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  • Liza Young, LPC

The Truth About Narcissism

“Narcissist” is a popular word these days. Many use it to describe someone they’re mad at like an ex, but what we’re usually seeing is selfishness. Narcissism isn’t common, selfishness is, but narcissism is a beast all its own. There is the clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and then there are those who have narcissistic traits.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-10-CM) defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as:


“A disorder characterized by an enduring pattern of grandiose beliefs and arrogant behavior together with an overwhelming need for admiration and a lack of empathy for (and even exploitation of) others.


Personality disorder characterized by excessive self-love, egocentrism, grandiosity, exhibitionism, excessive needs for attention, and sensitivity to criticism.”


In order for someone to be diagnosed with NPD it has to interfere greatly with their life in some way, job, interpersonal relationships, etc. Someone with narcissistic traits doesn’t meet the DSM criteria but are similar to someone diagnosed with NPD just not to the extreme of life interference.


Types of Narcissists:

Somatic Narcissists – Fixated on their body and appearance. They are often seductive and are pathological cheaters. To them, sex is a weapon. Cerebral Narcissist – Take great pride in their intellect and are incredibly convincing. They are master manipulators. Covert Narcissist – These Narcissists do not fit the mold of your standard Narcissist. In fact, they often come across like the exact opposite. They tend to be charming, likable, and humble. Making it very difficult to recognize, as they are often very convincing. Overt Narcissist – Tend to fit the mold of what a narcissist presents like. These individuals are larger-than-life, arrogant, often loud and boisterous, love to be the center of attention, and often come across as obnoxious to most people. Classic Narcissist – A person whose set of behaviors are characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration (remorse) for others. Delusional Narcissist – Very grandiose in their beliefs and are often full of stories that are so over-the-top that rarely do other people believe them. Malignant Narcissist – An (unofficial) term that describes the type of Narcissism that is in the middle of the (unofficial) Narcissistic spectrum. Cluster B: Refers to a grouping of personality traits in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM). These traits are broadly described as dramatic, erratic and emotional. Within the Cluster B are four of the ten recognized personality disorders: Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Antisocial.


Many of the narcissist’s mechanisms are abusive, however, someone can be abusive, but not be a narcissist. Abusive narcissists will abuse physically, sexually, financially, verbally, emotionally and spiritually.


Narcissistic Abuse Tactics:

Criticize

Threaten

Violate boundaries

Manipulate

Terrorize

Lie

Blame

Shame

Belittle

Ridicule

Project

Deny

Gaslight

Deflect

Play the victim

Withholding

Emotional abandonment

Silent treatment

Emotional blackmail


In the beginning stages of the relationship they shower you with loving attention, compliments and they instantly tell you how you are different than anyone else and how they could never imagine life without you. They essentially love-bomb you and rush the relationship to fast track.


If you are a caring compassionate person, it is natural to feel for others who suffer, including a narcissist. An empath sees that the narcissist is in fact wounded, and naturally wants to see them feel better. They are more than willing to give someone second, third, fourth chances and see the good in others. These are beautiful qualities but can be easily violated by a narcissist. They bond quickly in order to repair damages, but the narcissist is a taker.


It’s understandable to want to see healing in someone who probably had a significant emotional injury at a very young age. But the thing to remember is narcissists are pathologically selfish and often very cruel. So, to that end, you can do all you can to encourage healing, but it will be to no avail.


This is not to say narcissists are incapable of change, but one has to be aware of their need for change and then also desire and do the work of change. This is painfully hard for someone who sees nothing wrong with themselves.


“But he’s so giving at times”, yes but what is necessary to understand is everything is conditional and the end game for him is to get what he wants. Occasionally, you’ll experience the warmth and caring from the person with whom you first fell in love with. They won’t be abusive all the time, so the good times bring hope for change, but the good mood lasts briefly as does the hope.


Expressing your concerns suddenly turns you into the “jealous one” and they make you doubt yourself. They make excuses and if we don’t except these excuses then you are the “crazy” one. Any attempt to communicate with the narcissist is futile, they will not be looking to soothe you or listen to you. In fact, they will turn it around, blame you and make you feel responsible for the pain they are suffering.


They are often loved by the community, the life of the party, the spiritual advisor, the leader. Narcissists play a public game and a private game which makes it harder to understand. This is often why many don’t speak up because they are afraid no one would believe them.


Shahida Arabi, author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse says, “How do you make a victim look like the “crazy” one after you abuse them? Well, you make sure to provoke them into reacting, especially in public. Acts of subtle sabotage ensure that victims who speak out will baffle outsiders who are not aware of the covert dynamics taking place within the abusive relationship. In committing subtle sabotage, emotional predators make sure that their victims feel further alienated and isolated due to the covert nature of the abuse. The victims sense they won’t be heard or validated, so they stop speaking out – or never speak at all.”


They also struggle to speak up because the constant ups and downs create confusion and emotional exhaustion. By the time they are ready to leave the toxic relationship they are very depleted and discouraged.


Arabi encourages, “You must use your experiences to build your inner wisdom, knowledge, resources and self-validation. You must 'play' at a whole different level by not playing against them at all, but rather using everything you have to survive and thrive instead. Stand in the truth of who you really are and what happened to you. Use everything they did to you as motivation and fuel to flourish.


You must build organic support systems and networks outside of them – networks they cannot touch. You must continue to showcase the talents and gifts in ways they could not stifle, even if they tried. You must use these experiences not to stoop to their level, but to catapult yourself into greater heights.


So, as counterintuitive as it may sound, the solution lies in not in 'hiding' so you no longer become a target. It’s in shining a light on their darkness, while continuing to shine brightly. To let these toxic individuals, take away what you love most would be to give them the very essence of yourself.”


Narcissists know you have the power of truth. Speak your truth ,and if you need help getting to that place, I would be honored to work with you.


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