I recently listened to a sounds true podcast where I learned some interesting facts about narcissism. I know about narcissism, but not enough to consider my self an expert. The word is thrown around a lot but do you really know what one is?
Keith Campbell, who is an expert, was the special guest on this show. He is the recent author of a book called The New Science of Narcissism.
I mostly understood narcissists through the lens of my clients, as poor dating partners. Many of my kind and good-hearted clients wind up in troubled relationships with them.
Although not always, my clients have trouble with emotional closeness and have a history of childhood abuse. For this reason, I found this podcast fascinating.
Narcissism is a spectrum disorder. Those on the low end have the less traits, and those on the high end have more characteristics. If you have many traits and they interfere with your life, then you have narcissistic personality disorder.
What is a Narcissist?
Narcissists are people who have an inflated and grandiose self-image. Narcissists think they are better looking, smarter, and more important than other people and deserve special treatment. Narcissists can be harmful to the people around them. They often lie and cheat to get what they want. They rarely accept responsibility for any mistakes or wrongdoing and will blame others. They have issues with empathy and enjoy admiration and attention.
It can lead to leadership traits and increased following on social media, and it can help you do well in things such as dating. Narcissists can initially or superficially be attractive to others. However, in the long term, it leads to disrupted and unsustainable relationships. Narcissists tend to act selfishly, dishonestly, and unfaithfully.
Putting your child on a pedestal, giving them praise, centering the world around him or her, and failing to teach them to be kind and compassionate towards others is what produces as a narcissist. The self-esteem movement is theorized to be a contributor. You can learn about that here.
There is also evidence that parents who are emotionally unavailable, harsh, and controlling can produce narcissists.
Grandiose Narcissists have traits of :
These are the narcissists most of us think of when we hear the word.
Vulnerable narcissists are easily threatened but also feel entitled. They may be quiet and reserved. They are often introverted and anxious and don’t come to public attention.
There are also narcissists that become wounded and reactive. They think they are great, but they are easily injured by criticism. They then act out.
Narcissists may be very attractive and charismatic at first, but they don’t have the skills of empathy and reciprocity to sustain close relationships. On a crucial personality index called the big five, narcissist’s rate low in agreeableness. They have trouble with empathy, don’t respect others, are combative, often manipulative, aggressive, and don’t get along with others. These traits becomes apparent once you are in a relationship with them. Unfortunately, for many of my clients, they have histories of early relationships or emotional abuse that make them vulnerable to believing that they are the ones to blame when things go south. Narcissists are the first to exploit this vulnerability and engage in gas-lighting and other emotional abuse tactics.
Wonder why you continue to attract narcissists? During this interview on soundstrue, I also learned to think of this process more of picking the wrong people rather than attracting someone. I like this idea, and I think it as more empowering.
Narcissists are incapable of emotional intimacy. Many of my clients will unconsciously look for relationships that feel safe because they don’t require emotional intimacy. Especially if you have had a complicated history with your family, you might likely focus on superficial things when looking for a partner, which is your mistake. If you are picking narcissists, it’s essential to understand that you may be falling into this trap.
Dr. Campbell says that narcissists can change if they are committed to therapy, but most of us fail to realize that people don’t change because we want or wish them to. They have to change because they want to. This is an important distinction. It’s essential to take stock of the cost to you. If there is any abuse happening, emotional, physical, or sexual ( which there often is), get help, and leave that relationship.
Working with a narcissist or for a narcissist is also a common challenge I see in my therapy practice. Dr. Campbell says that you must protect yourself when you work with a narcissist, especially if they are your superior. They cannot be trusted, and you cannot have an authentic relationship with them. They will do things such as try to steal and take credit for your ideas, demand praise, and attention and attempt to manipulate you.
Although it may be unpalatable, if you want to work successfully with them, they are less difficult to work with if you give them what they want.
What to do?