I grew up within a family that included narcissists, but at the time I had no idea what was going on. I felt that something was wrong and that led me to search for the truth by seeing a range of psychotherapists and ultimately, me training to be one.
Later in life, I discovered the concept of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and its devastating impact on others. Narcissistic traits can include grandiosity, a need for admiration and to be the center of attention, as well as a sense of entitlement, envy, self-importance and a lack of empathy for others.
Learning this helped me make sense of my experiences and validate myself. I now work fluidly and my psychotherapy background influences my work as a life coach; where the focus is on the future and learning how to overcome the trauma of the past. Of course, my knowledge of narcissism has also helped me to recognize it in relationships described to me by my clients in sessions. I have been able to point out emotional abuse they have been subjected to.
Recently, I became aware through my work as a therapist and coach that narcissists often give themselves away before they step into a relationship. The first tentative meeting can offer clues as to the narcissistic traits and behaviors that will be revealed in a subsequent relationship.
This is how I have seen narcissistic tendencies play out on a first date, and while not all incidents involving this type of behavior will indicate narcissism, the examples I use occurred with clients who went on to have relationships with people who displayed many other narcissistic traits.
1. Can they control you? Are you willing to adapt and easy to manipulate?
A narcissist is typically addicted to “narcissistic supply”, a desire for constant admiration and attention. Being involved in a romantic relationship with a partner who is willing to give what you need and who you are able to control can often provide that supply. Gaining control can mean undermining their partner’s confidence and feeding their insecurity, all while making them believe that the narcissist is “the one.”
One of my clients was feeling confused about her relationship. Even though she accommodated her partner as much as she could, she never seemed to get it “right.” She was keen to make the relationship work, but felt helpless. Her partner changed his tune almost daily, so she never knew what to expect or how to react.
I asked her about her first date with her partner. They met at his apartment, had a glass of wine before walking to a restaurant he had booked. He was a lovely, lively guy who chatted away, smiled a lot and seemed easy to get along with. During the walk something changed. He became quiet and withdrawn and when they sat down at the table my client felt uncomfortable and began asking herself if she had done something wrong. Anyway, the waiter passed the menus and when he offered the wine menu my client’s date answered: ‘No, no wine for us’. My client wanted another glass of wine, but she didn’t say anything and went along with his decision.
In retrospect, we were able to discuss that if she had ordered a glass for herself, it might have indicated to her date that he could not control her easily. Mood swings and controlling behavior is typical of narcissist testing whether their partner is willing to accommodate them without criticism.
2. Do they show immediately that they need you to be empathic, kind and willing to forgive others?
Narcissists naturally attract empathic people because empaths are beneficial to the narcissist, who needs to make sure that they can continue to behave as they wish.
One of my clients was struggling with her partner but she often seemed to be making excuses for his unpleasant and abusive behaviour, saying it only happened “when he is tired” or that it “wasn’t that important” to her.
Again, their first meeting told a story. They went for a walk and soon after they set off, they came across a couple with a jumpy dog. When the dog jumped up, my client’s date jumped away, shouting abuse at the couple. His reaction felt out of proportion and my client told me she was taken aback by the force of it. As they walked on he told her he hated it when people took on more than they could handle and subsequently made others pay the price. But he was also upset that he upset my client, and she then comforted him and was extremely understanding. Despite not understanding his behavior she soothed him. What I believe to be his narcissistic traits and this pattern of requiring her to soothe him continued throughout the relationship.
3. Is your date putting themselves above you, needing admiration or to be the center of attention?
Narcissists typically thrive on being the centre of attention and I have noticed through conversations with clients that on a first date they can test to see if they will receive the attention they need. One of my clients was so in awe of his girlfriend that he didn’t mind that their first date completely revolved around her. He took in every word she said and nodded at the right times, totally engrossed. Only later did he realize that she hadn’t asked a single question about him or his work.
My client didn’t mind, at least, not at the time. In general, he didn’t need to play the first fiddle all the time. He is laid back and happy for others to do the talking. But my client began to feel devalued in his relationship. Whenever he wanted to discuss situations that revolved around him, his partner was dismissive.
