I have been thinking a lot about narcissists recently, they’re on my mind for a combination of reasons.
If you have ever had a close encounter, a bust-up or any kind of working or romantic relationship with a narcissist – even an entry-level one – and you witness a dialogue playing out in, for example, the media that reminds you of that dynamic it is, to use a slightly irritating but appropriate term – triggering.
What is a narcissist? You probably know, you’re probably you’re own mini-expert on them. What it definitely isn’t is a person who is in love with themselves. It is not even a person who is in love with their reflection. It is a person obsessed with a projected image of themselves.
Traumatised as a child, the narcissist has been made to feel that at their core they are worthless and unworthy of love. Not all children who are traumatised or abused go on to develop narcissistic personalities, but all narcissistic personalities are created in childhood.
In order for the abused or emotionally abandoned personality to survive and live with this horrific “truth” that they are unloveable (as they see it), they build an idealised projected picture of themselves, a constructed persona that they can believe represents them and that is actually worthy of unconditional love. It is that projected image with which they are obsessed.
They also often have an internal mantra, a core set of sentences about their person or personality that they cling to. For female narcissists it’s often “I am kind” or “I am compassionate” or “I am honest”, despite often behaving in entirely the opposite way. For men it is often “I am right” or “I am desirable” or “I am an excellent driver”, ditto. Why is it always the driving?
Absolutely everything that the narcissist does is done to protect and shore up this protective shield of ideal qualities that they have constructed in order to exist. They will re-write history, if the facts of their behaviour don’t show them in the right way. They will call you a cunt to your face and then three minutes later deny that this happened.
They will lie and lie and lie in order to prop up this fantasy person they need to be. They don’t even believe that they are lying. The narrative that the lie supports is so vital to them that the fact of the lie doesn’t even penetrate. No, they were there, that did happen. It has to have done!
If you challenge any single aspect of their faux persona, if you attack any of their mantras, try to point out the inconsistencies in their story, or poke holes in their theory that they are kind or strong or compassionate, they are prepared to literally blow up the entire world to make sure order is restored – i.e. their personality shield is “fixed”.
The modern narcissist’s favourite way to do this is bury their opponent with words. If you are in a head-to-head with a narcissist you can expect messages, emails or DMs that go on for a horrifying length. Screeds and screeds of words tapped out in a hypersensitive state of extreme stress that they are about to be revealed as unloveable. As their opponent, you think “Fuck, I really do not have time for this” and relent. You give them their way, you say “Whatever, let’s just leave it.”
But on a larger scale, narcissists will do anything to challenge their attacker. Anything. Smear campaigns, ginormous law suits, the lot. They don’t care about anything as much as they care about maintaining their idealised persona. I’ve come across one or two humdingers in my time, I’m sure you have, too. They’re almost like something out of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. They’re the most deeply tragic people, whose frantic lying can never hold up longterm. If you can bring yourself to feel it, compassion is really the only course of action.
I have also, by the way, used the narcissist’s favourite burying-with-words tactic once or twice when I have wanted to win and win big in a tricky situation. People fold immediately when confronted with it. If you can stand to appear in your opponent’s eyes as a bit of a nutter, it’s worth remembering.
How about you? There is more to the standard narcissist than this, but all this typing has tired me out. Are you a psychologist who can correct or adjust or elaborate or throw further light on what I’ve said? Have you ever been the child of or married to a narcissist? Do you sometimes suspect that you may even be a narcissist? Let’s talk.
Yes. Years of accommodating, making myself smaller, kinder, nicer, until I was forced to confront that it would never be enough. Found an excruciatingly painful boundary. Every day I hold it. The hardest emotional work I will ever do.
Kelly Williams says
I recently read Motherwell by Deborah Orr so have been thinking a lot lately about Scottish Parental Narcissism and the particular kind of pretzels my parents bent themselves into to “prove” they were right / great / justified in their actions. I highly recommend it to anyone who had less than perfect parenting.
I worry a lot about being a narcissist too, but think that it’s a similar thing to that saying that if you worry about being a psychopath it means you can’t be one, right? Right??
