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Many years ago, when Facebook was still new, I was chatting online with a friend of mine from the other side of the globe about what he was witnessing on his newsfeed. He was witnessing a bad post-break up going viral in his network. It was about a girl who’d been dumped and started smearing and bashing a guy where a lot of people could see. She was determined to spill it all with whatever she can say about him. It was excessive and shocking to the point that a lot of her claims were questionable and were obviously blatant lies. What’s more shocking is that for every time she posted, a multitude of likes and comments followed.
“Yeah what a douchebag”; “Oh my god, that is so wrong” or “You’re gonna find your prince charming or man of your dreams someday” were the typical comments that ensued. She went further on posting status updates to gain more sympathy on top of posting tons of vain pictures. She was self-pitiful and self-loathing. She became abusive and started name-calling when questioned. The victim card she was playing then became very telling as eventually somebody pointed out that she’s being an emotional vampire.
Emotional vampires, attention whores, leeches, drama kings and queens, entitled prince or princess, egomaniacs, megalomaniacs, authoritarian dicks, love-deluded-hopeless-romantic-fanatics are often other ways to label a narcissist, but they are part of a cluster of personality disorders that tend to overlap. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV and DSM-V), addresses these types as part of what is called the Cluster B Personality disorders.
Narcissists would typically involve doing anything to put themselves in a better light to get the attention they crave; to look & feel good even at the expense of everyone or someone else along with a bunch of unhealthy coping strategies. It involves a grandiose view of oneself and they’ll constantly find ways to sustain their narcissism. Hence, they are always finding something or someone they can use to get their ego boost or to be more precise to get their narcissistic supply.
They are the types who begin with idealization (love bombing) then eventually would bleed or suck you dry of your positive energy or your self worth (hence the name emotional vampire). They will make you feel as if you’re not worth anything. At many times it’s as if it’s even their job to help you out. They are forever feeling entitled and that it’s as if you owe them a favor. And once they bleed you dry, they’ll discard you or throw you under the bus without any hesitation as if nothing really happened.
They do all of these things for they have the inability to receive healthy validation and find truth by and for themselves that they have to get it, “steal it” from someone or force it upon others.
They tend to get someone to falsely agree with them just to get some short term satisfaction about a serious matter; force an apology; lie about a story; or are always in a superficial type of interaction or relationship.
The term narcissism is often thrown around but it exists on a spectrum. We’re all narcissistic but everyone is not necessarily a narcissist per se. At times someone may just be up on the higher end of the spectrum. But when it gets to a really high degree, it increases the chances of becoming a full blown personality disorder.
The battle of he-says-she-says thing with rumors, what has been said behind one’s back, arguments, conflicts and drama increases. Resentments are continuously built for the long term. The loved ones involved rely hopelessly on time masked with forced emotional highs without any genuine closure because the foundation lies on deception, denial, false conditioning and false perception. The bad air will be prevalent in the environment with which a narcissistic person finds himself or herself in.
This should lead you to be more aware of the kind of people you deal with or you’re intimate with. If some girl you broke up with started crying that you “played with her heart” all the way to crazy accusations such as “rape” on Facebook or telling a story about you to a selective group of people that is far from what really happened, then it’s time to re-evaluate.
Narcissism is something very subtle for a lot of us. A lot of us tend to tolerate toxic behaviors or even emulate toxic behaviors as if it’s the norm, especially if one comes from an environment where collective narcissism is involved (i.e. runs in the family).
Narcissism is costly for us men too. So here’s a little challenge—if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, here are 10 narcissistic traits or ways you can ponder about others you’re surrounded with and, more importantly, something you can ask for yourself.
There’s no sugar coating around these traits. To best describe these ten ways, allow me to act like a narcissist.
1.) THEY INVOLVE TRUTH SUPPRESSION AND CONTROL
They force upon others a controlled narrative combined with sensationalism for there is the ulterior self-serving motive. They’ll sugarcoat the truth that everything is just fine. They’ll find ways to mask the issue. The lack of acknowledgement or accountability of a serious issue is very telling.
The challenge for many of us is should we believe the stories we are told or hear. Stories are always complex yet we have the habit of taking them in as if they’re so simple. We are prone to narcissistic conditioning by pushing buttons on a lot of our unmet needs or if it entails a major unmet need.
You already know that we should be suspicious of simple yet invalidated remarks or stories. In any group conflict or tension, as you hone in on the root cause involving a narcissist, you’re still better off with getting a comprehensive picture and different sides. You need to make a concerted effort to think about what really is going on. Sometimes, talking about something with those concerned in a group conflict means you’re sorting things out and may take time and need all the information & processing you can get.