He didn’t want to be controlled and silenced by his partner and when he noticed how unbalanced the relationship was, he ended it. Narcissists are often looking for partners they can mould and they don’t want an ego to compete with.
4. Is your date showing signs that they want someone to rescue them?
Narcissists are often looking for a partner who will come to their rescue. Someone who will take the blame and responsibility and focus all their efforts on the narcissist’s happiness.
One of my clients admitted she struggled to say no and if she couldn’t accommodate someone, she felt it was her fault and she lost sleep over it.
On her first date with her current boyfriend it became clear that he felt life always against him, negative in his outlook.
It took us a while to get to a point where my client could recognize that there was codependency at play, where she was caught in a trap of trying to “fix” her partner and his seemingly narcissistic tendencies. The next steps were facing this and building up her self-awareness and confidence. My client is still with her partner but luckily, she is a much stronger person now.
Having so much experience with narcissistic abuse makes it easy for me to recognize signs of narcissism at any stage of a relationship. Not every instance of the behaviors mentioned above will indicate that the person you are on a date with is a narcissist, but I suggest always reflecting on behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable. It took me decades to see the blind spots in my own life and I feel strongly for people who are currently facing struggles in relationships.
As a therapist and coach I will never tell a client that I think their relationship is damaging, instead it is my role to empower my clients to come to their own realisations through questioning and feeding back what they tell me.
Educating others to the signs of narcissism in the early stages of a relationship is important for me, as it might prevent the involvement and development of damaging and often abusive relationships, those with a narcissist.
Dr Mariette Jansen is a psychotherapist, life coaching and author of From Victim to Victor – Narcissism Survival Guide, which is available here. Jansen has a PhD in interpersonal communication from the University of Utrecht and trained in psychotherapy at London Metropolitan University. You can find more about her work at www.drdestress.co.uk.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
A very good description of something often encounter.
Here’s how to tell if you’re in this toxic, addictive relationship — and how to break the cycle.
DEAR DR. JENN
When things are good with my boyfriend, they are so good! But when they are bad, things get really ugly and he can be very emotionally abusive. (Afterward, he always apologizes and promises to do better.) We are very intense people who moved in together after only knowing each other for a few months. While Covid was a factor, I also felt a lot of pressure to move quickly. I’m concerned about the conflicts we are having but I can’t imagine going on without him. We are very bonded. —Locked in
DEAR LOCKED IN,
This type of back and forth, up and down relationship can be very intense and emotional. I have seen it many times before. In psychology, we say that the most effective reinforcement is what we call intermittent reinforcement. As it was explained to me in grad school, “the rat hits the bar hoping for the pellet and does not get it every time or even every third time. It gets the reward randomly.” This type of behavioral conditioning is highly effective. What do rats have to do with your relationship? The intermittent positive behavior that you get in between these “ugly” incidents keeps you hanging on. The anticipation of the affection, attention, or sex that follows these periods of conflict and high-stress levels actually bonds you to your boyfriend. This is known as a trauma bond.
Some experts believe that this becomes an addictive cycle. The rush of stress hormones like cortisol can make a person feel exhilarated during conflict. When reunited, the dopamine and oxytocin triggered in the reward center of the brain can fool you into thinking that you are in love. This emotional rollercoaster can create an obsessive quality to the relationship. Even when you end a relationship like this, it can be hard to stick with it. Studies have shown that going through a breakup can trigger activity in the same regions of the brain that get activated when we are in physical pain, not to mention that we experience a drop in the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that create feelings of pleasure and happiness. This depression combined with the craving to be with the object of our affection can leave us feeling like we need to get back together to get the high we once had.
Typically an abusive relationship (physically or emotionally) follows a pattern, known as the cycle of abuse. This starts with the tension-building phase where you feel like you are walking on eggshells, working double time not to set him off. Then comes the incident, which can include physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. During this stage, there is usually a lot of blaming, anger, threats, and intimidation. This is followed by the honeymoon stage, which is the hook. During this period he acts like the man you fell in love with. He promises he will never do whatever terrible thing he did again. He is romantic and caring. This may include gifts or big gestures. This can create sympathy for the abusive person and further the emotional bond.