I think it’s all shades of grey. you can certainly be a mild narcissist and being a narcissist and being self-aware isn’t mutually exclusive. And, certainly, if you worry about being a narcissist, you’re one of the luckier ones if indeed that’s what you are
There’s a raging narcissist in my family who has constructed a completely false narrative about their childhood and current life via a national column. Utter tripe.
that’s no way to talk about Giles!
seriously who is it? email me I won’t tell anyone
Sorry, only just seen your reply! x
it’s not too late! firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a really helpful website called Out of The Fog. (I won’t do a link on here in case you’re not keen)
Oooof. Married to one, or more accurately, separated from one. Reading this excellent summary of the true narcissist, I’m impressed that your narrative here includes compassion. Having a front-row seat to the tragedy of narcissism, I find I can only operate from a place of compassion for him (balanced with the desire to protect our children). It has been almost impossible for my friends and family to understand how I can feel that way. Also, in my experience, other mental health issues and substance abuse are often co-morbidities of narcissism, made more difficult to address by the narcissist’s need to protect the projected image and therefore less willing to engage in forms of self-help or self-care that might actually make a difference. I also think there is often a tremendous “victim complex” bound up with the narcissism. I wish I had advice and hope that some of your readers may be psychologists who actually do! But from my seat this is 100% spot on.
thanks Kelly. Yes it’s a terrific shame that, exactly as you say, therapy doesn’t sit well with the “superman/woman” self-image as therapy is what’s needed. Tons of it to re-parent the abandoned inner child. Really very tragic
Thank fuck you’re said you have sometimes done the burying with words thing. I have too and is it wrong admit how much awful FUN it can be. I mean, you can feel like shit afterwards (not always) but the power. I do realise I sound like a nutter now, but I think if we can accept things about ourselves and try and remember to not use that power too often I can cope with it.
There is an email I once wrote to one of my children’s teachers in response to an incident that still makes me laugh when I think about it. It is fun, especially when someone deserves it and you are using it as a considered tactic rather than a general approach to life
I’d pay extra to read it …
Oh ‘anonymous’ says.. no idea how I do that
I am just trying to leave a three year relationship with a narcissist. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. He does write very long messages, which are always about him, plus loves to sit me on his knee and have very long talks about his issues and how I fit into his life. He has wanted an open relationship quite a few times, currently wants to have sex with his ex, pushes me away only to pull me back in.
It’s complete abuse and I can see it, but everyone else thinks he’s a great guy.
I now suffer from attachment trauma, making leaving so difficult. I love him, but can’t live with the anxiety he provokes in me, or the hurt.
It’s so easy to get pulled in by a narcissist. That’s the appeal, they love-bomb you, then decide you are no longer what they want. But it’s too late, you are already under their spell!
Oh Ruth I hear you xx
Sarah Robson says
Thank you for this post Esther.
I was married to a narcissist for 19 years and it slowly destroyed me. He was 15 years younger than me and I now realise that he was looking for something that was missing in his life and thought I could fill that space, that emptiness.
He love-bombed me for the first few years, I had two children and he slowly removed all my agency, confidence and sense of self yet, at the same time punishing me for losing myself. He was coercive, abusive, controlling and cruel. He built up an image of himself, hiding the emptiness inside. He eventually left me for another woman – the same age as he – who stalked me for a while.
I’ve been without him for 6 years and am me again. I have the most wonderful family and friends and without them I wouldn’t have got to where I am now.
I have long thought my mother-in-law is a narcissist and your explanation has literally been the last piece of the jigsaw. It’s the lies, and the lies to cover the lies, and the anger when you call out the lies, and then the flouncing when you refuse to back down. I finally flipped on Mother’s Day 3 years ago when she told me I was deluded (about my child’s education!) and told her she was a nasty bigoted and judgemental person and I never wanted anything to do with her again. I’ve seen her twice since then (at a funeral and when she brought my child home) and my life has been so much better.
You are so very right about it being easier sometimes to just say “whatever” and let them get away with it – I did that for over 20 years and I wish I knew then what I know now and put a stop to it in the beginning.
I hope you’re dealing ok with whoever prompted this blog. Thank you for highlighting this personality disorder xx
Esther. Deeply powerful stuff. There is a narcissist in my immediate family circle. She had a very emotionally stunted childhood. She hasn’t dealt with it undoubtedly because it’s too painful and she was never given the language or permission to reflect on it. And no this isn’t just code for me. I have many failings but narcissism isn’t one of them.
