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Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, one of which is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Dealing with this kind of behavior without understanding the “why” behind it was frustrating, depressing, infuriating, and confusing. That is why I feel the need to address this issue in-depth in this blog.
I can’t even begin to count the number of occasions that I witnessed lack of empathy in dealing with the narcissistic family in my past. As you probably know from my previous blogs, I had adenomyosis (a painful and debilitating uterine disorder) for seventeen years. During that time, I went through most of my attacks on my own without any help from the narcissistic individuals at that time. I had nights where I thought my abdomen was going to explode (literally!), and there were narcissists in the other room who never checked up on me even though they knew I was sick. I could have been dead in the other room, and they never would have known. I went through many years of this disorder on my own with very little support, and this is one of the main reasons I am so vocal about this disorder. Not only have I been through all of the physical pain, but I have also been down the road of emotional and mental neglect involved in this disorder. There was only one time that a narcissist showed any emotion over my condition, and this is when I actually received the diagnosis of adenomyosis. However, this display of emotion occurred in front of other family members. I now know that this display was for show only. Narcissists like to “appear” like they care, but they really don’t.
There were times when I desperately needed to go to the hospital due to abdominal pain from adenomyosis, and a narcissist actually argued with me about having to go there because they just didn’t want to go. It was too much trouble for them. This happened at another time when I had severe back pain due to a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. Even though this person was seen at the hospital with me, it usually was preceded by a lot of complaining before we arrived.
I witnessed one of the narcissists telling a family member to “get up and go get me some face cream” when that person had been up all night vomiting.
One of the narcissists wanted to go on vacation so badly that she made her sick husband drive over twenty hours, and when they arrived, we noticed that he had red streaks running up his leg. He had cellulitis, and we had to take him straight to the doctor for immediate treatment. They knew he was sick before he left on the trip, but the narcissist insisted that they go anyway.
One narcissist was sick with a head cold, and we were scheduled to go to visit them. We wanted to wait until she was better, but she insisted that we come, saying that “she needed to see us”. While I was there, I came down with a serious head infection. In fact, when we arrived home, my doctor told me that my ears were on the verge of rupturing due to the infection. The narcissist insisted that she didn’t get me sick, saying “It must have come from the plane”.
One day, we received a call about my dad who was in the hospital. The doctors told my mom that she needed to call in the family because he had taken a turn for the worse. The narcissist who drove me to the hospital complained the entire time, asking me if I knew for sure the end was near. This narcissist did not want to go. I cried almost all the way there, but he showed no emotion. He just complained.
Do you see what was going on here? These are all perfect examples of a lack of empathy on the part of the narcissists. They don’t care at all about any discomfort that others are in – they only care about their own needs and wants. During these years, I started to question myself. Did I just complain too much? Shouldn’t I just be a stronger person and deal with these health issues better? Did that infection actually come from the plane? I actually began to feel like I had to “prove” that I had these health problems. One narcissist insisted that I would feel better if I just went to the gym. This shows the ignorance in the knowledge of adenomyosis. Exercise in itself will not heal adenomyosis. Neither will it heal a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. In fact, it may actually worsen the back condition!
I can’t prove that the head infection came from the narcissist, but chances are pretty high. Other than that, the answers to these questions are an emphatic “NO!” The problem is with them, not me. Adenomyosis is a serious uterine disorder that significantly disrupts a woman’s life! If my ears were on the verge of rupturing with that head infection, I had one serious infection! There was no apology – just another incidence of trying to put the blame on someone on the plane. If they can’t understand that – don’t have the ability to empathize – that is their problem – their own personality disorder that THEY need to deal with. I have learned that there is nothing wrong with me. The problem is narcissism and their lack of understanding that they need help.
I now am surrounded by people who actually empathize/sympathize with my health conditions. I have to say that it catches me by surprise when someone is actually sympathetic or empathetic. I’m not used to it. But I can tell you this – I couldn’t be happier that these narcissists are gone and that I actually now have people around me who really care about my well-being. It is refreshing…so refreshing…to have empathetic/sympathetic people in my life who truly want to help me get through the rough times.
If you feel like the people in your life are not empathetic in rough times, I strongly urge you to re-evaluate those relationships and get out of them if possible. Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, and if they can’t empathize/sympathize, that is a HUGE warning sign that you are not in a healthy relationship. I would advise to get counseling as soon as possible, but don’t expect a change in the narcissist. They rarely admit to having a problem. You may just have to end the relationship.
Hope this information helps. Have a great day, everyone!
As I stated in last blog, I am starting a new project. I want to turn a negative into a positive, so I have decided to write a series of blogs on narcissism. During the past five years, I have learned that I have dealt with narcissists and believe that some of these people actually had narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Today I want to discuss the false self and how it plays a role in narcissism. Those who are emotionally and mentally healthy have a great sense of self-awareness and live their life according to their “true self”. These people appreciate their own talents and use them accordingly not only to benefit themselves, but also to benefit others and the world as a whole. These healthy individuals feel sympathy/empathy for those around them, and they use their abilities to help others while maintaining a healthy appreciation for their abilities.