This type of trauma bond is especially common in domestic violence situations, with hostages, child abuse, kidnapping victims, or cults. But it can occur in relationships that are emotionally or verbally abusive as well.
Who Is Most Vulnerable To Trauma Bonding
People who have a childhood history of abuse — physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect — are most vulnerable. Growing up in a volatile, neglectful, or abusive home can make this type of behavior seem normal or feel familiar. Having low self-esteem or feeling that you are unlovable can make you overlook unacceptable behavior in order to get some crumbs of love.
Warning Signs of a Trauma Bonding Relationship
Relationships where trauma bonding occurs have many different signs. Ask yourself the following.
- Have you become isolated from your friends?
- Is this relationship hot and cold?
- Has your trust been exploited in the relationship?
- Do you find yourself obsessing about the relationship and the related conflicts?
- Do you feel this is the only person who can meet your needs?
- Do you find yourself walking on egg shells around your partner?
- Have your friends or family express concern about your relationship?
- Do you find yourself making excuses for your partner‘s bad behavior?
- Are you getting showered with love or gifts after an abusive episode?
- Do you find yourself feeling overly grateful for any attention or affection that is shown to you by your partner?
- Do you find yourself feeling like you are walking on egg shells, afraid you will set your partner off?
- Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for him or his behaviors?
What You Can Do to End the Cycle
Leaving an abusive relationship when you have a trauma bond can be very difficult. It is difficult for people who have never had that experience or are not professionals to understand why you don’t just leave. Oftentimes, leaving is a process that takes time.
Here are a few things that you can do that may help.
- Get therapy. This can better help you understand why you have been drawn to such a destructive relationship and help you to gather the strength to leave. If finances are a concern, look into low-fee clinics in your area or those that allow for telemedicine therapy.
- Call a hotline. It can be very helpful to speak with a domestic violence or women’s help line. They are free and anonymous. This can be a good outlet to talk through some of these issues or to make a safety plan to leave.
- Try to create more activities in your life that give you oxytocin and positive connections. Finding things that help you escape, relax, and feel good can help replace some of the destructive choices.
- Nurture your connections with people who care about you. Oftentimes, in an abusive relationship, there is a tendency to isolate. Take the time to reach out to old friends and family members who care about you. This support is crucial for you to be able to take care of yourself.
In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.
I really like Les’ style in discussing the topic!
How to cope with the challenges of relating with narcissists or addicted people
While narcissism is a personality disorder and alcoholism is an addiction, narcissists and alcoholics share several characteristics. Recognizing these commonalities can help you understand and cope with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, untreated alcoholism, or both.
Both narcissists and alcoholics tend to be:
- Driven by their drug of choice. Narcissists’ drug of choice is attention. Alcoholics’ fix is a drink. Both narcissists and alcoholics tend to view others as either enablers (who will help them get attention or maintain their addiction) or as potential threats (who interfere with their campaign of self-aggrandizement or their freedom to drink).
- Opportunistic. Lacking empathy and feeling superior, narcissists feel they have the right to do whatever they want, despite the rules or costs to others. By the same token, alcoholics become highly resourceful at procuring drink. In a sense, addictions such as alcohol are narcissistic acts — putting a drug above all else, no matter what the cost to others.
- Shame-based. Avoiding shame drives much of narcissists’ behavior. Narcissists often shame others to cover their own inadequacies. For alcoholics, drinking numbs or masks the shame they carry.
- Self-absorbed. Both narcissists and alcoholics feel entitled. For narcissists, relationships are all about them. For alcoholics, the freedom to drink is primary. While both narcissists and alcoholics may seem to function normally when not triggered by a loss of narcissistic supply or when not under the influence of alcohol, over time their self-absorption will inevitably emerge.