In her case, the idealised picture manifests around very female things like being seen as a ‘good’ family, being seen as diligent/ ‘good girl’ and being selfless. She is vicious when confronted or even innocently/ unwittingly contradicted. She rewrites history. She writes E.P.I.C self justifying/ matyrish/ bitchy messages, even to inappropriate people. Her boundaries are exceedingly weak – she will be overly, annoyingly, self harmingly involved in other family members’ lives, but the payback is the above messages if you decline.
I do feel incredibly sorry for her. She wasn’t given the emotional support she deserved from the very start. It’s also bloody hard work because she is in my family circle so avoidance isn’t possible.
To make this political for a moment, I am conscious that being an engaged parent, trying to bring up my kids as well adjusted, will hopefully make them well adjusted adults, who won’t, say, press the nuclear button or engage in hideous undermining of colleagues or seek election on whatever platform they think people want to hear. Just sayin’…
I lived with a narcissist in my 20’s, traits also were to separate and alienate me from my family, friends and support network (they are unlovable, therefore so are you) and undermine my confidence through gaslighting. The scary thing is just how charming and charismatic he could be and how that masked the abusive behaviours to nearly everyone else who knew him. Interestingly, narcissism in business also made him very ‘successful’.
So you’ve met my ex-husband? You’re describing him fully. We ended up in court and the judge called him out on his lies. But he keeps on with that public image of being a hero. And you’re right, he doesn’t think he is lying because he is so certain of his own narrative. I sometimes wish I had that self assurance! Thank you for writing this. And for anyone else going through it. Don’t engage. Don’t expect them to respond to you in reasonable way. Just try to get away and live your life without them.
Camilla Bell says
Very interesting Esther. I reckon some narcissists have loving parents though from those I know. And some people who don’t feel lovable aren’t narcissists – in which case how do we identify what creates a narcissist?! How does one avoid creating a narcissist?! Argh.
Have you heard of the Hoffman process? Probably wouldn’t appeal to a narcissist though…
Currently (well, have been for my entire life I now realise, but recently more so) struggling with, alas, a family member who very much falls into this category. I’m at that stage where I truly want to just sever the relationship once and for all (this would most definitely be beneficial for my mental health) but what stops me is that this person, for better or worse, is attached to others I care about deeply and with whom my relationship would also be damaged (by the likely consequent actions of the narcissist in question). Such a hard situation. One of the worst parts of it is, as you say Esther, the rewriting of history and the gaslighting that goes with this. So tough. I empathise and sympathise hugely with anyone dealing with this sort of person in their lives. Great piece of writing as always.
Yes, I was married to one. He had a very difficult childhood.
It took me years upon years to actually realise what was going on. I have qualifications and lead teams (not medical, just showing the point) – but missed this thing.
At the end, before divorce, I called him out on a lie, a minor one, and he spent 20 minutes backing it up with more, then finally said I was bipolar and should see someone. I realised that had happened for the preceding 15 years.
I think there are certain catchphrases used, and it’s boiling a frog, odd comments, which by the end were a wall of worry (I am incapable, I can’t choose anything, I am so confused).
He is the perfect gentleman outside.
To say I’m happier now is an understatement. Even thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach.
I did things which forced me to take back control. Bought a car. Let the kids choose their bedroom decor (they didn’t understand what I was saying).
It took 18 months for me to realise the possible root of it all – that childhood and his fear of certain things happening.
I can’t use my normal name here or give more details because I’m still afraid of him. X
Kelly Williams says
One other thing to say is that therapy can be very healing for those who’ve been around narcissists. EMDR therapy helped me realise that my mum’s gospel version of the end of her marriage had been adjusted to make her look like more of a victim. Realising that the story of something that had haunted me since the age of 9 came from two unreliable narrators rather than one was very freeing.
You’re entirely correct in your summing up of this personality trait. You can clearly see it all around.
Lisa Whitfield says
This is so so true. I was married to a narcissist for over 10 years. Had I not got help from an emotional abuse counselling organisation I would still be there. He totally destroyed my self confidence and bullied me for years. I couldn’t understand his behaviour and lived in fear of making him angry. His superiority and projection of “himself” was completely false and came from his insecurity from his childhood bullying from an older brother and his mothers PND which made him feel unloved. He refused to ever acknowledge that anything was wrong with him and everything was my fault. He made up so many lies about me and his gaslighting made me question my own sanity. I am finally free but fear for his new partner who he has totally blindsided with his charm. That’s the thing they can be so convincing and charming – totally believable. I could never win as he just overwhelmed me with his constant monologues.
