By Anna Raab, M.A. Counseling, BCN
In an age of ever-increasing drama and selfie centered lives, the word Narcissist is being heavily thrown around! But what is a Narcissist, really? Is every person with an inflated ego or posting a few too many selfies a Narcissist? No, they aren’t. Yes, some people with these traits may have narcissistic tendencies, but a person with true Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a different animal altogether. I’ve chosen to write on this subject not only because of some of the over-use of the term, but also because there may be someone reading this who really needs to know if their loved one suffers from this (I would say they or their loved one but it’s doubtful a true Narcissist would ask themselves such an honest, insightful question).
True Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by very predictable characteristics, behavior patterns, and background. In my experience most people with NPD were raised in an environment where healthy ego development did not or could not occur, often because of recurring trauma. Because of their lack of healthy ego identity being formed, individuals with NPD actually have extremely fragile egos for which they are in constant need of garnishing what we call supply. Supply is anything which gives the NPD individual a sense of being superior or more powerful than those around them. Ironically, they are typically very outgoing, charismatic, likable, and even witty, but their jokes will often turn on you and you will find yourself being laughed at instead of laughed with. They may say very hurtful things and say they are just kidding, or they may gaslight you altogether. Gaslighting is when someone with NPD deflects any attempt to communicate your pain with them by flat out denying the event happened, twisting the event, or figuring out how to blame you for their actions or simply firing off a dart that has nothing to do with your plea for communication or sympathy. Gaslighting is the Narcissist’s go to for protecting their wounded ego. Because they cannot handle the thought of being wrong or questioned, they must retaliate by gaslighting you to protect the very fragile ego inside. Narcissists will rarely apologize, or if they do you will find it is to keep you in their good graces as they are inevitably getting something from you that they need. They are notoriously entitled and often expect to be treated in ways which they have not earned or deserve, many times expecting material endowments they have no real entitlement to but have no issues whatsoever receiving.
People with NPD thrive on making others feel small while inflating themselves. They will often lie or exaggerate the truth in order to secure their position in social first place. You will often hear them making judgmental statements or making caustic remarks about others with no awareness of how cold, mean, or cruel they may be, and sometimes very subtly or covertly. You see, those with NPD do not and often cannot feel empathy or compassion. Interestingly, they may be able to mimic it or fake it very well, but it does not come from the heart and when backed in a corner their true motives will be unveiled, and oftentimes it is these individuals who get caught in very telling actions or lies that eventually they may not be able to escape. At this point they will typically discard the individual or group and move to another place where they can practice their schemes once again.
My interest in writing about this subject is the very high chance that someone reading may have been or is deeply affected by a Narcissistic person. Oftentimes, it is the most caring and empathic people who are preyed upon because they are most susceptible to being manipulated or give the NPD individual too much grace. Grace is good, but giving grace to the NPD individual will be a black hole of never-ending investment into their wounded inner world, leaving the loved one feeling like nothing is ever good enough to earn their approval, or feeling like their feelings are never going to matter… because they won’t. If you are suffering from an NPD relationship, please reach out for help and support. There are people who truly care very deeply and want to help.