July 24, 2013

Do NOT Tell Someone you Care About: " Hey, Did You Know You Were a Narcissist???!!!"

My Eldest Daughter by Carl Larsson

"Nothing you can do or say will cause the other person to change. You can only change your expectations, behaviors, and attitudes, and gain more understanding of yourself and your partner." ~Dr. Nina Brown

My first encounter with narcissism was in the psychology section at Barnes & Noble's bookstore. After pulling the DSM from the shelves, it automatically fell open to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder section. Not long afterwards, I found a message board describing the Jekyll-Hyde personality. There were answers to the confusing dynamics in my marital relationship. I felt palpable relief, moved to the point of tears, frankly.

I make friends easily and don't have a trail of acrimonious relationships. What you see is what you get and I don't fake friendship either. Because I had resolved relational conflict well enough to gain confidence in myself, the perennial problems in my marriage were baffling! Learning about narcissism provided a psychological basis for understanding other people's narcissistic issues, which allowed me to better manage mine.  This understanding established a foundation for changed behavior on my part, whether or not the narcissistic person took responsibility for his/her part in our misery. 

After witnessing the negative toll narcissism has on relationships, I talked openly with loved ones who were able to examine their narcissism (reciprocated by yours truly when they confronted me). I've also talked with people who persecuted me for daring suggest they had issues. There was no way to know beforehand, who could handle the devastating news of our imperfection.

When you bring up the topic of narcissism, there's a risk. A risk that you'll be cut out of that person's life completely, even demonized. Depending on the degree of pathology..lemme repeat that: depending on the degree of pathology, narcissistic people may indeed (contrary to popular opinion) seek treatment. Kindly suggesting someone has narcissistic traits probably won't result in a smear campaign maligning you as crazy. They won't become abusively arrogant and defensive. (defensive to some degree, aren't we all?) They will take responsibility for their behavior because they value relationships; they won't justify using or hurting people to meet the relationship agenda in their Covey Planner.

Not everyone hindered by narcissistic traits has a personality disorder.

Not everyone with a narcissistic personality disorder is a psychopath.

You can't know for sure, just how entrenched someone's narcissism might be.

If someone has a personality disorder, they'll undoubtedly become hostile (a defense against shame) to any suggestion they might be the cause of their own chaos. That they need treatment. That something is wrong with them. 

One more thing: psychiatric diagnosis is a bit of an art form. In other words, "destructive narcissistic patterns" that never change, are better indicators of pathological narcissism than online self-help tests. Especially self-report online tests! It's also important to know that the NPI (narcissistic personality inventory), often referred to when labeling someone with a narcissistic personality, does not measure pathological narcissism. We cannot determine pathology based on readily available tests because there's a crucial difference between narcissism as inflated self-esteem, and narcissism as a fractured identity, alienation from the feeling self, clinical depression and self-loathing, a disconnection from reality into fantasy, inter-personal and intra-personal distress. 

Self-Portrait by Carl Larsson
Over a decade ago, few people blogged about personality disorders. Abysmally few websites described the NPD. Public information about the borderline personality was growing, a collaboration between professionals and laypeople. If we were looking for information about narcissism, our main source was Sam Vaknin, diagnosed with the malignant narcissism syndrome: a mix of  narcissism (NPD) and psychopathy (AsPD). As a result, lay people's perspectives were often skewed towards narcissism as an intractable pathology. I made this mistake and assume other people did, too. It has taken several years for people like myself to distinguish narcissism on a continuum. Even then, some people argue for a categorical distinction only, insisting narcissism is unhealthy and should never be considered normal. 

Another reason people perceive a personality disorder when there may not be one is because we're looking for help after the relationship has deteriorated to the traumatic Devalue and Discard. By that hideously-unforgettable-point, everyone is stressed, broken-hearted, fearful, defensive, let's just say no one is at their best. There are a few memorable moments when this "Self-Portrait" picture says a thousand words about me. If you wanna hear about my clownish antics during the Devalue and Discard, you'll need to bribe me. Send Sara Lee pound cake. No wait. Send a bag of colorful peppers along with roasted Brussels sprouts. I'm in Stage Ten Recovery: eat healthily. 

Why learn about narcissism if we can't share what we've learned with the narcissist?

The point in learning about the narcissistic personality is understanding. We learn about narcissism to end the confusion, to stop the blame that ensues when we can't make sense of their behavior. If we make assumptions about the other person based on our values and beliefs, we'll misinterpret their seemingly nonsensical responses and reactions. Then we will react, escalating a comedy of errors. Like assuming a narcissistic person cares as much about being "nice" as we do. Telling someone with a narcissistic personality that they are NOT nice, won't result in an apology for hurting everyone's feelings. Saying they are NOT nice, might be a compliment if they value dominance as most narcissists do. "You're not nice!" won't be a deterrent. People who treasure relationships value being nice. 

If we hope to, at minimum, reduce conflict, learning about the narcissistic personality is a first step. The next step? Understanding ourselves and changing our behaviors.  

Why You do NOT Want to Say: "Hey, Did You Know You Were a Narcissist???!!!"

Carpenter and Painter by Carl Larsson
A few days ago, anonymous left a comment on my blog that inspired me to write this article. S/he said: 
"I find the repetition and anger that SOME blogs on narcissism and related topics demonstrate, to be astounding. Such as saying, "Narcs are stalkers", now let me spend 25 hours a week blogging about his foulness. It is astounding, the hypocrisy of spending hours deciding 'whats wrong' with their partner." 
Having written about the rat bazturd's foulness for over ten years, I may be the most qualified woman on the net to address anon's valid concerns about ventilating websites crowd-sourcing rage, sometimes bordering on mob hysteria.

Why do people do that? 

When human beings are treated like objects, the trauma of the experience may only find voice in community. The Devalue and Discard experience is dehumanizing enough that anger eventually follows; validation of one's humanity requires a listening ear, a seeing eye, a compassionate heart. We find community on the web. Now truly, it is disconcerting when people first discover a network of angry blogs writing about narcissistic people. And most websites are polarized: those that demonize narcissists as evil creatures, and those that empathize with narcissists as "hurt people hurting people". It's hard finding writers who've been blogging about narcissism long enough to have a more nuanced view---having spent time in the ventilating barrel themselves. As I suggested to anonymous, check how long someone's been blogging. The majority of the time, people resolve their anger and move toward acceptance and a restored sense of self. That big anger served its purpose: jet fuel propelling self-efficacy, self-respect, and a healthy self-esteem. I think there's a shelf life for anger though, just as Elisabeth Kubler Ross described in her grief model.

It's also important to pay attention to the perceived audience. My support is focused on people who've been hurt by narcissistic relationships. This was a conscious choice which does not in any way imply I'm not sympathetic to people suffering from narcissistic disorders. I am open to discourse with narcissistic people who recognize their destructive patterns and want to change. So just as I'd never suggest my bleeding-heart kids attend a Glenn Beck festival, it's probably not a good idea for people with narcissistic issues to frequent blogs written specifically for suffering (angry!) people. 
"I must admit that upon searching out info on various supposed things the girlfriend seems to think could be wrong with me...this is persecution in a way that cuts a loved one in half with their words." ~Anonymous 
This is what touched my heart because after talking with my husband about NPD, I expected him to rush out and sign up for long-term therapy. That our conversation caused him pain instead of hope, surprised me. I didn't expect his narcissism to be my/our biggest foe. I was not blaming him and had no intentions of shaming him when we started talking but you'll see how far my "understanding" got me in the earliest of my writings. However, before talking with him about narcissism, I asked myself this question:

"To What Purpose? What is my reason for doing this?"

If people ask themselves this question before bringing NPD to someone's attention, they may discover their intentions aren't quite as altruistic as they'd like to believe. I was operating in the belief that "family" carried the same meaning for my husband as it did for me.  Well, it didn't. Being honest with ourselves as to WHY we're telling that person about their yucky narcissism, may take several years before revealing our underlying motivations. We may have wanted to diminish the other person because we felt demeaned or "put down" by them. We may have wanted to prove our complaints were valid. We may have wanted to hurt them. Narcissism has become a pejorative with greater stigma to the label than other personality traits or quirks. For example, "You're codependent!" doesn't carry the same sting narcissism does. For those who've tried to fit in by mirroring others, hiding flaws, and disguising imperfections, being told they are narcissistic undermines their entire self-concept.

Is my intent to shame, blame, or hurt them the way they shamed, blamed and hurt me?

Am I accusing or understanding?

Am I helping or hindering?

