Narcissism - A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.

When the Self Drowns Out All Else

The term Narcissism comes from the Greek mythological character Narcissus, who rejected love from others and fell in love with his own reflection in the water.

The characteristic patterns of narcissistice behavior include egotism, an unhealthy need for attention, an inflated sense of entitlement, and obliviousness to the rights, needs and wants of others – unless they are somehow useful. These self-centered ways of relating to others can be common in people who suffer from personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

What It Feels Like:

Contributed by Aames -

Living with or being involved with a narcissist can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

It can feel like you have to perform “mental gymnastics” from dealing with the lying (even when confronted with undeniable proof), the gaslighting, the triangulation, the projection, the constant contradictions, the manipulation, blame-shifting, the charm they lay on, the inflated sense of self - even subtle forms of torture, such as sleep-deprivation these people inflict on their victims - appears to be conscious and calculated to push the target of their “affections” past their limits, into surrender - and ultimately into total compliance - as a source of Narcissistic Supply. Children, spouses, friends, lovers - those closest to the Narcissist - are not considered individuals in their own right by the Narcissist - but rather extensions or, in the worst cases, the property of the Narcissist.

Even after finding out that you are dealing with a mental disorder, if you don’t protect or remove yourself from the situation, you may find yourself entering into a state of mind where you instinctively try to fix or fight the narcissist’s illogical attitudes and behaviors. You may find yourself becoming hyper-vigilant, trying to second guess them, trip them up, lay down ultimatums, call them on their lies, or constantly trying to stay one-step ahead of their ever-changing rule-book. You may even find yourself trying to mirror their behaviors to some extent in order to manipulate them, as they have manipulated you. This can be both futile and attractive to the narcissist, as they often relish the challenge. If you ever do manage to get “one-up” on a narcissist, it is likely to be a hollow “victory” at best. They may rage, play the victim, or disappear. None of these outcomes gives the victim any true satisfaction.

 More than any other disorder on the PD spectrum, narcissists are like psychological vampires, attaching themselves to you in a way that drains you of your resources (emotional, mental and financial) and leaves you questioning your own worth and sanity. Often, narcissists are able to imitate or approximate caring about others when it is convenient for them to do so. However, they typically do not perceive that anything outside of their own sphere of wants and needs matters. It simply doesn’t occur to them to consider the needs of anyone else, or the long-term consequences of their own behaviors. Narcissists can be highly intelligent, witty, talented, likable, and fun to be around. They can also elicit sympathy like nobody’s business. Narcissists are opportunistic. They can make a show of being “generous” but their generosity usually has strings attached.

They tend to isolate their victims, sucking up their time and energy, many times robbing their own families, spouses and partners of an external support system.

Narcissists are excellent liars and many prefer to lie, even when telling the truth would be more beneficial to them. This suggests that lying is a hallmark of this pathology.

They are often highly competitive and argumentative. They lash out when presented with opinions that contradict their own or when confronted with their own lies or bad behaviors.

They can be calculating and extremely persuasive and susceptible to erratic thinking and impulsive decision making.

Narcissists can be self-destructive as often as they are destructive to others. They have a great deal of trouble accepting responsibility for their own actions, under any circumstance.

Narcissists are addictive personalities and narcissism is commonly co-morbid with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, spending and gambling. It has been suggested that Narcissists have a higher rate of ADHD than the general population.

Narcissists are rarely alone. They like to feed on the energy of others, and to have an audience to reflect back to them the person they want to see themselves as.

Narcissists are good at pretending, but typically do not feel compassion or empathy or consider the feelings or well-being of others. They tend to be singularly focused on getting their own needs met, at the expense of the needs of others.

While narcissists generally portray a lack of conscience, they typically have an intellectual awareness of what they are doing and how they hurt others. They simply do not care.

Being kind to a Narcissist in the face of their maltreatment is a common approach of family members and partners. However, this can result in further frustration as it is rarely reciprocated and tends to feed their sense of entitlement, opening the door for more abuse.

Other feelings you may experience when dealing with a narcissist in the home or at work:

You may feel like this person readily puts you down just to elevate themselves.
You may find yourself avoiding them because trying to communicate with them leaves you feeling confused, put-down, reduced to a lesser status and emptied of all that you know you really are.
You may feel overwhelmed, “out-gunned”, tongue-tied or overpowered in their presence.
You may feel blown away by their powerful personality, self-assuredness, self-belief and self-confidence.
Your own legitimate needs may be taking a back seat to their own frivolous, self-serving ambitions.
When receiving a compliment or apology, you may be left feeling patronized, demeaned, brought down to size and even humiliated.
You may attempt to compromise with them - only to realize later you are the only one who gave any substantial ground.
You may feel like your hard work and contributions are only being used, abused and distorted to meet the selfish ambitions of another.

Living with a person who has NPD can have a devastating effect on the self-esteem, confidence and quality of life for family members, friends and partners. Nons sometimes feel as though the Narcissist is refusing to “grow up” or will revert back to childish ways whenever it suits them. The Non often feels used, cheated and taken advantage of by the NPD in their life.

How to Cope

Living with a narcissist can be tough. It’s generally best to focus on taking care of yourself instead of  trying to fix the narcissist.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t take it personally. Narcissists are far more focused on themselves than on you.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Narcissists operate in a self-serving mode and when they mistreat you, it’s usually not because of anything you are, said, did, or failed to do.
  • Don’t compete. Narcissists live for the competition and fight dirty. They are not typically gracious losers.

What TO Do

  • Take care of yourself. Taking care of a narcissist can be like feeding a black hole, so take care of your own needs first.
  • Find support. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you just as you are.
  • Get out of the way. Try to position yourself so as to side-step the attentions of a narcissist.