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Have you ever dealt with someone who says they want advice to solve a problem, but when you give them that advice, they either come up with a slew of excuses or they just get angry? Do any of these statements sound familiar?
“I’ve already tried that.”
“He/she won’t listen. I can’t talk to them.”
“Counseling doesn’t work.”
“He/she will get mad at me if I say that.”
These are just a few examples. People who vent all their problems to you but aren’t willing to take any positive steps to correct those problems are “dumping” their problems onto you. I learned all about psychological “dumping” after going through it for close to twenty years. I was literally to the point of banging my head against the wall in my attempts to deal with this behavior. Little did I know at the time that I was powerless to change it.
For pretty much the entire length of my marriage, some of my ex-husband’s family members would vent to us about issues within the family and asked for advice on how to deal with those issues. Each time I offered advice, I was met with resistance – either a non-stop flow of excuses or an outburst of anger or resentment. Even though it was a constant struggle, I offered my advice each time I was asked, hoping the reception to my comments would change. But it never did. I became more and more frustrated until finally, I did the right thing – I made the decision to stop listening and to stop giving advice. When I made this decision, my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I was dealing with my own health issues. I didn’t have the time or energy to ride on this non-stop merry-go-round that went nowhere. I didn’t realize until later (after years of counseling) that this was probably the healthiest thing I ever did regarding their “dumping” behavior. However, after this decision, the relationships spiraled downward until divorce was inevitable. Actually, the divorce was the result of an affair, but it also became clear through counseling that the above dysfunctional behavior also played a major role. I learned all about narcissism (I had been in a very narcissistic environment) and realized that the lack of attention as a result of my decision was more than likely taken as an insult even though it was healthy for me.
I am so thankful that I was able to get out of this relationship as I realized that I was in a very unhealthy and narcissistic environment. I learned that those who vent but get upset or come up with non-stop excuses when confronted with sound advice are not emotionally healthy. They are in denial. They are only interested in surrounding themselves with others who will unconditionally approve of everything that they do even if the behavior is not in their best interest. They don’t want to fix the problem – they only want to hear that everything they are doing is good and right. They want constant sympathy, and they don’t want to take any hard or challenging steps to correct any problems that may be the result of their own behavior. Because of this, their problems will never go away. Only when they face the fact that they may have to take a good hard look at their own behavior and make changes will the problems improve.
I have since encountered some others with this same type of behavior. Instead of banging my head against the wall like I did in my marriage, I just walked away. I didn’t want the headache. For me, I want to nurture healthy relationships, and although I do care about these individuals, I can’t solve their problems. They have to make the decision to take the necessary steps to improve their own lives. Although this was my way of dealing with it, walking away is only one option in dealing with people who “dump” on others.
Another option, according to Psychology Today, is to respond to the person from an emotional stance. A response such as “I’m really sorry you are going through that” without accompanying advice on how to fix it is advised. Offering advice on how to fix it will just lead to headaches and frustration on your end, and it will feed into their dysfunction. For more information, see the article listed at the bottom of this blog.
Remember, if someone isn’t willing to look at themselves and are insistent in staying in a state of denial, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Change has to come from them, and until that day comes, nothing is going to change no matter what you do. Change will only happen when THEY decide to take a good look at themselves and take positive steps to make a difference.
I recently came across an excellent article by Kim Saeed titled “Why Narcissists Discard You at the Worst Possible Times”. This is one of the most accurate articles that I have ever read on this aspect of narcissism. I shared this on my Facebook page, and several people commented on how true the article was, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an actual blog post on this topic. The link to Kim’s article on her website is at the end of this blog post, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has or is currently dealing with a narcissist.