Ps (I just wrote above) – I met a good, kind chap afterwards and have learnt that relationships can be okay.
But I asked him about 4-5 months in “what was your childhood like? Just generally a bit boring, like mine? Spent the time doing the usual things? Parents there and not much happened?” and he said – yes, and, I thought, I knew that already.
I will always ask this question [in future].
I always have trouble with this characterisation. I have met people so self-absorbed they can’t consider other people’s needs much of the time. However, it feels like this is because perceive the universe can only satisfy a limited number of people’s needs – in absolute terms and on a relative basis. Thinking about other people’s needs therefore becomes really scary – they might have to/be asked to do something (but they know they can’t even figure out how to do this for themselves) or it might mean they want something that the other person doesn’t and – horror – what do they do then?? Or it’s a trade off, and someone getting what they want means their need isn’t met at all – again horror. These people also have a tendency, in my experience, to think they are constantly putting others first – but this is because they are really bad at setting boundaries and resent other people who not only can but also expect this from healthy relationships. People who set boundaries are ‘selfish’ under this world view.
I deal with someone close to me who is like this. It’s exhausting and my word for their behaviour would have been ‘narcissism.’ But they are not a liar. Regarding grandiose views of themselves – this applies on a fairly limited basis, usually restricted to having superior holiday traditions and being more generally educated and a fundamentally better parent. More enlightened all around.
But – not really sure it qualifies as pathological! Sometimes I have felt it would be so helpful to have a word for what I was experiencing with this person. Sadly, not sure one exists!
Dianne Beck says
So interesting I think you’ve nailed it
Esther, I am just deeply grateful that you have written this.
Dealing with a narcissist is exhausting. I am not related by blood – but until recently there was one in my family circle. What was so difficult was that before a particular incident happened those close to them couldn’t see what a poisonous influence they were among the whole family. Thankfully the scales have dropped from everyones eyes and what the narcissist is now getting so frustrated by is that no one is believing their narrative in any way shape or form. That isn’t stopping them from trying to still publicly project a certain image, but as certain truths come out less and less people are buying into their reality. I haven’t had any direct contact with them for a while, but I like to think it is driving them insane!
This is amazing and I appreciate the replies too. I don’t feel I can really say much here but I have been thinking about this a lot lately for many reasons. It is so draining and can take up so much space in your life.
Kate Sansom says
My mother is a text book narcissist and I have spent a lifetime trying to navigate being able to love her. And playing her game. It’s incredibly, horribly damaging. She recently cut my sister off completely for failing to play the game and for being damaged by what my Mum has done to her over the years – something for which my Mum takes no responsibility whatsoever.
When Mum is nasty the wheels fall off for me, so I just tow the line to protect myself. I am a 47 year old woman who cannot have any level of honest conversation with her and doubt I ever will. Your words here entirely sum her up. Her favourite phrases are “well you know me” (yes I do, and you are nothing like the person you attempt to project to the world) and “it’s what I like to call” (I don’t think she’s actually seen Miranda, but it’s excruciating).
Phrases such as “well, you know me and my quirky sense of humour, I taught them to have fun” are uttered with no sense of irony. When I finally identified what she was, it actually helped because I do feel sorry for her – her childhood was pretty horrific and included abuse and abandonment. Not that she will acknowledge this has had any impact on her (“you know me, I dealt with my childhood years ago and don’t need to go over it” when she did briefly seek therapy after ruining my wedding).
Part of me would love to know what it’s like living in her world – where there is ZERO self doubt, zero worry if she has offended someone (no matter how many friends she falls out with, it’s universally their fault), where she is better, richer, prettier, nicer, more compassionate and certainly more knowledgable than everyone she knows, despite getting most of her information from the Daily Mail. Mostly I’d like to know what it’s like to never have to ask “does my bum look big in this” – because of course it doesn’t, her bum is perfect.
Kate what a NIGHTMARE. You’re in my prayers (as I am such a kind and compassionate person)
One of the massive issues of having a parent who is a narcissist is the disbelief of people from ‘normal’ families who cannot understand what it’s like to be in this situation. I don’t discuss it with some of my closest friends.
Narcissistic parents have to divide and rule their children to remove any alliance. It’s very isolating.
One thing I know is that I cannot deal with the narcissist in my life, I can only protect myself. My mental health has improved so much since accepting they are how they are but I don’t have to engage with it. Still excruciating though.