- Untruthful. Narcissism is characterized by pretense. Narcissists feel they can do no wrong and lie freely to promote their image. Similarly, denial keeps addiction in place. Denial manifests for alcoholics in many ways, such as saying they can stop drinking anytime they want, lying about when they drink, or refusing to acknowledge that their drinking has costs. That’s why participants in 12-step programs introduce themselves followed by the phrase, “I’m an alcoholic.” It helps break denial.
- Avoidant of introspection. Narcissists shun self-reflection. Doing so would risk encountering the emptiness they carry. Similarly, addiction can cover insecurities and lack of self-esteem. As long as an addict uses, those feelings go largely unaddressed. The longer feelings are unaddressed, the more daunting it can become to look inward and face them.
- Blaming. Narcissists are quick to blame others for making them act as they do. Narcissists rarely apologize or admit wrongdoing. That would feel weak, which is anathema to narcissists, who must feel superior and beyond reproach. Similarly, alcoholics have plenty of excuses for why they drink. Although many alcoholics may apologize for their behavior and promise to turn over a new leaf, without a commitment to recovery and plan for doing so, their repeated apologies and broken promises eventually carry little weight with those close to them.
- Emotionally inauthentic. Narcissists have “as-if” emotions — demonstrations of feeling that are designed to present a positive image or manipulate others. Similarly, alcoholics can shed crocodile tears over the costs of their addiction, but such displays often are meaningless. In addition, the defense mechanisms of narcissists and the power of addiction for alcoholics make it difficult for either to sustain long-term authentic relationships.
- Prone to withdraw, stonewall, or attack when confronted. Narcissists and alcoholics can become highly defensive if you question their actions or point out their unhealthy behaviors. Both may sulk, become non-communicative, or lash out at you for pointing out the faults and dysfunction they desperately seek to deny or hide.
- Destructive both to self and others. Those close to both narcissists and alcoholics experience deprivation, rejection, and feeling manipulated. In addition, over time, both narcissists and alcoholics sacrifice their well-being, reputation, relationships, and self-worth in pursuit of feeling superior or the highs from drinking.
Some individuals have both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and an active addiction. Coping with someone with a dual diagnosis can be more difficult than if that person suffered from only narcissism or untreated alcoholism.
The following approaches can help you cope with someone who is a narcissist, an alcoholic, or both:
- Recognize that people with personality disorders and addictions hold self-serving and distorted views of themselves and others that they are resistant to give up.
- Recognize that you can’t stop another’s narcissistic or alcoholic behaviors.
- Recognize that you don’t cause someone else’s narcissism or addiction.
- Don’t make excuses for the dysfunctional behavior or narcissists or alcoholics.
- Don’t try to protect narcissists or alcoholics from the consequences of their dysfunctional actions.
- Be clear on what you will and will not tolerate from a narcissist or addict.
Copyright © 2020 by Dan Neuharth PhD MFT
An earlier version of this post appeared on PsychCentral
But not everyone changes or feels the same way when they hold their child for the first time. While a lot of people take time to adjust to the idea of parenthood, some continue to struggle long after that baby grows up. They have a hard time putting themselves in a position that isn’t No. 1
And at the top of this list are people with narcissistic tendencies and those with narcissistic personality disorder.
“Narcissistic parents will struggle to empathize with their children if they, themselves, are not under threat,” says Mike Gallagher, licensed professional clinical counselor and clinical director at the Shoreline Recovery Center in Encinitas, California.
This lack of empathy, a hallmark of narcissism, makes it difficult for narcissists to parent traditionally and can lead to the development of hostile or damaging environments for their children. Other telling signs of narcissism in parents and non-parents alike include manipulation, an aversion to criticism, and insecurity. Narcissistic parents may be neglectful of the child and focus on their own self-absorbing interests instead.
Different types of narcissists include the closet narcissist, exhibitionist narcissist, failed narcissist, and malignant narcissist. Here are four different ways that parents may reveal these narcissistic tendencies and the effects they can yield on children’s development. (And here is how to tell if you have a narcissistic mother.)
