How to Survive a Relationship With a Narcissist – Part One
The Key Indicators of Narcissism
Well… we’ve pretty much seen it all this year haven’t we? And it’s only half-way over!
A worsening global pandemic, an economic freefall, political chaos, widespread protests, burning or pillaging of our cities, massive job losses…and that was just yesterday! I’m almost afraid to think about what might be ahead for the rest of 2020!
It’s become increasingly evident to me and many others, that we’ve got another entirely different level of disease raising its nasty head in our country.
It’s COVID’s ugly Big Brother….the Pandemic of Narcissism.
At some point, we’ll find a vaccine for COVID-19, but where’s the cure for the epidemic of narcissism which has grown to unprecedented levels in our nation; from the streets of everyday America to the White House.
The dictionary describes a narcissist as “a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish”.
But, for those that have had to suffer relationships with these type of personalities, it doesn’t even come close to giving justice to the amount of damage a narcissist can inflict.
At a time where our nation is desperate for empathy, compassion and nurturing, it’s disturbing to see this type of behavior rising to the surface WAY more often than patience, love and concern for others.
Most of us have had interactions with narcissists at various points throughout our lives, but they aren’t always as easy to spot as you’d think.
Often, they are someone you dearly love, or want to love, that you may have struggled to connect with or understand for years , but never considered their behavior as “narcissistic” because you just don’t want to think of them that way.
Well, these are skills you’d better hone up on, my friend, because this behavioral disease is all around us, changing the very core of our society. Without the right tools to protect yourself, you could be putting yourself at risk for unwanted stress, worry and a host of other negative emotions that affect the very quality of your life.
For that reason, I’m dedicating this and the next three posts to sharing some insight on this dangerous (yes, dangerous) personality trait, so you can recognize the signs and protect yourself from the fallout that narcissists inevitably create.
In this first post, let’s start with getting clear on understanding the mindset behind a person with this personality disorder.
The first step is to understand the “why” or reasons behind their behavior, so you can make sense of their manipulations and efforts of control early on, instead of waiting until after the damage has already been done.
A narcissist desperately craves the following:
1) Attention - which he or she considers validation and draws energy from. All is right with the world when the focus is on them, whether it’s positive attention or negative – it doesn’t matter. It’s just a fix to their emotional nerve center.
2) They need to be in absolute control of anyone they target. Most of us are unaware of what’s coming because their actions are first presented as if it’s a gift or a loving action, when it’s just a ruse to draw us in.
Narcissists are often extremely smart and, at least initially, quite charming, until you fail to meet their expectations or try to pull away from their influence.
But, don’t confuse charm with thinking they care about you or have a moral code. Yes, they know the difference between right and wrong, but a narcissist believes societal rules don’t apply to them. They have no capacity or interest in expressing or feeling compassion, kindness or generosity UNLESS it benefits them in a direct way.
They can justify ANY action regardless of its consequences. They can look you squarely in the eye and lie without hesitation, even when proof of the opposite is clear. Many can be aggressive, even violent, especially when questioned or confronted.
They often hold important professional, political or religious positions, appear to be quite successful or popular, or will do everything in their power to convince you of that, even if there aren’t any real facts to support it.
Many people are drawn to a narcissist because they are often gregarious, fun and carefree. They can be risk takers and seem to “have it all” with over-the-top confidence and swagger.
Hey! I’m all for confidence if it’s used in a positive way.
But, here’s the problem.
While they would LOVE you to think they are unwaveringly at the top of their game, what all narcissists have in common is that they are notorious for having extremely low self-esteem and are grossly insecure, which is why they are desperate to get others to believe the opposite.
They also tend to have grandiose visions of their accomplishments and status and they will remind you of them as often as possible.
Their greatest fear is to be perceived by others as weak, unworthy or a failure, which is odd because, deep down, its exactly what they think of themselves when they are alone.
At first, a narcissist may shower you with kindness and pay attention to your every thought and need. They appear generous to a fault because they can go overboard in gifting. But, this only lasts for a short time until they know they have you under control and they start to pull back. Suddenly, and inexplicably, you find yourself being the only one that’s giving 150% in the relationship.
Oh, and in case you’ve been visualizing a narcissist as some form of a hardened criminal, with beady eyes, 5 o’clock shadow and string of jail sentences, it’s important to note that some of the worst narcissists come in the form of the roles we expect to be nurturing and loving.
It could be a spouse, a parent, a long-time friend, or even a child, because narcissism has many faces and levels.
It’s important to relax your expectations and stay open to how this personality can show up in your everyday life. In my next post, I’ll share the first five behavioral tools a narcissist uses to disarm us, then take control of our lives, usually without our even knowing it until it’s too late.
Recognizing the red flags of a narcissistic personality can go a long way toward protecting yourself, and others around you, from being taken advantage of.
If your trying to navigate a narcissistic relationship that you need coaching help with, I'm here to help! All coaching sessions are by phone or Zoom session to ensure the health and safety of my clients.
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In the meantime…stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!