Do Not :

1) inform someone that according to psychological research studies, s/he's a narcissist
2) inform him or her that everyone agrees s/he is a narcissist, even her mother 
3) send information about narcissism via email, postal service, FedEx, or a phone call
4) leave a sticky note on the frig: "Purchase Malignant Self-Love for Jim"
5) make up a story about your neighbor whose wife was a narcissist. So he dumped her
6) accidentally place Loving the Self-Absorbed on your husband's nightstand
7) rip a tear-soaked page from your diary and leave it on his desk
8) inform them, "My therapist says you're a narcissist" (don't feed the paranoia!)
9) volunteer to help them 'fix' their issues; nor to be his therapist or her mother
10) rationalize your anti-social behavior as justifiable

Why Not?

1) it's profoundly upsetting to narcissists who've hidden flaws and weaknesses
2) narcissists lack empathy; they are sensitive to people's impact on them, not the reverse 
3) people with narcissistic personalities over-react to perceived criticism, perceived insult
4) your desire to help will be perceived as criticism, triggering narcissistic defenses 
5) narcissistic defenses BLOCK self-awareness. You are now a threat 
6) being seen as a threat means you cannot be trusted; your good will is suspect
7) you cannot convince someone they need treatment if the only flaws they see are yours
8) narcissistic people can be extremely hostile, destroying your credibility, your LIFE
9) the time you spend arguing or defending yourself is mentally and physically exhausting
10) you don't have enough time, energy, or 'self-esteem' to deal with the aftermath

Do This Instead:

1) learn about the narcissistic continuum, not just the narcissistic personality disorder
2) if you're struggling, go to therapy to work through your issues and reactions 
3) join a support group challenging you to live up to your values, morals and principles
4) focus on yourself; we have no right to demand others change to suit us 
5) question your beliefs and expectations about how your relationship "should" be 
6) recognize the narcissist's limited emotional intimacy; is this okay with you?
7) find healthy ways to meet your emotional needs, commit to self-care
8) develop resilient boundaries; restore your feelings, opinions, preferences and goals
9) get validating support if you decide to stay or leave the narcissistic relationship
10) be as patient and compassionate with yourself as you've been with other people

"Nothing you can do or say will cause the other person to change. You can only change your expectations, behaviors, and attitudes, and gain more understanding of yourself and your partner." ~Dr. Nina Brown, Loving the Self-Absorbed



Nina W. Brown, Loving the Self-Absorbed. 2003
Nina W. Brown, Children of the Self-Absorbed. 2001
Eleanor D. Payson, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists. 2002
DSM-IV. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth edition.

Other articles pertinent to this topic: 


  1. CZ, you nailed this one. And you've been working on the topics for such a long time that you can now write and crystalize exactly what's essential. I'm sure some bully out there will say I'm sucking up but like I care? What can I get outta you anyway, you apron-wearing salsa-making computer keyboard-tapping, other-supporting double-X chromosomal community-loving homosapien?
    Said of course with the deepest respect. Great post, and as you know too well, very timely for me personally. It puts everything in its place. Nicely framed with Nina Brown's quote. love CS

    1. Ah thanks, CS. I knew you'd be right there to buoy my confidence!

      I'm not the only person who tried talking with "the narcissist" about NPD, verbal abuse, substance abuse, whatever the main problem appeared to be. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't; but with narcissistic personalities, the retaliation can be brutal.

      You may not know someone is dealing with pathological narcissism UNTIL their behavior exceeds reason---out of proportion to the situation. At that point, there isn't anything you can do to reassure them that you care, that your intentions were to help not hurt, that you'll support them through thick and thin. This is one warning in my article, for people who have loving intentions of helping someone with a narcissistic personality. We do not realize the pain we inflict when confronting their narcissism.

      I have felt terrible about being so cavalier with the term "Narcissist". I think most people underestimate the pain it causes people with narcissistic disorders. I may have ruined one of my relationships completely and if I were able to 'take it all back', I would. May other people learn from my mistakes!

      BUT there's another part to my article and that's when Narcissism is used as an arrow aimed straight for someone's heart. When calling someone "A Narcissist" is a means to an end: the end being Winning The Argument. I would think twice about being with anyone who used the label "Narcissist" to ridicule, demean, punish, or hurt me. Especially if I were working on my own shite!

      I kinda felt sad for anonymous after reading his comment! I'd imagine a lot of this is going on now that Narcissism and Psychopathy blogs are flourishing. It's just not right, I tell ya. Narcissism is a bona fide disorder causing terrible pain for everyone, including "the narcissist."

      P.S. I was reading a forum for narcissists the other day and a couple of people said they "LIKED" being narcissists. That to them, being a narcissist meant they were superior beings. Now I don't know anyone in real life with that attitude! People with a narcissistic personality are lonely, empty, constantly searching for something they know they're missing inside but can't find. They are depressed, even clinically depressed and suicidal.

      When someone with a NPD reaches midlife, they tear everything down that they worked so hard to achieve. They want to be 'normal' and have what other people have (satisfaction and meaning) in their lives but they do NOT know how to do that. And they end up as "Tragic Men", an idea from Dr. Kohut that made me cry...

      Love ya,

    2. Hi CZ, I don't know that I agree with you about all NPD's reaching midlife and tearing down what they've achieved. I think the really cunning ones can surround themselves with supply, especially familial supply, and maintain their self-deception indefinitely. I've certainly seen it....maybe the key is in the word "disorder": there are pathological narcissists for whom their behavior is, to use a word I learned here on your blog, "egosyntonic"; being the center of the universe works for my NM and NF, to be sure.

      I definitely agree that slinging the word around does way more harm than good. We need to have respect for the beast, and not cheapen it by tarring everyone whose behavior we don't like with that label. So, I'll see ya on one, differ on another, and we can split the difference. Although I can think of someone who is heading toward "Tragic Man" status for sure...... love ya back. big time. CS

    3. I'm so glad you disagree. Keeps me on my toes and prevents us from forming a cult. ;-)

      Here's what I actually think and should have written: if someone suffers a severe loss, such as job failure, financial failure, getting caught with his pants down to be exact, AND he or she is older---such as late mid-life, they may not be able to recover from the "failure."

      If however, life doesn't break them and they continue to have familial support feeding their grandiosity and maybe they weren't traumatized as children (I think there's a big difference between "spoiled" narcissists and "abused" narcissists), then MIDLIFE may be difficult but it won't break them.

      There are so many stresses in people's lives as they age, wrinkles, death, career limitations, etc. This stage of life is difficult for everyone but especially for people who must finally confront the fact that they are....drum roll: Ordinary.

      Narcissists seem to lose control over their impulses as they age, making riskier and riskier choices. As long as they don't suffer any setbacks or humiliations, they likely won't become the "Tragic Man" Kohut wrote about.

      I wonder if family members might 'sense' how devastating confrontation would be for an older person, so they hold up the mirror to sustain his/her illusion. ACoNs would be especially susceptible to this behavior I would think, since they're usually dealing with excessive guilt and have been groomed to take care of their parent's emotional needs (not the reverse). If the family is cooperative (re: SICK), they'll protect the parent from consequences caused by their narcissistic personality. Any thoughts about that? I figure you'll have one or two. ;-P

    4. So.....'splain to me Anthony Weiner. :-0!

    5. "I wonder if family members might 'sense' how devastating confrontation would be for an older person, so they hold up the mirror to sustain his/her illusion. ACoNs would be especially susceptible to this behavior I would think, since they're usually dealing with excessive guilt and have been groomed to take care of their parent's emotional needs (not the reverse). If the family is cooperative (re: SICK), they'll protect the parent from consequences caused by their narcissistic personality. Any thoughts about that? I figure you'll have one or two. ;-P"---
      Well you've got my FOO in a nutshell here. Siblings rally round parents; we live in a world that rewards successful narcissism (maybe the key is stopping just before pathological?). So the CEO's of the world are, many of them, dyed in the wool narcissists. Are they pathological? Only if there are people close to them whom they've hurt. I think the mark of a narcissistic parent is that they have a child who calls her/himself an ACoN.

    6. If you come across a definitive answers as to WHEN a narcissistic trait becomes Pathological, forward it to me will ya? Some view pathological narcissism as the NPD. Others say we can develop pathological traits (rigid; unchanging) without constituting a personality disorder. Some say the concept of a categorical personality disorder is flawed. It's complicated---especially for laypeople who don't care about an accurate 301.81 classification in the DSM. We just wanna know how to "get along".