The “we are great” family
“In this instance, the whole family has narcissistic values,” explains Elinor Greenberg, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety. “Children are rewarded for bringing glory to the family name, for being great and doing things the family respects.”
If they can fit into this mold and follow through, children in these families will grow up in a relatively high functioning way—to a point.
“These kids know how to achieve, but their personal relationships are very primitive,” says Greenberg. “Their relationships with their parents were entirely transactional, not based on love.” As a result, they will struggle to form loving, intimate relationships as adults.
(Here are signs you might be dating a narcissist.)
But children who aren’t able to follow the family way? These kids struggle in a “we are great” family, since narcissistic parents treat them like outsiders or failures. “They won’t feel nurtured or nourished,” adds Greenberg. “Since they don’t have the same qualities as their brothers and sisters, they feel very fragile, insecure, bitter, and paranoid.”
Forced to face the world and find a path independently without support, these children tend to struggle to find their footing and go through life constantly seeking external validation for their actions.
The helicopter parent
“Helicopter parents who always hover around their kids and demand attention could be classic vulnerable narcissists,” says W. Keith Campbell, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia and author of The New Science of Narcissism. “Although the line between a supportive parent and a needy parent can blur, you know the ones who live vicariously through their children, demand special exceptions, and require affirmation as the ‘best’ parent that can be.”
Unlike grandiose or exhibitionist narcissists, these parents seek to express their superiority in quieter ways. “They express antagonism but in a subtle form with a sense of entitlement and suspicion of others, alongside insecurity and fragility,” says Campbell.
These parents may also use their children as the vehicle that brings their family to greatness. “This parent wants to be an exhibitionist narcissist but doesn’t have the nerve,” says Greenberg. “Instead, they choose a child to worship and prop up. Like stage mothers who wanted to be but were never great themselves.”
As a result, a child may grow up with a false sense of entitlement or a distorted view of their place in the world, which can lead to a rude awakening as an adult. (Here are the signs of narcissistic abuse.)
The parent with separation anxiety
Separation anxiety disorder is a condition most often diagnosed in children who grow anxious and uneasy when separated from their parents. But if you reverse the roles, you may have a case of narcissistic parents.
“Parents may reveal themselves to be narcissists as the child begins to separate physically and emotionally from the parent,” explains Gallagher. “Narcissistic parents find their value in maintaining superiority in the parent-child relationship. Once a child starts to develop a greater sense of independence, the narcissistic parent will feel threatened and attempt to manipulate the child to a more dependent state.”
Keeping their children in the more dependent role ensures that they will be unable to establish superiority in the relationship. Thus, the narcissist will remain in that position, potentially damaging the child’s self-esteem and belief in their own abilities.
“Signs of narcissistic parents are those with enmeshed boundaries who seem to struggle most when their children are finding their own hobbies and interests,” adds Gallagher. Think about a parent who volunteers to chaperone their teenager’s school dance, then proceeds to take over the dance floor. Actions like these serve as a reminder to the child of their subservient place in the relationship.
The alpha narcissist parent
Growing up with a parent who is an alpha exhibitionist narcissist means growing up in an incredibly tense and stressful environment, says Greenberg. “Often, in this case, the kids are split and set to be competitive with each other. This way, nobody can challenge the head narcissist because they are too busy competing with each other for attention.”
And the other parent, if one is present, typically can’t provide much help. “The alpha narcissist often marries someone who is subservient or willing to be devalued,” explains Greenberg. “In this household, ‘don’t do or say that because Mommy or Daddy (whoever the narcissist is) will get mad’ becomes the punchline of everything. But it’s an impossible endeavor because they will be mad about something eventually.”
The result: Children are forced to be secretive and walk on eggshells in their own homes. They grow up feeling inferior and like their wants and needs play second fiddle to those of their narcissistic parent. The alpha narcissist parent may resort to manipulation or gaslighting to promote this fear.
Dealing with narcissistic parents
It is difficult to identify these conditions during childhood, especially those like the “we are great” family and the helicopter parent in which the child may see it as a positive experience.
