WHAT IS NARCISSISM
The term ‘narcissist’ comes from the Greek myth about a beautiful youth called Narcissus. When he came down to the lake to bathe he fell in love with his own reflection. So fascinated was he that he never moved or took his eyes off his own face. Narcissus was adored by a nymph called Echo. Her lover never turned to look at her, so eventually she faded away to just a voice that repeated the words of others, while the gods turned Narcissus into a flower.
The entire tale of ‘narcissism’ is told in that story. The narcissist is utterly self-obsessed and any person devoted to them becomes an empty shell, losing their own personality and any self-belief. Narcissism is a serious personality disorder that can result in socio-pathic behaviour, such as using people and groups of people cynically, totally for their own ends. However, like so many conditions, narcissism has a spectrum. It is possible to be on the narcissistic spectrum without being completely narcissistic. If you are with a partial narcissist there is hope – as long as you are very strong.
WHAT CAUSES NARCISSISM?
This is due to very early damage in the carer/child connection. In the first eighteen months of life the child has not been able to bond with another human being, through severe neglect. There may also be other factors, such as genetics and wider social/family situations during upbringing. Narcissism is more frequently found in males. Once the damage is done it may well be irreversible. The narcissist goes through life longing for a close, caring bond but never able to find it, giving rise to some intensely hurtful situations.
One of the first things you may notice about a narcissist is their massive sense of self-importance. Wherever they go, whatever they do, whomever they are with, they are the best.
At first you may admire the narcissist, believing their exaggerated claims, or seeing their boasting as an endearing sign of self-confidence. However, as time goes by this can wear thin. They have such a huge need to feel important because inside they feel sadly unimportant. Don’t make the mistake of believing you can ever heal this wound because the price will be your own self-esteem. The best thing to do is nod, smile and walk away, for there is no point challenging their perception.
BELIEF IN OWN UNIQUENESS
Your narcissist believes that he or she is unique, deserving special treatment wherever he goes. A baby’s world is very tiny, restricted for many months to self and carer, and at that time every child has the need and the right to be ultra-special. In the world of the baby, he is definitely King. As we grow we begin to realise there are other individuals and we can relate to them in a balanced way because we are coming from the basis of having been treasured.
The poor narcissist never felt emotionally nurtured, never enjoyed devotion, so they have an insatiable hunger for it. You may think you can satisfy this, but you can’t, so don’t blame yourself, for that’s what the narcissist may want. Try to be detached.
You may have given your narcissistic lover endless attention, support and flattery, but when you come home tired and anxious, will the narcissist give it to you? No, they will more likely criticise you for being boring – unless they want to manipulate you into behaving a certain way. You’ll have to pay for any ‘empathy’ you get by doing what they want at a later time, or you’ll be accused of selfishness. A true narcissist cannot identify with the feelings of others or care genuinely for them. Best look elsewhere for understanding and kind words.
Narcissists can be incredibly charming when they want something, but sooner or later that arrogance will break through. There’s no point arguing. If being with a narcissist embarrasses you, vote with your feet. Never let them make you feel inferior – that’s what they want, but you have a choice.
Narcissists can be spiteful about others who have what they want. They can also believe others envy them. By all means humour them a little. It should not be too hard to convince them that they are a) better than the person they envy and will soon have what they have and b) that those who envy them can never be powerful enough to harm them. Just don’t get caught up in the dynamics, because they’re probably only in the narcissist’s head.
In the world of the narcissist their only reality is their own needs and wishes. Therefore others are there to be manipulated and exploited. They can do this very cleverly, so you’ll think you want what they want, or you may be guilt-tripped into giving in. Narcissists are rarely faithful partners.
Nurture a strong awareness of your own needs and remember these are your priority, no matter what. Some healthy ‘selfishness’ on your part is your best defence.
We all need a compliment or two, but nothing less than complete adoration will do for the narcissist. Think of a child who needs the whole room to clap when they take their wobbly first steps! In that moment the little one feels amazing. Chances are the poor narcissist never had much of that and now they’re obsessed with it. By all means admire them – and admire yourself for your wisdom and patience!
HAS FANTASIES OF UNLIMITED SUCCESS
Do you remember when you were small and dreamt of being a fantastic pop singer, top scientist or world leader? The narcissist is still ‘there’, believing in their own ability to have power, brilliance, ideal love, beauty and worldly success. This can make you feel not good enough – a mere stepping stone on this amazing person’s journey to the top. Don’t buy it! Let them dream but keep your self-worth – and your own dreams!
HOW WE CAN CHAT 2 CHARLIE HELP?
You’ve learnt what narcissism is, what causes it and how being grandiose, believing you’re unique, having no empathy, being arrogant, envious, exploiting others, needing admiration and harbouring fantasies of brilliance are all part of the condition. This arms you with knowledge and some hints of how to cope if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist.
There is no sure cure for narcissism and being close to one can be deeply damaging – think of the poor nymph Echo! Before you know it your sense of your own worth can be severely damaged. Try not to be afraid of ending this relationship and be realistic about your ability to cope and stay well.