      The DSM-5 promised to clarify personality disorders better by suggesting the NPD could only be defined by significant impairments in interpersonal and intrapersonal functioning. These impairments are relatively stable across time and consistent in situations. I pulled this page together on the forum: http://www.webofnarcissism.com/forums/index.php/index.php/page,page397.html

      High-functioning narcissists may never break down (decompensate) but that does not mean they're easy people to live with, does it? Elsa Ronningstam refers to them as "Extra-ordinary" narcissists and we really don't know very much about them. They don't go to therapy, they don't end up in hospital wards. We know more about narcissists whose narcissism failed. They couldn't sustain defenses protecting them from a disappointing reality.

      My X fit easily into the 'failed relationship' categories of the DSM-5 as have other pathological narcissists people have written about. Several were officially diagnosed when suffering a clinical depression, requiring hospitalization. It's much easier to study someone's pathological "thoughts, behaviors and feelings" when they're in a hospital than a boardroom.

      High-functioning, extraordinary narcissists aren't well understood. Since our society glorifies achievers and self-promoters, nobody sees them as Sick or needing treatment. Except perhaps, their closest friends and family.

      As far as explaining Anthony Weiner. YUCK. Only in a narcissistic society would a politician be able to photograph his weiner and retain his popularity. I figure it's because lots of people are photographing their weiners and they'd like to see themselves as normal, too. If he can do it and still be re-elected, then nobody has to question the kajillions of cell phone photographs being taken in office cubicles.

      And it's a sign of the times---nobody wants to be prudish or judgmental or set limits on someone's freedom to do whatever they wanted. Kinda strange times. I've never gotten over Bill Clinton's narcissistic indulgence and SHAMELESSNESS. These high-functioning narcissists have an extraordinary defense against SHAME. Which takes me back to my first comment about decompensation---when the narcissist is unable to sustain defenses protecting him/her from shame.

    7. OK, now put the shoe on the other gender foot. A female politician engaging in sexting and self-photos of her privates, with 23 yr old strangers. See any political future there? Part of why he can even think about getting away with it is tnat most of the men (ok, maybe not most but MANY) are either doing or thinking about doing something similar with their, um, technology. The web and these devices has made it so easy for people who are most compulsive (and they tend to be men) about their genitals to indulge. I can imagine all the upright male pols, Reps. and Dems, who are thinking 'there but for the grace of Grace' go I.

    8. Good one, CS, turning the tables like that. I don't imagine a female politician would be able to salvage her career. It's that old double standard that's slowly fading away, that men can't help themselves poor dears. Which I do NOT believe for a second. Yielding to sexual impulses without fearing consequences is the result of "socialization". I like the ideas people like Jackson Katz are promoting---that men need to hold each other accountable instead of allowing each other to act in anti-social ways.

      (There's a video of Jackson Katz's speech on my blog for readers who haven't seen it).

  2. Excellent post. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing! I may reblog this on mine!


    1. Thanks, Paulette! Nice to hear from you! I'd enjoy reading what you have to say about this blog entry...I hope that it doesn't shame or silence anyone who's MAD AS HELL and refusing to take it any longer. ha!

      My good fortune being 'retired' is having enough time to accompany people on their recovery journey. Anger is part of that. Grief and loss is part of that. That people need to get angry and stay angry is part of restoring our self-respect. When you finally notice you were NOT respected and in fact, were disdained by the narcissist, it's important to stand up for yourself and get angry. So to anyone with a really pissy blog out there, this article is NOT a chastisement.

      I hope people hear in my words, how potentially dangerous it can be to confront someone's narcissism. In my home, we talk about narcissistic behaviors very openly which can lead to a more cavalier attitude, not realizing other people will be offended. I hope people will hear me and avoid confronting anyone with narcissistic issues unless you are pretty darn sure they can handle it. (or you're prepared for WWIII).

      Thanks for reading and commenting...I really appreciate that when I write a big ol' long post like this!

  3. About the DSM 5: the approach to NPD the manual takes is based on people who present as "ill" in some way in their lives. Broken relationships, lost jobs, addictions, run-ins with the law, depression. Based on people who present, as you say, in hospitals and in therapy offices. But we all know that there are many many many people with pathological narc tendencies who operate out there successfully within their families and their workplaces, because one of the hallmarks of NPD is NOT believing there's anything wrong with you. So narcs can be quite resilient. They just throw folks away who don't mirror them and move on to the next supply.

  4. Thanks CZBZ, The nicest thing I learned from studying narcissistic personality continuum, it wasn't me. In fact, my behavior had little or no impact on the situation. I healed myself, learned boundaries, and became a healthy person then the relationship changed because I did.
    Great post.

    1. Yes, CS. WE know that even those "extra-ordinary" narcissists Elsa Ronningstam identified, cause "injure" their nearest-and-dearest who may not be able to live to THEIR fullest potential because of the damage done to their self-esteem. A child's most basic sense of self is "mirrored" by empathic and emotionmally available parents so if that is lacking, the child will struggle developing a sense of his/her self. I think that's pretty fair to say---that the children of those "extraordinary" narcissists will work much harder developing a clear sense of self than children who were raised by parents that weren't narcissistic.

      I don't subscribe to the idea that ACoNs are doomed to repeat parental dysfunction. That they will be limited by their childhood. Just as psychologists have a 'skewed' perception about narcissism because they see people who have "broken down" in some way, the same thing happens with children of narcissists. Many seek professional treatment but a great many more do not seek treatment. Are those more resilience ACoNs accounted for in the research? I think the vast majority of ACoNs live productive and healthy lives, striving the best they can change and even eliminate "narcissistic patterns."

      Our conversation compels me to write another article about those "Extraordinary Narcissists" so revered in our materialistic society. My back went out this week so I'll steal a few moments away from my current fascination with cults, to dredge up Ronningstam's research on extraordinary narcissists, what Macoby refers to as Productive Narcissists. No where in any of the apologetic articles about productive extraordinary narcissists, do we read about the damage done to their intimates OR employees.

    2. Hello Ruth! I haven't been traveling around the blogosphere very much lately so it's lovely to see hear from you today.

      Because it appears we're becoming more narcissistic than our ancestors, understanding how narcissism hinders self-development and intimate relationships is important! Like yourself, I am becoming more skilled in handling MY reactions to 'narcissistic people' which keeps the confusion to a tolerable level. The only way this can work though, is if both people want it to work.

      Thank you for commenting!


    3. Oh no, your back went out? You've had a stressful week, I know. I think it'd be a great time for you to write more about 'extraordinary narcissists' when you've able to sit upright. You understand the complexities so very well. It's such a "live" topic, because over there--in the "professional diagnosis" wing, are social scientists/psychologists trying to nail down hard data criteria, and over here, in the experiential wing, are those of us who have survived, pieced selves together, and working to outgrow the damage done to us. I look forward to reading your next post. Always do. love CS

    4. I've been writing an article all the day long and hope its worth reading tomorrow. It can take hours for me to put my thoughts into words, that's why I always complain about "not being a writer." Then I read somewhere that authors re-write their books several times so gosh, why should I be able to write a post in half an hour?

      What is funny is that years ago, I COULD write something in half an hour but that's because I didn't know very much about narcissism. The more I know the harder it gets to write anything without cringing over the contradictions. ARGH

      Thank you for pushing me to think a little more deeply about negative consequences of so-called "normal" narcissism. Very little has been written about extraordinary narcissism so I'm kinda wingin' it, and would love your input, even guidance.

    5. Morning CZ, if it helps, I have to revise anything worth publishing a dozen times. That's why my blog posts aren't all that good, because I kind of shoot them off.
      Yours are always (ALWAYS) well-researched, in depth, and stand as pieces of writing. I don't think of any single post I've done that I feel that way about.

      People cut "normal" narcissists (ie, those whose lives are just fine thank you very much), way too much slack. It's like, unless everything's tanking they aren't really regarded as pathological. I look forward to your article, there will be lots to respond to, I have no doubt. love CS

    6. Yes, that does make me feel better. I usually expect more of myself than is healthy so 'reality checks' are very helpful!

      I think one reason why I spend so much time putting a post together is because I'm working out WHAT I think. I'm not always sure at first. Writing allows me to integrate my experiences with the information.

      Your clarity and laser insight is quick and to the point, like a sprinter. I admire that so much. Me? I'm kind of a meander-er, more of a marathon poster. hahahaha

  5. Hi CZ,

    Great post; I have looked at narcissism in this way when I was first researching. Reading and understanding more, like this post, helps me see that there is a range. And there is a range that I see in a lot of friends who behave with these traits. And not get stuck in my own thoughts.

    xxoo TR

    1. Hi T Reddy!

      How wonderful to hear from you! It feels like I know you already, from reading your replies to CS, always insightful conversations.