My ma is a textbook narcissist to the point where she couldn’t stand my siblings & I having conversations that did not directly include her – we have literally had to learn how to interact as adults! Unfortunately she’s not a very clever narcissist and has majorly tripped up recently, exposing tons of falsehoods and inaccuracies. It’s quite sad in a way that none of us speak to her anymore but omg the freedom
formally estranging yourself from a parent is incredibly hard, though often necessary for survival
So much to say. Perhaps you have been triggered by meghan markle, who is an absolutely classic narcissist. I thought your understanding was brilliantly explained but perhaps leaves out the negligent narcissist who behaviour, including the silent treatment, is just as damaging. I liked your suggestion of showing compassion, but ultimately those who get caught in the web of a narcissist, usually have a surfeit of compassion and extending it to a narcissist is like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it – but more emotionally draining!
well quite. There are those narcissists who aren’t so far gone that they can self-reflect and even change – those are the ones that deserve your empathy. The really crazy ones there’s nothing you can do but run
Oh my word how right you are. There is so much to say on this subject. However I will just add that when your relationship with a narcissist is going well ( before you have really understood what’s going on), and their attention is 100% on you, you feel on top of the world, this is where our own narcissistic need to be seen, heard, validated, loved, whatever, gets met. When their attention is switched off we wonder what is ‘wrong with us?’ Think of it as being in the beam of a lighthouse, one minute we are dazzled, the next fumbling around in the dark, dazed and confused.
How right you are!! That’s exactly how it is
Elizabeth Harkess says
I dont like alot of messages , texts or so called attention , I have my own things I like to do and at the beginning just meeting someone you dont really know who messages all the time is a pain in the arse . I like time to watch a film read a book or something . Getting messages all the time means you have to invest alot of your time in someone you dont really know . Then it turns out the fucker was a narcassist learn your lesson x
This is sooooooo interesting. I hadn’t really thought of categorising them in this way but of COURSE! It all makes sense now. I guess I was just angry but now – looking at it this way – I can see you just have to feel sorry for them. The question is what happens next?
Ooooh interesting. I have a friend who is going through some ‘stuff’ at the moment and her previously mild narc tendencies have gone into overdrive. Compassion is the approach I’m trying to take. But how do you set boundaries with a narcissist you want to keep in your life, without buying into the drama yourself?
Esther, This is such an interesting post. There is a narcissist in my immediate family. She had an emotionally stunted childhood and this definitely informs her personality, choices and madnesses. For her, a woman of the generation ahead of ours, her narcissism manifests as a focus on being seen as a ‘good family’, as diligent/ hardworking and as self sacrificing, selfless.
If you innocently, reasonably, politely or even unwittingly challenge any of these – BAM! – vicious reaction. Bitchy, nasty, cruel, voluminous, haranguing. Even to people it’s not really appropriate to [I mean, when is it ever appropriate, but you know…]
I do really feel sorry for her. She hasn’t been given what she needed and deserved, nor given the language or permission to reflect productively on her sad experiences. Still very hard work being around her.
Hmmm, this was all new to me but is ringing a lot of bells! How are you supposed to deal with them though, challenge their lies or just try and ignore them? Not sure I’m a nice enough person to get to compassion.
Esther, this was a great article and a very spicy topic! Reading through others’ comments I realised I had it very easy with my narc ex friend. In fact until this I had just classed the friendship as ‘very odd’. But clear traits were, I think, not having any long term friends, inability to get on with my friends (she’d go sort of frigid in social situations), an obsession with her perfect world and perfect relationship. And just generally making crap up. It broke down as it had become clear to me that her perfect relationship was nothing of the sort and I compared her boyfriend to the dickhead I was seeing. She went NUTS at me and I walked away. Best thing I could have done.
I do feel sadness for them, not least because I think eventually it all takes its toll mentally and everything implodes.
Say My Name says
Ok, so we’re talking about Meghan Markle here right? Am I the only one thinking this?
I don’t have a narcissist close to me — definitely in the extended family, but I don’t have to deal with her thankfully — and I’m very grateful for that, reading through the harrowing comments above.
I have, however, noticed this excellently described behaviour with some online personalities/“influencers”, and their very fragile projected images, even if their own words are screenshot and played back to them, blindly adoring pile-ons in support of the narcissist then ensue, making you doubt yourself in spite of the incontrovertible evidence in front of you.
