The Pain of Narcissism, Part 2

Narcissists will destroy your life, erode your self-esteem, and do it with such stealth as to make you feel that you are the one that’s letting them down.

Anonymous

photo by Caleb Woods

Where Does It Begin?

People often wonder where narcissistic behavior began. Was someone born a narcissist or were they molded into one? There are several theories, but no definite cause that is agreed upon by researchers and professionals.

Dr. David Orrison, as mentioned in the last post, is one of many who espouse the idea that parents or caregivers have the greatest influence on creating a narcissist. When hyper-critical and negative words are often spoken into a child who is vulnerable, they require an inner response. For example, “You’re stupid”, You’re weak”, “You’re evil”, etc.). Some children receive those and agree. Some try to compensate; others deny those words. The children who are vulnerable for narcissism hide. The hiders feel the negative input but now try to over-compensate by:

  • Getting attention
  • Becoming popular
  • Being condescending
  • Distracting
  • Being impressive
  • Becoming increasingly controlling
  • Manipulating others

When parents lack warmth, they express little affection, appreciation, and positive affect toward their child, and they show little enjoyment of their child (). In such an upbringing, children might place themselves on a pedestal to try to obtain from others the approval they did not receive from their parents.

photo by Anete Lusina

On The Other Hand…

We’ve probably all known parents who thought their child was God’s gift to the world. Their child was the most talented athlete, the most intelligent in the school…you get it. It is possible these parents were raising a narcissist. When parents have excessive adoration for their child, which sober observation would find no occasion to do, they are creating an environment for narcissism to develop. Consequently, children might internalize the belief that they are special individuals who are entitled to privileges

Furthermore, genetics may play a role in the development of narcissism. However, researchers at the National Institute of Health stated that there is a only a moderate link between parental narcissism and the child becoming narcissistic.

 Parental narcissism…only weakly-to-moderately correlated [with developing narcissism.]. Additionally, even when controlling for parental narcissism, parental overvaluation still robustly and significantly predicted increased child narcissism over time. Thus, parental overvaluation contributes to the development of narcissism in children above and beyond parents’ own narcissism levels.

photo by Odonata Wellness Center

How Did We Get Here?

Relationships with narcissists are held in place by hope of a ‘someday better’ with little evidence to support it will ever arrive. ~Ramani Durvasula

Life is like a fairy tale when you first enter a relationship with a narcissist. They love bomb you, saying all the right things and showering you with gifts.  Once they have won you over, however, all the compliments and gifts come to a halt. Criticism and gaslighting take their place. In fact, it’s so confusing that you begin to question what happened to the person with whom you fell in love.

Most of us begin making excuses for the narcissist. It’s likely he has told us a sob story about his upbringing or another tragic life event. It’s equally likely that we are very empathic…which is why he was drawn to us in the first place. Regardless, a point is reached when we finally realize this person is never going to change…and we must leave the relationship.

photo by Liza Summer

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Stop asking why they keep doing it and start asking why you keep allowing it. ~Charles J. Orlando

There are several signs of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome. The most common symptoms are:

  • confusion and self-doubt
  • guilt
  • fear
  • lowered self-esteem and confidence
  • conflicted feelings toward partner
  • trauma bonding
  • PTSD.

These symptoms indicate that it’s time to leave. However, before you do, you need to make some quiet preparations.

photo by Anete Lusina

Leaving a Narcissist

It’s also helpful to make sure that you get all your legal and financial documents in order. Make sure you have copies of any of the documents you need access to. Make sure you have the keys that you need to have. And, talking to an attorney and an accountant before you announce that you’re leaving may also be helpful.

Don’t try to have a conversation about leaving with your narcissist. It will only enrage him. Conversely, he may attempt to manipulate you into staying with him.

Narcissists are masters of manipulation.

If necessary, have someone with you when you are ready to leave. Keep it short and if possible, keep your emotions out of it.

phot by Alexandr Podvalny

Now That You’re Out

Accept that you cannot change narcissists – you can only change how you react to them and how much longer you choose to invest in them at the risk of your own sanity.

