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A Primer on Narcissism

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There’s Me and There’s Me

“That didn’t happen.
And if it did, I didn’t do it.
And if I did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, it wasn’t my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.
And if you didn’t, you made me do it!”

Know anyone with this lovely doctrine?

The Narcissist Manifesto would go on to say…

“To be in a relationship with me, know that I am entitled to be the center of your universe. I will invest nothing but expect mind-numbing returns. You only exist to feed me the air that my empty balloon needs to stay aloft. In short, if there is to be an ‘us,’ there can be no ‘you.’ So, POOF, I’m here… what are your other 2 wishes?” Okay, they’re never this transparent, but it’s the best way to describe a narcissist without getting too clinical. There are 2 basic types:

  • Vulnerable narcissists are anxious, thin-skinned individuals with deep-seated feelings of shame and self-loathing that compel them to manipulate others for attention, affection, sympathy, etc. Their primary fear is rejection and abandonment, and they can alternate between feeling superior or inferior depending on what’s going on in their lives. Is it possible to reach this type?
  • Grandiose narcissists are what people traditionally envision when they think of narcissism. Their level of arrogance raises eyebrows, and they have no empathy for others, as they shamelessly go about their lives seeking the power, glory and pleasure that they feel entitled to. One other sad thing: their skin is seemingly impenetrable to any insight into their disorder.

If you struggle with codependency, you’ve probably found yourself stuck in a relationship with someone on the Narc spectrum before. Empathetic, giving people who avoid conflict and try to make others happy make the perfect supply source for what the narcissist is craving, but they give nothing real in return. Even their “shows of love” are self-serving; serving to make them look good, to make you feel lucky to have them, and to win you back after you’ve had enough. They feel entitled to your constant forgiveness and self-blame. If you stand up to them or set boundaries, you’ll be punished for reacting to their abuse. Chronically looking for ways to avoid accountability and blame the victim is all they know. In the interest of further recognizing and avoiding these folks, note the following list of other typical narc tactics.

  • Gas Lighting – Adamantly denying that they said or did something that you clearly remember them saying or doing, or labeling you “crazy” for suspecting them of something malicious. It’s all to make your negative experience of them feel invalid.
  • Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Silent treatment, being short/snappy, sarcasm, baiting you with a provocative comment made casually, etc. Any behavior that, when you ask for clarification, allows them to hide behind a shallow explanation such as, “I was just joking, That’s not what I meant, I’m fine, You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” etc.
  • Projecting – Accusing you of something that they’re actually guilty of
  • Threats – Either subtle (“I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate your overreacting to my simple requests”) or direct (“If this happens again, I’m going to…).
  • Isolation – Making it difficult for you to continue relationships with friends and family, trying to turn you against them or them against you. Strongly discouraging any goals/activities that you have that may interfere with their agenda.
  • Nitpicking / Moving the Goalposts – When you’ve provided ample evidence for your argument or that you’ve met their request and they demand more proof or set up another expectation. This way, they can remain the “victim” by being perpetually dissatisfied with you.
  • Love Bombing and Devaluation – Showering you with attention/affection to pull you in, then, the moment you have an opinion/boundary that doesn’t fit their agenda, shaming or smearing you.

Then there’s the old standards of general emotional abuse and control-freak behavior. The list goes on… just know that the central theme is: “It’s all about me and my needs, and I will do everything within my capability to keep it that way.” 

My next article will attempt to answer the obvious question of how to handle a narcissist if you find yourself in a relationship with one. Stay tuned!

Written by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Pine Grove Clinical Therapist

About Ted Crawford, LMFT

Ted Crawford LMFT, provides psychotherapy for clients through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) of Forrest General Hospital and at the Gratitude and Pine Grove Outpatient Services (PGOS) programs of Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, He earned his undergraduate degree in Education in 1987 and his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in 1995 from The University of Southern Mississippi. Ted has also completed training in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to address trauma issues. His background includes work as an educator prior to coming to Pine Grove. In addition to working at EAP, Gratitude and PGOS currently, Pine Grove has also benefited from Ted’s work at the Child & Adolescent Day Treatment and Professional Enhancement Programs and on the inpatient adult psychiatric unit. He enjoys writing and has written numerous informative (and entertaining) articles on clinical topics in a format that is easily understood by both professionals and patients. Ted has been employed with Pine Grove since 1998 and working with the EAP since 2001.

About Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services

Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is one of the nation’s most comprehensive treatment campuses. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs treat gender specific substance abuse including specialized tracks for co-occurring eating disorders and trauma. Additionally, Pine Grove offers an Intensive Outpatient substance abuse healing program for adults and a separate treatment program specifically for those who are age 55 plus. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual addiction. Inpatient Services including an Adult Psychiatric Unit, along with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and Outpatient Services are other components. Pine Grove is a division of Forrest Health, a partnership of healthcare organizations across South Mississippi, and the behavioral healthcare extension of Forrest General Hospital, a 547 bed, level II Regional Trauma Center. Established in 1984, Pine Grove has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for 38 years. For more information, please visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com and call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673).

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