions, sometimes people cover it up with an inflated ego & false pride.
    This can become narcissism.
    The abused become abusers.
    Once the narcissist realizes how darned good it feels to steal self-esteem from other people, they immensely enjoy their egos and will protect their egos at all costs.
    An ego that inflated must come down, so they need constant re-supplying.
    If you play the “victim” (which is a self-fulfilling prophecy), they will sniff you out a mile away. Ego always looks keenly around its bodyholder for fresh meat.
    Adversely, if you have some self-esteem, they will sniff that out too, for that is the best meal of all.
    Narcissists are loading up our depressed society today at an alarming rate. They’re everywhere. Hair salons, any service job or health care worker (if you NEED something you’re at another’s mercy, right?)
    The solution? Walk away. Do NOT react. Find a better hairdresser or mechanic.
    And remember, you have the right to post your experience on Yelp or Google.
    With a health care provider? Go to administration and they will validate the employee over you. Don’t bother. Go to an intermediate or post something online and leave that hospital

    Reply
  23. K

    The other thing that I thought I wrote, what perplexed me was that me asking for what I think are normal pieces of a relationship, honesty, emotional intimacy and good communication, I was told I make him feel bad about himself because I make him feel as though he’s not good enough for me. I tried to be loving and kind when I asked for what I needed, but some how it became my fault. I could never understand that if someone you loved and deeply cared for asked something of you in a loving and non critical way, how or wjy would you refuse?

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Some people get more defensive than others. Relationships work best when each person has a strong enough sense of self to take constructive suggestions. But if you find yourself having to make a lot of suggestions about important issues such as honesty and emotional intimacy, he may not be the guy for you. You definitely do not want a project. It never works out well. People can learn from each other in a relationship. But if there are big fundamental differences and both partners are not motivated to transform and improve, then you will end up frustrated and he’ll end up defensive.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  24. K

    I am just ending a relationship with what I believe is a narcissistic man. Reading about this has helped me better understand that me wanting intimacy with him through us having good open communication is not a bad thing. He often told me that he is immune to therapy and that there’s nothing wrong with him, that he’s just different. That he doesn’t need to learn to communicate better.
    At first I was so broken hearted when he coldly broke it off. In the past I had seen some warning signs and tried to end it earlier, but his charm and devotion (fake but appeared sincere) won me over to stay and I became very committed making our relationship my top priority. Many other things occurred that has led me to believe I am no longer useful to him or that I gave him the constant attention when he wanted and at times demanded it. Thank you for putting the characteristics of narcissism into layman’s terms.
    The last session I had with my therapist I mentioned I think my ex is immature and entitled, she agreed (from our time in couples sessions). Now I know why I often felt like his loved changed, the lies would never stop and what I valued didn’t seem worth his bother. He would come across empathetic if I had a problem, at least he would be at first. If his solution for whatever was going on didn’t prove effective, he grew tired and annoyed with me and my situation. This would range from every day issues to dealing with my father’s sporadic hurtful behavior (now also wondering if he too is a narcissist). My question to you Allison is do narcissists use alcohol to help them not have to deal with life?
    I thought at first that alcohol was the problem, but going through this breakup is allowing me to see him in a different light. I always thought he just needed a little more than the normal amount of praise for what he thought he excelled in, mostly his comic writing and his dream to be a stand – up comedian. Since reading about narcissism, I’m beginning to understand how I could never ask him not to do the simplest things (please don’t put the dirty garbage lid next to the food I’m preparing for dinner) without him responding as though I’m this horrible nagging shrew. And it took my back getting a huge muscle spasm/knot to finally stop pretending that I enjoyed his back rubs (he still thinks he’s an amazing amateur masseuse and that something is wrong with me). The back rubs, as with many other things he did, were enjoyable in the beginning because he put real effort into it. As time went on, it was as though he was going through the actions and the results were obviously showing his lack of effort or concern. If he didn’t enjoy doing (fill in the blank) anymore then I was fine with him stopping. I wouldn’t want him to feel pressured into doing something he disliked. However, no matter how kind, quiet, non confrontational, loving and supportive I was when I tried to tell him his back rubs hurt me (or whatever he was doing that needed feedback from me because of something negative it caused me to go through) he would act defensive and hurt. I finally started seeing it wasn’t the back rubs he enjoyed, it was being told he’s an amazing back-rubber and I feel lucky to get the recipient of his love. It’s weird but after reading this site and a few others, I get it.
    What’s odd though is there were times he seemed very sincere in his love and care for me. I’m usually a good judge of sincerity. What caused me most anguish was his quick flip-flop from kind person to selfish cold person.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      I’m sorry that you have experienced such anguish. The good news is that you are gaining insight from this experience and will probably meet someone less perfectly charming in the beginning, but more interested in you and having a mutual relationship than in simply receiving praise. Some narcissists do use alcohol while others do not. Substantial alcohol use is always a problem for the relationship. A narcissistic alcoholic can be downright dangerous. Flip flopping from a kind person to a hostile person is a sign of someone who is not well-grounded and does not have a strong sense of his or her true self. This does not mean he’s a narcissist, but a lot of narcissists do that–they are charming until they are not being praised and admired, or once they feel they have some control over you. Then they can become very mean. Everyone gets irritable or loses their temper a little once in a while, but watch out when someone tends to flip flop quite a bit.

