Narcissists in the Midst

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

Narcissists in the Midst

By Jacqueline Napoli

I had no idea what a narcissist even was until the fourth one in my life had completely trashed it–my world disintegrated to ashes. So I embarked on a discovery journey in Narcissism 101. Not exactly good times. But I found the truth, and the truth has set me free. If there is a narcissist in your life, it might be time to get educated so you can stop feeling guilty, crazy, and completely worthless.

According to the Mayo Clinic Patient Care and Health Information webpage, narcissists :

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others (Emphasis mine)
  • Are arrogant or haughty
  • Insist on having the best of everything

All of these tendencies suck the wind out of the room, fast. So why do so many people end up in relationships with narcissists? Well, usually, they are dazzling! That is their specialty. Because narcissism is rooted in the avoidance of shame at any cost, the narcissist has mastered being admirable, wonderful and amazing—even if it’s mostly in their own estimation. Whatever their thing is—money, power, looks, status, brains, whatever—they often exude this aura of crushing it.  They know the right people, have the right stuff, wear the right clothes, and say the right things. It’s awe-inspiring just to bask in their glory.

The main requirement for being a narcissist’s partner is the regular feeding of admiration. As long as that flows uninterrupted, the relationship stays stable. But if anything happens to cause shame to him or her, take cover! Instantly, this “perfect” person will haul out weapons of mass destruction and just annihilate the shamer. And the bigger the slight, the more gruesome the demolition. Every. Single. Time.

The only rule the narcissist knows is to not suffer shame. Relationships are never mutual or symbiotic: people are a source of admiration, inflation, praise. If that supply is impeded, the person loses value like a ship taking on water. If they actually cause shame, that person must be destroyed until they disappear, or otherwise, sufficiently grovel and resume supplying admiration. What’s strange is that this is not a generalization. It’s the nuts-and-bolts reality.

What are some of the crimes that warrant such emotional violence? Things like:

  • Honesty
  • Having needs, struggles, or doubts about the narcissist’s behavior
  • Trying to compromise, be seen, or understood
  • Challenging them

Books on narcissism wisely advise that if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, RUN. This type of person does not change. However, if your narcissist is someone in your family, or someone  from whom you cannot flee, survival skills can shelter you somewhat. Filter everything you do and say through the lens of their glory. If you cause them shame, they will unglue. If you frame things in a way that doesn’t cast a shadow on their “awesomeness”, the waters will stay calm. It’s pretty degrading. But degradation just comes with the territory if you have to relate to a narcissist.

For all other potential relationships, two maxims provide me with a first filter:

  1. “When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.” —Maya Angelou. She cautions us that instead of believing someone is whom we want them to be, or whom they claim to be, we have to face whom they actually reveal themselves to be.
  2. Relationships are based on give and take. If only one person is having their way, that’s not a relationship.

Stick with choosing great souls for relationships, people you want to be like. Armed with knowledge and self-respect, you can avoid the endless pains of the narcissist. You deserve no less.