      We're starting to understand narcissism as a personality trait which will clear up some of the confusion, I hope! We can't run away from everyone with narcissistic traits. AND, our society seems to be more individualistic than ever before. That doesn't mean we won't have our comeuppance at some point if we take things too far. Which we usually do. Societies seem to do things in extremes; so once we figure out where the "stopping point" is for individualism, we'll swing back towards connection and community. At least I hope so.


    2. Hi CZ,

      Yes, we've had very insightful conversations over at CS! Good to connect with you here!

      The tipping point is hard to figure out in some of my relationships. I struggle often and as you said, we can't run from them all. 'Societies seem to do things in extremes' - so true, I find I go to extremes to find some sort of balance. Especially when dealing with new emotions or changing a behaviour pattern.

      xxoo TR

    3. I think part of it for me is that at different points in my life I might have been better able to deal with "garden variety" narcissism had I understood more about it earlier. I do know that nothing excuses my mother's treatment of me, and nothing explains my father's willful obliviousness. But I'd like to able to let the narcissism in others, such as friends, roll off me a little better. I know I struggle with my own narcissistic tendencies, hopefully lessened by what I'm learning now. I find myself seeing lines that appear on my face and being glad they are there. It's like the outward sign of what's happening on the inside. I feel a correlation there, maybe for the first time. I have learned SO MUCH from blogging with you guys, and CZ, you are just my rock. CS

    4. Hi T Reddy and CS,

      If we ran from anyone who behaved narcissistically (in our opinion, that is), we'd run from ourselves. Which IS what happens when narcissism is equated with pathology---we set ourselves up for denial and self-deception! If we can look at narcissism as component of everyone's personality, we'll create better relationships with other people AND with ourselves.

      I remain extremely curious about narcissism, maybe because of my life experience? There is no doubt nor hesitation in admitting I've dealt with some fairly heavy-duty narcissistic wounds myself. My behavior hasn't ALWAYS been as idyllic as it is today. ROFL I have matured, so to speak, my narcissism. Which is definitely NOT easy in a culture that encourages immature narcissism such as "idealization of youth" such as you mentioned, CS.

      Some people argue for a clinical/categorical definition of narcissism. I prefer the dimensional view which prevents polarization, even demonization of anyone with narcissistic disturbances, disorders, styles, etc.

      I think the confusion (and I won't be able to clarify it for anyone!) occurs when someone was dealing with a "malignant narcissist" (NPD + Psychopathy/AsPD). But that's like narcissism on steroids and it IS dangerous to other people and most likely incurable.

      I think that most of us who've suffered narcissistic wounds in childhood, transfer our experience onto anyone displaying similar wounds and that's when we get in serious trouble. We assume that like ourselves, the other person will appreciate learning about narcissism. We assume the other person has the benefit of personal insight and will suddenly realize they ARE causing their relational problems. We assume they can bear the shame of imperfection, of having skewed perceptions, of being flawed. We assume these things because we recognize our narcissism in the literature.

      This is why I was literally so shocked when my x-husbaND didn't respond to professional literature with a "ye-haw, thank you" the way I did. When attending parenting classes through Alanon, I didn't resist feeling lousy about my mistakes. I embraced it as the means to healthy change. Who would know other people were not like that until they retaliated in very (sometimes tragically) aggressive ways?

      I am still trying to figure out how we can use both 'non-clinical' and 'clinical' definitions of narcissism on a continuum. My goal is to help people make better choices in their lives, either by changing their reactions to narcissistic people or ending an abusive and destructive narcissistic relationship.

      I am yakky this morning. LOL (Time to respond to your comment on my "twilight" post, CS.

      Thanks for talking with me T Reddy and CS. I posted for a few years with hardly a response to my articles so this is a true joy. I very much appreciate the time it takes to not only READ my marathon posts, but leave comments, too!


    5. Hi guys, CZ, I ordered Roningstam's book from Amazon today. I'm with you on a multi-dimensional rather than clinical understanding of Narcissism, which is why your blog has been such a treasure, since you really have written about nearly every point along the continuum. I think it's exceedingly hard to write clearly about people whose behavior just plain f-ing baffle us. LIke your former associate guru ex who basically went nuts. People who think they see things in others but CANNOT see the same thing in themselves (some cyberbullies have done that). I will never for the life of me understand how anyone can regularly DARVO, for instance. How can they do it? What goes on in their brains that lets them do that? My mother believes herself to be MUCH more deeply intelligent than she actually is. She can only go a few layers deep, though, and then she hits a wall. What she has, is tactical cunning. She's a "nut sheller", a "tagliner," a "what's the takeaway" person. A sloganeer, a cliche monger. It lets her feel like everything else is needless complication. ON this basis, she believes she has the truth of things, as presents it as no-nonsense common sense. Like I've said, she takes the gold carefully crafted by others and turns it into cardboard. Then markets that cardboard and expects to be interviewed on Oprah. And yet, no one would say she's technically INSANE. She's fully functional. What do we do with such folk? We've argued over whether narcissism makes one stupid or more cunning; what about hybrids who are both stupid and cunning? My mother is nothing if not cunning; but there's a deep stupidity to it, an unnecessary spitefulness that makes its way out needlessly. Where do we locate on the clinical list someone who complements you by insulting you? ("your posture's amazing, you look like you have a pole up your ass.")?
      So I just think it's so slippery, at least it is for me. It is true, at the same time, that my mother would test way high on the NPD and the covert chart. Now I'm rambling....

    6. ps She also exhibits highly on the Histrionic personality index. Emotionally shallow, performative, theatrical, capricious. OY


    7. At the risk of NOT sounding New-Agey, I want to help people but I'm admittedly helping myself. Having some kind of yardstick measuring narcissism as "Normal or Not" would be a VERY useful tool in my kitchen. 1/8 cup of narcissism won't ruin the pudding; 1/2 cup will. Two teaspoons raises angel food cake; four teaspoons flattens it. Something like that, so says the lady in the frilly apron.

      Ronningstam's book was written for psychologists and researchers. It does not read like a story, in case people are considering buying it. It's statistics, research results, co-morbidities, what we currently know about narcissism. I've used Ronningstam's books extensively when writing responses to people on the forum. It's been my Bible simply because there's a lot of crap-o-shallow-lay on the web.

      I hope my blog reflects the Personal Experience because I do not pretend to be a psychologist, therapist, OR relationship expert!!! Thus the big white hat on my sidebar and my persistent insistence on the Rat Bazturd diagnosis. I hope readers feel inspired to dig a little deeper than "I hate Narcissists because they're EVIL" websites.

      As you wrote about your mother, CS, it IS completely baffling that intelligent people (like my X) could be so incredibly stupid. I reached over one day and tapped him on the forehead, "Are you still in there, dude???"

      The complete switch from Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde was bizarre but he was unable to see it. He was unable to see that HIS perceptions of me had changed. You'd think he'd notice that he and his girlfriend were the only people on the planet who saw ME as manipulative and cunning. His allegations make me laugh even today because one thing I am not, is cunning. My heart is on my sleeve and what you see is what you get.

      "she takes the gold carefully crafted by others and turns it into cardboard."

      hahaha! You can't know how much this makes me laugh but my X was fond of saying he "took people's ideas and made them real." I'm sure he heard that phrase in his Covey Business Leaders training. See? I'm no angel. I can be a snarky turd.

      I've never heard the term "nutsheller" but cliche monger, yes. Exactly...the ability to parrot back what they've heard is one reason why many of us are confused when we suddenly realize we thought they understood something they didn't. Such as this experience with my X who was studying Deepok Chopra at the time. He kept telling me that spirituality meant moving away from the tribe, moving on. I read the same material he did and my interpretation was metaphorical (of course!) meaning "leave the old self behind and move into a new life. Leave the old tribe of inner critics and inner criminals in your past." My X packed his suitcase and drove to his girlfriend's house, patting himself on the back for having courage. At that point, the kids and I realized something was NOT right in Denmark. Another great cliche that doesn't mean buying an airline ticket.

      Histrionic personality disorder is so close to what people write about NPD that it didn't surprise me when the DSM committee proposed leaving Histrionic and eliminating NPD. I think NPD is fundamental to all personality disorders. It's kinda like the match in a box of kindling and that is why you do not, IF YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF, wanna excuse exaggerated narcissism and dismiss it as normal behavior.

