The Greek god Narcissus was so fascinated with himself that, in a puddle of water, he spent most of his life looking at his reflection. He was contemptuous of those who loved him, leading some, to show their loyalty, to end their own lives. His tale is a great lesson about excessive self-love’s disastrous results. The narcissistic personality disorder takes its name from the tale of Narcissus as individuals with narcissism exhibit similar traits.
Occasionally, almost everyone indulges in narcissistic behavior, however, there is a thin line between its manifestation as mere traits and its manifestation as a disorder. There are personalities marked by extreme self-involvement and persistent disrespect for others which are classified as persons with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Some of the narcissistic characteristics may include:
- Preoccupation with dreams of extreme results, strength, or fame. They may even have delusions about achievement, strength, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate.
- An endless need for admiration and validation
- A powerful sense of entitlement
- They envy others for their accomplishments or confidence
- Inflated sense of self-esteem; patterns of megalomaniacs.
- Establishing unrealistic targets.
- Want to exploit others
- Difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries in a relationship as they look for excessive stimulation from the person they are with, for example expecting compliments or expecting partner to check up on them now and then.
- Lack of remorse or capacity to take responsibility for actions
- Low acceptance for criticism. This is one of the reasons they cannot understand that are suffering from a disorder and require to change there way of being.
- Care about their appearance quite a bit and can come across as quite charming and manipulate people into liking them
- Exaggerating their successes and skill, even to the point of lying
- Have a bad sense of self and a poor capacity to control their emotions and actions
- Monopolize conversations and limit or look down on individuals that they deem to be inferior
- They appear to project their bad actions onto you, which means they will accuse you of the same actions they are doing. This is also called as gaslighting someone.
What is wrong about narcissism? Isn’t it self-love?
People who exhibit narcissist traits can manipulate and use another person as a means to gain affirmation, boost their self-esteem, or getting any of their needs met. This is what is called narcissist abuse.
According to Miller, people are deprived of what psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel referred to as the ‘narcissistic supply’.
According to Fenichel, children who grew up with narcissistic parents were not given adequate encouragement, appreciation, and opportunities to boost self-esteem, due to which they developed poor mental health.
I believe by now you have a decent idea about what narcissism is and how can it manifest in a person. I understand that the lines may be blurred between self-love and narcissism and it may be difficult to see through someone especially when you meet them for the first time.
So, the question is, how do you manage this?
Here are some of the ways we think might be helpful for you to manage with someone with NPD or Narcissistic traits:
1. Charm or harm?
Be aware of getting attracted to their charming personality. It is very easy to feel attracted to their magnetic persona which may make you feel that they will fulfill all your needs and take care of you, however, that is just a web to seek obedient admirers.
- It is important to know that narcissist isn’t looking for partners for an emotional bond, they are looking for a partner to satisfy their insatiable ego.
- Be aware of how they are respecting people around you, or are they even respecting anyone? Please don’t fall for the fantasy that they will be any different to you if you can see that they don’t blink an eye when they hurt someone and disrespect them.
- Please be sure that you are viewing their behavior objectively and not viewing them through your expectations and fantasies. This may lead you to justify their behavior and may perpetuate narcissistic abuse.
2. Create healthy boundaries. Please!
People with narcissistic personality have an innate need to seek recognition and that is their primary aim to forming any type of relationship is to fulfill that need, and they are ready to go lengths for that. As they are motivated by a need which can be very overpowering, you must draw your boundaries, else your relation with them can be very exhausting.
It may be the case that you are used to people taking over your space, therefore, it is important to you may ask yourself some questions that may help you regain your boundaries.
- What are your goals and what are the things that are important to you?
- How are the power dynamics between you both?
- What are tactics which have to work with your partner and what has not?
- How do you plan to create boundaries?
Remember to approach the person in a calm and composed manner as narcissists can get defensive when they hear criticism about themselves as that damages their worldview where everything is happy and perfect. Aim to address how you feel instead of highlighting their intentions to avoid triggering them.
Be prepared to face consequences of creating boundaries as for a narcissistic it may be an indication that you are gaining control and they are no longer in power. They might manipulate you or charm you to give up the new change you have decided to make or try to punish you by showing how damaging the change is for them.
3. Don’t personalize their behavior, it is not your fault.
What they say about you and your behavior is a way to project their feelings of inferiority/shame/low-self esteem onto you, as accepting it for themselves is difficult. You may seem like space where they can let it out, without letting those emotions to impact them. It can be saddening and frustrating to take the blame for something you haven’t done, however, please know, it isn’t about you. It is them.
- Step away from accepting any blame or negative feedback or even a duty that you know is being forced onto you and is not what you deserve.
- Try not to engage in an argument with them, if they feel attacked they will escalate the matter and that will be of no good to you. Be clear in your conscience what you are and what you are not, don’t fall for accusations.
- To be clear about your conscience you need to be clear about yourself. Know yourself in and out, so that your self-belief is not shaken when there are negative criticisms from the other end.
- Do not seek their approval or recognition to know what is right and what is not. The more you aim to please them the more you will indulge get caught on their web.
4. Seek support or maybe create it?
Be aware of what you are signing up for and be truthful about the consequences of being with a narcissistic. Unless a narcissist seeks help from a professional and undergoes regular therapy, there are very fewer chances of them changing into someone who will love you unconditionally. Therefore, we suggest you seek support somewhere else or create it if you can, it is important for your mental;health.
- Seek offline or online therapy and understand if there are patterns you have adopted as a result of being with a narcissist or experiencing narcissistic abuse. This will help you heal and help you take care of your mental health.
- Join a community or an activity or engage in a hobby. Try and find a social circle beyond the one you have built through your spouse or with them. Try and engage in something purely for your fulfillment
- Engage with people who you know can give you an honest opinion about you and make you feel grounded. It may be true that you have drifted away from yourself to an extent that you may not know what your likes/dislikes are. Reconnect with yourself.
5. How to leave, if I am already caught up?
Word of caution: It won’t be easy. Narcissists are charmers! Narcissistic do ensure codependency which may make you won’t prioritize your safety and your sense of self lesser as compared with being in a relationship with them. However. it is important to note that in a relationship, nobody needs to be harassed, intimidated, or physically and emotionally abused. There are ways to exit and begin the process of recovery from the narcissist and the shame and self-blame.
- Learn about NPD to understand how it manifests and how it impacts the person and the people around them. This may help you understand the behaviors they might exhibit when to declare that you want to breakup/separate.
- Clearly state the reasons you wish to leave so that you have clarity of mind and behavior and you don’t get swayed away by their charm.
- Reach out to family or friends or professional help you may assist you to stick to your decision of leaving the relation once you have decided to do so.
- Seek immediate help in case of physical abuse or threats.
It will never be easy to live with a narcissist, so it’s easiest if you can put a gap between yourself and this person. This can be more complicated, though, if this person is a family member or co-worker. In this situation, it helps to understand who you are interacting with and how to approach contact in as safe a manner as possible.