The false self that is typical of someone with NPD is a type of “mask” that he/she wears so that the world will view them as special or superior. Studies have shown that the narcissist creates this identity in order to protect themselves from negative emotions such as depression regarding the circumstances of his/her own life. By creating this “mask”, the narcissist is actually lying to himself and those who are around him, but he truly believes the lie. Now, I have to clarify that there are other types of “masks” that people wear, and these “masks” may be due to confusion or a lack of self-awareness. I believe that I actually unknowingly wore a “mask” during my pre-counseling years, and I will get into that in a later blog. The difference between these types of “masks” and the “mask” of a narcissist is that the narcissistic “mask” is worn for selfish purposes.
The false self increases feelings of self-worth for the narcissist. The big difference between someone living according to their true self and a narcissist who lives according to the false self is that the narcissist believes that the only thing that matters is his/her happiness. He/she gives no regard to the feelings of others and will do whatever is necessary for his/her happiness, even if that means hurting others in the process. They live in a way that makes them feel better about who they are and their life circumstances. A narcissist that I know left his wife for another woman. When confronted with the affair, he told his wife that he received some advice, and more than likely this advice came from another narcissist. He said that the advice was “to do whatever made him happy”. There was no concern at all on the damage that it would cause to other people, including his wife. Interestingly, this man was a part of a so-called Christian family who supposedly believed that you should “do unto others and you would have done to you”. Do you see the problem here? It’s pretty clear.
The intention of the false self is to control how people respond to the narcissist. He/she needs constant praise, attention, and admiration. This praise, attention, and admiration is called “narcissistic supply”. As long as you (as a narcissistic victim) give him/her the praise and attention he/she craves, the narcissist will keep you around. If you start to complain about his/her behavior or give criticism, he/she will respond with anger and extreme defensiveness, and he/she may even go as far as “discarding” you and finding new sources of the “narcissistic supply”. Those who have NPD will go to great lengths to protect this false self image.
A perfect example of the reaction of a narcissist to criticism is shown below. Names have been changed, but this is based on an actual event.
Jim and Rhonda were visiting their son and daughter-in-law, John and Kay, who lived in another state. John had a brother, Steve, and Steve’s family was a mess. Steve’s wife, Susan, left him for another man. Steve and Susan had two children – Beth and Philip. Both Beth and Philip were in high school at the time. Steve was so distraught that he abandoned his children and moved to another state to be with another woman. Beth and Philip were left in the care of the Steve and John’s parents.
Rhonda: I just can’t believe what Susan has done to Steve! She has been a problem throughout the entire marriage. It’s terrible what she has done to those kids!
Kay: Yeah, it’s terrible what Susan did. But, you know, Steve did leave the kids with you and Jim. He’s kinda…
Rhonda: What do you mean?
Kay: Well, he’s kinda responsible too.
Rhonda: Steve has been great to those kids!
Kay: But he did leave them while they were still in high school. He left them with you…
Rhonda: Steve has been an awesome dad to those kids. I WILL NOT let you talk bad about Steve. He’s a super dad! I WILL NOT let you talk about Steve like that. The problem in this situation is Susan, not Steve. Don’t you dare talk down about my son – he’s been a great father to those kids. Susan is the problem!!
OK, so there are actually two signs of narcissism in this example. First, as stated above, if a narcissist is criticized, they become very angry and defensive. Second, narcissists never take blame for anything. I think it is quite obvious in this example that Steve did carry part of the blame in this situation by abandoning his kids, leaving them with his parents, and moving to another state. Even though this is quite clear to the onlooker, the mom refused to let her son take any responsibility for his part in the breakup of his family.
I will address the issue of the narcissist placing the blame on others and his/her inability to take responsibility for his/her actions in my next blog.
Have a great day!
Are you interested in learning more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Are you looking for ways to effectively deal with a narcissistic individual in your life while enjoying a fictional story? My new book, Blinded by Deception: Life With a Narcissist might be just what you are looking for. This books delves into the life of Nikki Redding and her struggle to survive for twenty eight years in a narcissistic environment. It describes the life events that cause so much confusion and frustration for Nikki early in her life. Once she hits rock bottom, she begins to learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, and begins her long healing process. Through the support of her friends, both individual and group counseling, and her faith in God, she is able to pull herself out of the depths of distress and into a life full of love, hope, and joy. You will be cheering Nikki on as she travels this long road to her eventual healing! The book is available on Amazon and is available in print and on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that it will bring healing to others who read it!
Click on the link below to go directly to the book on Amazon:
Image at Creative Commons, http://www.lillylulu123.deviantart.com/art/Crying-Eye-315830804
“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.“
It took me almost 49 years to learn the meaning of true fulfillment and true peace. I had to go through an extended period of living in a narcissistic environment and looking for life’s meaning through materialistic goals before realizing that I was way off target. I am currently in the process of writing a fiction book about narcissism that is based on a true story, but I wanted to share some basic facts on this blog about narcissism to help those who are having to deal with others with this personality disorder.
