When most people hear or use the word “Narcissist”, they are generally using it to describe someone who is really full of themselves. While arrogance is one of the traits of people with Narcissism, it nowhere near describes the emotional (and often times physical) abuse that victims are subjected to.
According to the Amercian Association of Psychiatrists, a Narcissist is someone who exhibits extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration–to the point where it is considered a personality disorder. The primary feature of this disorder is that they lack remorse and are unconcerned as to how their actions upset or harm others. This behavior often presents as compulsive lying, cheating, and stealing, however it can be very hard to determine if the Narcissist truly lacks remorse and empathy. (The best way to determine this is to see if the behavior keeps repeating itself. If it does, then you know they aren’t sorry, and they don’t care.)
Let me interject and say that I believe that this definition of a Narcissist is lacking. The vast majority of Narcissists intentionally hurt other people. In part because they follow their whims, and in part because they feed their ego off of the power trip it gives them to create drama and chaos in other peoples’ lives. Since a Narcissist is continually trying to feed their ego, they more of a reaction they can cause from someone, the more validating it is for them. One of the best ways for them to do this is to build the victim up (love bombing), and then either discard them, or slowly tear them down (their approach depends on how hungry they are, how much of a fix they need, and how much the victim has to offer them).
Keep in mind that Narcissists don’t exhibit bad behavior all the time. They won’t always lie, cheat and steal, they just do it when they want to. (Although they do lie a lot, and they lie about everything–even if the truth would work better for them.) Victims often interpret the Narcissist’s inconsistent behavior as something workable or fixable–after all, they are capable of demonstrating decent or even good behavior some of the time, so they must have the capacity for good–right? Not really. Any good act they do is to set the stage for a another manipulation down the road. For example, they might steal $10,000 from their company, but not take the $10 you had laying on the kitchen table. This doesn’t mean that they are becoming less of a thief. It simply means that they weren’t interested in that $10 on the table…at this time. Later down the road they might drain your child’s college fund to run off with their girlfriend of seven days on a whirlwind vacation, and not think twice about it.
So don’t confuse moments of decent behavior with them turning over a new leaf. I can’t stress this enough: they do not, cannot, and will not change. To hold out hope for this to happen is to set yourself up for further hurt and heartache.
Now everyone has some Narcissistic traits, however those who have had the misfortune of being tangled up with a Narcissist know that the person or relationship they were in, as well as the bad behavior they’ve been subjected to, is way out of the realm of normal behavior (which it is). This often leads them googling all kinds of terms including: sex addiction, porn addiction, compulsive lying, cheating and/or stealing (to name a few), in an attempt to make sense of what they have just gone through, but nothing seems to really fit…until the start reading about Narcissists or Sociopaths/Psychopaths. But let me get back to Narcissism.
In order to be officially diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder a person needs to show at least 5 of the following criteria:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. (Serial liar, cheater and generally stealer, and is viewed by those who know them best–again, usually when their mask of good behavior slips, and their wildly outrageous and inappropriate behavior is seen. Often considered a master manipulator.)
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
- This enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior must deviate markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture.
- This enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.
- This enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
If you have a Narcissist or Sociopath/Psychopath in your life, you need to realize that they will not change. I encourage you to join a support group and find a good therapist who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and emotional abuse.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.