Talk with others if you must. For a lot of us guys this is difficult. A lot of us men don’t like to express or articulate what is going on in our daily lives. We, especially, don’t like to express or address our emotions. We have a bad habit and tendency to think that shutting out our feelings and not talking about them is the only way to go as it is often considered the status quo for men to talk less. Don’t worry about sexist comments that are thrown in like “talking like a girl” or “being girly.” What do they mean by that? What’s wrong with being a girl right?
This is considered to be more of a disability among us men; our rates are said to exceed compared to women. As a man you may disagree but there’s a lot of truth in this. We are led to believe that emotions are not for us or that they are only for the weak. As in yeah, you got to be the douche or the forever strong schmuck.
Narcissists don’t have a lot of emotional resilience. In fact, they are too scared to dissect or process their emotions. If not, they suppress them, which prevents maturing their emotional well-being in the first place. They are just not that emotionally mature to understand, process or comprehend especially difficult life situations. They would rather make up circular stories that are not verifiable. They rage, get angry or are often impatient when they are proven wrong or called out on something; and this often would include tantrums, throwing objects and encouraging a physical fight especially at defining moments of a high conflict.
If in the public eye, you see major companies polluting the environment relying on suppressing for matters of “privacy”, they are the types who would rely on the excuse that “it’s between them” or “it’s between us.”
“Forgetting is the key and not being emotional” is another sentiment narcissists foster. It’s also known as the Forgive and Forget trap or the “let’s move forward” type of sugarcoating. They would rather not go into details of a bigger picture for they are too afraid to show their true selves. They are afraid to show what is going on for it would only make them look bad. Ask any women who’ve been with a self-centered narcissistic douche and they’ll confirm this fact with you. The same goes for men who have been with a narcissistic princess or queen.
They are very much afraid of confrontation, especially a group one. They prefer to deal one on one in moments of high conflicts as this would allow them to selectively create false stories.
Since they can’t survive without constant validation, looking bad to others is something they try to avoid as much as they can. They’ll do anything for their own “protection” and benefit.
2.) THEY HAVE EXCEEDINGLY HIGH & UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
There’s a term called the Grandiosity Gap. Born out of their delusions of grandeur and high sense of entitlement, narcissists are too broken to bridge the gap or disconnect between the grandiose way they perceive themselves or their expectations and the reality of how people truly view them or what people truly feel about them. You can also put it as the big difference of their delusions versus reality.
As a consequence, overcompensation, or overwhelming expectations and/or demands become a constant part of their life equation. They then foster the image of an overbearing man baby or a princess who thinks the world owes them everything while clothing themselves in an appearance of superiority and some sort of life fantasy.
Self-perceived notion of grand roles or creating some sort of “life fantasy” adds up to the many layers of their false pretenses. Religion (or religiosity) for one, is often used as a cover or escape while association to words such as “Perfect family, man/woman of my dreams, prince charming, life savior” and other means of attaining or getting some sort of ‘fix’ would be another symptom.
Expectations vs reality is a struggle for them. They can’t relate to a process but just see the results they want to get. If you tell them what’s really happening, they see you only as somebody who’s making an excuse. This is one of those many things you realize you can’t win, for no matter what you do, it’s never enough for them because they are unable to see or acknowledge the so called ‘little things’ that happen behind the scenes.
From: Toxic to Love
The trickiest and the most interesting category is the covert narcissist (aka the secret narcissist or the wolf in sheep’s clothing). While he or she may not be a show off, the covert narcissist projects a humble, caring, kind and patient image. He or she projects the image of a helper, lover, provider, leader or some sort of savior especially to anyone who’s vulnerable. He or she claims to be the helper of people in need and enjoy it. But it’s just a way to project his or her own self-pity while giving themselves the sense of superiority yet are still deeply selfish and have the same qualities as the obvious (overt) narcissist.
Triangulation is often found among highly conflicted family situations involving a family member who’s narcissistic but it can happen among varying social circles outside of a family setting. Triangulation or splitting means the rise of tension or conflict among family members because one person (the narcissist) is not fully communicating the truth or selectively communicating the truth, lying and creating different versions of the story that it creates tension for the rest of the members. And often the solution for the narcissist (together with a cooperating participant) is to find a scapegoat.
They usually would need to find a submissive partner that they can dominate or somebody who can cover for them and/or someone that they can basically put their blame on.
Note that they can only fool someone who wants to be fooled. They can’t hide. They are always found out in the process, be it short term or in the long run.
