The label narcissist is a term that is thrown around quite a bit these days, one that generally indicates someone who is vain and selfish but the true personality disorder and its characteristics run much deeper, and carry long-term, damaging effects for those directly involved with people that have the condition.
If you are in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality traits, you will get a strong sense of being manipulated or used and will eventually become aware that your partner does not truly care about you and that you are simply ‘a thing’ that is there to satisfy his or her wants and needs. It can be a devastating discovery to realise you have been deceived in this way by someone you loved.
The term Narcissism originated from Greek Mythology and the Story of Narcissus.
Narcissus was a extremely handsome young man who was arrogant and self-involved. He could not tear himself away from looking at his own reflection in a pool of water, and as a result his self adoration totally consumed him and ultimately caused his death. In modern times narcissism indicates an individual who is arrogantly self-absorbed, but this is not be confused with a healthy sense of self-love that does not preclude the ability to love others equally.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), narcissism as a personality disorder classified by the traits listed below. It is important to remember that narcissism is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists along a continuum ranging from a few narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder which is rare, with only 1% of the population in this category. That aside, non-clinical narcissism is a wide spread problem.
These people are more often than not highly attractive, fun-loving, charming and charismatic, someone who appears that he or she would be a great partner but has a dark side that many do not realise until it is too late.
So what are the signs?
1. Being extremely self-focused and exploitive of others – The narcissist will be primarily focused on getting his or her needs met over all else and will not be phased about using others to make this happen even if others get hurt in the process. Basically, it is all about them, what they want, think or feel in complete disregard to the needs of others around them. Which means they do not want to hear about what is going on for you let alone be there to support you in a crisis.
When in conversation you may feel they dismiss what you have to say, talk over you and rail road the conversation, always turing the topic of conversation towards what is going on for them or their thoughts and opinions. You are made to feel like you don’t matter.
2. They don’t care about how you feel – Lack of empathy is a classic sign of the narcissist. They fail to put themselves in another persons shoes and connect with how they feel because their focus is solely with themselves. They may give a semblance of caring and concern if they are going to gain by doing so – there is always an agenda that focused on personal gain.
3. Possess an inflated sense of self-importance – The narcissist will have a grandiose sense of self importance, they will exaggerate their achievements and talents and will expect this to be recognised by those around him or her. He or she likes to be the centre of attention, and will be charming and charismatic to get the outcome they want.
4. Disregards rules or social etiquette – Because of their inflated sense of self importance your partner may feel that they are above what is considered social norms. They believe they can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting for example, as they will go to any extreme to get what they want and to get their needs met and feel they are perfectly justified in doing so.
5. Is highly jealous and competitive – You will find that your partner is hugely insecure of anyone or anything that is seen as a threat to the illusion of their elevated position. They have a need to feel superior at all times and will go to great lengths to make sure this is maintained.
6. Excessive need for attention and admiration – These people need to be constantly adored. Your attention must be on them and they are highly sensitive to when your attention may be focused elsewhere.
7. Emotionally volatile – You will find your partner can fly into spontaneous rages that can take you completely off guard. This can occur in public or private as the narcissist will have no regard to how his or her behaviour will impact others. If they feel they have been wronged or have not been shown the attention they feel they deserve they can be highly reactive. They can return to normal very quickly as if as nothing has happened with no remorse.
You may find yourself many times trying to calm down and pacify your partner who feels justified in their behaviour. They are very quick to blame and classically do not take responsibility for their own actions. You will be made to feel that everything that goes wrong is always your fault.
But what is really going on? – Labelling an individual with a mental health disorder or disease subtlety suggests that they are some how absolved of responsibility, but beyond the label of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a person who is using a certain type of behaviour to counteract feelings of deep insecurity or feeling as though they are not enough. It is the fight for individualism, of standing out and being noticed beyond the masses, but aren’t we all doing this to some degree?
The truth is that we come from a oneness, an equalness, and to promote individualism is to fight against this. Narcissism is just exaggerated version of the human condition in its desire to be its own creator. In fighting our own nature, which is to naturally be part of the whole, we become deeply unhappy, feel isolated and unloved. We hold a constant tension in our bodies and are forever looking for anything that will placate these feelings, and in this case it is the recognition, approval and adoration that is the drug of choice.
What to do if this describes your partner? –
- Self-reflect – Remember that you are part of this dynamic so it is important to reflect on what attracted you to them in the first place. Was one of your parents dominant and controlling? Do you prefer to take a more passive role in a partnership, if so why? Do you lack self-worth and therefore accept their abusive behaviour? Do you feel safe to be with someone who takes charge? Does it give you a sense of worth to be with someone who is charming and successful? By becoming aware of your role in the dynamic you can begin to change it as you address your own issues.
- Don’t be a victim – Work on your own issues, develop self-worth and a healthy level of self confidence. This way you will stop unconsciously feeding your partners negative behaviour by pandering to their needs.
- Get professional help – By seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist you can get the tools and techniques to develop a healthy level of self worth and build a strong and enduring relationship with yourself. In this way you can either change the dynamic with your current partner or to move on in a way where you not attract the same type of partner again.