    8. Just catching up on the later portion of this thread, CZ. That's amazing that your ex read "moving away from the tribe" literary. What a dummy (sorry, I know you used to love the guy, but sheeessh). Reminds me again that the self-help narcissists are some of the most insidious out there. For ever "King of the World" type--who we know to steer clear of--there are the "let me show you the seven easy steps" kind. Gah. Interesting to think that NPD is fundamental to all PD. It's definitely central to HPD, BUT, I think with HPD there is much more borderline and less of the deep cunning of narcissism. Shades of distinction maybe. love CS

    9. Catching up on this thread as well. I think quantifying narcissism and the range would be great and give a guideline (1/4 ok, etc.). The other aspect is the person't tolerance for it. I have been thinking a lot of this post in regard to my SiL who is an MD and is very smart. I do not feel connected to her in any way. She is emotionally distant and so is BiL. They fit well and I have met her friends. The tipping point of each person is another factor. SiL doesn't fit the pathological description as far as career, husband, friends, etc. - but I know she is toxic to my emotional and physical health. Great discussion, TR

  6. I like this post a lot (especially the "why not" part... and illustrations :))
    I have similar reactions on many videos and posts about how "awful" those Narcissists are - over there... The finger pointing, blame and name calling seem to all be "ok" when you are talking about the "boogie-man"- the Narcissist :) While at first emotional venting is understood, spending time learning about this condition and ppl. affected and paying attention to your own role in the relationship seems a lot more productive. Thank you for an intelligent yet easy to understand post! I have a video channel and blog on the same subject (Narcissism) that was born out of exasperation at all the "Narcissist bashing" videos out there... If you would like to support the message, please come check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/NPDrecovery and http://npdrecovery.blogspot.com/
    Thank you!

    1. Hi MelodyMine! I'll take a look at your website and videos today. Hopefully. You know how it is during the holidays! So much to do and too little time to do it.

      I don't get too upset when people finger-point and blame. I call my X a "rat bazturd" which would make most people feel badly but not dominating narcissists who consider it a compliment. ;-P Having been involved in 'recovery' for over ten years now, I've been fortunate to see people heal. They are often trying TOO HARD to be nice and PLEASE the narcissist, even when they're being abused by the narcissist. We cannot forgive a crime in progress, ya know? So one of the first steps is gaining access to one's righteous anger because that anger fuels self-protection. As long as we're putting the narcissist's widdle feewings ahead of our own hurt feelings, we'll keep getting hurt.

      It might seem disproportional to the entire healing process when people first land on angry websites and pissy youtube videos. The vast majority of people stop posting once they feeling and doing better---once the abuse has ended. So I think that while it's important to remember narcissists are people, too---abuse is always ugly and eve angry victims deserve our compassion.

      Like I said, it takes time to feel safe enough in our skin to even "think" kindly towards someone who hurt us. By that point, most people have moved on with their lives and even 'abandoned' their websites.


  7. CZ, I wish I had read this post before I told xN that my therapist thought he was a Narcissist, before I called him a Narcissist, sharing all the examples that he was a Narcissist. Lol. Of course the result was NOT what I had hoped for. He seemed to listen and even agree with what I said but the next day he was more defensive than ever and everything was turned against ME. Personally, I realize now that I was NOT trying to help xN by trying to make him understand his disorder. What I wanted was for him to understand ME and what I had endured while in a relationship with him. But by telling him how much he had hurt me (again, a classic mistake!) only gave him more reasons to HATE me. xN actually told me I had become a threat to him because I made him feel bad about himself (and then he accused ME of playing the victim!). And of course, having become a threat, he then had to annihilate me. And that meant, of course that instead of genuine apologies, I got hurt again!! I think that focusing on Narcissists and trying to make them understand their behavior and how it affects us is part of our process. At least personally, it was only after focusing my attention on him and how abnormal his behavior was that I was able to finally lose hope of any change for the better and then to focus on my own mental health instead. Great post CZ!!! <3 Alison

    1. "What I wanted was for him to understand ME and what I had endured while in a relationship with him. But by telling him how much he had hurt me (again, a classic mistake!) only gave him more reasons to HATE me. " ~Alison

      You said it, Alison! You have written a lot of people's stories in that single paragraph, not just your own! Wanting him to understand how he hurt you is common when people who don't know anything about "pathology." We ASSUME the other person wants to know what they did that hurt us. We ASSUME the other person wants to correct or reconcile the relationship---at least find closure by taking responsibility for his/her share of the troubles. We ASSUME the relationship was valuable to both people, valuable enough to hold each person steady while problems were confronted and reconciled. However, it is easier for someone to walk away when they are not emotionally bonded to the "complaining" party. As I put on my sidebar and hope everyone reads until it sinks into their hearts and minds:

      “The problem with the narcissist's lack of attachment is not summed up as a fear of commitment. The inability to bond means they are capable of walking away at any point, if they perceive better options elsewhere. A narcissist is a huge risk for anyone to have as a long-term partner. Why? Because they are capable of leaving when we need them the most."

      You have done so well, Alison! And you've created healthy relationships with people while you were gaining insight into narcissism and your self.


  8. I know, as I know that night follows day, that if I said to my ex, "I saw you had a diagnosis of mild personality disorder, but I think it may be Narcissistic Personality disorder," he would say, "You're the narcissist, not me. That describes you perfectly. That's why we've had all these problems." Except of course, I can't talk to him again, because it'd make me suicidal - that's how I am about him and his rejection of me.

    And if I did tell him that, it would be so that he could gain insight into the condition, make changes, and become the lovely man I fell in love with. Which, now I write it down, does seem self-serving. But wouldn't he be happier too? He's apologise, and explain, and I'd help him through it, and I'd apologise and explain all my emotional problems (I have quite e few) and oh we'd be happy!

    No. It'd be the same as when he told me he's wanted to hit me. And I confronted him with that when I broke No Contact today. Apparently, when that happened I'd upset him when he was having a bad day. So I made him threaten me.

    You can analyse something to death, but if someone threatens you and then says you made them do it, that's enough.

    I do have to keep repeating this to myself. He left me three times in six weeks. He threatened me and then blamed me for it.

    It just will not tally with the lovely man I fell in love with. It's impossible to imagine him threatening a woman. Well, yes, there was that girl a few years back, but that was different - she deserved it.

    It's a mess, isn't it.

    Part of me thinks, If he isn't really NPD or even BPD, if he just has fits of it and is fine after, then I can get back with him and we'll be happy. It'll be as if I woke up a few weeks into our time together and said, "I had this horrible dream where you said he wanted to hit me," and he'd be appalled and comfort me.

    Maybe if I go back and tell him all this now -

    Only joking.

    Pretty sour joke though.

    1. I loved reading your :apology" fantasy that would lead to lovingly intimate relationship, ha! I had quite a few of those myself before finally accepting the truth. Talk about resisting reality! wow. I was a reality-rebel.

      When you look back on your experience (in a few years), you'll be amazed how hard you worked to keep an unhealthy (maybe even abusive) relationship together. Keep writing about the actual events that took place; the things he said and did that caused you such harm and broke your heart. Write about your reactions and behaviors. This will give you a baseline you can rely on when Fantasy Island beckons! Keep a notebook handy and write your heart out when something so awful happens that you can barely keep the incident in your mind before leaping into LaLaLand. We have to outsmart ourselves and stick to the truth and nothing but the truth because we tend to minimize 'their' problems and magnify 'our' own. Pretty soon, burning the eggs for breakfast is worse than being assaulted because we burned his eggs. Our heads can fool us into some pretty self-destructive behaviors when we're hurting......

      Big hugs,

  9. CZ, I myself suffered from having narcissistic characteristics which lead into full blown depression. I battled for years through counselling and exposing my emotions to friends and family to become a person who, for lack of a better term, has his shit together. Independence, a career and self respect.
    I recently went out on a date with a girl I had just recently met. The dinner went great; we laughed, had fantastic conversations and I believed we related well on several topics. At the end of the night, however, she made it a point that she wasn't looking for a relationship and just wanted to be friends. I felt crushed, because it really made no sense to me at the time. I thought on some of our conversation about how she dated a complete stoner (with whom she broke up less than 2 weeks prior) and how she kept putting up with him. In addition, she took care of her older brother (26 and she is 24) like a mother and craves his attention. Even to the point where she convinced him to choose between his gf or his family. I realized then that she had narcissistic tendencies and an attraction towards codependant relationships. This despite the fact she is immensely smart and talented. I see her often and in my heart, I feel like if she were aware of her tendencies, she might realize the mistakes she has made in the past. I also know, as I am writing this, that I can do better than her. Should I make mention (without using narcissism) that her recent relationships are potentially hurting her more than she thinks?

    Cheers and thanks,


    1. Hi Anon,

      Congratulations on getting your shit together. I too broke through some "narcissistic defenses" which has given me a lot of insight and compassion for people with a narcissistic disorder. So you had a fantastic dinner with stimulating conversation with a woman who decided to be "just friends"...sounds like she's still looking for that extra something we could call the Pathology Spark. ha!