One of the many difficulties they have understanding (and will never be able to get away with) is that their stories are not consistent and many other pieces of relevant data they try to block you from knowing. They are not willing to delve into details. They combine this with their truth suppression methods such as “Forgetting is the key and not processing emotions” or back again to the “It’s between them” or “It’s between us” type of narrative.
Their mental blind spots are something they can’t even notice. The responsibility then relies on the enabling person for letting it slide or not acknowledging it when they know what’s going on.
4.) IT’S NEVER THEIR FAULT
They don’t or are not willing to take responsibility or accountability for their actions. Admitting to a fault for their actions or what they say would make them feel they are going to lose, as if everything is always a game. On a deep level they feel they are deeply flawed or that they are defective from within or have a sense of inadequacy. Admitting to a fault would mean a confirmation of the inadequacy they fear.
With this, they would often blame someone as if it’s entirely someone’s fault even though that someone is not the root cause of the problem.
Other notable lines would be “Why didn’t you tell me?” or “Why didn’t you say anything?” as if they need to be told. They are very good at playing the innocent card to pass the blame back to you.
Another common narcissistic trait is blaming others for their own emotions (emotional blackmail). An example would be: “Oh look at me I’m now feeling this way because of you.”
It is very common too for those who have been involved with narcissists that they will never remember all the things you did right, only what you did wrong. This arms them further of not admitting to any fault.
5.) THEY LACK EMOTIONAL DEPTH & EMPATHY
Since they are truth suppressors, they suppress their emotions as well; or are incapable of processing their emotions to begin with (as it can start from childhood and regression happens as an adult). They are basically emotionally immature or their emotional intelligence is impaired.
I remember once I was in an airport and I witnessed a father lose his temper and get angry at an obviously young child and say “You know I feel hurt when you ignore me?!” I have to say I was shocked to hear it. At the same time, I was thinking to myself that, for crying out loud, it’s only a kid, what does the kid know about your feelings dude? Who knows if that parent is a full blown narc but the lack of emotional maturity he displayed was glaring and this is typical of a narc.
The lack of emotional depth doesn’t allow them to recognize a multitude of human expressions that they can only see at face value or they are unable to read between the lines. They can only imitate or parrot someone else’s words or language. They have no originality. Others describe narcissists as robots, being linear, black and white and overly procedural in their thoughts.
The lack of empathy is the most telling. Their inability to empathize blocks them from connecting well with others.
At many times their own truth just happened to have been suppressed by another narcissist. Their own emotions have been suppressed so much that it drives them crazy and that they just have to go with it. Thanks in part to authoritarian parenting.
6.) THEY GUILT OTHERS FOR THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE
Channeling the guilt of others is one of their classic MO’s as well. If they themselves ask for remorse, what they’re really asking is to guilt you to further hide what they don’t want you to know. And since it’s never their fault, this gives them another way to pass the blame. (i.e. it’s a therapeutic release for a group of collective narcissists to always be demanding and getting a public apology).
Gaslighting is a known method they use – “Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”
7.) THEY HAVE AN ENABLER
It could be a spouse, a parent, a partner or anybody where they are getting their main source of validation which eventually becomes a superficial validation. The enabler usually is what is called the codependent. Typical codependents are those who have developed a caretaker mentality. Having a caretaker mentality is heaven for the narcissist since they would love to have somebody who is willing to take responsibility for them. Care-taking codependents have been conditioned to take on this responsibility for a long time. Codependents are their perfect victims.
These enablers would be like their horse and if you’re battling with a narcissist, you’d have to be aware of the horse first.
Narcissistic husbands are usually covered by a codependent wife; Narcissistic girlfriends are covered by a codependent nice-pushover-doormat guy; Narcissistic partners force codependent relationships over time – forcing submission on the part of the other half.
8.) THEY ARE SMEARERS & SPINNERS
Engaging in a smear campaign or character assassination is another classic MO of a narcissist. It doesn’t matter be it in public or be it with a selective group of people. It happens usually when the relationship at hand has come to an end, especially to cover their tracks on being found out.
There’s a big difference when narcissists talk about normally sane people versus normally sane people talking about narcissists.
Narcissists would simply twist, outright lie, make up stories to make somebody look bad while making themselves look good with a controlled narrative and total disregards to…*drum roll*…facts. Facts or inconsistencies usually are glaring. They would even go with after a fallout: “Oh I never really knew the guy” as if they are so innocent and completely had nothing to do with the person they are in conflict with. But the person they are in conflict has actually been their “bff” or “gff” for a long time.
Another classic example is when the one who was dumped ends up telling everyone that he or she did the breaking up. A complete opposite of what really happened.
