Curse Of Narcissism

Their powers of manipulation are off the charts

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Narcissists have secret lives. They lie effortlessly. They are two faced-appearing with a perfect public image that most people believe. In the shadows, when no one is looking, they do tremendous damage to family members, including their children. Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D, Clinical Expert on the Narcissistic Personality

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egoistic admiration of one’s own attributes. Narcissists feel superior to others but they are not satisfied with themselves as a person, says Dr. Eddie Brummelman, fellow at University of Amsterdam & Stanford University.

According to Dr. Craig Malkin, a Harvard Medical School Instructor and clinical psychologist, while there are several types of narcissists what they all have in common is “self-enhancement”. Their thoughts, behaviors, and statements set them apart from others, and this feeling of distinction soothes them, because they’re otherwise struggling with an unstable sense of self…a pervasive disturbance in a person’s ability to manage his or her emotions…

In recent years narcissism has been bantered about as never before. It was first as a result of the proliferations and access to electronic media particularly the rapid growth of social media and its usage.

Then it has been exacerbated by the election of President Trump and his dramatically public narcissistic behavior. It is important for us all to understand this behavior for what it is and how it can affect us and those around us.

Narcissism is a curse both to the narcissist and to many of the people around them. It is a curse to the narcissist because of the latent insecurities that cause them to feel the way they do.

It prevents them from being able to fully accept and enjoy other people. Rather they are always busy finding perceived faults with others to make themselves feel superior.

The narcissist can be a tragic figure who has usually experienced some defining emotional experience at a young age. If you are a caring and compassionate person it is natural to feel sorry for others who suffer including narcissists. But beware!

As Julie L. Hall, author of The Narcissist Family Files says, Fundamentally, narcissists are stuck emotionally at the approximate development stage level of a three-year-old, and consequently they lack the most basic ability to care about the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others. Yet, as savvy adults, their powers of manipulation are off the charts…feeling sorry for the narcissist is an invitation to being abused and victimized-idealized, devalued, and rejected; or, worse, agonizingly anchored.

They desire to control others, particularly those close to them, as they believe they always know best and want to prevent themselves feeling threatened in any way.

They will often communicate things about people close to them so that others will perceive them as the narcissist wishes rather than as the actual people really are or wish to be perceived themselves.

The narcissist feels that every event, every situation is all about them and thinks others should be treating them accordingly. To assert their superiority, they often border on absurdity.

Asserting being more socially connected, wearing the most stylish clothes, being smarter than others, reading more critically acclaimed books, having more accomplished children and grandchildren…a constant game of one-upmanship to outshine, embarrass and manipulate family, friends and colleagues.

Narcissists consistently assert a self that is superior, entitled and above reproach. They believe they deserve special treatment, may sometimes seem generous but only “give” conditionally to get back.

I have been around several narcissists, with whom I have had some degree of relationship and a number with whom I have not… It has been an important learning and sometimes painful experience for me.

My first significant narcissistic encounter was with the owner and CEO of a company for which I was hired as the executive vice president and COO. It was a company that was a franchisor of quick printing services in the 1990’s. Many of the franchisees were failing due to the lack of a documented franchise operating system for them to follow.

While there were several franchise sales persons, the owner/CEO was the real salesman and closer due to his charisma and outsized personality. Once a franchisee purchased a franchise he and his wife would go spend several weeks with them with limited written materials to get them started.

When they left it was up to the skills of the franchisee as to the success they might achieve, and consequently with no real operating system to guide them, many failed.

The owner of course always blamed the franchisees for not being able to correctly follow through on his instructions. He constantly berated the franchisees to me as well as other corporate employees.

Without going into details and complexities of the situation I fairly quickly decided I needed to leave for my own welfare. I began investigating his behavior type and identified him as a textbook narcissist, my first understanding of what that is.

Perhaps the precipitating event was when I was sitting in his office and a long-time employee came in with a difficult problem needing immediate attention. We decided on a course of action and the owner was effusive in his praise of the employee for his performance and sense of urgency.

However, once the employee left the owner told me I needed to get rid of him as he has been underperforming for years and is costing the company money.