      If someone lacks insight and is hurt by criticism, telling them they're screwing up won't result in changed behavior. They'll feel "judged", even talked down to; and then you not only won't have a girlfriend, you won't have a justfriend. The defenses people have in place are there for a reason and only when it's time for that person to lower their guard and peer into themselves for answers, will they be able to make connections between the present and the past.

      I wouldn't suggest telling her she's choosing relationships that hurt her. She will figure that out eventually (as we all do...when we are ready to see it). If you want her to be your friend because you enjoy talking with each other, then don't try to be her father or her therapist. ha!

      What I've found to be the most helpful in situations like this is treating that person with the respect and dignity we each deserve. The better they feel about themselves, the less likely they'll repeat destructive relationships. Friends have the potential to change destructive behaviors without EVER talking about, pointing out, or diagnosing their personal issues.

      As far as deserving someone better than her, who knows? Some of the best partners on the planet are caregivers, the kind of people who want to alleviate other people's pain and suffering. What I do know pretty much for certain is that unless you are an intimate friend and a trusted confidante, and unless she asked for your opinion, it's not your business to tell her what "you" see or think about her choices. Some of us learn this faster than others, ha! I'm a slow learner.


    2. Suffice to say, that's great advice. I think I am always wary of acting like the knight in shining armour, but the easiest way to save the day is not to charge in swinging. You might cut off the wrong head.

      Thanks a bunch,


  10. [1] What the hell, spammers?

    [2] I have recently realized that the man I love (who also loves me, whoo!) is narcissistic. I honestly had thought it was me early on in the relationship before I forced myself to take a good, honest look and I knew that something was... not bad, but definitely off about our relationship. This being said, having read many of the obstacles involved with this, I have actually been handling this well--with exception to one thing: whenever we talk about topics relating to our relationship, I usually end up putting him on the defensive without ever meaning to.

    I have a distinct lack of a way with words when speaking verbally as opposed to writing. This, coupled with my strong tendency toward speaking, and taking/understanding things, literally often causes confusion in the relationship. My mind simply does not work like his, I have accepted that. He has accepted that. I know that I cannot approach him with this information and expect rationality from him if I do so in my usual manner, so I will not even try to do that. He knows that he is slightly narcissistic, has admitted it to me, so drawing more attention to it, I feel, would be both cruel and counter-productive.

    My question is this: How would you recommend I go about speaking to him in a way that will not put him on the defensive?

    These are discussions we need to have if we want any sort of long-term relationship (and I know he does, and I know I do) and they cannot happen if he is immediately on the defensive either because of unintended criticism or perceived criticism. What I perceive and intend as a to-the-point, honest question or concern, he reacts to with things like "Fine. I will not do [so-and-so thing] again. After all, you just want obedience."--> Not really at all, actually, but it would be nice if you did not pour ice into the bed to wake me up when you have written accounts that the only time I am ever even remotely demonic is when I wake up. And you know I hate being cold. Or "You're mad I told about [such-and-such problem]. Fine, lesson learned. I should never have told you."--> No, you should definitely tell me about a problem concerning us, especially when you have been avoiding talking to me for a week because you were contemplating whether or not you still loved me after dating for nearly nine months and I was confused and a bit angry because of the confusion and you took my anger to mean that you should have kept silent even though you had a week to think about it and had only told me a half-hour ago. (That was one of the bigger bumps in the road, I'll admit.)

    The point is, I just... I really do love him and I want to be speak about these things without the conversation derailing into apologies and reassurances so that, in the end, the issue is not discussed. I was hoping you could help.

    Thank you.

    1. I may be able to help. There are some good books describing healthy ways to engage in conversation. I am pressed for time right now and can't go through my resources (which I'm happy to do next week). Please check back Monday or Tuesday and I'll have a list ready for you, plus a few suggestions.


      p.s. I deleted all the spam comments clogging up this thread. It's so annoying!!


    2. From Kingdom:

      "I have a distinct lack of a way with words when speaking verbally as opposed to writing. This, coupled with my strong tendency toward speaking, and taking/understanding things, literally often causes confusion in the relationship. My mind simply does not work like his, I have accepted that. He has accepted that. I know that I cannot approach him with this information and expect rationality from him if I do so in my usual manner, so I will not even try to do that. He knows that he is slightly narcissistic, has admitted it to me, so drawing more attention to it, I feel, would be both cruel and counter-productive."

      First of all, your comment sounds exactly like my first post on a NPD forum. I came across my first-message-ever and was stunned at the change from "me-then" to "me-today." I believed, as do you, that there was something wrong with my ability to communicate because my husbaNd had told me so for many years. Funny how I'd blame myself for being verbally ineffective (cuz I was emotional, not rational) when I got along great with other people. No one, other than my husband, accused me of being inarticulate. Because of my experience, I would suggest getting feedback from others and if you are able to negotiate healthy relationships with most people, then the problem is definitely your boyfriend's. Not yours. Give up the 50% ownership bullshit people preach from relationship sites. It is not 50% your problem that your boyfriend sees insult where none was intended.

      I have to say that he sounds excessively controlling and judgmental---expecting you to CHANGE your manner of speaking rather than him taking responsibility for his 'defensive reactions." Narcissists have a problem reading "insult" into other people's words and it can be impossible in some cases, for them to change their perceptions.

      If he is throwing ice water on you in the morning because that's when he believes you're more demonic..well...I'm not sure how to address that situation other than to say it's "sadistic" and you probably don't want to marry that.

      Kingdom wrote: "My question is this: How would you recommend I go about speaking to him in a way that will not put him on the defensive? "

      Any book by Dr. Nina Brown will help you understand the narcissistic personality and yourself. She encourages people to examine their reactions rather than polarizing people into "us or them." She has a book titled, "How to Love the Self-absorbed" which you might find helpful. I really think Nina Brown is the best resource because she doesn't get into psycho-mumbo jumbo. She lays it out clean and simple.

      Going back to the ice-water-thing though, the best reply to that situation (and I'm sure Dr. Brown will agree with me) is "STOP and NO." You must set clear boundaries on aggression, Kingdom; and you don't have to explain WHY. You are not obligated to teach him to stop throwing ice water on you; you are obligated to take care of yourself and that means saying "NO" and taking action if you aren't being treated with respect and kindness.

      Just say "NO" and then see what he does. If he is marriage-material, he'll stop. He may apologize and maybe he won't but he'll STOP. You must pay attention to his actions more than words and avoid falling into the trap of "teaching him to be kind."


    3. As someone who has been in three narcisstic relationships, RUN DO NOT WALK. Remember, a narcissist is not capable of giving or receiving love. They are fake at relationships. Get Out while you still can/

  11. Wow, This is such a great article. The best information on my subject. I am currently in the process of a nasty divorce from a narcissist. But............ His Mother is the Queen Bee on narcissist. She has done each and everyone of these examples. She taught her son very well. I still refer to her as Mommy Dearest and always will. If it weren't for my parents I would be living on the streets. I found my faith in Christ. Without this I would be in the mental hospital. (Oh I forgot, He did that already). Told family and friends that I was nuts.

    1. Hi anonymous...thank God for your parents, right? When the narcissistic marriage ends, we finally understand the value and importance of family and lucky we are if they're willing and able to support us. I relied heavily on my family for awhile. The financial and emotional losses were overwhelming!

      And gosh, most of us were accused of being crazy. Why? Well, It Works...people are willing to believe the wife is "nutz" and narcissists will say whatever allows them to get away with what they want to do. And what they want to do is "move on"...to a better source of narcissistic supply.

      Do you belong to a forum or online community? You might find some guidance on our group: webofnarcissism.com There's a direct link at the top of my blog if you are interested.

      It is very important right now, for you to recognize your 'triggers'. The things he says and does that keep you in a reactive mode. This is not a criticism---we've all done it. AND, it's a mighty tall order during divorce since narcissists tend to be antagonistic beyond the norm. If his mother is 'validating' his aggression, then you are in for a rough time. I would highly suggest a therapist with knowledge about narcissists and an online group to help you understand this disorder and make connections with people like yourself.

      It's horrible, anonymous...I am so sorry you're going through this.


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  13. The psychopath I dealt with knew he is a narcissist. I think he realizes now he is a psychopath. The ONLY reason I talked openly about my experience with him was in the hope to warn others about him. He is somewhat well known around the world. I thought I had figured out something very important and needed to sound the whistle to save someone else from going through what happened to me at his hands. But no one stood with me. No one showed me any understanding or kindness. I can only hope they were reading what I wrote so they will recognize narc/psychopaths when they encounter them. Altruistically...I hope I helped someone to avert disaster. Realistically, I was made to understand no one cares what happened to me...suck it up they seem to think...until it happens to them.

