The Enticing and Exhausting loop of Narcissism
Narcissism is a term that is thrown around a lot. Yet somehow people seem to have difficulty actually identifying what a narcissist is and how they behave. Narcissist are rarely if ever gross or off-putting when you first meet them. Most of the time they are enticing, confident, charming, good-looking, and surprisingly good in social situations. They want to loop you into their cycle with flattery and praise; as long as you’re on their side of course. We tend to identify toxic partners as narcissists and people who date narcissists as codependent. Clinically speaking there are reasons for both of these statements, however, it’s important to be mindful of stigmatizing any mental health disorder. Below we break down narcissism, how to identify it, and what to do if you find yourself in a compromising situation with someone who makes you feel less than.
What is a Narcissist?
According to the DSM Narcissistic Personality Disorder is:
“A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and with lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood, as indicated by five or more of the following:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
- Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations).
- Is interpersonally exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
- Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes”
Things to look out for:
Dismissing your concerns or refusing to discuss an issue, dismissing your ideas as invalid, stupid or unreasonable, busying themselves while you talk to them, avoiding eye contact, acting as if you are unimportant and have nothing of value to say, ignoring you when you speak, eye-rolling.
In short, gaslighting is a type of manipulation that causes someone to question their sanity, memories judgments, and/or feelings. Gaslighting can be as small or extreme. For example,
someone saying “don’t be silly you can call me any time. I always want to hear from you!” and them never picking up their phone. It can also be as extreme as someone hitting you and saying “it didn’t hurt that bad. You are so sensitive and if you didn’t make me so angry, I never would have hit you.”
The Four Types of Narcissists
The Covert Narcissist:
Covert narcissists are also known as vulnerable narcissists. This person is often envious of others. They do not seem grandiose, but they often crave the spotlight and need constant admiration. They identify their pain and suffering as worse than everyone else’s.
The Cerebral Narcissist:
This type of narcissist derives their self-importance from their intellect. They often believe that they are the smartest person in the room, they are pretentious, and they want to be the center of attention.
The Somatic Narcissist:
This type of narcissist tends to derive their self-worth from their body image. They tend to obsess over physical appearance and criticize others based on their physical traits, such as weight.
The Spiritual Narcissist:
This type of narcissist uses their religion or spirituality to justify harmful behavior or to take a “holier than thou” stance.
Signs that you might be dealing with a narcissist:
- If you feel like you’re playing mental gymnastics to make sense of how someone is treating you.
- If you start feeling like you need to make a flow chart for someone to show that your feelings are valid and sane.
- If someone’s words and actions do not align.
- If someone is overly charming or charismatic before they know you well.
- If you feel like you are living in an upside-down world when you discuss the conflict with them.
Why am I attracted to narcissists?
There are a few reasons why many people are drawn to people with narcissistic qualities:
1- In the beginning, these people are extremely enticing. They are often confident, good-looking, and great storytellers. They also tend to give many compliments that in hindsight are often confusing or twisted but that in the moment seem extremely flattering. For example, I really like you! You are so much smarter and funnier than the other mediocre people that I am dating. At the moment you might think “aw, they like me, and they think I am smart and funny!” However, later on, you might think “wait a second, were they saying that I am smart and funny for being mediocre, and how many people are they dating, also, am I doing better than the other people they are dating, or are they better than me, what did I do to make this person say that I am smart or funny, do they even like me?”
2- The narcissistic pattern of affection is a hard pattern to fight. Due to the cyclical nature of abuse people often feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster. This roller coaster includes random punishments and random rewards. In other words, it’s totally unpredictable to know exactly what response or how much of a certain response you have to give to be either rewarded or punished. This emotional roller coaster mimics a variable reinforcement schedule which is found to be the most addictive reinforcement schedule and the hardest to break. This is the same reason why gambling is so addicting!
What to do:
- Have faith in the idea that being alone may be scary but sitting in a toxic relationship is harmful.
- Have clear boundaries.
- Don’t be afraid to identify red flags early on. If someone’s actions don’t line up with their words or they go over the top in praising you when they don’t know you very well, simply take note. These are odd behaviors and something to keep an eye on.
- Know that you are worthy of love and if anyone makes you feel like you are unlovable then they are the wrong person.
- Stay grounded! Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the unknown. Stay rooted in who you are.
Please remember, even if someone is not a clinically diagnosed narcissist, if they make you feel confused, not worthy, or unlovable, they are not the right person. Letting go of people is hard, especially for those of us who have attachment ruptures or experiences with abandonment. However, repeating the same cycle of abuse by surrounding ourselves with people who make us feel unlovable, unworthy, and invalidated will only continue to prolong the chaos that we are so desperately trying to escape.
“I put everybody that comes into my life in the category of a tree. Some people are like leaves on a tree. When the wind blows, they’re over there… wind blow that way they over here… they’re unstable. When the seasons change, they wither and die, they’re gone. That’s alright. Most people are like that, they’re not there to do anything but take from the tree and give shade every now and then. That’s all they can do. But don’t get mad at people like that, that’s who they are. That’s all they were put on this earth to be. A leaf.
Some people are like a branch on that tree. You have to be careful with those branches too, because they’ll fool you. They’ll make you think they’re a good friend and they’re real strong but the minute you step out there on them, they’ll break and leave you high and dry.
But if you find 2 or 3 people in your life that’s like the roots at the bottom of that tree you are blessed. Those are the kind of people that aren’t going nowhere. They aren’t worried about being seen, nobody has to know that they know you, they don’t have to know what they’re doing for you but if those roots weren’t there, that tree couldn’t live.
A tree could have a hundred million branches, but it only takes a few roots down at the bottom to make sure that tree gets everything it needs. When you get some roots, hold on to them but the rest of it… just let it go. Let folks go.”