Is this whole thing more widespread now, or more noticeable one you’ve experienced it in some way; or because some people chose to put the minutiae of their lives online (granted for most it’s an Insta-facade anyway) we are more attuned to picking up on these patterns?
I think the general ease of access to information about this personality type, which is a collection of strange features that might not add up to anything otherwise. People have unilaterally done deep Google dives into this kind of thing and as a result the profile of the standard narcissist is just more out there…
Esther, a month ago I was recently left very suddenly by my fiance of over 2 years. I have really been struggling with ‘why’ as he completely closed down, citing our different needs for the future as the reasons (he changed his mind about wanting a baby, I convinced myself I was ok with that) but refusing to discuss it or let me get my point across. Until my sister sent me this article I had not realised he is an absolute, classic, textbook narc. I have since spent hours researching the disorder, the traits, and the more I read the scarier it became as it is SO ACCURATE of my situation. The love bombing, the anxiety of me seeing friends, the strange obsessive hobbies he had to be ‘the best’ at, the disappointment when wasn’t perfect and had emotional issues with his children, his OWN issues with his children that he refused to see, how everything had to be his way and when I objected getting told I just need to ‘be breezy’… His strange realtionship with his co dependent mother, his bad childhood, bullying, the fact that he has no close friends.. And eventually feeling like I had completely lost myself, but then also somehow feeling like it was MY fault. And then eventually when I had totally given up, being completely abandoned at 7am on a Sunday morning. It is a hard hard thing to realise the scale and gravity of the deception and it leaves you questioning everything you ever believed in. But I now know it was NOTHING to do with me, I was vulnerable at the time and I won’t make the mistake again. Now I can finally move forward and heal and get to know myself again. I want to thank you for this article because without it I wouldn’t have known. I thank whoever is looking after me up there that we didn’t get married or worse bring a child into the world.
This is properly chilling to read. I am really, really sorry that you had to deal with this. But I am also very pleased that you have been able to reach an understanding that it wasn’t your fault and, yes, what a relief to get out when you did. God, what a horrible shock.
I have separated from my wife – your description applies and is very accurate. The relentless pursuit of a false narrative is disorientating, tiring and scary when things get escalated. I have come to understand her behaviour better but I can’t walk away if I want to be a proper dad to our kids (which I do and we share care). Giving in to the lies and wall of words is often the only possible path when the alternative is just impossible/impractical or damages my boys. I’d be grateful for any advice from anyone with experience on how to approach it better.
I agree with some comments above that therapy or counselling for someone in an ongoing high-stakes situation with an un-therapised narcissist is very valuable
Yes – I have had a therapist since the first signs of cracks started to show in my marriage to my narcissist. Honestly we didn’t even need to do deep-dive emotional work, I just needed the regular SANITY check that I was not actually insane and that his behaviour was unreasonable and consisted of narcissistic abuse. Therapy for the win.
Is it the thing, like a slutty friend, if you don’t know one, you are one?
I don’t think I know any- my mother and sibling had/ have borderline personality disorder which seems similar but without outright lying, just a total lack of empathy.
I do have a tendency to think the world rests on my shoulders but I’ve had lots of occasions where this has borne out which doesn’t help. My husband calls it nice-isissm.
this is really interesting, I can’t possibly diagnose you but if you are a narcissist, you’re one of the nice ones. a nice-isisst, just as your husband says
It’s funny how there are no self- confessed narcissists here…. I think it’s important to try to understand annoying and destructive behaviour and our part in it, or way of coping. But also important to avoid pathplogising people and not get seduced by the Freudian ideology (not empirical evidence) that it’s always created in caregiving relationships. I am parenting a girl with many of these behaviours. Imagine how shit that feels!
Oh, I can only imagine the difficulties you are facing. My 11 year old daughter has a classmate who has also displayed these tendencies from a very young age — she has been an absolute screeching horror at times through primary school, with terrifying for her age mental gymnastics which left the other kids absolutely shell shocked when she would turn on them and rip them apart for some kind of perceived slight. For ages none of the other parents knew what was going on/how to address it, she was just “that kid”, unfortunately; but there’s definitely something deeper going on (and who can tell what happens in other people’s homes…). The child’s mother, bizarrely despite being a psychologist with a therapy practice, just couldn’t see it, it was always some other child’s fault, etc.