    1. Hello Para! I must apologize for being so late responding to your comment. My life has been a bit of a disaster the past two months. We're on the downside now thought! Yaya! Learning to tuck-and-roll with whatever life hands us, that's the challenge isn't it?

      It sounds like you wrote about someone you suspected of being psychopathic and he was a public figure who had followers who defended him?

      And it also sounds like you hoped by talking to him, that he would be responsible about his deficits and take precautions before hurting someone else? And you discovered what most people discover: we are less convincing than the narcissist/psychopath.

      You know what happens to whistleblowers, right? They need legal protection before telling anyone the building is on fire. Whistleblowers are punished and like messengers of bad news, people blame them instead.

      I know how hard it is to "let things go" when we know another person will suffer. That's when it can be helpful to have a therapist or close friend, someone we can talk to before we purchase a billboard or buy an ad in the paper, ha! We need to also consider legal ramifications such as "slander" which I hope hasn't happened to you, Para. The drive to do something is very powerful but in circumstances like this, we're much better off just Sitting on Our Hands and Doing Nothing. We must take care of our feelings, our needs, our wounds and trust that other people can take care of themselves.

      It is natural and normal to want to do something to help people avoid being hurt the way we were. It doesn't seem to work if we're warning people about a specific person but there are many ways to fulfill this innate and beautiful desire such as volunteering in crisis centers, support groups, food kitchens---just anywhere there's a need for a helping hand. It seems to help us recover even if the work isn't specific to pathology. You may already being doing this but I wanted to say something to other readers who would like to do something to help others.


  14. Thanks for a site which is not focused on being the victim and has a sense of intelligent humour about it. I have never told my ex he ticks every box for being a narcissist.....hacking into my phone to track my movements and hacking into my online security camera software so he can break into my house to stand behind the camera and throw books at a wall to trigger the cameras and scare me during the family court battle he started (and 'lost') might tell you where he might be on the continuum...but 2 years on from the end of it all (well as much as you can end when you're co-parenting....) I can see clearly how my behaviour enabled him. I wasn't the smartest girl.....ignoring a text that arrived that was meant for another woman that claimed I was a suicidal hopeless mother.....yeah, that REALLY worked....getting really angry with him....as if THAT worked......my journey has involved acceptance of him but a lot about myself too. I sometimes think he forced me to find my truths and so really I should genuinely thank him for that, lol. I refuse to be bitter, to be a victim or to hold someone else entirely responsible. I tell only my closest friends of his Dumb Dad moments (I think I'm up to Dumb Dad Moment # 72) and when my kids feel like the victim I validate their feelings but remind them of my approach to life: 'Nothing is really in our control kids. Anything might happen. The one single thing in life most of us CAN control are our words, our actions, and our decisions. It takes practice, Mum still doesn't get it right all the time and she'd love to tell you she's going to be perfect one day but none of us is ever perfect. The trick is to keep the warmth in your heart and keep trying. Achieve that in your life and you'll be OK kids..."

    1. Hello NT! Thank you for being here and adding to our collective understanding of pathological narcissism. You've been through a terrible experience with a man whom you realized soon enough, would react badly should you speak to him about what you've learned about narcissism. You were obviously perceptive enough to weigh the consequences---even when "we" are most likely to talk to this person because of our "malignant optimism." And why not? We have a lot to lose since most people have built their lives based on a reliable partner who appeared to be (for the most part), trustworthy. It's so confusing when we find out they are NOT as committed to the relationship as ourselves that most of us turn ourselves into pretzels, trying to "save" the relationship.

      BUT, at that point, narcissists are hell-bent to "discard" us without blaming themselves in anyway (self-righteousness is so addictive, isn't it?) and the things they do and say are too egregious/abusive to rationalize. I know this bitter moment when hope ceases to exist and the myriad of problems we must confront and resolve, rush before our eyes. IT's overwhelming really and yet somehow, our courage comes from somewhere and we do whatever must be done to "end" the misery.

      I loved reading what you tell your children when they're expressing their feelings about their father (or about anything). Instead of focusing on what a rat baztard of a man you married and what a jerk their father is, you teach them resilience. You teach them that whatever they will face in life, this experience will teach them how to bend in the wind, to go with the flow, to survive the losses every human faces. I think it's also important to remind our kids that they're not alone---that many children experience similar griefs/frustrations and that it doesn't say anything about them. Their father's rejection (inability to sustain a long-term relationship) is not their deficit. They are lovable exactly as they are.

      I have made many mistakes navigating this somewhat uncharted terrain but making my decisions based on what was best for the children has always proven to be wise.

      Thanks for reading and commenting...it's comforting to know that people are learning about narcissism to help themselves, rather than turning this information into a weapon to use against someone we once loved. (and our children still love!)


  15. I wish you would reevaluate your use of the word 'nice'. It is vague, weakly defined and seems quite childish. There are much more grown-up words such as kind, honest, courageous, strong, etcetera.

    1. "Like assuming a narcissistic person cares as much about being "nice" as we do. Telling someone with a narcissistic personality that they are NOT nice, won't result in an apology for hurting everyone's feelings. Saying they are NOT nice, might be a compliment if they value dominance as most narcissists do. "You're not nice!" won't be a deterrent. People who treasure relationships value being nice."

      Is this the offensive paragraph in my essay, anonymous? If so, the word was selected carefully. Try using your "better" words in this paragraph and I think you will see that it muddles my point. In other words: "Nice" is defined as being pleasant and agreeable. Nice is often interpreted by narcissistic people (less invested in communal harmony) as being weak, a putz, a dullard; but I've never heard it defined as immature. so there ya go. That's a first. ;-P

      In my online travels, I've noticed people ridiculing "nice" and a book titled, "No More NICE girl" has been sitting in my library for years. The first time I read an article discussing "nice" as a gendered restriction on female behavior, it rang true to my childhood. "Be Nice!" was frequently ordered by adults if a young girl spoke her mind; didn't smile; didn't share; got angry or was rude to other people. It was not lost on me, even at six, that boys were allowed to be rude and nobody told them to "Be Nice!" At that moment of realization, I disdained the word "nice" and vowed never to cowtow to it's imperative connotation again.

      At some point however, it sickened me to see a civil society become so Un-Nice that people felt okay about insulting one another and being so rude as to knock older people down to get to the elevator first. I decided to reclaim this word and have since called myself "nice", meaning: pleasant to be around; respectful of others; agreeable, delightful and marvelous. ;-)

      Because many ACoNs (in particular) were told to be NICE by authoritarian pareNts, they frequently have a knee-kick reaction to the word. It's understandable, especially for female children raised in narcissistic families where everyone was supposed to "pretend NICE" even while being subjected to cruel and damaging punishments and rejection. Definitely NOT nice.

      Thanks for your comment. I'm always delighted to get feedback from readers who help me improve my writing.


  16. Recently read easiest way to expose a narcissist is simply ask, "Are you a narcissist?" They have no shame about the traits! http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/10/17/science-says-narcissists-arent-afraid-to-tell-you-theyre-narcissists/

    1. Hi Hermescat,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond, my life is a bit...ahem...complicated these days!

      I read the article with great interest but wonder if the same thing applies to people with a narcissistic personality disorder? These folks lack personal insight to such a degree that they are unaware of their motivations and traits. They are more likely to say they VALUE generosity than admit their jealousy, their envy. They are likely to say they are humble and insecure than admit they are vain and grandiose.

      It's confusing when normal narcissism is confused with a malignant narcissism (a disorder). Normal narcissism, even if it's an impediment to intimacy with others, is annoying; but it isn't as destructive to other people as "a narcissistic disorder." The article appears to be focused on narcissism as a personality trait---not the disorder.

      Nonetheless, we might as well educate ourselves about all definitions and styles of narcissism. What might appear to be an annoying trait (vanity, for example) could represent an underlying psychological disorder that may not be remediable overtime.

      Thanks for commenting!

  17. I am just discovering answers to the head spinning relationship I endured way to long. Before I even heard the term narcissist I bought a book about handling a manipulator, kept it in my work bag. Well he was snooping and found it and all hell broke loose. It was probably the final straw. Now I just need to find a way to keep him away.

    1. "What the heck happened?" Now there's a tell-tale sign you're with a narcissist! Most people are caught off-guard when the slightest insult results in a felony-crime against their egos. Unless you have psychological knowledge about personality disorders, YOUR head will start spinning, exactly as you've described.

