A lot of people are talking about narcissism these days.
How does Narcissism develop?
Theorists propose two developmental pathways in the development of narcissism. Narcissism can develop in a child who has experienced both parental devaluation AND parental overvaluation.
Parent devaluation happens when a child experiences parental rejection and/or exclusion, or self-absorbed parenting. This especially happens when a parent only interacts with a child to meet the parent’s own needs. The realizes that their needs will not be met and retreats into a fantasy world, creating a false sense of self-gradnisity. This defense protects the child from subjective feelings of emptiness and shame. The child constantly desires admiration and thrills, masking strong unconscious feelings of envy, deprivation.
Parent overvaluation happens when the child is overly indulges with flattery, attention or favortism without the need to reciprocate. The child is led to believe they are lovable for being perfect and develops views of self that is grandiose and special. The child believes they deserve special treatment from others and fails to learn others have feelings, needs and concerns outside of their own. Their internalized view of being truly unique or perfect creates great despair and intense shame when any perceived imperfection, flaw or failure is exposed. The child develops narcissistic defenses to protect the self from being exposed as having flaws.
Characteristics of narcissism:
- Arrogance, constantly blaming others and taking no accountability unless there is a perceived gain.
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, wealth or ideal love.
- Lack of empathy - impact of behavior on others is underestimated (abuse) or overestimated (caring gesture) “I do everything for you!”
- Self-entitlement and belief they deserve special treatment
- Exaggerated achievements and talents (not based on reality or facts)
- Relationships are contingent upon gratification to the self (no reciprocity and often shallow)
- Demands recognition. Strives for admiration and attention
These behaviors promote grandiosity and keep others at a “safe” distance. They are defenses trying to disguise an intense internal fear that they will be discovered as inadequate or inferior.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is emotional and psychological abuse. A person who gaslights is attempting to make their target question their own sanity, memories, perceptions, and self-worth. Narcissistic gaslighters can be extremely clever at pushing your buttons by knowing what your vulnerabilities are. They will lie, get defensive, discredit you, blame, and twist the facts, rarely admitting fault. It can be hard to determine if all people with narcissistic traits are explicitly aware of what they are doing when they attempt to manipulate with gaslighting. It is a dangerous form of abuse that can be extremely distressing and harmful. When a narcissist fears that their flaws are being detected or they may be losing attention they may resort to gaslighting.
It might sounds like….
“You’re crazy! If you listened to me these things would not happen.”
“I don’t know why you bother hanging out with them, they don’t care about you.”
“You’re overreacting, i was just joking. Don’t get so worked up!”
Different types of Narcissism
- Overt Narcissists tend to parade their narcissism for all to see. They can be very exploitative, competitive, entitled, arrogant, outgoing and overbearing.
- Covert Narcissists are extremely clever at disguising their narcissistic traits. Thye work hard to hide their real intentions and trick others into believing they are honest, altruistic, and empathetic. By pretending to be a more likable version of themselves, they can achieve their goals by protecting their insecurities
- Malignant Narcissists tend to demonstrate a more severe form of narcissism. They can be vindictive, cruel, paranoid, and aggressive. Once they have control in a relationship, they will do almost anything to maintain it.
Common Narcissistic Terms
“Trauma bond” is a term that describes an emotional bond that arises from a recurring cyclical pattern of abuse. Two main factors are involved to establishment it: a power imbalance and intermittent reinforcement of good and bad treatment, or reward and punishment. It fuels a need for validation that acts similar to an addiction.
Narcissistic “supply” is an excessive need for attention/admiration in various forms, that does not take into account the feelings, opinions, or needs of others.
“Love Bomb” is excessive compliments, gifts, fast commitment & mirroring to cause one to believe they’ve found their soulmate.
“Devalue” begins by withholding love and affection, and possibly negative behavior, which is emotionally confusing.
“Discard” is when the narcissist is no longer getting what they need from their victim so they switch to a new supply.
“Gaslighting” is a tactic used to cause on to question their sanity and ability to reason. A reality questioned often creates self-doubt.
“Projecting” is denying flaws in oneself and blaming others for ones faults and mistakes.
Narcissistic “mirroring” is a method to manipulate. Misrepresenting being “just like you” and just what you need.”
“Triangulating” is a tactic that brings a third person into the mix and creates a negative dynamic in order to control and manipulate.
Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?
If you are in relationship with a narcissist it can be really painful and confusing. You can tell you are dealing with a narcissist when they not only have low emotional intelligence but are also not open to learning how to change. They either refuse to acknowledge their shortcomings, or they appear to acknowledge them but do nothing to really change. Often the confusion with Narcissistic Underfunctioning partners is that they say they want to do right by you and they say they want to change, but their actions don’t match. Narcissistic, toxic people will pretend you are the bad person in the relationship so they don’t feel guilty for how they treated you. They know how they treated you. They simply can not take accountability nor will they ever admit to doing anything wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault. They are forever a victim in their delusional world.
It’s important to understand that you cannot change someone with NPD or make them happy by loving them enough or by changing yourself to meet their desires. They will always struggle with attuning to your needs or being empathetic toward you. Clearly communicate how their actions affect you, set clear boundaries and work at not internalizing their hurtful comments. It’s important to develop a support network and find a therapist who can help support you as you make a decision about your relationship. It’s important to remember you are worthy of being cared for and treated with love and respect.