Everyone knows one. They’re selfish, mean, arrogant, greedy, critical, explosive, needy and oh-so-charming (did I mention arrogant?). Worst of all, they’re often quite attractive and very intelligent. They’re the charismatic life of the party, who makes everyone within the sound of their voice feel special, important, alive. As the nursery rhyme says, “When they’re good, they’re very very good; and when they’re bad, they’re horrid.” They violate your boundaries…all the time. You get that queasy feeling that you’re being taken advantage of or abused by them, but you can’t decide what to do about it. You desperately want them to like you, spend time with you, approve of you and compliment you. And they do…when it’s convenient for them. But it always falls just short of being enough…
You fall into that trap of wanting to be better, trying harder and harder to please them. And, believe me; it takes A LOT OF EFFORT to please them. You wait for over an hour for them, when they’re running late. The first few times they’re so apologetic and eager to make it up to you. Then, after a while (or maybe fairly quickly) you allow them to convince you that their callous disregard for your feelings is somehow your fault. You make excuses for them to your peers who have already begun to give up on them. You start to notice that they have left many ex-friends and burned bridges in their wake.
You realize that they require Herculean efforts to prop them up emotionally. They are bottomless pits of need, and they are all too willing to critique your noble efforts to fill them up. You try to overlook their excesses like drinking, exaggerating, and monopolizing. When the extent of their emotional damage is finally made clear to you, through their explosive anger, lack of empathy, air of superiority, sense of entitlement, and fragile ego; you realize too late that they’re Narcissists. Somehow, you didn’t notice that they were never a good friend, lover, spouse, co-worker, sibling, parent, boss, etc. You just believed them when they said it was all your fault. Their crazy-making behavior totally pushed you off your center and you lost your sense of self.
Let’s face it. Everything was amazing! in the beginning. It was all wine and roses, a true-life picture-perfect fairy tale, and you were the star. You basked in the glory of it all. Poor you, how were you to know that you had a tiger by the tail? Everyone looked at you with envy and amazement, because you were with a winner. After all, Narcissists demand the best of everything, so therefore you must be the best. Only, it’s not quite the same behind closed doors, is it? The life of the party becomes a brooding drunk when you get home, right? Their sparkling personality must have an invisible off switch that’s flipped as soon as they walk through the front door of your home. They’re moody, distant, and no fun at all. You become the one person who no longer has access to the life of the party. You become the outsider, shut off from their “wonderfulness.”
So, what do you do? You do everything you can think of to get back to how things were in the beginning. All the while, everyone is telling you how wonderful your Narcissist is and how very lucky you are. Only, you don’t feel so lucky. Instead, you feel like a failure. You come up with new and, in your mind, better ways to show your Narcissist how much you love them and believe in them and support them…to no avail. You wistfully wonder why your Narcissist won’t shine down those golden rays of light on you once more?! It’s cold and lonely in their shadow. Well, it’s a classic case of the law of diminishing returns. You see, the Narcissistic Personality remains constant, while you’re increasing your input. The result is that the fragile Narcissist is depleted and actually becomes less able over time to meet any of your needs, no matter how hard you try.
Don’t believe me? Let me explain what’s going on inside the Narcissist’s head. Their self-esteem is very fragile, and they hide a secret shame. This compels them to relentlessly pursue external validation. The Narcissist can’t see you as a person. You are more of an object, or an extension of themselves. You are a means to an end, with the end being their gratification. They cannot conceive of you as an individual with valid thoughts and feelings and needs, independent of their own. Being in a relationship for an extended period of time is a negative, draining experience for them (as well as you). As they are unable to maintain any kind of meaningful connection with you, they see you as selfish and demanding (when they’re actually the problem). What they want from you is for you to behave like an adoring/indulgent parent, ever nurturing and self-sacrificing-waiting breathlessly to satisfy their every wish (spoken or otherwise) and hanging on their every word as if they were revealing the secrets of the universe.
In other words, you must be a robot. And whatever you do, accept the fact that the Narcissist has a limited capacity to experience love. Anything less than your total supplication reads as contemptuous betrayal to them. They will detest you once you’re onto them. They will seek out new sources of praise and admiration, which they will then begin to exhaust. In her book, The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, Dr. Sandy Hotchkiss has narrowed down Narcissism to seven core behaviors or “sins;” Shamelessness, Magical Thinking, Arrogance, Envy, Entitlement, Exploitation, and Bad Boundaries. Have you ever seen these traits in combination? Then you’re probably dealing with a Narcissist.
If you’ve been trapped in the endless winter that only a Narcissist can create, come see one of our highly skilled Therapists at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando. We’ll help thaw you out and get you back into the sunshine where you belong.