I think things may have calmed down a bit now they’re at secondary/lockdown — but it might just be that she’s left the old primary cohort behind and has latched onto kids from other intake schools — don’t hear her name so much now.
Lulu I hear you, but there is a difference between pathologising and giving something a name and a set of recognised behaviours that really help those dealing with narcissists to cope, to see things from a different angle, to understand that they are not crazy/at fault. I am extremely sympathetic to your domestic situation
I was raised by a classic narcissist, and it was only once I started having children (and therapy, although the two were unrelated) that I realised I had adopted some of the same behaviours, with my husband and my children. Therapy was a godsend – it helped me recognise that I wasn’t insane with regards to issues to do with my mother, to set boundaries to protect myself and my children but also to recognise narcissistic behaviours in myself and actively seek to avoid them. That said, the overwhelming sense that you are unlovable is exhausting and one I haven’t quite rationalised. Overall, I do feel much happier within myself. Of course, that could just be to do with getting older and more knackered and not being able to be as ridiculously self conscious but there we go…
“the overwhelming sense that you are unlovable is exhausting” this is really moving. thank you for this excellent and instructive comment
My mother is a narcissist and I have been married to a text-book narcissist for 20 years. I’ve been trying to workout how to leave for a long time but feel totally trapped. I have been to therapy by myself and have tried to ask them to come with me but its always ‘I’m alright so why do we need to go?’. So I went on my own and its been really helpful. Its exhausting, you can never ever be yourself. Every thing you say is taken as a personal slight against the other person, and no negativity is allowed ever. One day I will leave but in the meantime I have the comfort of knowing I am not alone and lots of good resources to help me navigate the tiptoeing way I have to get through every day life. Its hard to explain, there is no abuse and they are a good father but not a good husband, and as the children get older they can see it too. I just keep saying to them ‘make sure you marry someone KIND.’
You only need one completely functioning parent to be okay, and you are that parent
Just a quick note – a couple of people were surprised and a little horrified that their comments had gone up with their real names on, so I have deleted a couple and may have deleted one too many or something. I’m sorry! Anyway if you’re wondering where certain comments have gone, that’s where. If you ever need a comment deleted email me email@example.com. It’s no bother
This is so good – great writing. I have one as an ex and one in my family. Once you see it you can’t un-see. But it’s like a virus I think – you catch it and it is horrible and painful but hopefully you then have better immunity. You are able to see the narcissists and recognise the script – the manipulative ways, the charm, the sob stories, victimhood, the grandiose “I’m so nice, look at all this trauma I have overcome” and the love bombing. I’m amazed more people can’t see it – but like I said – you have to be up close and experience it before you can spot it next time.
OMG. I had a friend who is a narcissist – and when challenged she ended the friendship. I feel NOTHING but relief she isn’t in my life now. In fact when she exited, that was the overwhelming feeling – that I didn’t have to be in this toxic friendship any more. She has many many wonderful qualities but the duty needed to be her friend – always on her terms – was exhausting. It was only through studying did I work out the truth.
I have a narcissistic brother (overt) and mother (covert). YIKES. It took lockdown to illuminate this and then I found HG Tudor’s Narcsite and YouTube vids. Dark as F but that’s the truth for ya. Most people have no idea what narcissism really is so glad to read this post, thanks.
Elizabeth Harkess says
Unconditional love is a fantasy , it means no matter how much shit or abuse someone gives you , you still are expected to love them unconditionally and see to all their needs , you people are insane if you believe for one minute you can love your abuser unconditionally get a grip and come out your fantasy world .
I believe I was brought up by people with high functioning autism and narcissism.
They’re not the same by any means but in my family, there seems to have been some kind of crossing over.
There was one family member, who I suspect had high functioning autism. My grandad, one of the most beautiful and serene spirits I have known to walk this earth.
He was like a quiet guide through a difficult childhood and adolescenthood. He showed me but rarely told me what to do.
I have to really careful where my energy goes, otherwise I can find myself surrounded with other people’s clutter.
This means setting boundaries and walking away from the edge of getting sucked into other people’s games.
Reciprocal relationships are healthy and this is where the energy must go.
Someone constantly phoning at last minute for a favour and never giving notice for a playdate is my red flag!
You☆ have to eventually disengage because it won’t get better.
You will give so much and end up feeling resentment at yourself for being caught out again.
Quality of life is paramount! Not quantity of acquaintances.
When I say you I mean me. ☆