When normally sane people talk about narcissists, they talk about it in a level as if it’s a sad thing that it’s happening. They feel that it’s a shame that it’s happening. They would talk about how they viewed the narcissist positively in spite of it all.
Misery loves company. Narcissists constantly feel alone so it makes them feel good about themselves knowing that there is somebody who can be miserable like them. They feel good about themselves when they feel they can bring someone down as it makes them feel higher.
As friend of mine once said, “They’re pullers; they pull people down.”
“I am a recovering narcissist. I thought narcissism was about self-love ‘til someone told me there is a flip side to it. It is actually drearier than self-love; it is unrequited self-love.”
– Emily Levine, American humorist, writer and public speaker
It was obvious with one narcissistic ex-roommate I encountered 6 years ago that he was so focused on destroying my character or obsessing on my flaws or problems with everyone he knows. He shared the stories of misdeeds and flaws of other people to me. He was so obsessed on the character and misery of other people he knows. It didn’t take me long enough to realize that he does it to make him feel better. It made him feel “high” by putting someone so low. It made him feel that he’s not the only miserable one.
Other common things narcissists tend to obsess about to make themselves feel better is when they love targeting someone else’s financial situation. As an example, if someone used to own a house but decided to move out of state and is just renting, they would easily assume that someone had a foreclosure. It’s a negative conclusion upfront. They love using the ‘financial situation’ scenario to make them feel good with known expressions such as “oh their business is doing bad” or “he’s broke.”
At times they would also make your life their business where it’s not theirs to begin with, giving unsolicited advice due to their inability to empathize. It could be anything about your life, dishing whatever they think on matters such as your love life as if they know better. Then when not listened to, they smear. This is because they demonstrate an abnormally developed capacity to criticize others (as in, “dish it out” to them). They can only ‘box’ you in a reality that they can only comprehend.
Their smearing goes hand in hand with their spinning methodology. If you call them out with something negative, they’ll find a way to spin the obvious negative things observed about them into something positive. They love using the straw man argument to make it easily appear that they are in the right even if they’re not.
You can also call this table as the narcissist’s advanced straw man examples. Where instead of meeting the argument, they replace the premise with something else that can easily be believed or refuted.
9.) THEY’RE BLACK AND WHITE THINKERS
The shades of gray or middle ground is very difficult for narcissists to make sense of. This is often considered to be an unconscious defense mechanism because when they behave in a certain unhealthy way which pushes others away, they aren’t able to recognize it due to their low levels of emotional maturity or whatever developmental impairment they have. The only way for them to cope with the denial or rejection is to think in extremes that they are right and everybody else is wrong. It then becomes a major part of their thinking process.
It is their unconscious way to make sense of the world yet it is maladaptive, often leading to confusion, inciting anger and arguments. This is one reason why it’s tough to say the word “sorry” to a narcissist. In doing so, the narcissist would automatically think that he or she is right about everything.
From: Toxic to Love
10.) THEY’RE OPPORTUNISTS
Narcissists are opportunistic, manipulative or exploitative. If you’re not strong with establishing your boundaries, you’d keep letting a lot of things slide until they all blow up. They’ll find ways to take advantage of you or make you look silly to anyone they can talk to, especially to their friends and family (or their enablers).
They’ll take advantage of you to pass on the blame, their issues, their conflicts, and anything that would get them what they want. Consider them as psychological thieves. After all, they would do anything to protect their false selves. If they are not perfect, they quickly swing to acting as somebody you can sympathize with such as being the hero, the savior, the martyr or the victim.
Narcissism is considered to be a psychological immune response. The tougher it is to go back from as it becomes full blown. But the more all the traits described herein are simultaneously and consistently present in an individual, the likelihood of full blown narcissism along with other Cluster B traits becomes higher.
Mind you, they are people just like you. They are people too but happened to have been hurt pretty badly or never got the chance to truly develop or grow. But let’s be honest. They need intervention; they need serious help. This is not something that can be solved by “love” or by letting it be; or even talking with the actual narcissist about it as if you can you change him or her. Before there’s no more life left in you or before you let them get to you, you’re better off walking away if you find yourself dealing with one.
Acknowledge the signs. The narcissistic ways or traits mentioned in this article are often tolerated as if they are okay. They are not okay. A lot worse is that one may even deny that there’s no such thing; or one may say a lot do these anyway.
Narcissism is on the rise and in high likelihood together with other Cluster B traits. The challenge begins in striving for and fostering a healthy environment not conducive to these traits, and to acknowledge and address the presence of these traits — especially in yourself.
***This article is now being expanded and written by the author as part of the book: The Narcissist Who Drains The Life Out of You. Click on the link for more info or simply subscribe below to be notified of the book release.
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