In her article, Kim talks about how a narcissist will discard a victim at a stressful time in his/her life in order lure the sufferer into triangulation or trauma bonding. In my case, I believe triangulation played a role, but trauma bonding not so much because I didn’t play by the “narcissist’s playbook”. My ex decided to ask me for a divorce at the absolute lowest point in my life – I had two failed lower back surgeries, just had a brain aneurysm, and my father was sick with cancer. I could no longer work due to my back issues. He asked for the divorce just when I was cleared for my third back surgery after recovering from my brain aneurysm. I was shocked as I never saw it coming. He said that we “needed some time apart” and I agreed to that (not knowing that this is all part of the narcissist’s plan). I went to my parent’s house for four days, and when I came home, he had divided up all our assets and told me what I would be getting and what he would take. I was so confused, so I asked him what had happened – why did he do this when we were just supposedly “taking some time apart to think about things”? He just brushed me off, and I knew at that moment that he never had any intention of working toward saving our marriage. The next week, I found hidden e-mails – he had been having an affair. Kim describes this actual type of event in her article below.
After reading this article, I realized that this was triangulation. He attempted to stay a part of my life for the first few months, even insisting on visiting me in the hospital after my third surgery. I refused. He had a plan as to how the entire separation/divorce would play out, but I didn’t play his game. Instead, I retained an attorney. Everything he had planned to do (division of assets for example) did not happen as he wished. He became a person that I did not recognize. He yelled, insisted that I get rid of my attorney, demanded the return of the e-mails to him, etc. etc. I didn’t give in. I wanted out. Now, I have to say that I did at one point ask him to go to counseling and asked for a try at reconciliation, but I really didn’t want to do this. I did it because the Divorce Care class at my church taught our group that we should always try for reconciliation before moving to divorce. I gave it a weak try, but I really wanted out. So, the trauma bonding really didn’t happen in my case. I shut the door and didn’t re-open it, and this certainly made him very angry. The anger that he exhibited during that time is also known as narcissistic rage. His behavior was all textbook.
Please read Kim’s article below – you’ll be so glad you did. I was!!
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!
This is going to be a hard topic to write about because I struggled with it for so many years during the time in my life that I dealt with narcissists, and I don’t want to sound selfish. I was raised by my parents to always appreciate everything that was given to me, and I tried to do just that. However, at times, I found it very difficult to be truly thankful when receiving gifts from narcissists. Let me explain.
During holidays, I was asked by many people to let them know what I wanted as a gift. This happened most often at Christmas. My mom was wonderful when it came to this – she never, ever questioned my list. I tried to ask for things that I needed but weren’t that expensive – towels, wash cloths, dish rags, a pot, sheets for the bed, etc. She always bought the things on the list, and I was so thankful for that.
However, the narcissists that I dealt with were truly the worst gift-givers. I truly appreciate any gift that is given to me, but dealing with gift-giving with this group was a nightmare. One of them would ask for a list, and I would give one to her just like I did with my mom. She would look at the list and get a funny look on her face. Then she would say “I don’t want to get this kind of stuff. I want to get you something fun!” To try to keep the peace, I would tell her to just get me whatever she wanted, and that made her happy. There were times that she even gave the list back to me. The presents that I received from this person almost never went along with my tastes; regardless, I always thanked them and told them that I appreciated the gifts. Most of the time, the gifts would end up in a cabinet or a closet and would stay there for years. I ended up donating quite a few of these gifts to a thrift store.
Narcissists will give gifts that they want to give according to their own tastes. They don’t consider the recipient’s tastes because narcissists are the center of their own world. According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD. in an article in Psychology today:
“To put it in psychological terms, the poorest gift-givers are likely to be the highest in the personality quality of narcissism, particularly the component of narcissism having to do with empathy.”
She goes on to say that in its extreme form, narcissists will go “off-list” which is exactly what happened in my case. Narcissists are out to please themselves – they don’t care if they please the recipient. Again, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all gifts…but it can get difficult when gifts are given to feed a narcissist’s ego rather than just given out of love for the other person.