      You’re right, anyone who loves another person will listen to feedback if it’s given in a kind way. When you said that the backrub hurts, a healthy person might simply respond, “Oh sorry,” and change it.

      The one thing I might point out to you is that it’s important not to pretend to have certain opinions or feelings, as you suggested you did at the beginning. Of course, if it’s something super minor, it can be okay. You don’t have to point out everything that you don’t like. But it’s important to avoid pretending, because it will lead to resentment. Also, it’s more interesting to be with someone who’s honest and has some different opinions.

      Take care!

      Reply
  25. bryan

    thank you so much for your article.

    I’m 58, so for the youngsters, if you don’t deal with this, it doesn’t go away.

    I was raised by a highly narcisstic dad, and probably not by accident married a borderline personality disorder.

    I was the golden child, the chosen one. etc.

    I will say the pain had gotten so great that it forced me into therapy, not to fix others, but to understand myself. Best thing I could have ever done. For me, it doesn’t ever seem to go away, but one day at a time, I’m able to make it work. I just can’t think about the past.

    My two kids are doing great. I learned a lot from my dad. Sometimes on what to do, and a lot of what not to do. As painful as it has been, and still it, I’m greatful that I have two kids that seem happy and don’t have my sadness.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Thank you for your comment. Going to therapy with a good therapist can really help a person who is motivated change his or her emotional and behavioral responses. You have to have a strong enough sense of self to go to therapy because you have to feel comfortable evaluating your patterns, triggers, and tendencies. When you have the strength and courage to do so and find a therapist that you like and respect, that you sense can guide you, then you can really experience positive change. That’s wonderful that your kids have also benefited from your efforts.

      Reply
  26. Mary

    Thank you for your article. My husband and I adopted 3 abused and neglected children. The youngest was 3. He was the most neglected. He has grown up to become a narcissistic, entitled young man. He cannot hang on to a job. He feels everyone has failed him. He gets angry easily and blames everyone else for his own created problems.

    I have long felt did I contribute to his becoming Narcissistic. I love him and he knows that, but now we have had to employ tough love because he just cannot do for himself. He wants everything given to him. He is into drugs and using people for a place to live. We won’t let him back in our home because he has been very abusive to me.

    I feel totally helpless. As you indicate, he cannot change. He was diagnosed as Narcissistic when he was around 13. He has been in and out of Juvenile Detention. Sometimes he says he is sorry, but only to be manipulative. He changes on a dime. I know he is insecure. I don’t know how to help him. Feeling helpless.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Unfortunately, this is a very difficult situation. When someone is always there to pick someone who is into drugs, breaks the law, and takes advantage of others, he’ll never learn. You can still be there as someone to talk to and who will emotionally support him if he asks for it. But ultimately, this kind of behavior is only changed by the person him or herself, usually when he or she hits bottom and perhaps has an epiphany that leads to accountability. Given that your son is abusive toward you, it is an important step that you won’t let him back in your home. Enabling him to be in a situation where he is abusive and does not take accountability for himself is not only terrible for you but not helpful to him or anyone else in your family.