I could see that from his behavior he was completely incompatible with my values and the way I did things. I could not allow myself to in any way continue to perpetuate his damage to others. So, I resigned.

While this was my first personal experience in relationship with a narcissist it would not be my last.

Children of a narcissist particularly of a narcissistic mother may suffer the worst at their hands. The child grows up unsure of where their identity starts and the parental identity ends.

They continually second guess themselves trying to be good in the eyes of the parent rather than developing their own authentic identity.

The child often has to be the real parent of themselves and to a degree of the narcissistic parent. While the child may often be astounded by the cruelty of the parent they cannot seem to really distance themselves from their influence and control. This is a real continually evolving tragedy for the child.

There is often a feeling by the child of never really fitting in anywhere although they may have many amazing friends. It is a feeling confusing to the child because they don’t understand why they feel this way… the result of not having formed an individual identity apart from that of the narcissistic parent.

The children of narcissists rarely receive any real affection nor do they usually see affection expressed between their parents. Narcissists have few real emotions so do not feel or express affection as most people do.

Instead the children are frequently told they need to take responsibility for themselves which really means taking care of the narcissistic parent by doing what they want.

Any positive reinforcement received while so desperately desired by the child is really just another means of parental manipulation to get what they desire from the child.

While siblings all suffer it is frequently the case that one is favored over the other. One less favored sibling usually receives the brunt of the parent’s rage, criticisms and frustrations.

The favored child often then becomes in denial and just feels the less favored sibling is being overly sensitive. It is ironic that the more favored sibling, though continuing to be abused and manipulated, becomes a tool of the narcissistic parent for abusing other siblings.

The less favored child may have a better opportunity of recovery as they may feel the pain more intensely and begin to identify the parent for what they are earlier than the more favored. Once children of narcissists recognize the parent for what they are, recovery can begin but will be a long process.

Taking action to protect oneself in the future is only a small part of the healing that needs to take place. Inner work to recover is where the child needs to begin trusting themselves, liking themselves in ways they have not before, really understanding themselves and allowing themselves to grow. It requires great effort and a lot of time.

While children may often suffer the most from narcissists they are be no means alone. Others may suffer in ways they don’t even realize.

Supposed friends of narcissists may wonder why they are always being told they need to do things differently by this friend.

It is of course because the narcissist must continually feel superior in order to assuage that tender ego. The narcissists when questioned may say they feel it is their duty to help people understand the right way to do things.

I have had the experience of having a friend whose mother is a narcissist and seeing the results imprinted on the child and her sibling, as well as seeing the mother in action. Although these children are grown they have never been able to really break away from the clutches of their narcissistic mother.

She constantly wants to control them and the way they live their lives thinking she knows best. If they will just do as she wishes they will have the happy lives they are meant to have.

Their feelings and desires are wrong unless they coincide with what the mother thinks they should be doing.

As a result both daughters have developed significant psychological and physical issues which have damaged them over the course of their lives. Although they are in their fifties and sixties and recognize the mother for who she is the drama nevertheless continues seemingly without end.

Narcissists have an almost unlimited arsenal for protecting themselves, asserting their superiority and manipulating those around them. One of their most destructive and commonly used tools is gaslighting.

This is a form of psychological abuse in which the narcissist systematically undermines another person’s mental state by leading them to question their perceptions of reality.

The narcissist uses lies and false information to erode her victim’s belief in their own judgment and, ultimately, their sanity.

After an abusive incident, the narcissist refuses responsibility, blames you, or outright denies that the abuse took place. She may say things like, That’s not what happened, You’re crazy, or You made me do it.

It is a concerted effort for the narcissist to make the victim dependent on them for knowing and understanding the truth of what is happening.

The Curse of Narcissism is real and it is present. If you have not experienced it consider yourself very fortunate but be aware as you can never predict when or from whom it might come.

While there is only a relatively small number of our population who have full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which is a serious pathology, there are many more who border on it and do damage to others every day. Remember, most people who come in contact with narcissists never realize it as they are masters of deceit and manipulation.