I look back now and feel like these narcissists were trying to change me into what they wanted me to be. Even the gifts that were given to me were things that they liked, not things that I liked. This ties into one of my previous blogs on the “false-self”. I unknowingly was being molded into someone that they wanted – they were not willing to accept me just as I am. It has been a true blessing to be separated from this family as it has allowed me to progress to self-awareness. I have learned to love my true self, and I have found peace at last!
Lack of empathy is another distinctive feature of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, and that will be discussed in-depth in my next blog.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Whitbourne, Susan K. (2015). The narcissist’s guide to gift-giving. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201512/the-narcissist-s-guide-gift-giving
I’m quite sure you have heard of how our mental health influences our physical health. This can clearly happen in individuals who have dealt with narcissistic abuse. I know because it happened to me.
I first learned about the mind/body connection when I was in college. I had stomach trouble in the second half of my sophomore year in college, and I thought it was just stress. However, it turned out to be acute appendicitis, and it wasn’t diagnosed until I became violently ill during my summer vacation (thank goodness I was at home with my family at the time).
I woke up one morning around 4 a.m. to excruciating abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. This went on for hours. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, and the thought of food was revolting. Later that day, my mom suggested that we go to the hospital since I wasn’t getting any better, but I refused. I assumed I had food poisoning and thought I just had to wait it out. However, I didn’t improve. Later that night, my mom insisted that we go to the hospital. At this point, I don’t remember much. I think I was blacking out for chunks of time because I can only recall certain things. In fact, I was told that I walked into the ER with my mom, but I don’t remember doing it.
The ER doctor thought at first that I had food poisoning and put me on IV fluids since I was dehydrated. However, just before discharging me, he went on his gut instinct and decided to examine me again. Thank goodness he did because it was during this second exam that he decided to order blood work which showed an extremely high white blood cell count. His exam and the blood work confirmed that I had appendicitis. My uncle, who was a surgeon, was called in, and they took me to surgery shortly thereafter. He told my mom that a routine appendectomy usually takes about forty-five minutes.
Four hours later (yes, four!), my uncle came out of surgery and talked to my mom and aunt. I had a ruptured appendix that was also gangrenous (dead tissue). He was certain that I would have peritonitis (a dangerous abdominal infection), and he was also certain that I would be sick for months and would not be able to return to college in the fall. He told my mom that I wouldn’t have made it through the night if she hadn’t brought me into the hospital. The day after surgery, the pathologist even came up to my room to see “the girl who actually walked in this hospital with THAT appendix!”
Well, I proved my uncle wrong! At the time that this happened, I was having the time of my life in college and at work. I absolutely loved college and my work, and I was determined to return to school in the fall. In fact, when I woke up from surgery, my first question was “When can I go back to work?”
I returned to work three weeks after surgery, and I returned to college that fall. My uncle told my mom that the reason I recovered so quickly was because of my attitude. I learned through this experience that your mental and emotional health have a huge impact on your physical health and your ability to heal.
This lesson recently became apparent to me once again. As I’ve written in previous blogs, I was a victim of narcissistic abuse for many years. During those years, I was always sick with some kind of head infection or stomach virus. I tried my best to take care of myself, and I am known to be a “clean freak”, but I still seemed to pick up every bug out there. This always baffled me.
This confusion all became clear when I cut contact with this narcissistic group. It has been over four years since I dealt with this family, and unbelievably, I haven’t had a major head infection or stomach virus since the relationship with this family ended! Sure, I’ve had the occasional headache or sniffle, but I’ve not had a major infection that has kept me in bed for days for over four years! I finally came to the realization that the reason I was constantly sick while dealing with this family was because I was not self-aware, not happy, full of self-doubt, and under tremendous stress. My body didn’t like it.
If you are living in an emotionally or mentally abusive situation and find yourself constantly ill, remember that there is a mind/body connection when it comes to physical health. Your body might be trying to tell you something. Listen to it!
