When I started dating my former husband, I had never heard of the term narcissist. In fact, I stumbled across the term approximately 38 years later.
In today’s society, the title narcissist is frequently and loosely applied to self-centered people who show some traits of narcissism. People who are “ate up with themselves,” however, do not always display all of the prominent markers of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People who are arrogant and boisterous, for example, are not necessarily narcissists—yet, they may have a few narcissistic traits in their personality.
Traits of a Narcissist
People embodied with NPD have traits that typically include manipulative tactics and forms of abuse.
They lack empathy and they go to extremes to take advantage of people. An example of this: The narcissist says, “I am so concerned for you,” as they wrap their arms around you and ask you in a coyly, “tell me what is wrong.” Later, the narcissist will use what you share with them against you, like a bullet. The narcissist picks up their gun and shoots you when you are least expecting it. You are then stunned and dead in your tracks! They use the information that they gathered from you when you were open and vulnerable to their best advantage, and at a great disadvantage to you.
Special treatment and entitlement go hand in hand in a narcissist’s mind. Regardless of how they treat you or others, a narcissist expects to be treated like a queen or a king. If they feel inconvenienced or uncomfortable in any way, they lift their own self up by striking out in a manner that belittles others, “You’re stupid,” “You do not have a heart,” “Those dumb … (fill in the blanks),” “That is for losers, and it is not for me!”
They possess grandiose ideas about themselves. Narcissists believe they are more intelligent, more successful, are better lovers, have better looks, and are more important than others. They are masters at disguise and they feel a sense of power over others.
They are insecure, envious, sensitive, and thin-skinned. Narcissists lash out at the smallest degree of criticism or personal challenge. A narcissist, for example, will verbally strike out at people that have obtained something in life that he/she has not been able to achieve. It looks like this: “Well, they have their degree. They think their *** does not stink.” “They can have ***, I think it is ugly as ***.” “They may have ***, but they aren’t cool like I am.” “I hope their house burns down,” might be their envious words when someone they know buys a new home.
My prior husband/narcissist would often say (about his own mother), “I hope she dies and rots in hell.” This was said at the spur of the moment, seemingly for no reason—but particularly when his mother experienced something good in life. When the day came that he realized I was moving on, that he no longer had control over me, she was the first person that he called. He ran me into the ground with intense exaggeration, and then she asked no questions. I then realized that she (and other family members) had joined together as a narcissist troupe well before that phone call. That was an eye-opening 5 minutes of my life!
They get what they want through interpersonally exploitive behavior. What does that mean? It means taking advantage of others to achieve what they want in life.
A narcissist uses family members, friends, and even their children to execute their plans. Narcissists are often masters at constructing their own army of supporters, and these “helpers” have a name, “flying monkeys.” Victims of narcissistic relationships can be left with confusing feelings of, “Who can I trust?”
Narcissists typically use a manipulative tactic on their victims termed “gaslighting.” In my experience, gaslighting occurs alongside all of the above traits. Gaslighting is a tool used in an attempt to convince the victim to doubt their own perception. Common gaslighting statements: “You are crazy,” “You are way too sensitive,” “If you were more loving, I wouldn’t seek out others,””You are lying,” “I didn’t say that,” “You are imagining things,” “You are sick,” “You are a fake,” and “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Narcissists’ Difficulties in Life
Even though the narcissist can smoothly pull in their own army of flying monkeys, they often fail in certain “normal” areas of life because some people see the truth.
Employment difficulties are common with narcissists. Employers detect and don’t buy into the lies, and they also see the manipulation of others.
Failure with relationships (friends and family members) is also common with narcissists. The narcissist is excellent at pulling in their army of flying monkeys, yet, there are people that see the tactics early on in the relationship and they never allow the manipulation. In other words, they keep their distance.
Can Narcissism be Diagnosed and Treated?
There is no specific test for NPD. It is not a disease and there are no physical markers of the disorder. If the narcissist admits that they have these problems, therapy may help, but the problem is that most narcissists see the world through their own lenses—and they believe the world is the problem and that they are the victim.
Talk with Supporters
If you are a victim in a toxic relationship, I encourage you to face the truth and reach out to others for support.
I typically coach survivors of toxic narcissistic relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to later put our best foot forward and stretch ourselves to accomplish our goals in life.
But, if you need a trusting person to hear what you have to say, whether you are the victim in the relationship today, or if the victim is your loved one, or if you are a survivor … I encourage you to reach out to me.
Gaslighting, Flying Monkeys, Self-Centered vs. Narcissist, Empaths and Narcissism, Forgiveness vs. Boundaries