      I’m sorry you have to make such difficult decisions and watch him self-destruct. But it is probably best that you focus on keeping in line your boundaries to make your life safe and you self-empowered. After all, you have a husband, other children, friends and family to think about. If you dwell on suffering and trying to help your son, when you can’t, you are affecting all of those around you. All the best.

      Reply
  27. Singing Eagle

    Thank you Alison for taking the time and all the work you did to care enough to post this help information for people like me. Everything on here describes my “N” spouse of almost 40 yrs perfectly. I have suffered varying illnesses that are not in my family history that doctors cannot explain yet I know it is due to the years of stress (PTD) and not knowing that I was dealing with someone with a personality disorder. I found this site when searching for answers about emotional or intimacy deprivation. (I feel starved!) “Our” children (my kids say mom is the one who really raised them) are thankfully normal with a healthy understanding of what relationships are about and that it involves 2 people, both giving and taking. As for me and the person who is legally still my husband, we are existing in the same house living separate lives for the most part. Due to a stroke he had, I am still in the position of being a care giver to someone who still doesn’t get it and from the information on this website, never will. Thankfully, I have a great network of people around me but there are still times I need validation and confirmation that I’m not crazy. Thx, A!!

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      I really appreciate your comment and am so sorry for the many long years that you’ve suffered not only from illnesses but from loneliness and the emotional pain, frustration, and confusion of living with a narcissist. Fortunately children only really need one good relationship with a parent or caregiver to have experienced adequate mirroring and love to be able to have loving relationships in the future. I’m glad you have a strong network of people around you. Good luck!

      Reply
  28. Giles

    I have never been very comfortable with the idea of ‘healthy narcissism’, there isn’t really such a thing. Young children of course feel like they are at the centre of the world because they know little else and it is a great way to experience and learn new things, hardly narcissistic or false. This is to date no concrete explanation either in childhood or adulthood of somebody developing NPD. The borderlines do have some insight and they are worth talking to about their condition. Here is what might be a unique account of somebody who became fully narcissistic as an adult. I hope that it explains and helps to protect other people against what are very mentally ill persons. http://andandand.tripod.com/narcissist.htm

    Reply
  29. Shawn

    Alison this has been very helpful in understanding my parents and the problems they have been having. When reading this I also have reflected on how I can better myself and avoid repeating these character traits. Both my wife and I have vowed not to repeat our parents past mistakes and to take the positive of both of our upbringing and blend it into a healthier environment for our children. So again thank you for such a concise perspective.

    Reply
  30. Celine

    I’m not sure, but I believe that I’m engaged to be married to a narcissist. I felt really stressed this week. He had been signing off emails as King xxxxx for three weeks. I tried to stop the trajectory by saying, you know, you can’t rule a country. He said he was offended by that statement, and that made me feel stressed. So, I went online to look for some people offering to custom-design crowns. I told him I need his head size so the people can make it. He now contradicts what he said for the past three weeks by saying “dress me as a pomper.” (A pomper is a person with a big ego and punkish attitude – he wanted to say “pauper” but …). What was funny was that the inappropriate use of the word “pomper” for “pauper” was perfectly illustrating his position, attitude and personality. I have already stopped “correcting” his incorrect use of words. He likes to think he’s well read, but ….(sigh). Pomper for pauper, predecessor for successor, Calvary for cavalry, suit for sook (in Morocco), diagram for diadem, and so on.

    He forgot the title of the Mark Twain classic The Prince and the Pauper. Misspells words all the time, and is always saying that he’s smarter than his colleagues at work. He has only 60 titles that fit in a shelf in his bedroom closet, but told me “I know you’re going to say I have too many books and I read too much”. I didn’t think or say that, but he is always scripting dialogue for me (projecting?).