Today I would like to discuss the topic of self-awareness. I love this topic as becoming self-aware has made a huge difference in my life. I realized during counseling that I had no sense of self-awareness during those years when I dealt with narcissistic individuals. As previously stated in my blog on the “false-self”, I actually wore a “mask” at this point in my life. It was during that time that I was not true to my own self.
Self-awareness refers to the ability to clearly perceive your own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It gives you the ability to understand your own needs, feelings, habits, talents, and even shortcomings. I think of it as a way to learn to love yourself for who you truly are, accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses. By becoming more self-aware, you can change how you interpret the actions of other people, and this can change your emotions toward them.
During my pre-counseling years, I allowed narcissistic individuals to “mold” me into a person that they wanted me to be. I was given family furniture and was told to never give it away, and I was given decorations for my home that I hated. I was told how to landscape my yard. I was told over and over again to go to the gym. I played sports that I hated because that’s what they wanted to do. Vacations were spent in places where they wanted to go. The food that I cooked had to be what they liked, and they were extremely picky eaters. I was even told how to vote! I gave in to all their wishes as I was a people-pleaser. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t know why.
During counseling, I realized that I had been wearing a “mask”. One of my biggest loves in life is dancing, but I rarely did that during those years because that’s not what they liked to do. I love to cook and try out new dishes, but I was very limited on my ability to do that because of their demands. I was a choreographer for years when I was younger and have a very creative side; however, I couldn’t express that side of me during the years I dealt with narcissism (house decorating, landscaping). In fact, I will never forget saying to my counselor, “I’ve lost my creative side.” Her response to me made such a huge difference: “You haven’t lost it. It was just stifled.” I learned that the “mask” that I had been presenting to everyone was that of my false self. I wasn’t self-aware.
Since becoming self-aware, I am so much more at peace with myself. I have learned to love myself for who I truly am – both strengths and weaknesses. I am unable to dance like I used to because of a back injury, but I love to watch dance shows. I decorate my home now according to my tastes, not someone else’s, and I get complimented on it all the time. In fact, I have been told that I should have been an interior decorator! As far as cooking, I have joined Blue Apron which is a company that delivers food with directions on how to cook the meals. Since joining, I have eaten all kinds of food that I’ve never even heard of, and I am loving it! I now make my own decisions, and I am true to my own beliefs and values.
My advice is to learn to love yourself for who you truly are. Don’t allow someone else to dictate how you will live your life or what you will believe. It’s not worth it. If someone truly loves you, he/she will accept and love you for you, not for what they can mold you into for their happiness. Be proud of who you are!
Have a great day, everyone!
Today I would like to discuss the concept of boundaries. I have to admit that during the years that I dealt with narcissistic individuals, I failed terribly at setting and enforcing boundaries, so I would like to share my experiences to help anyone else out there who might be dealing with this same issue.
As I have learned in counseling and through reading great books on the subject, boundaries are vitally important in maintaining one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Basically, it is learning to say “no” when we need to say “no”. Think of it like your house – you know where your property lines begin and end. You are responsible for what is inside those boundaries. You are not responsible for your neighbor’s property, right? Well, it is just as important, if not more so, to set boundaries in our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. By setting boundaries, we keep things that will benefit us near while keeping things that will hurt us out. A great book on this topic is “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I highly advise reading it to learn more about this concept.
Now, when I first heard this, I thought about all the things that I felt responsible for at the time. If I said “no” to anything at that time, I felt selfish. This was hard to comprehend since I was raised to always help others and to not think of myself. However, as I learned about boundaries, I realized that setting boundaries is not equivalent to “being selfish”. The Bible says to “guard your heart”. I realized that this means it is alright to set boundaries for our own protection. Also, I learned in counseling that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t going to be able to care for others. Self care is of utmost importance if we want to give our best, not only in our work, but also in our relationships.
The following example based on a true event. Names have been changed – I will use the same names in one of my previous narcissism blogs.