But therapy can help children with narcissistic parents work through the ideals they learned and help them create a more realistic view of the world and their place in it.
Next, read these narcissist quotes that can help you deal with a narcissist in your life.
What Does Walking on Eggshells Mean?
Have you ever lived or worked with someone whose moods and outbursts can be unpredictable? The littlest thing can seem to set them off. They go on an emotional tangent completely out of proportion or context to what is really going on. You are always wary of what you say and do just in case they overreact and become emotional, verbally, or physically abusive.
Do you recognize that feeling, that dread or hesitation to interact with someone? If you have, you are “walking on eggshells”.
The relationship anxiety you feel is high. You are wary of potentially tipping the balance of a seemingly innocent situation. It can switch to conflict or something toxic in an instant. Things can, and do, change at the drop of a hat. The fragility of someone else’s moods scares you. You may feel like you are on unstable ground, as if you walk on eggshells. You go out of your way to keep the peace, even to your own detriment.
Signs of an Emotionally Unstable Relationship
If you find you are walking on eggshells in any kind of relationship, that’s a red flag! It indicates that it is an unstable or an abusive relationship. Being upset is normal – from time to time. But, repeated behaviors can say something more serious is going on. Check whether you experience any of the below signs regularly. If you do, you may be in an emotionally unstable or toxic relationship:
- Mood Checks: You check the other person’s mood before you speak. or do anything. Always. You do this just in case they react in anger or lash out.
- Tension: You are always tense and on edge around the other person. You find it difficult to relax and be yourself. Emotions are running high all the time, and the other person has difficulty controlling their emotions.
- Use of Humiliation and Sarcasm: You may feel put down and humiliated. This can be from the way the other person speaks to you or treats you. There may be suggestions that you are a lesser person, or not of an equal standing.
- Non-Verbal Cues: You may be acutely aware of non-verbal cues that the other person is angry. There may be glaring looks, hand gestures, silence, evasiveness, or objects thrown around or handled aggressively.
- Impulsivity: Impulsive behavior may be so frequent it has become the norm. There may be sudden life-altering decisions made that have no say or input into.
- Extended Arguments: Disagreements and arguments that should be quickly resolved, aren’t. They will not let go, the dispute lasts for hours, days, or weeks. They just go on, and on, and on.
- Excessive Self-Monitoring: You monitor and adapt your own actions constantly. This is in an attempt to prevent setting the other person off again. You find you second-guess yourself in every situation and scenario trying to anticipate how they may react.
- Withdrawal from Others: In worst case scenarios with long-term emotional and physical abuse people withdraw into themselves. They may isolate themselves from friends and family. This is because they fear upsetting the other person. Or, because they begin to believe any negativity said to them about themselves.
Stop Walking on Eggshells! How to Deal with an Unstable Relationship
Walking on egg shells in any kind of relationship is not healthy. In both short and long-term situations, it can affect people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Any situation where you are on constant guard and dealing with stress and anger is not good for anyone.
Suggestions for how to deal with an unstable relationship include:
- Self-Care: It may be the other person something going on that is causing their behavior. This is not your problem to fix. Support them with changes they want to make if you choose to do so, yes. If you are walking on eggshells for an extended period you need to focus on yourself first, and foremost. Show yourself some love and compassion. As the saying goes, first you save yourself.
- Seek Support: Professional support for yourself and the other person may help. There can be mental health conditions that cause this type of behavior. They may be clinically depressed or have a borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with BPD or any similar conditions need professional guidance first to accept and understand the change needed. It can also happen with someone experiencing combat-related PTSD. If you feel you are in danger from a partner, seek help from friends you trust or a shelter.
- Read Up On It: Check out books on related topics. Especially if you are in a relationship with someone diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder (BPD). Authors Paul Mason and Randi Kreger have a book that focuses on how to stop walking on eggshells and take your life back. This book focuses specifically on helping everyone involved. People with BPD or who display BPD traits, or other mental health conditions are in all walks of life. Other conditions include narcissistic personality disorder, emotional dysregulation disorder, and destructive disorder. They may include those you love — your parents, young children, adult children, or your partner. When younger you may have felt like your dad, or your mother never saw you as well-behaved children. Your interpersonal relationships throughout life will benefit from knowing and understanding any conditions that affect personality.