      I hope you are finding support for yourself. Most people need outside help to sort through the projections, accusations, distortions and yes--manipulation. Most people have a hard time accepting that someone they care about, can't reciprocate the same acceptance and forgiveness ALL relationships need in order to be healthy.

      I wish you the best and if you would like to talk with other people who've been through this, too, check out our forum at webofnarcissism.com.

      Of course, you are always welcome to post comments on my blog! It's lovely to hear from people!


  18. I have to profoundly disagree you shouldn't tell your abuser the truth about their behavior. If you are doing it for revenge or to get back at narc,you are wasting your time they will deny deny project project. I told my father in a more subtle way he has massive issues with passive aggression and controlling behaviour in my no contact letter. I don't see why we should hold back for fear of upsetting them.. They live to upset and get emotional fuel from their targets. Tell the narc if that's what's right for you and your situation,you don't need to use the N word. No one size fits all where dealing with these damaged people. No its not my Dads fault he developed NPD his education and mother are his issues. But I can't fix him and he will never accept its him who needs help. I'm about to start counselling and can try and repair the damage. He used the silent treatment once to often(he's fave manipulation method),and enough is enough. I'm unable to work due to Ill health,he used to use money to control me,but he stick it where the sun don't shine. Saving up to move away as we live in same town(I was manipulated to move back near him 5yrs ago but that's a long story). No don't be cruel to a narc to get back at them,be kind to yourself and get away from them. Love to all recovering from narc abuse x

  19. Hey, CS, I just wanted to say thank you for calling out the angry bloggers on their hypocrisy. I have never known anyone to get involved with a narcissist who didn't have at least some narcissistic qualities themselves; I think narcissism/codependency are really just flip sides of the same coin, and if absolutely nothing else it's usually contagious, so if they somehow magically didn't have *any* before and yet still got sucked in, they almost certainly do after. I especially like the ones who bash narcissism by creating a cult of yes-men and smear and block you if you dare say they might be a wee bit over the top. Dude. H-y-p-o-cri-s-y (...Mikey Mouse...)

    I have a question for your advice, if I may. I obviously care about my narc a great deal. I have read all the literature, understand it's really him, not me, (sad!!), but that I am responsible for my own boundaries. I have done extensive soul-searching aND done my best to root out my own unhealthy responses to things. My problem is that I am exhausted. I absolutely love him to bits, but he seems no better now than when I naively told him I would always be friends with him no matter what, already knowing full well it would be a hell of an uphill battle. He got halfway up the hill I think and has now slid back down a quarter. I am tired. What do I do? Love ya. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

    1. CZ, sorry!!! I knew what I meant. :)

    2. Hi! You can call me CS anytime. She's a lovely woman. ;-)

      Sure...everyone has narcissistic traits and the longer we're with someone who has "high" narcissistic traits, the more defensive we'll become. I also believe we become less self-aware since what we believe about ourselves is contradicted by "the narcissist". We aren't sure whether or not we ARE what we're told we are, since narcissists are so certain of their perceptions. Or should I say, "Certain of their projections." It's a full-time job staying clear with our self-perceptions, our values, principles and beliefs about ourselves. That's the obvious downfall of staying with a narcissist because the benefits (we love them) are more important to us than the deficits (they don't love us in the same way).

      And sure, it depends a lot on the measure of pathological narcissism we're dealing with because some folks are just highly defensive, relatively clueless about social relationships, uninterested in introspection and what we now consider to be psychological and spiritual growth. They wouldn't qualify as "a narcissist" but the effect they would have on a partner would "feel" similar.

      I have deep relationships with people considered to be "narcissistic", that is: above the normal range of narcissistic traits. Some of their behavior is due to mental illness (depression) and some of their narcissism stems from our social environment. Men are more likely to be encouraged to act on narcissistic traits than women, for example. Bottom line for me is this question: Do they HURT me and if so (because we all hurt people we love sometimes), are they remorseful?

      I can live with people who keep trying. The final straw is when they stop---when they refuse to take responsibility for other people's suffering and continue justifying their behavior based on THEIR perceptions and theirs alone. When I am no longer able to affect someone, that's time to cry my tears and back away.

      However, that said---there are narcissistic friends and family members we can love and forgive and accept. It's very different to "hitch our wagon to a falling star, though. What I mean by that is that people must protect themselves financially and emotionally in the event they are "devalued and discarded." Not being prepared for this is the worst---just ask me! Had I known there was even a small possibility of being divorced in my fifties, I would have made different choices to protect myself from the fall-out. So if you are determined to stay with someone whose narcissistic traits are annoying but not life-threatening, be sure to take care of yourself FIRST. Make sure you aren't dependent on the narcissist in any way that could ruin your future.

      Narcissistic friends require a lot of energy, compassion, time and focus. There are so many people in this world who are (and have been) more than willing to accommodate a "complex" (ha!) partner, family member, friend. Some people have a much higher tolerance for overlooking the inevitable annoyances of self-centered people. Some people don't. So I believe this question is best left to the individual him or herself as to whether or not they have enough patience for the narcissist without ignoring themselves.

      Many compassionate people are fulfilled by supporting others, by helping others. I put myself in that category. Other people are drained by caretaking--so it IS an individual choice dependent perhaps, on our personality style.

      I hope this helped a little. I'd love to do more writing about this topic and hope to get back to my computer in about a month's time. I miss writing and I miss talking with people who keep me centered!


    3. Narcissistic supply? Pathological? Narcissistic or NPD, wherever they fall on the spectrum. - If the pain inflicted was enjoyed by the inflictor all bets are off. They enjoy hurting..No companion or love will stop that. No one can make me.....shit... I don't know.... dislike ...lemon pie... .. They enjoy torment. To entertain a relationship with boundaries is understandable, because this is so,so horrible. and overwhelmingly depressing and existential we ourselves want to be in that fantasy land. We love and have compassion and search for a way to keep the ones we love so much with us as they would revel in our demise..it's so Ironically I can empathize with them... I feel sorry for them..all I want is to save them, but they will drag me down and I won't even realize it.. my mother, brother, grandmother, aunt and cousin will never be able to really feel..Vadkin said they are all doomed, and I can see it happening . , .I realize I'm so incredibly fortunate not to have it .

    4. "They enjoy torment."

      There comes a point when we can't deny the fact that our pain is satisfying to our tormentor. I think most of us tell ourselves that their intentions were good, that we are being too sensitive, that they don't understand how their behavior makes us feel. In many cases, probably the majority of cases, this is true.

      In other cases however, the narcissist is relishing in his/her ability to make us uncomfortable, to make us squirm. They take Schadenfreude to a whole new level and many people have insisted narcissists are sadists. I think it depends on the relationship and the degree of pathology.

      Some of the stories people have written about are absolutely shocking. Admitting that someone we love actually enjoys inflicting pain can take years of 'recovery work'. It's not easy to hold something like that in your head! We're pretty skilled at rationalizing the N's behavior by the time we're adults.

      I hope you continue to keep working on your healing, on your own life and your right to live happily without suffering the slings-and-arrows of sadistic narcissists. I hope you always remember how fortunate you are that you don't have a narcissistic disorder. Just make sure that while your heart remains compassionate, that you don't short-change yourself. Be as kind to YOU as you are to Ns and the whole world will be a better place for all of us!


  20. I just came upon your blog today and I have been reading for hours. I have dealt with a handful of narcissist in the last 25 years and have come up with a continuum of my own, using their names and traits and whether they are overt or covert. I've grown in understanding through a great deal of pain about what makes them tick and I think you are spot on in most of what you write. I've moved past emotionally dealing with them personally to being more objective and straightforward. I have learned some good techniques, especially from reading Dr. George Simon but I am still baffled by how to best help their families. One NA in particular has moved from targeting me to targeting her daughter. Maybe she has be doing this all along and it's only more apparent now. The NA's spouse is as one of the commenters said "willfully oblivious" to the NA's methods and tactics. Due to the dire situation the children are in another family member has confronted the father and spouse of the NA about his failure to stand up for his children. Of course this did not go well and he responded in anger. They have been married for 20 years and the NA is more of a garden variety NA. I have never seen or heard of her having bouts of anger or rage and the family is as you called it "shiny". Her tactics are limited to verbal manipulation and expressing her anger through the silent treatment etc. I know that her husband is highly invested after many years of marriage and willfully ignorant. His pattern is to let his family feed her ego so that he can have a bit of a vacation. Overall I think he still sees her as charming, thrilling, responsible etc although their teenage children are falling apart. Can you refer me to somewhere on your blog or elsewhere that I can glean some wisdom on how to bring him along without destroying his whole world. I too believe that she can be helped if he especially can learn to set boundaries for her. Thanks. Anna


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