Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pocket Guide to Narcissists

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you can feel as though your head is in a blender. Here are some narcissistic traits to help you get clarity and detachment. Print these out and keep them near you if you must deal with an NPD (someone with narcissistic personality disorder) in your life. They can be charming, articulate, convincing... but you MUST watch their behavior and their choices to find the truth.

Their Image is the most important thing. They do not have a true sense of self, only the self that appears when "on stage," receiving new and fresh applause or “narcissistic fixes.” These hits of praise, from increasingly new sources are the food that keeps a narcissist alive.

They lack true empathy. However, they can mimic it when it serves their purposes for a period of time. The smarter they are the better they are at mimicking, however, they will drop the act when they are finished using the person or situation for their purposes.

They often appear as tough-minded or unemotional. They seldom show congruency in their facial expressions and words. They may be saying, “I’m so sorry for what you are going through…” but their body language doesn’t line up. No tears in eyes, no touching, no emotive natural expression of empathy. Their delivery can be oddly detached ….

They value people they perceive as tough-minded winners, successful, detached, or attractive and spend lots of time seeking their approval. They especially value emotionless achievers because it provides a challenge for them. If they can get a self-promoting hard ass to like them or think they are talented or attractive…they hope it will validate their own fragile sense of worth.

NPDs eventually show contempt for people who actually love and show authentic empathy for them. Their unconscious internal dialogue goes something like this, “If you love and accept me and treat me well, you obviously don’t know who I really am. I now despise your lack of true insight.” However, if you do find out who they are and call them on it, they are full of rage and fear for having been “found out” and move on. You cannot win with a narcissist. Love them and they will despise and feel contempt for you. Reveal who they are, and they will retaliate or move on to fresh new sources of narcissistic fixes. They hate it when their “image” is uncovered.

Intimacy is impossible. They only mimic it for a short period of time until they “catch” you as a lover, spouse or friend… then you are either ignored or they feel contempt toward you as they begin seeking new sources and fixes.

They spend large amounts of time fantasizing about their attractiveness, power and success. They construct their world to feed these fantasies

They are always right and fail to recognize how their actions, words and behaviors impact others.

They have trouble keeping close long term healthy relationships.

They are often skilled at communication and very articulate and sound logical…. But when you step away from their conversation you realize that they are not following logic. You must “follow what they DO” and no “what they SAY” or you’ll feel lost in their alligator roll. Your head will feel as though it has been put in a blender.

Narcissists vary in tactics but their underlying core needs are the same. (To have their image constantly propped up.) Often they were abused as kids and got emotionally stuck there…. (known as the narcissistic or pyschic wound). They grew numb. Their internal life is always seeking something to help that sense of numbness go away, and constant praise from new sources helps ease this internal state of pain or worse: no-feeling.

Some narcissists are openly grandiose. Others, usually those who are brighter, may actually know how to put on an act of humility… but watch their actions, not their words and you’ll see they are seek constant praise. Every choice they make is about getting new and fresh sources of admiration in their life so they can feel alive. Loyalty to old friends or present faithful people is disdained, unless they use them for their self-promoting/grandizing purposes.

Being a narcissistic is a true tragedy as their need to be always right makes it impossible for them to step back and do self-evaluation or take an internal inventory. It is simply too agonizing for them. They generally avoid therapy or only go once or twice before deciding they are much smarter than the therapist.

Loving a narcissistic is also a tragedy in that it is so painful. You may get windows, or glimpses of their original wound and feel deep empathy for what you see there, and put up with all manner of neglect or abuse hoping to help or save them. The tragedy is that a narcissist is often called "unfixable" because they cannot be helped or saved by even the most loving, consistent, patient and insightful of people. The pattern is too deeply embedded and even the most skilled psychiatrists admit that these are the most hopeless of cases, psychologically speaking. Relationships with NPDs can be managed, but they cannot be healed.

