When most people think of a Narcissist, they think of someone who is vain and self-absorbed. This is in large part why I hate the word “Narcissist.” The meaning has been totally diluted to the point where the word doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean. Kinda like the words “epic” and “forgiveness.” People walk around all the time using (or in the case of forgiveness) not using the words.
To describe a Narcissist’s behavior as simply “vain”, is along the lines of saying battling cancer is simply “inconvenient.”
And to reduce either one to those definitions would be missing the point completely, as I’m sure a survivor of either would be quick to tell you.
Frankly, I find this watered-down definition of a Narcissist simply being vain to be infuriating and really damaging and demeaning to what victims go through with these people. After all, for those of us who have experienced the devastation of a Narcissist know that they are so much more than a person who plasters their duck-faced selfies all over Facebook and Instagram.
But what’s really weird to me is that Narcissism, as in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is a problem of epidemic proportions (also like cancer), so you’d think that there’d be more research into it, as well as more public awareness programs for it. But nope, there’s not really anything–even when I worked at a domestic violence shelter, I still never once was taught about Narcissists or Narcissistic behavior.
My mind is still blown away by that.
I didn’t come to understand Narcissism until I got tangled up into two different serious relationships with covert Narcissists in a span of five years, and I had a hell of a time trying to piece together what I had experienced! I was even seeing a therapist at the time who never used the words Narcissist or Sociopath/Antisocial. And of course, when I started using the word “Narcissist” to describe my ex’s, people looked at me like I was nuts. After all, it doesn’t really make sense that someone who is vain would lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, and otherwise act crazy.
The #1 thing about Narcissistic behavior that the vast majority of people don’t seem to understand is that they are incredibly and intentionally destructive.
Narcissists do not care. They don’t care about me, or you, or how their actions affect anyone. They only want what they want.
Narcissists are so destructive, because they are driven to feed their ego, and they do this by getting as much “supply” as they can. (Narcissistic supply is often people, and Narcissists target people generally for some combination of food, clothing, shelter, sex, money, to help their public image, or for social status.)
Supply for a Narcissist is like heroin for an addict: they’ll do whatever they need to do in order to get it. Their search for supply is also accompanied by a whole host of destructive behavior, such as lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating anyone and everyone they need to in order to get what they want. And like an addict, no one is safe or off-limits from their behavior: their spouse, their parents, their co-workers, even (and oftentimes) their children.
A Narcissist’s behavior often destroys families, not just physically (through divorce) but emotionally, psychologically and often financially as well.
A Narcissist’s lack of regard, lack of remorse, and lack of empathy is absolutely jaw dropping.
Of all the emails I get, the one I get most frequently has to do with people trying to understand how another human being can go from being so loving to so hateful, demeaning, destructive, and humiliating all at seemingly the flick of a switch. It’s hard to wrap your brain around that one–I totally get it–I was there once too. There are so many different levels of destruction, that until a person goes through it they’ll never really understand it.
…And probably my second most popular type of email that I get is one that starts off with something along the lines of, “I didn’t realize these types of people even existed…” Yup. I didn’t either. After all, we are taught as children that monsters don’t exist, but the reality is that they do, and worse, they often look like fantastic people until they know they have you.
Oftentimes a Narcissist takes their victims to the highest of highs, only to drop them to the lowest of lows. The first time I had this happen to me, I remember thinking that all of the secrets and lies, besides being malicious and hurtful, were just so…unnecessary. After all, at first I didn’t want to be in a serious relationship. I was fresh out of a divorce and needed time to breathe. I even encouraged him to date other people, but he wouldn’t have it. He only wanted to be with me. …Or so he said.
So when I found out he was cheating, that made even less sense, since I would have been okay with him seeing other people. Maybe in his mind he thought that his con would only work if I fell in love with him (which I ended up doing further down the road), or that being in a seemingly monogamous relationship was a good cover for his kinky sex life. Or maybe it was because he was hoping to build me up as high as he could for the thrill of knocking me down. Or maybe, and actually probably the more likely scenario now that I’m typing it out, is that he wanted me to finance a business, and his pretending to be in a relationship with me was added reassurance that we were partners, and that it would be a good idea for me to combine my life with his, so he’d be able to have the social status of being a business owner, with none of the risk–I was going to be the one on the hook for the loan.
Maybe the truth is that he pretended to be monogamous and truthful for a little of all of those reasons, of maybe for none of them. I’ll never know what was going through his head. All I do know for sure is that he is a very destructive person, and someone I hope to never encounter again.
The truth is that their behavior comes across as so erratic, nonsensical, and unnecessary, because it is erratic, nonsensical and unnecessary. They love having the power and control over the situation and over our emotions. This is why they come home out of the clear blue and announce that they want a divorce, right after you just renewed your vows. This is why they drain your bank account or rack up a ton of debt you don’t know about and then leave town–even if they just won the lottery or got a sizable inheritance.
They do these things because they can, and, well, because on some level they enjoy seeing us suffer. Yes, you read that correctly. They enjoy it. The more we suffer, the more it shows to them just how important they are. The bigger the reaction, the more important they feel, and the more their ego gets fed.
See, any emotional response we show, either positive or negative is a win for them. So in reality, they’ve created a game they can’t lose! Unfortunately the victim doesn’t realize they are playing a game until the bitter end, when the Narcissist’s mask slips, and they see their sadistic lack of empathy and remorse in all its horrible glory.
This is why it’s important for victims to go gray rock or no contact when trying to leave a relationship with a Narcissist. They know that once you find out what they are up to, you’ll do one of two things: either leave (at which point the hoovering will most likely start), or you’ll accept their excuses and cling to hope that they’ll change, and then their behavior will continue to get worse, because now they know you’ll put up with their nonsense, and fall for their lies. But make no mistake–they never change for the better, and their behavior only gets worse.
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.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 30: Book Club Discussion on “Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse” by Joanna Moore - June 27, 2017
- Live Stream from June 21, 2017 - June 25, 2017
- Episode 28: Gratitude Can Help Keep You Grounded - March 21, 2017