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m being bombarded or ambushed with his “jokes.” He repeats them over and over again, even when they put him in a negative light. Some of them aren’t funny. He called his seven year old daughter “turd” in front of me. He’s always commanding me to laugh.

    There a BDSM subtheme to intimate situations, when I have clearly stated that it is not in my nature to be submissive or dominant. I have told him over and over again that I will never agree to any form of submissive role or humilitation. I feel stressed out because he makes me feel that I MUST verbally participate in and imagine enjoying these scenarios.

    I asked him if he desires to be distinguished and revered out there as it has been the undertone of every single one of our conversations. There is no me and him, just him and him, and the others and what they say about him.

    He’s just told me that he’s so good in front of a crowd, and that he suffers from Michael Jackson/Prince Syndrome – that is, being too good in front of a crowd. I said it because I felt that it was what he truly wanted.

    I sent a text encouraging him to do a PhD. He countered with the titles he values more: son, father, brother, husband, friend (so modest). I was shocked that he’s saying he’s a humble person, an ordinary guy, when he’s every single day emphasising how much he’s been quoted by x professor, y professor, and how many books he’s read, and trying to quote passages in German (he can’t)?

    After I asked him to give me a break from the King xxxx as I feel I’m losing my mind trying to follow his numerous trains of thought, he immediately started referring to himself as the lead actor in a movie.

    So….I wrote him a three page missive, explaining the sensation of mental torture I’ve had to undergo.

    I feel like I’m overthinking the situation, but I’m out.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Why do you stay with him? Yes, he sounds like a narcissist with perhaps some other problems as well. WHy would you write him a three-page letter explaining the mental torture you are going through? I wonder what you expect from someone who thinks he is a king, etc. I would look for help for yourself outside of the relationship. Good luck.

      Reply
  31. nns

    My (male) friend’s wife’s Narcissistic behavior is taking a toll on his marriage. He divulged to me that she is “the center of her own universe and there is no room for me.” She is a clean-the-house-a-holic. If it isn’t done correctly, meaning by him, she will re-do it her way/the right way. She really ever cooks or takes care of her own son and never does laundry. The biggest concern my friend has expressed to me was that she no longer initiates or wants sex with him. He has told me that it has been over a year. I asked him if he asked why/why not, what seems to be the issue. Her response was no response at all. Just dismisses him. So he stops asking/offering sex. He tells me that he feels rejected and unloved. I truly feel empathetic for him. I personally would be insulted and perhaps a little suspicious of her behavior. The most recent event was his birthday a few weeks ago. She planned a shopping trip with her friends on HIS birthday over spending the day him and their son. I voiced my disdain over her choice to put her needs above his. I mean he was the birthday boy. He took in stride…like her behavior didn’t surprise him. I am not sure what I am trying to say or ask. I guess that he is my friend and I want him to be happy and I don’t think that he is.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      That is a very sad situation that your friend is in. What tends to happen in situations like this is that the unwanted partner loses self-esteem, which can make it harder for him to stand up for himself, to make his desires known in an effective way, or to possibly leave.

      As his friend it would be helpful for you to do things with him where he enjoys other aspects of his life. This will help him retain some inner strength. Encourage him to continue seeing his friends and pursuing his hobbies and sports. You might give him some articles to read that show that by cow-towing to a controlling partner he will never please the partner. On the contrary.

      In situations where couples are no longer having sex, I recommend David Schnarch’s “Passionate Marriage” and his weekend seminars. I also highly recommend John Gottman’s books and weekend seminars. The sooner he becomes aware of the vicious cycle he is falling into, the sooner he can do something to pull himself out of it.