 

Set firm boundaries, including a no contact rule. You must adhere to this because he will constantly challenge it. Arrange for someone to be cc’d on emails or a third party to be with you if you must communicate by phone.

Prepare for retaliation. Some narcissists will retaliate out of hurt and rage. Proactively change all passwords and PIN numbers. Block them from your social media accounts. You’ve likely experienced his verbal and emotional abuse before so, prepare yourself mentally.

Pack away or discard reminders of the relationship. This will keep you from looking back and only remembering the “good old days.” Remember, it was all a sham.

Build a support system. Work on re-establishing the relationships that you were likely isolated from while you were with the narcissist. Those people likely still care about you and will want to help you, now.

If co-parenting, choose your battles carefully. This can be tricky as he will attempt to control every decision concerning the children. Give where you can give, but hold your boundary when it’s something that is important to you for your child. There will be decisions you will likely need to make together.

Seek professional therapy. Anyone who has been in relationship with a narcissist needs the help of a therapist who has experience working with narcissists. It’s very helpful to have someone walk with you as you heal.

photo by Brett Sayles

Christian Marriages

From a Christian context, marriage is an easy place for narcissists to do their nasty work. Spouses feel compelled to stay in the relationship in order to be spiritually acceptable.

Therefore: The intimacy brings intensely painful feelings of betrayal which the victim feels he/she deserves because of foolish choices and can’t escape because of the spiritual expectations of the marriage relationship. We can understand why Christians find the narcissistic marriage such a quandary.

And the Christian is left with no good option. Since the narcissist almost never changes, the spouse can either choose to stay in the painful relationship or leave it and suffer the consequences. Neither choice is desirable. Reconciliation, restoration, honest change: these normal relationship options do not seem to be available in the narcissistic relationship. Added to this is the fact that few churches are educated on narcissism or prepared to help victims.

Although many denominations continue to condemn women for divorcing their abusive, narcissistic husbands, a few are becoming educated concerning domestic abuse. Doctrinal statements concerning divorce should not supersede God’s overarching care throughout Scripture for the oppressed.

God Cares For The Oppressed

Time and space does not permit for me to relate the numerous stories where our Father stood for the cause of the oppressed. Please, never doubt – He deeply cares for the downtrodden and oppressed. Isaiah 10:1-3

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Our Father is a God of justice. His Word bears that out over and over again. When abusive husbands attempt to cut off their wives from homes, finances, their reputation, and friends, it reeks of oppression. God is never pleased with that…as the following Scriptures attest.

Psalm 9:9; 12:5; 103:6; 146:7-9;

Proverbs 22:22-23;

Zechariah 7:10;

Isaiah 49:26

Luke 11:42

Your narcissist may have abused you. Your church or friends may have forsaken you. However, our righteous, holy, loving God will never leave you or forsake you.

The Pain of Narcissism

The Narcissist Test

Step 1: Take a moment to think about yourself.

Step 2: If you made it to step 2, you are not a narcissist.

Anonymous

photo by William Fortunato

What is Narcissism?

The word narcissist seems to get thrown around often in the selfie-obsessed world in which we live. If someone is more self-absorbed than the average person, she is quickly labeled a narcissist. However, in the psychological world, the term narcissist doesn’t mean self-love. It’s more accurate to say that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves.

Narcissism is a mental health condition that is characterized by a egotistical sense of self-importance. He/she exaggerates achievements and talents. He expects to be recognized as superior – even when there is no evidence supporting it! (Diagnostic Manual and Statistical of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition)

People with this disorder have no empathy for others. In fact, they have no problem depersonalizing others, even their spouses, if it benefits them in some way. Moreover, narcissists are willing to use and abuse others to serve the image they have created for themselves. (Dr. David Orrison, pastor, author, Narcissism in the Church)

We are all aware that most teens display narcissistic tendencies, however Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often presents itself from teen years to early adulthood.

photo by Andres Ayrton

I let him take everything, until there was nothing left for him to take.
― Eleanor Moran, Too Close For Comfort

Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW, devised a list entitled 7 Deadly Sins of the Narcissist, which I believe will be helpful in identifying a narcissist in your life.

