Up until about seven years ago I had never hear of the term narcissism, I didn’t know what it was or what it meant. A friend of mine was talking about it one night and noticed my interest in the subject. He took me into his office and brought up a website that listed all the traits of someone with NPD. “This is my father,” he said. My jaw dropped, my eyes were opened.
In many cases of heartbreak the “why” will never be answered this side of heaven, but in my case it was. I sincerely hope the following information is of help to you.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
According to the Mayo Clinic NPD is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration. Troubled relationships and a lack of empathy for others is hidden behind a mask of extreme confidence, but beneath the mask lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
As I stated in our “About Blog/Vlog” page, I am not a doctor. I have no specialized training in any field of human behaviour and thus I am not qualified to make a professional diagnosis of anyone. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know what a tornado looks like, even if you’ve never seen one for real. We’ve all seen news coverage of the devastation they leave behind and know that when we see a funnel cloud forming we should pay attention and get out of the way.
A narcissist can be difficult to identify due to their ability to be so loving and supportive, giving of their time, money and affections for long periods of time in between narcissistic episodes. Their ability to change from protector to persecutor in a heart beat causes mind-bending confusion, shattered trust and deep emotional pain. Our genuine love for them makes us more than willing to stick it out because we fear losing the relationship. They are capable of saying wonderful things and that they will always be there for you only to repeat the hurtful behaviour again and again.
It’s important to note that most of us have exhibited narcissistic behaviour at some point during our life but we are able to recognize it and take steps correct it. We are willing to take responsibility for our words and actions and ask for forgiveness. We genuinely try to change our behaviour, we feel remorse. Change takes time and failures can occur but any honest attempts to heal should be noticeable and thus supported.
Someone who has full blown NPD is incapable of taking responsibility for their actions and will not be held accountable for them. If you try and force the issue they can fly into a vengeful rage employing any tactics at their disposal to punish you. They will often accuse you of everything that they themselves are doing and then some. They will lay twisted guilt trips on you and lie to your face and to others behind your back. They will enlist the support of third party allies starting with those whom they already control and then branch out to anyone else who will listen. Drawing their attention to poor behaviour that is having a negative effect on your relationship, even when done in the most loving and gentle way possible, will be viewed as an attack and met with extreme opposition. You become the object of their wrath and they will hit back hard.
I can relate to a recent Facebook post that read, “The only way to win with a narcissist is don’t play.” Not that it’s about winning and losing, although, being human we tend to think of it in those terms. To me, it’s about recognizing the truth and aligning myself with it. There is no excuse for abusive behaviour of any kind. If you don’t look after yourself what good will you be to anyone else, especially those closest to you? If you tolerate toxic people in your life that cause you great pain and suffering then you are abusing yourself.
The term “False Self” has come up a lot as I have researched this subject over the years. Apparently someone with NPD needs energy from an outside source (other people) to confirm their very existence, this is referred to as mirroring. I can’t even begin to imagine the inner conflict that must rage when a narcissist is also a professing Christian. Basic knowledge of who we are in Christ (His children and co-heirs) along with one look at the cross is all we should need to not only prove our existence but great worth as well. These facts may not yet be fully realized by new believers but should most certainly be evident to more mature Christians. Thankfully, Jesus never threatens to stop loving us, even when we fall.
Narcissism is all about control and keeping it by fostering dependence in those who are inside their circle of influence. Codependency is often the result. Those who never dare to question, correct or threaten the narcissist’s false self, no matter how blatant the offence, are enabling them. The threat of love being withdrawn in response to a perceived act of disobedience is a cruel yet powerful way to keep them in line and ensure a constant supply of narcissistic food. Anyone who has ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol knows that the effects eventually wear off and when this happens, all they can think about is getting more. They will do whatever it takes, even if they have to lie, cheat and steal from their own families. The narcissist’s false self needs to be fed regularly in order to maintain that inner fullness that they are unable to create for themselves. For the believer, that inner fullness comes from trusting in Jesus Christ and we are called to “mirror” Him.
A narcissist is more than capable of saying loving, caring and supportive words. They perform selfless acts in order to receive the attention, approval and praise they crave. They will mention how “everybody else thinks they’re wonderful” in an effort to make you feel foolish for having the audacity to question their behaviour. They can appear to be genuinely concerned and filled with compassion at just the right moments, usually when others are watching. Anything to advance their agenda and maintain an image of being worthy and lovable; give a little, take a lot. The false self has convinced them that they are entitled to be agreed with and that they have done nothing wrong.
Long periods of time can pass and everything appears to be fine. You believe the issue has been dealt with and stability has returned to the relationship. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it resurfaces and things are worse than before. The painful grudge being harboured (that root of bitterness) is once again assigned to you and you must be punished. If you’re starting to think that healing a relationship with a narcissist is impossible, that’s because, for the most part, it is. I don’t mean to say that there is no hope, there is the possibility that they will hit bottom and wake up to the fact that they need help. Consistent, professional therapy to address their inner issues responsible for causing the narcissistic behaviour along with a healthy support system can turn things around, but here’s the rub. In order to seek help, they must first admit that they need it. This is all but impossible for the pathological narcissist. To further complicate matters, codependents and those who are being used as mirrors only serve to enable and entrench the behaviour.
If you suspect that you are in a relationship with a narcissist and find it difficult to distance yourself from them, look inwardly. You may discover unhealed areas of your own life that are making you susceptible to the abuse. A situation where you are heavily invested in the relationship can lead you to believe that you can’t get along without them. A narcissist will stop at nothing to re-enforce this faulty idea in your mind. Remember, it’s all about control and it is a great affront to them when they lose it.
Let me be very clear, THIS IS NOT LOVE LOST.
Love does not lie. Love does not seek revenge or maliciously engage in smear campaigns against you. Love does not abandon you nor turn hearts against you. Love does not ignore responsibility or refuse to be held accountable. Love is not apathetic. Love does not seek to control everyone and everything around them through manipulation and fabrication. Love does not hold a grudge. In a nut shell, everything that the Bible says true love is, these things are the opposite. Paul describes love as an action word in 1 Corinthians 13, not a feeling. A narcissist will say and do things that make you feel loved but is only interested in the final result, getting fed. They don’t care about how you feel or why you feel that way but are only concerned with how it reflects on them. They care very much about their image and how things appear and are quick to establish their superiority. Egos receive a boost by pointing out the faults and short comings of others.
The most telling characteristic is their inability to empathize. A narcissist’s brain is simply not wired to be able to sympathize with anyone else’s pain or validate their feelings in any way; a key prerequisite to healing any relationship. If they become fixated on you as the reason for all of their pain they will repel any attempts to be reconciled and fiercely defend the image of the false self.
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Image – Pixabay
psychologytoday.com – 6 Common Traits of Narcissists and Gaslighters