How To Spot A Narcissist and Narcissistic Abuse
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Question from a reader:
First of all, I have to ask if he is actually clinically diagnosed with a disorder? New Agers and people in the wellness industry like to throw around the word narcissist like confetti, but actual narcissistic personality disorder is often confused with simply being ego-centric. Only .5–1% of the population are truly narcissistic personalities, and most of them are men.
“Is there any hope for narcissistic personalities? I am involved with a man who has this disorder.”
Narcissism is an important topic for the spiritual community, though, mainly because narcissistic personalities are attracted to positions of power and authority, including spiritual teaching, wellness influencers, etc.
What Constitutes A Narcissist?
Narcissism exists on a scale, and everyone exists somewhere on it. We all have narcissistic traits, it’s part of being human, but we are not all narcissists. When you have achieved a specific percentage of narcissistic traits, you are clinically qualified for a personality disorder.
A key differentiator between being highly narcissistic and having an actual disorder is the capability for self-reflection and the ability to feel empathy. Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) isn’t self-aware enough to understand that the version of themselves that they put forward is really an overcompensation for shame and low-self esteem. They see nothing wrong with their actions and don’t feel empathy for the people that they attack, or anyone.
Someone who is simply narcissistic, on the other hand, may be so for exactly the same reasons as someone with NPD, however, they do have the capacity of recognizing it on their own, and may simply choose not to.
Here are some common symptoms of NPD:
- Lacks empathy and is completely driven by their own needs.
- Sees no wrong in personally attacking others, or completely ignoring you
- Being told “no” comes off as a personal attack
- Is oblivious to his or her own disorder
- Has a need for admiration
- Sees themselves as superior to others
- Has few friends
- Is asocial when no attention from others is available
NPD pervades all aspects of the person’s life. It is an intrinsic part of their personality, whereas general narcissism may only affect a few aspects.
People that show high tendencies toward narcissism (non-clinical) are psychologically healthy and well-adjusted, often even very successful, whereas people with actual NPD are inflexible and volatile, and don’t manage day-to-day life well. People with NPD, however, can be so skilled at being manipulative that most people around them won’t even be able to tell that they have NPD. They are able to completely conceal their dysfunction in order to get what they want. You won’t see their true self until they’ve become very close to you. We call those types of people covert narcissists, whereas someone whose narcissism is on display is an overt narcissist. Donald Trump is a textbook example of overt narcissistic personality disorder. It’s not that he’s a devious and underhanded liar, it’s that he actually believes the things he says.
Some of the REAL tell-tale signs of narcissism (of a personality disorder level) are as follows:
- Perpetual victim mentality. They’re never wrong. This person has never once taken responsibility for their own emotions, failings, or actions and everything—I mean EVERYTHING—is always someone else’s fault. The world is against them. It’s not that they are in denial or simply choosing not to be responsible—they legitimately don’t have the capacity to see themselves as the source of their own shit. This leads to point #2…
- Incapable of empathy. They are incapable of seeing the world from any perspective that isn’t theirs. You can’t rationalize with them. It’s like they can’t comprehend what you’re saying and they simply ignore it. They don’t have the capacity to imagine how another person feels.
- Masterfully manipulative. Not necessarily because they are evil genius level strategists who gaslight you as a means to an end, but because they actually believe the lies they tell others. They live within a delusional mental landscape of their own creation that constantly shifts to accommodate their most immediate needs.
- Delusions of grandeur. I’m not talking about being overly proud of one’s accomplishments, I mean overblown grandiosity. “I am the best, everything I do is the greatest,” and imagining themselves to be of a god-like status. They are drawn to positions of ultimate power and authority, particularly political and spiritual authority.
- A lot of narcissists exist in fields where they can “help” others because it allows them to be surrounded by people who look up to them, constantly compliment them, and provide a sense of worship which feeds their delusional desire for perfection.
- Many of those narcissists manipulate groups of people to do their bidding by playing the victim and inciting those people to come to their defense, and attack anyone who may point out their abusive behavior. They will also attempt to discredit anyone who questions them.
“What if I’m a narcissist?”
If you’re concerned that you might be a narcissist, then you’re automatically disqualified from being a narcissist because narcissists do not have the self-awareness to reflect about whether or not they are a narcissist. You may, however, recognize your own narcissistic traits and wish to work on those, though anyone who is higher on the scale is less likely to accept that kind of personal accountability.
If You’re In A Relationship With A Narcissist or Someone High On The Narcissism Scale
If you’re truly involved with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then they most likely aren’t in this relationship to love you, they’re only in it to get love from you. And what’s worse is, they don’t know any other way to be in a relationship. If they simply have narcissistic characteristics, then they have the capacity to use self-reflection as a means of healing, depending on the severity of the characteristics.
The more important question here, though, is you. How does this relationship make you feel? Is being in this relationship what’s right for you? Ultimately, we cannot control or change the people we are in a relationship with. We can only work on ourselves. Some key questions to ask yourself might be:
- How do I feel about myself when I’m around this person? Is it mostly a positive feeling or is it mostly a negative feeling?
- If the answer is negative: What are my motivations for being in this relationship? Do those motivations have to do with me, or the other person?
- If the answer is for the other person: Are my motivations for being in this relationship a detriment to myself?
Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Relationships and Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissist are emotionally and psychologically abusive by their very nature, and if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are being abused. Here’s a few ways they operate and the effects that abuse has on you:
- Narcissist often begin relationships by love bombing their targets. Once they have you hooked, they slowly begin to increase abuse through microaggressions in such subtle ways that you will mostly ignore it or shake it off. The effect of this is that it slowly acclimates you to abusive behaviors to the point that you can no longer recognize them. It’s a grooming, of sorts.
- Narcissists will “flip the script” and make you responsible for any accusations you make toward them. They are always the victim in their own stories, so you can never be.
- Narcissistic gaslighting leaves you with a sense of feeling like the crazy one. This often results in you questioning your own sanity, actions, and emotional responses. Narcissistic abuse erodes your trust in yourself and your own perception of reality.
- Narcissists will violate your boundaries and act like you’re an awful person for telling them no.
- Narcissists will play people in groups against one another. They divide in order to conquer, keeping individual parties pitted against one another so that they never get together and compare notes to realize that they’ve been manipulated all along.
- Narcissists will rally the troops against you, letting everyone they can know that you are the bad guy and they are innocent.
- We stay in the relationship because we feel a sense of duty to the other person, and we sacrifice who we are for their happiness.
- The more the narcissist degrades you, the harder you may try to earn their love.
- You might feel that leaving that person is a selfish thing to do, and if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, they will tell you that leaving them is selfish.
If you’re in a relationship that is detrimental to you, your self esteem, and your own mental health, that’s not a healthy relationship. You have to love yourself as much as you love them, and sometimes, leaving is the best thing you can do–both for you, and for them.
Click here for more information on NPD.
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