  • Shamelessness – Shame is the underlying factor in all cases of unhealthy narcissism, but they come across as shameless.
  • Shame is processed in a normal manner in a healthy person, however, narcissists have difficulty processing this feeling in a healthy way. Narcissists also tend to inflict shame on other people, a concept referred to as projection.
  • Magical thinking – Narcissists tend to perceive themselves as perfect and flawless. This distorted thinking and illusion is called magical thinking.
  • Arrogance – Arrogance and disregard for other people’s feelings are typical characteristics of narcissism. Narcissists often have a low self-esteem which they try to relieve by insulting or degrading others. This helps to re-inflate their ego when they are feeling deflated or lacking in worth.

Are you thinking of someone you know, yet? Statistics reveal that it’s 75% likely that it’s a male.

photo by Shvets Productions

The List Continued

  •  Envy – Due to their sense of superiority, narcissists may feel insecure when faced with another person’s ability. Therefore, they may try to belittle by demonstrating contempt or be dismissive.
  •  Sense of entitlement –  Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment. They expect automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply may be perceived as an attack on their authority and superiority. A person who disregards their authority is often considered to be a difficult or awkward person by the narcissist, who will proceed to demean them or their opinion, especially in front of others. Defiance can also trigger anger in the narcissist, which is referred to as “narcissistic rage.”
  •  Exploitation – This refers to the narcissist’s tendency to exploit others and show no regard or empathy for their emotions or interests. This often occurs when the other person is in a subservient position, where it is awkward or impossible to resist the narcissist. On some occasions, this subservience is only assumed rather than real.
  • Lack of boundaries – Most narcissists fail to understand their boundaries and recognize that other people are individuals rather than extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who support the self-esteem of the narcissist are expected to always do so, with the narcissist failing to recognize the independence of the other person.
photo by Pexels, Lisa

Since narcissists deep down feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault.” – M. Scott Peck

Covert versus Overt Narcissism

Overt narcissism is what we typically think about when we hear the word. This is the charismatic, boisterous type who must be the center of attention in every situation. These individuals flaunt any attribute they possess – money, looks, career, attractive spouse, etc. In fact, they believe you should feel honored when they spend time with you.

The covert narcissist is less easily identified. There are 10 Signs that may help you identify a covert narcissist:

  1. Extreme sensitivity to criticism – act as if they are above criticism by dismissive, sarcastic remarks
  2. Passive-aggressive behavior – sabotaging, mocking others, giving others the silent treatment
  3. Tendency to put themselves down – but with the goal to receive compliments
  4. Shy or withdrawn nature – People with this type of NPD are deeply insecure and afraid of other people seeing their failure.
  5. Grandiose fantasies – often spend more time thinking about their wild successes than talking about them
  6. Feelings of depression and anxiety – due to their deep fear of failure and unrealized perfectionistic ideals
  7. Tendency to hold grudges – if they feel they have been treated unfairly, they may wait to have revenge
  8. Envy – they are envious of others for what they feel they themselves deserve
  9. Feelings of inadequacy – due to the inability to meet their own unrealistic standards
  10. Insincere empathy – can seem empathetic and compassionate, but it’s usually self-serving and just for show

Covert narcissists can drain the life out of you and make you feel guilty about it at the same time!

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava

 Scripture and Narcissists

I love what 2 Timothy 3:2-5 says, especially in light of what we have learned regarding the characteristics of a narcissist.

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Writer Jen Grice uses this passage to compare with the nine narcissistic traits outlined in the DSM-5. It’s an interesting read, one which I think you will find enlightening. I did.

Many Christians who study the subject of narcissism, especially in the area of domestic violence, believe that the Proverbs dealing with fools aptly apply. Although the word itself isn’t in Scripture, the characteristics of narcissism are spelled out clearly. Grice deals with a few of those, as well.

One truth is clear throughout the Bible, God resists pride and loves humility. James 4:4-6 (ESV) says:

You adulterous people!a]”>[a]”>a Posted on Tags , , , , , 2 Comments on The Pain of Narcissism