You will know when you are in the presence of a narcissist because, you will feel worthless and empty when you are around them. You’ll feel like you’re in constant competition with them and that nothing you say makes a difference. Your relationship with them does not evolve, it only devolves and ends in argument. The only recourse you have is to turn around and walk away and NEVER look back over your shoulder in the hope that your relationship with them will change. It won’t. They won’t even be watching you as you walk off into the distance, because they simply do not have the capacity to care about you. If they show anything resembling compassion towards another it will be a learned behaviour, and only be in direct relation to how it makes them feel. If they benefit from behaving a certain way, that’s how they will behave. They just don’t care if anybody else benefits.
Narcissists collect people as if they were trophies, and they learn to modify their behaviour by means of gaining those trophies. They can say the nicest things, be incredibly charming and sweet if it gets them what they want. They prey on empathetic individuals who will quite happily give them what they need, and then seek to control them so that the adulation they have won from them is maintained with almost constant supply. If, however, others show any form of resistance towards the narcissist or they make the narcissist feel even more inferior than they already feel – narcissists, contrary to popular belief, have a very low sense of self-esteem – then they will go out of their way, and in whichever way possible to undermine that individual while still being seen to be playing by the rules of etiquette and perfect comportment, or not. Oftentimes, the narcissist is easily identifiable because they are either overt assholes, or they slip up and say or do something obnoxious and hurtful without any consideration as to how it makes others feel.
The smart narcissist is truly dangerous, because they are able to subvert attention from their manipulative behaviour with extreme skill, so much so that you find yourself questioning your sanity around them, while they bask in their seemingly saintly glory supported by an entourage of other gullible followers who will be prepared to defend them tooth and nail. This apparently is called, ‘gas lighting’. Right there is a clue that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist, and again you should plan your exit – but do so with extreme care, as there will always be a backlash, and for as long as they have air in their lungs. I know this all too well from personal experience.
I have grown up with extreme narcissists, I have been in relationships narcissists, and I have been befriended by a number of narcissists throughout my life. Relationships with them never end well because they do not last. They are the scourge of the earth in my opinion, and very much a product of an elitist, unsympathetic culture that has prevailed for too long, and which is only becoming worse through the obsession with social media.
I grew up believing that to be as empathetic and as emotionally sensitive as I was, and still am, meant that I was defective in some way, because everybody around me was the complete opposite, and they would often berate me for having feelings or an opinion of my own. The problem however, is, that if, like me, you have grown up in the company of narcissists, there is nothing and no-one to compare behaviours to, and so, the behaviour of the narcissist appears normal. This sense of normalcy invariably shapes your perception of the world, and for a long time you can truly believe that everyone is like that and that you are the one who is abnormal and doesn’t fit in. Story of my life in a nutshell.
To be lacking in empathy towards others is not a part of normal brain development according to one Mr. Mansour, a neuroscientist who has dedicated his career to studying spectrum disorders. He posits that narcissistic personality traits fall within the remit of disorders where a lack of empathy is symptomatic, and is as a result of altered brain chemistry. Hard to test empirically however, and so, much of the research already carried out in this field is speculative and based on evaluative evidence garnered through individual case studies. Mr. Mansour, at least, has been attempting to find a biologically verifiable component.
Living with a narcissist is nothing short of soul destroying. I would not recommend it. Personally, I don’t think it’s uncommon for children of narcissists, or spouses of narcissists to suffer psychological problems with extended exposure, and I would hasten a guess that those caught in a relationship with a narcissist diagnosed with a mental disorder are in fact, suffering from PTSD and the effects of chronic abuse. Narcissists are abusive by nature – let me mention here that it is nigh on impossible to abuse somebody and not feel remorse if you have empathy for them. Sometimes the abusive behaviour it’s overt, but oftentimes, it isn’t. Manipulative behaviour is abuse, no matter how subtle it is, or whether it’s cloaked as a ‘good natured’ jest. If you, as the recipient of such behaviour feel threatened or demeaned by it, then what you are experiencing is abuse, especially when it continues despite your protests. A narcissist is not concerned with how you feel. They are only concerned with how you make them feel, and if you make them feel or look bad, no matter how much you’re hurting, they will drop you like a hot brick and toss you into the fire without a second thought. They have a ruthless streak that can be truly mind-boggling to witness and be a victim of. It will leave you gap-jawed and feeling extremely uncertain and endangered when it happens.
Over the last few years I have begun researching different mental health disorders and what is known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (theories differ as to whether it is an actual biological mental disorder or not) in an effort to not only understand myself, but also those around me. Except, I only do so when I have the stomach for it, so I tend to learn a little bit then come back to it a long while later. It’s a very distressing subject to talk about or even think about, especially when you are still in the wake of such people and their damaging behaviour. And, these days, they are ten a penny, especially on the interwebs. I personally seem to be a magnet for these people whether I want to be or not, so out of a sense of self-protection I try not to engage with the world too much. Suffice to say, that I have little to no contact with certain members of my family. Fat lot of good it does me. It is good however, to air this particular cupboard full of skeletons, if only to re-affirm that I’m not actually the crazy one. That there are many others in my position with similar histories and stories to tell, and that narcissistic behaviour is an identifiable phenomenon. It’s actually nice, and quite normal to know that you’re not alone – despite what a narcissist will tell you.
I may or mag not write more about this. I have learned to be ever cautious of choosing my words and my actions carefully, lest one of these evil-doers is watching. I never really learned to develop a healthy sense of trust towards others, as you can imagine.
Narcissists cannot relate to the world in a beneficial way, because they don’t know how to get out of their own way. They are highly self-destructive and destructive to those around them as a result. There isn’t a middle ground to be found with these people, and you’d better have a lot of spare eggs to break in your dealings with them. Developing a thick skin just doesn’t cut it either. With time they will wear you down until you no longer wish to live, and it will be completely your fault, because they’ll tell you so. Even when you are death’s door they will step over your body and not give you a second thought. The only thing on their mind will be how lonely they will feel when you are gone. And they will urge you to die quickly so that they can get on with wallowing in their loneliness and blaming you for it. You may think I’m exaggerating, but if you have ever lived with a narcissist then you will know that I’m not. Not even a little bit. When I told the father of my children that I had I had been diagnosed with a heart condition and couldn’t handle any stress, he effectively told me to “fuck off and die”, and was quite sincere about it. Up until just recently it didn’t occur to me that perhaps he too is a narcissist. Apparently it’s not uncommon for children of narcissists to seek relations with other narcissists. Better the devil you know, right? Although, it’s more a product of conditioning than choice – believe me! These people are borderline sociopaths, though they come in many shapes and sizes and degrees of behavioural tendencies, and so they can be hard to spot sometimes, especially when they are not overtly egotistical, except for the burgeoning sense of doom that you feel when you’re with them. That’s a huge clue.
I’m not sure what I did to deserve these people in my life, but I long for the day when I no longer have any dealings with them. AT ALL. Not sure that’s possible, but I can live in hope.