      Reply
    2. Wendy

      I was married to a narcissist. It is important for your friend to know that he can’t change her and that she will only get worse. The reason she constantly criticizes him is because having him respond by trying to “do better” is feeding her narcissistic supply. She cares not for their child/children because her own needs come first. Typically, narcissistic mothers are great moms in the beginning (or appear to be) because to the children the mom IS the center of the universe. As soon as the children start discovering and interacting with the outside world, the narcissistic mother will lose interest in her children or hate them because they no longer feed her narcissistic supply. The best advice I can give is if he wants to have some overseeing and control over his own children – then he ought to stay in the home but make sure he seeks sex outside the marriage (and I’m not a proponent of cheating but this would be once exception). He should get into counseling with someone who specializes in narcissistic personality disorder and abuse. Narcissists typically become abusive partners over time. This is gradual but it often occurs. He should talk with the therapist on how to draw boundaries with the narcissist in his life if he isn’t going to leave her until the children are grown. He should also seek legal advice in getting a potential divorce down the line and protecting himself should she decide to one day leave him (which is highly possible with a narcissist). He should also squirrel away money by giving it to a trusted family member and should not allow her access to his funds – he should have a separate account. Anyways, the biggest thing is that he can’t cure her no matter what and he needs to draw boundaries with her.

      Reply
    3. dab

      What is described in this post fits my situation exactly (without exaggerating; i’m the husband of a narcissist)…the sex stuff, being dismissed, the birthday (my b-day was completely ignored – no card, gift, dinner, etc.; had to make a dinner reservation on my own for my spouse and kids – later the wife took credit. My wife fits the classic definition of a gaslighter/narcissist. My therapist suggested Schnarch’s book Passionate Marriage (wife said it was “disgusting”). I finally understood what was happening for all these years. The clarity was amazing. The concept of differentiation put me on a path of gaining control and self-confidence. It also disrupted the power, control and manipulation dynamic – not what a narcissist wants. It was when adopting this new approach that my wife’s rejection and contempt began to increase. I would highly recommend Schnarch’s differentiation/self-validated approach. I asked my wife if she would go to a workshop or the long intensive weekend. She rejected all of it…”not the sex stuff.” Once the recipient (me) of gaslighting/narcissism stops participating, the narcissist will no longer find value in the relationship. I feel positive and alive for the first time in years.

      Reply
      1. Alison Post author

        Good for you. Yes, Schnarch’s books and he and his wife’s weekend intensives are excellent. Kerr and Bowen’s book “Family Evaluation” is also very eye-opening. Murray Bowen first came up with the idea of differentiation, and Schnarch applied it to sex. I’m sure your wife was threatened by Schnarch’s ideas because he promotes the crucible approach where you actually draw a line and define what you want in a relationship. A true narcissist does not want what is best for the relationship and the other person, but only what feeds his or her need to convey a certain image.

        I’m glad you are gaining control and self-confidence. I also recommend John Gottman’s weekend seminar–even if you go alone–to learn what a truly equal and mutually fulfilling relationship should look like.

        Reply
  32. janiny

    Hi,
    your comment is very nice..
    Since we have become such a celebrity driven culture, I thought it might be amusing to imagine what it might be like to be a celebrity. Consider this like taking a vacation from your everyday life.

    Reply
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  34. Pingback: Narcissistic Relationships: Low Cost Treatment Services

  35. Suzanne Brown

    I am living with a narcissistic husband of 30 years and want out after a roller coaster of 30 years.I have had a number of illnesses one being cancer of the neck and epigltottis.(swallowing valve in throat). there is zero affection and sexuality.Insted he pays prostitutes and also has homosexual encounters .Mention sex to him and he flees! He and I contribute independently but he refuses to give me any security.Every day there is tongue lashings and emotional abuse that sickens me to the stoamch.When I had cancer he told I derserved to die.There has been physical as well as emotional and financial abuse.Why does one saty? It ius very simple.It all comes down to money and as I have been unemployed for a long time desp[ite execellent academic results it is very difficult to relocate.But I am going to …I really cannot stand this psychpath that I live with for too much longer..The total disregard abuse and enlistment of usually ‘low lifes” to reinforce the abuse by commenting on one’s abilities to the detriment are usually the tactics of a narcissists.As well as projection,histrionic daily dramas and arguments,and the tactic of gaslighting.It is soul destroying and it takes a long time to understand what is going on.The difference now is I do understand and the exit is fast approaching.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I’m so sorry about the suffering you have experienced for so long. I’m glad to hear that you are planning to leave. What freedom you will experience to be away from the emotional and physical abuse you talk about. While there might be financial hardships, it’s important to avoid such ongoing abusive situations to be able to breathe and to live your own life with a sense of serenity.