For many years, I was living in an environment surrounded by people with narcissism, but I didn’t realize it. I had heard of the word “narcissism” but really didn’t know much at all about it and honestly, I didn’t care to know. Little did I know that I was surrounded by narcissistic behavior and that I had been a victim of narcissistic abuse for quite some time.
Basically, narcissists are very selfish people. They are known to lack empathy for others and are known for always placing the blame on others rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. In my case, I was made to feel like I was the problem even if the issue had absolutely nothing to do with me. This led to me questioning myself constantly which eventually led to depression. I knew deep down inside that this thinking was twisted, but I managed to always make excuses rather than face the difficult decision to end these destructive relationships. The best way to describe it was that my soul was restless, and I did not have true inner peace. To satisfy the narcissist’s demands, I was continually finding that I had to turn my back on my own values. This struck right at the core of my soul, and I was miserable.
Thankfully, these destructive relationships did come to an end through the action of the actual narcissist. I was no longer any use to this person, so I was left as if I was a piece of garbage. However, this was probably the best thing that ever happened to me as I it opened the door to my healing.
The following are some of the characteristics of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Lack of remorse for their mistakes
2. Does not care about the consequences of his/her actions
3. Pathological lying
4. Very charming; can get emotional in public, but this is all a show to manipulate others
5. Expects victim to follow along without question. He/she tells victim what to do rather than ask.
6. Controls spending of others, but he/she spends freely on themselves
7. He/she doesn’t listen simply because they don’t care
8. Gaslighting – manipulative behavior, takes advantage of others
9. Projects faults onto others – blaming others for their problems
10. Lack of empathy – doesn’t care about the needs or feelings of others
11. Highly contradictory
12. Breaks others down that they feel are inferior
13. Thinking he/she is better than others
14. Core of concern is power, success, attractiveness
15. Needs to be center of attention and requires constant praise
16. Appears unemotional
17. Easily hurt or rejected
Narcissists come across as being very egocentric and sure of themselves, but the root of the problem, believe it or not, is insecurity. It has been shown that those affected by this personality disorder are actually very insecure and they use the above behaviors to feel better about themselves.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be a long process, but you can recover and live a truly fulfilling life. First and foremost, you must realize that YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM! The narcissist can be very cunning and manipulative. It is important that you realize this. If you are with someone who refuses to take responsibility for his/her actions and wants to blame everyone else for their problems, the best thing to do is to get out of that relationship if possible. Narcissists do not want to change and they do not want to be criticized in any way, shape or form. In fact, “narcissistic rage” is a known feature of this personality disorder, and they can become very mean and vindictive when questioned. The narcissist has the problem, not you!
Realize that no matter what you say or do, the narcissist will not have sympathy or empathy for any of your problems, no matter what they are. If the problems do not directly affect him/her in some way, they don’t care if you are suffering. Remember, they are the center of their world, and the rest of the world are just puppets to be manipulated so that they can get what they want. They truly believe “the ends justify the means” no matter who they have to run over to get there.
Next, remember that narcissists truly believe that they are always right. It is pointless to get into an argument with them because you will never win. They will end up making you question your own sanity because they are expert manipulators. Additionally, narcissists believe that they don’t need any help. Counseling a narcissist is very difficult because they will not admit to shortcomings.
Bottom line – if you feel like you are in a relationship with a narcissist, please get some help. Leave the relationship if possible. Be educated about how narcissists function so you can deal with them as effectively as possible. Trust your intuition…..if you feel something is wrong, it probably is!
As for me, I am now at a place of true fulfillment and peace. By going through the healing process, I have not only learned how to recognize this personality disorder but I have also learned how to deal with this type of person more effectively. But the biggest lesson of all is the lesson of selfishness vs. selflessness. Over the past several years, I have been a volunteer at a thrift shop and found immense happiness in helping those who are less fortunate. I have also started up a website on adenomyosis (similar to endometroisis) which I suffered from for 17 years. Women from all over the world are accessing this site, and I constantly get “thank you” messages for making this information available to them and for letting them know that they are not alone. I am also writing this blog to help to inspire others to become the best they can be.
But the most important thing of all is putting all of my trust in God. Without Him, I would never have been able to come as far as I have in the healing process. He has literally carried me through some of the toughest times of my life.
Between trusting God completely, helping others, and putting other’s needs before my own, I have finally found true happiess, peace and fulfillment. I realize now that selfishness in the form of narcissism will never bring true happiness. Looks, finances, material objects, etc. will all vanish one day, but the selfless acts of a Christian person will never be forgotten. God not only saved me, but he showed me the way to true happiness. Selflessness is the key. My soul is finally at peace.
“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalms 1:6
“The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors……For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield.” Psalms 5: 5-6, 12
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, http://www.mayoclinic.org
Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse, by Andrea Schneider, LCSW, http://www.goodtherapy.org