As a Christian, this has been a hard truth to swallow, but I believe some invisible wounds... to the brain and psyche, like losing a limb, will not be restored until heaven. Loving someone who has NPD, keeping realistic expections of their limitations (psychological handicap) and ability to love back normally, is actually freeing. You can love them, but you have to remember they cannot love you back in return, not in all the true meanings of the word "love."

If you recognize an NPD early and can simply avoid and "Run Forrest Run"... do so. If they are someone you are close to, and can't escape from, expect all of the above and guard yourself. Stay smart with your heart. Minimize time with them if you can and most of all, minimize their influence over you.

Then find a normal person who is able to show real caring and true authentic emotion and ask them for a big hug. If you must be in regular contact with a narcissist be sure to get regular support from a therapist or support group trained in dealing with NPD to help you remain clear, at peace, and out of the alligator roll.

And may I just say, with all the empathy and compassion in my heart: I am so sorry for the hurt and bewilderment you've experienced in this relationship. You did not and you do not deserve this treatment. What you do deserve is lots of self-care as you recover from it.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have recently cut off a relationship with a family member from lifetime abuse. I am at peace.

  2. I am so sorry.... a virtual hug from my heart (and one who understands this pain) to yours...Becky

  3. Becky, you nailed my ex husband. Nailed it. I didn't see all of these things clearly until I left him and even then it took months for my head to stop spinning. I am thankful to God that my children and I got out alive. Thank you for posting this. I suppose "recovery" for me will be a constant thing and any information that I can get on this disorder further assures me of his condition. It is very hard to forgive this man. In fact, I haven't yet. However, if I look at the fact that he has a disorder, a real psychiatric problem, then maybe I can begin to understand his psyche and find a path to healing for myself. Thank you so much for this information.

  4. Amy, so glad this was helpful! I know your journey all too well. I think detachment is helpful (when a bad thought starts just block and re-direct your brain if possible to something happy) plus forgiving the kid inside them who got wounded so badly they got this psychic wound within ... much easier than forgiving the who hurt you and so many others. How hard it must be to live in their brains. And yet, I suffered PTSD for many years...because of this experience. My body involuntarily crying boatloads of tears that I wasn't allowed to cry when it was not safe and my feelings were of no significance. Hugs dear one.

  5. correction: ..."than forgiving the ADULT who hurt you..."

  6. Only in hind sight have I realized what I was dealing with. The more I research this, the more I understand. Takes the crazy away. There's nothing wrong with me. Wow.

  7. Sadly, this describes my Mother. At 45 years old, it's still a bitter pill to swallow. The more I tried to demonstrate my love for her and show compassion for the hurts she experienced growing up, the more she seemed to resent me. She never liked that I was close to my father. After he passed away, I opened my home to her and she lived with us for 7 years. 7 long years. The emotional damage her behavior inflicted on my children is still something I struggle to forgive myself for. After a heart-wrenching tug-of-war between the command to "honor your father and mother" and self preservation, I hope I'm bringing glory to God with my decision. I won't bring her dishonor. I also cannot include her in my life right now. It's a very frustrating position to be in.

  8. Thank you for this article. I have been so confused about my relationship with my own mom for years and the more I learn about NPD the more things start to make sense. Recently, and before I knew this condition had a label, I decided to just think of her as "emotionally handicapped" which helped me to not take things so personally and has helped my wounds to start to heal. Putting distance in the relationship has also helped me tremendously as well as marrying someone who knows how to love me in a healthy way. Thanks again :)

  9. To all of you who have hurt so much, I am so glad to have been able to share what I've learned from similar pain. Just realizing that you can only "manage" a person with a personality disorder but you can never expect normal love back from them or a true normal, intimate relationship is helpful. Still Iknow the pain of pouring love down a black hole. Praying all of you find healing and if you've been traumatized by someone like this, you may have post-traumatic stress. There's also great help for this. (see my post on PTSD) Love and hugs. And here's a motto you can use for the New Year: "I don't do 'crazy' anymore.'"