John and Kay were planning a trip to see John’s family, and Kay was quite stressed because of some recent upsetting events that occurred in the family. Kay’s friend, Sheena, gave her some advice.
Sheena: “If things start to get bad, just take a break.”
Kay: “What do you mean?”
Sheena: “Just leave the room. Go take a walk, or go to another room and watch T.V. You don’t have to stay there – no one can make you stay there.”
Kay: “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll try that. I hope it works.”
Sheena: “What do you mean?”
Kay: “Not sure they’re gonna like it if I leave.”
So, John and Kay went on the trip. Sure enough, one evening during a family get-together, things just became too stressful for Kay, and she remembered Sheena’s advice. She decided to leave the room and rest in another room by herself. That lasted just a few minutes when Rhonda walked in and berated Kay for leaving the room.
Kay: “I just needed a little time to myself, that’s all.”
Rhonda: “I don’t care what you need. You get back out there and mingle with everyone.”
Rhonda: “I don’t want to hear it. Get back in there!”
Kay went back into the room, but she was fuming mad. She was super upset that Rhonda had demanded that she act a certain way. But she was also conflicted. Rhonda made her feel like she was so awful for leaving the room. Was she to blame? Did she just cause a scene just by leaving a room for a few minutes?
Okay, this is a perfect example of Kay setting a boundary but not enforcing it. She set a boundary by exiting the room. By leaving, she is basically saying that she no longer wants to be a part of the conversation and wants out of the situation. There is nothing wrong with that. We are all in control of what situations or conversations we will or will not partake. Rhonda is disrespecting Kay by violating her boundary while attempting to control Kay. That is not OK. Kay made the mistake when she allows Rhonda to manipulate her into returning to the room to be a part of the conversation. Kay does not enforce her boundary.
Should Kay take the blame? No. Did Kay cause a scene by leaving the room? No. This is Kay’s choice and right, and it should have been respected. However, Kay is dealing with a narcissistic individual. Narcissists notoriously disrespect boundaries, and Kay allows her to do just that. Instead of just complying with Rhonda’s wishes, Kay should enforce her boundaries, even if that means repeating herself many times. There is really no way that Rhonda could force Kay to return to the conversation in the other room unless she physically picks her up and carries her! Rhonda may not be happy with Kay enforcing her boundary and she may even become more angry. However, Kay would be more at peace with herself. Also, in the future, Rhonda may not be as inclined to violate Kay’s boundaries.
I have found that the reason I allowed people to violate my boundaries was because I hated confrontation, and I was a “people-pleaser”. I took on way too much responsibility for things that shouldn’t have been my problem, and I always looked for approval. I have found that enforcing boundaries means that there will be times when people will not be happy with me, and that’s OK. I now know what I will accept and what I won’t, and I’m at peace with that even if others don’t like it. By setting boundaries and enforcing them, I have discovered who I actually am…a process called self-awareness. I will discuss this in my next blog.
Have a great day!
Today I would like to talk about how someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) blames others for the problems in his/her life. I have to say that when I first heard about NPD and how those with this disorder are known to blame others, I was quite intrigued and amazed. I witnessed this kind of behavior in a narcissistic family for many, many years. This knowledge opened my eyes, and it began my long journey of learning all about NPD.
My parents always made my sister, my brother, and me take responsibility for our actions. Stories are still shared today among our family. One in particular was a time when I was about 6 or 7 years old, and I saw a bracelet on a doll that I liked during a shopping trip with my mom. I decided to break open the packaging and take the bracelet when my mom wasn’t looking. Later, at home, my mom found out that I took the bracelet. The next day, she drove me back to the store where I had to go in and give the clerk the bracelet. I had to tell him that I took it and that I was sorry.
