What is narcissism?

Skrevet d. 9-4-2019 11:11:51 af Birgitte Andersen - Psykoterapeut MPF

Are you concerned that you might be involved with a narcissist?

Being involved with a narcissist can seriously damage your psychological and physical health. In order for you to understand what type of relationship you are involved with, and how to keep yourself safe, it can be helpful to asses whether you think you might be involved with a narcissist.

There are some specific symptoms or traits to look out for if you suspect that you are involved with a narcissist. These are:

- Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from other people

- Fixated on fantasies of their own power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.

- Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions

- Needing continual admiration from others

- Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others

- Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain

- Unwilling to empathize with the feelings, wishes, and needs of other people

- Intensely envious of others, and the belief that others are equally envious of them

- Pompous and arrogant demeanor

To understand what drives a narcissist, it is important to remember that narcissists are the opposite of what they are try to appear to be (i.e. superior, special, perfect..etc.). In reality narcissists are so insecure, that they need to cover this perceived weakness up with as much attention and admiration as they can get from the outside world.

If you recognize these personality traits in your partner / family member/ co-worker or another important person in your life, you may be involved with a narcissist.

Narcissists have no accountability and will never take responsibility for their mistakes or for the pain they cause. This is an unconscious pattern that was cemented in early life. They must mantain an image of being the best, perfect and without any flaws. They are therefore unable to acknowledge any vulnerability or percieved weakness and maintaining this facade often becomes the most important aspect of their lives. Letting go of this rigidity and superficial appearance, is equal to holding on to power and there is nothing of more importance to a narcissist.

There are two main areas in which being involved with a narcissist is particularly damaging; if you have a narcissistic parent or if you are in a romantic relationship with a narcissist - in particular if you have children together.

In love with a narcissist?

What are the signs to look out for?

You may be involved with a narcissist if you are in a relationship in which:

You do not feel heard or seen.

Your feelings are disregarded.

You are constantly apologizing .

Nothing you do is ever good enough.

Your partner neglects you.

Your partner has little or no empathy for you or others.

You find yourself questioning your perception of reality because your partner tells your experiences are not real (Gaslighting).

Whereas a healthy romantic relationship involves mutual emotional vulnerability, this will not be possible if you are involved with a narcissist. Since they are very invested in having and executing power, they will more often than not see the relationship as a battleground for power instead of a safe space for love, trust and growth.

Be aware that one of the reasons you could be in love with a narcissist, is that you somehow have learned that 'love hurts'. If this is the case, you will continue to suffer in your most important romantic relationships. My conviction is that 'if it hurts, it is NOT love' - in fact, if you are in a relationship in which you suffer and you still want to stay in that painful relationship, you may want to look at why this is so.

To be the victim of a narcissist is not only very painful and destroying for your self-esteem and mental health but also (due to the constant stress of being in this type of relationship) it is very likely that your physical health will suffer too.

If you recognize 5 or more of the above mentioned patterns in your relationship - get help! the sooner the better.

Child of a narcissist?

If you have grown up with one or more narcissistic parents, the consequences can be damaging and long-lasting unless you get help.

Perhaps you recognize some of these tell-tale signs:

A feeling of never being good enough, finding it difficult to trust yourself, your feelings, values and often even your perception of reality (often experienced by those who have been subjected to 'gaslighting'). You may also have a pattern of falling in love with people who repeatedly ignore you or treat you badly.

Children of narcissistic parents grow up learning that love has to be earned, not given freely.

This can be confusing as the parent may applaud every achievement of the child and support them full heartedly in achieving something that will shine positively on themselves ('my child just won a medal/ got a prize/ is the most beautiful of her class/ is the lead actor of the play…). From the outside this looks like loving parenting but (and it is a big BUT) they moment the child needs to be listened to, understood, cared for or anything else that does not benefit the parent directly, the narcissist will be completely absent. In this way the child will be both overindulged (with things and attention when it is ‘performing’ well) and starved (of affection, support and caring). This type of upbringing has serious consequences for the child's sense of worth and will often bring about problems of depression, anxiety and addictions as they grow older.

To the narcissist maintaining an image of success and power is incredibly important, perhaps the most important thing in life, and therefore the child is seen as part of this image, rather than a human being with her or his own personality, needs and dreams. This also means that if the child is a disappointment to the narcissist (perhaps he or she is not pretty or clever "enough"), they will often be punished, ignored, bullied or disowned in some way.

Children are biologically hardwired to love their parents unconditionally so no matter how much they experience neglect and abuse, they will do their outmost in order to 'be good enough' for the parent to love them back. Unfortunately, this dream will never be fulfilled - the narcissist does not have the capacity to do so. It is a heartbreaking pattern that is established in this type of parent / child relationship; the dance of 'the beauty and the beast'. The child will continue to do and be whatever possible to earn the love of the parent, but it will never be enough. Unlike the fairytale, the beast / narcissist will not undergo a magical transfiguration and become an empathic and caring parent.

To be raised in this way is not only incredibly painful as well as damaging for your sense of self, but it will also create a tendency to seek out partners who treat you badly later in life.

Thankfully this does not have to be a life sentence. Therapy and learning the tools of how to take care of yourself and become your own 'caring parent', will help you bring about a better quality of life for you and those you hold dear.

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