The Gift That Keeps on Giving
With apologies to Carly Simon...I bet you think this blog is about you, don't you, don't you?
Narcissism. It seems as though no matter how hard you work to remove them from your life, some disorders just keep turning up like a bad penny.
This site is categorized as a personal blog. As such, it is personal, in a general kind of way. It's purpose has always been for me to write about things in a conversational manner. I blog about stuff that I know and the thing I know best is well, me and my experiences. I cannot write about what other people think, but I can write about what they do, my observations of that behavior, I can draw conclusions based on that behavior and how it effects me...or not. So here is something a little "personal".
Over the course of 51-years I have become very familiar with one particular personality type, The Narcissist. Not just the personality type but the serious disorder kind of narcissist. Specifically in two close relationships. I suffered in those relationships because that is all that can happen when you are on a permanent one-way street. After about a gajillion hours of therapy, I came to understand that those people have a serious personality disorder and can never be anything but toxic. You can't have open communication with someone who cannot see, consider, empathize or sympathize with you. The narcissist has no ability to comprehend a world beyond their own needs, either emotional or material. For me, the lack of empathy was the hardest thing to digest. Everything is seen through a "center of the universe" filter. They really don't know that what they do is hurtful because it's all about them. Caveat: Except when they do know. For example, when they need something and the only way to get it is through an orchestrated manipulation. They don't see this behavior as calculated but as a necessary means to an end. If they do not achieve their intended goal they can then portray themselves as victims or somehow deprived. It's essentially a win-win for the narcissist but it also makes them the spawn of Satan.
Narcissists can be charismatic and influential. They are always manipulative. They mask remarkable insecurity, fragility and a deep need for admiration with these qualities. They generally seek out careers that place them in positions of authority or superiority i.e. corporate execs, therapists, performers or teachers. Careers that provide admiration and affirmation that feeds their self-worth. Their behavior can prove to be particularly insidious in close relationships as the level of dysfunction increases with their level of, well, dysfunction.
If you have an uncomfortable connection with someone, take a deeper look. If you see that some or all of the below are present, you may want to reconsider the health of that relationship:
You find yourself asking, "Am I crazy or....?" after many (or all) interactions
Your feelings get hurt but somehow the other person is always the victim
Despite how many times you say something to that person "you don't know what you're talking about". But when someone with more perceived authority (read: value) says the exact same thing and suddenly it's a revelation.
Entitlement abounds (What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine...)
The unreasonable expectation that you will simply comply with any and all requests
Favors are expected but never returned
You feel taken advantage of but "are crazy" for feeling that way
You recount an event but "are crazy" because 1. it didn't happen that way, 2. you are wrong, or 3. it never happened at all
Notice this person is incapable of building themselves up without tearing you, or others, down.
Re-writing history. This is a personal favorite. Because who cares about facts?
I have surgically removed people like this from my life because they are dangerous. Seriously dangerous. It bums me out when they turn up and I witness the damage they cause to people I care about. It's even more difficult when I am asked for counsel by loved ones and the only not-very-comforting answer is, "Do nothing." Because anything you say could be used to harm you or will most likely fall on deaf ears.
Ultimately, if left unchecked or without professional help, the narcissist will end up angry, miserable and alone. Maybe not now, or in one year or five or even in twenty years. But they will end up alone, I have witnessed this. It is because they simply cannot "be" with people in a long term or meaningful manner. That is where our practice of compassion enters. You do not have to engage in their insanity but you do have to have compassion for that person's pain, because they are in pain.