Anyone who’s been the object of a narcissist’s focus will know how intoxicating it is to be swept up in their heady cocktail of charm and attention – until it all goes very wrong. And it always goes very wrong. Dorothy Black lays it out…
I wrote this because I was getting pretty tired of the exaggeration of people’s character flaws on social media. If the media and people’s SM accounts are to be believed, every second person is a psychopath or suffering from NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and I wanted to set out some experiences about what being with someone like this really is.
It’s not: ‘Oh so and so didn’t return my calls and was an arsehole to my friend; s/he is SUCH a narcissist/totally has NPD’. Think before you diminish truly difficult and traumatic experiences by dishing out big words for small issues. Mental health problems need to be diagnosed by registered medical professionals.
Painting everyone a sinner just makes your world look like hell.
I once dated a narcissist. I don’t mean this in the now trendy way of ‘oh so-and-so is such a narcissist’, because they’re unbearably self-involved or brazenly egoistic.
Nope, I mean it in the way of ‘so-and-so has Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ because they’re ticking all the boxes, starting with breathtaking levels of self-aggrandisement and ending with abusive patterns of behaviour.
Even though our relationship was mercifully short lived, it took me ages to come grips with what had happened. Anyone who’s been the object of a narcissist’s focus will know how intoxicating it is to be swept up in their heady cocktail of charm and attention – and not realise what’s happened before it’s too late.
If the following sounds familiar, speak to a professional about untangling yourself from this destructive personality trait. While your NPD favourite won’t, in a million years, suspect there’s a problem, you’ll be enjoying these experiences:
The charm offensive
First it’s all charm: you’re amazing, you’re their everything. Then it’s all offensive: you’ll feel bowled over, overwhelmed, you’ll have no time to think, no space to create boundaries, no opportunity to say ‘no’. If you don’t satisfy their need for instant gratification, they’ll act out with rage or sulking.
It’s not confidence, it’s obscene self-importance
Someone with NPD considers themselves superior in every way. They have a wildly inflated view of themselves and their capabilities. They’ll treat ‘inferiors’ poorly and be the best one-uppers at the dinner table.
Their achievements will be exaggerated, their high status connections overspun. They love, live and dream bigger than anyone – way beyond your silly aspirations – and if they fail to make any progress, it’s probably someone else’s fault. Probably yours.
They’re not averse to lying, guilting, gas lighting (manipulating someone to doubt their own memories, sanity and perception), and putting you in danger to reach their goal, whether that’s getting you to pay their rent, to secure a job, or to feel better about themselves.
A narcissist will make you feel inferior. And then they will make you feel worthless. They’ll criticise, however sweetly (or helpfully, you know), your weird clothes, not-quite-right body, lame opinions or your stupid hobby. You may even feel compelled to alter yourself to accommodate their disapproval. You will think there is something wrong with you for not being able to stand up for yourself. But because they first come at you with all that sugar, you’ll struggle to believe the bitter until you’re poisoned with it.
It is all about them.
Did you go through a terrible experience? Your competitive narcissist will make it about themselves and even make you feel greedy, selfish and demanding for wanting attention. Maybe there’s even something wrong with you for not being able to “deal with it”. Maybe they’ll ignore you until it’s all about them again. Don’t expect them to follow through on commitments.
Demands admiration and attention
Narcissists demand excessive admiration. Don’t talk to anyone else at a party or have too much of a good time without them – you’ll simply be inviting a world of drama. It might even start feeling easier to stop talking to other people altogether or to not go out anymore.
Sound familiar? Time to say hello to a healthier love life: get a diagnosis and some help from a registered mental health clinician. It is YOUR responsibility to leave unhealthy situations and people. It is NOT your responsibility to ‘fix’ people or make excuses for their behaviour.