My parents did not hold back when we needed to be punished. One morning, when I was about 14 years old, I was in a really bad mood. My mom kept yelling for me to get in the car because we were going to be late for school. My sister and brother were in the car waiting, but I was still messing with my hair as I tried to get it to look right (big problem, I know…haha!). Anyway, after several minutes of my mom telling me to get in the car, she gave up and left without me, so I had to walk to school. When I arrived, the principal smiled at me and walked up to me. He said, “Your mom called me and told me to give you a detention. She said that you are late and have no excuse”. He thought it was kind of funny, but I wasn’t amused. I was mad at my mom for doing this.
Years later, however, I began to appreciate what my parents did for us. They taught us that there are consequences to our actions. That is one invaluable lesson…a lesson that not everyone in this world learned as they grew up.
Now, in this narcissistic family that I knew for over twenty years, I never saw any kind of repercussion for bad behavior like I used to see in my family. Instead, I witnessed never-ending enabling behavior. When one of the kids did something wrong, even if it was clearly his/her fault, he/she was never subject to consequences. Occasionally, the parents would tell the child that he/she shouldn’t have done what he/she did, but there were no consequences. Also, if something bad happened, they would blame it on the person involved in the situation who was outside the family – a teacher, a manager, an ex-girlfriend, an ex-boyfriend, an ex-spouse, etc.
What is amazing to me is that each time one of the people that they blamed exited the picture, the problems continued. The teacher exited, but the problems continued. The manager exited, but the problems continued. The ex-girlfriend/boyfriend exited, but the problems continued. The spouse exited, but the problems continued. You would think that eventually they would realize that the problem was within the family. But they never came to this realization, or at least they never openly admitted it.
During those years, the family members would share the drama with me all the time. When I offered my advice, I was met with defensiveness if it didn’t agree with what they wanted to hear. I occasionally gave them a healthy dose of reality, telling them that there was too much enabling and not enough tough love, and this angered the members of the family. This reaction completely frustrated me. I tried to help them, but somehow, when I gave advice (which they asked for), I became the target of their anger. Somehow, I became the “bad guy”. I eventually began to blame myself for causing more problems within the family because I thought I was giving them bad advice. But, deep down, I knew it was good advice, and I became so confused and conflicted. My self-worth started to tumble, and I became depressed and even more frustrated.
OK, so now I want to get into what happened after learning about NPD through counseling. First of all, I now realize how deeply blessed I was to have wonderful parents. Understanding the concept of consequences for bad behavior is invaluable. It teaches us respect for others along with the concept of boundaries. Even though I was mad at my parents when I was a child, I now know why they had to use tough love on occasion. Looking back now, I certainly deserved that detention and even appreciate it!
Constantly blaming others for problems in life is one of the hallmark signs of narcissism. The family that I talk about above clearly has this trait. As I learned more about NPD, I now know why I felt so depressed and frustrated. It wasn’t because I gave them bad advice or that I was a bad person. Narcissists don’t want to hear the truth. They want constant praise and admiration. Giving them a healthy dose of reality will hurt their image…their false self. Instead, they want you to back them up and tell them how wonderful they are at dealing with a bad situation, even if they are dealing with it poorly. They don’t want you to help them solve the problem. The purpose of those family members talking to me about their issues was to dump it on me, not to help solve the problems. So, although I truly tried to help them, they viewed it as an insult. I learned that if they couldn’t accept responsibility for their actions, the problem was on them, not me. This was the beginning of my journey of reclaiming my self-worth.
It is important to know (and this literally took me years to accept) that you can only change YOUR behavior. You CANNOT change the behavior of someone else, no matter how bad you want to help them. The likelihood of changing a narcissist is nil. They don’t believe they have any issues, and pointing out any problems with them will lead to anger and extreme defensiveness. They will also throw all the blame onto you, so don’t be surprised if that happens. If you can leave the situation, it is probably the best thing to do. If not, learn as much as you can about NPD and how to effectively deal with it. One way to do this is to set boundaries, and I will discuss that topic in my next blog.
Have a great day!
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!