- Set Boundaries: Putting in some boundaries for yourself and the other person can help. Find ways to detach in situations where you know it is not your fault. Learn how to use different communication skills. Reflective listening will help you to kindly, and gently, show someone that what they are saying feels offensive. Or that it is not okay. Know your limits.
Feeling like you are walking on eggshells all the time is not a good place to be. Find ways to validate your self so your self-esteem does not suffer. Seek support and help from others. If you are in a long-term relationship with a family member or partner, seek solutions. Find ways that they are willing to accept to make positive improvements. This will help everyone’s health and well-being.
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How they hypnotize
Narcissists have one main technique for putting you into a trance: they take over. They draw you into listening to them as they talk about themselves or about some other thing as it relates to them.
Narcissists are good at being the center of attention, and since this often makes them interesting, clever, quick and witty they will be able to command your full attention. They pull you into their orbit by getting you to focus on them. You start to feel pleasantly passive and entertained.
In this state you are lulled into giving up all subjectivity. You find yourself agreeing with them, taking their lead. You want them to like you.
The result is that unlike compulsive seducers, narcissists don’t try to make you feel loved. They make you feel that life is good because you are their best and biggest fan.
You have given up your independent will and become their audience. You are hypnotized.
Because hypnotism has great powers to persuade, you may end up wanting to prolong the feeling of being in the narcissist’s orbit. You will be persuaded to feel that you want to befriend them, that you want to be like them, and want to help them. You want this because….well you just do.
If you relate regularly to such a person you will enter into their world on their terms. You will end interpreting things in terms of what they would say or do.
But life in this world is a one way street. You are the audience and they are the star. In their world what matters is “looking marvelous” and never feeling that anyone is superior to you. The charm of their world makes everything else ordinary.
Breaking the spell
Breaking the spell is hard. You care a great deal about what the narcissist thinks of you. And since you have given up your independent sense of self around them you feel like it would be very hard to decide to look at things critically. If you work for such a person you have an even greater need to maintain the status quo.
If you are a child growing up with narcissistic parents this process of breaking the spell is virtually impossible.
Here are some things to focus on that will help you identify your trance state and in so doing, change it.
- If you have just met a narcissist and fallen under their spell you may leave the encounter feeling excited about getting closer to them. But after you have been away from them for a while the trance state weakens. Soon you may notice that your liking for them was out of proportion. Your sense of self will gradually be restored as you get further away. This is a chance to use your critical faculties to understand what has happened.
- You can never be in the spotlight when you are around a narcissist. Even when they appear to be focused on you it is really about them. But sometimes we all need to take center stage in a conversation or at a in a meeting. If you try, it will always feel awkward, like it somehow doesn’t come off right. You will begin to feel thwarted and frustrated. You may even feel some self criticism or despondency. Listen to this feeling.
- If you are in a relationship with a narcissist you will sooner or later begin to feel that you are never getting listened to and that there is never any real connection or easy exchange of ideas. One way you may notice this is that you will have to go outside your relationship to have a real conversation. When you call that other friend you can begin to see that your real relationship is with that friend, not with the narcissist. You have broken the spell.
20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use to Silence You by Shahida Arabi via Thought Catalog “The difference between constructive criticism and des…
“The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.” Read the rest of the article here.
(3) Nonsensical Conversations from Hell
(4) Blanket Statements and Generalizations
(5) Deliberate Misrepresentation
(6) Nitpicking and Moving Goal Posts
(7) Changing the Subject to Escape Accountability
(8) Covert and Overt Threats
(10) Destructive Conditioning
(11) Smear Campaigns and Stalking
(12) Lovebombing and Devaluation
(13) Preemptive Defense
(15) Bait and Feign Innocence
(16) Boundary Testing and Hoovering
(17) Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes
(18) Condescending Sarcasm and Patronizing Tone