      I teach healthy relationship skills at a shelter for abused women, where I see many women who feel so liberated simply as a result of being away from their abusive partner. Many of them have felt attached to their partners despite the abuse. Many others, like you, have felt trapped by finances. Yet, simply moving to a shelter, which is not a vacation spot as it has to have rules and conditions to exist, allows them to rebuild their lives, their self-esteem, and their sense of peace.

      I hope you have the courage to rebuild your soul. Good luck.

      Reply
      1. Susan

        Alison,
        Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
        I was Googling “shelter” and other terms and came across it.
        I am the adult child of two narcissists and now in my late 40s I can’t live the lie anymore.
        I was completely unaware of what they were using me for until several years ago when i did intensive work on myself after a suicide attempt. I came out of denial and in an odd twist, as I did this heart work I tried to rescue another narcissist (a man.)
        I Found the courage to end that after a few months but was horrifically slandered by him.
        I extremely shunned and isolated now and have so much PTSD from BOTH events (the man plus the decades of family blame and rejection) that now that I’m utterly exhausted to the point I can literally only shower once a week. And I certainly can’t work so i remain stuck until the control of my father through purse strings, something that began 10 years ago when the exhaustion first began.
        I am also smoking cigarettes and using caffeine to help me tolerate my intolerable existence.
        I am ready to make a change. It has to be now. My teeth are falling out and I’ve lost half my hair after the slander.
        I am thinking of going to a DV shelter.
        The other option is putting down nicotine/caffeine and sitting with God through the pain. I don’t know if I can do it.
        My salvation could be in that pain.
        Or in the freedom of a shelter and independence.
        If you have any input, I welcome it.
        Thank you.

        Reply
        1. Alison Post author

          Susan,
          I am so sorry to hear about all the pain and suffering you have been through. It is terrible to have to bear so much. But I am happy to hear that you are ready to make a change. I would definitely recommend getting help. Eliminating the nicotine and at least some caffeine will help in the long-wrong. I know a psychiatrist who generally doesn’t prescribe anti-depressants (except in emergency short-term cases) until he makes sure the person stops using drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and even some dietary things like excessive sugar. Fresh air and exercise, as well as showering, and trying to pursue some sort of hobby or club, or church on a regular basis are critical in getting out of your downward spiral. But I think going to the shelter or getting some kind of help is necessary in your case. I wish you luck. Please let me know how it goes.
          Alison

          Reply
    2. Wendy

      Funny thing is – the victims of abusive narcissistic men who stay in these destructive marriages for too long often GET cancer because of the abuse. High constant amounts of stress hormones creates inflammation which creates cancer.

      Reply
  36. admin Post author

    Narcissism seems to be primarily a result of upbringing and environment, specifically, lack of mirroring, abuse, harsh criticism, over-the-top praise, or unpredictable criticism. Circumstances in adulthood, such as celebrity, can increase existing tendencies of narcissism.

    Reply
    1. Wendy

      I have to disagree. “Why Does he Do That?” is a great book. I believe it. Narcissism is a personality disorder – it’s a character disorder – it can’t be cured like a disease or with therapy. I believe it actually originates in our genes. The question is: why aren’t all kids that are raised by narcissistic parents become narcissists themselves? It’s because it’s “IN” you genetically or not “IN” you genetically to be a narcissist. Of course, I think that parental influence on someone who already is genetically predispositioned to have this character disorder is important – but I don’t think it can be prevented if a child has it by the proper nurturing.

      Reply

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