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Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The narcissistic personality disorder is, in layman's terms, that person that is convinced the world revolves around them, and, if they do not get their way, watch out. There is a great blog about Narcissism if you care to read more on the subject.
The common belief of the cause of such a disorder falls generally on the parents being too coddling and giving from birth, and always giving excessive admiration without ever being tempered realistic feedback. This disorder results in a "spoiled child" to the n'th degree.
In an opposing theory, it is also believed that it can be caused in some cases by neglectful or abusive parents, causing the child to resort to this mindset at the earliest possible opportunity as a way of mentally dealing with the abuses of their past/present.
It is believed that underneath the narcissist's conscious awareness, these people have a severe inferiority complex, though they will never admit it, and are sometimes not even aware of it. The way a narcissist handles their inferiority complex is to take the extreme opposite position to protect themselves from the rejection or the isolation they fear would be a result of people recognizing their flaws. The easiest way to get even with a narcissist, as we very inadvertently found out, is to take a dig (even a very minor one) at the flaw(s) you see in a very non-angry, non-confrontational, matter-of-fact way and walk away. It will eat and eat at them forever, because they feel they have been exposed for the fraud that they consider themselves in the deepest recesses of their psyche. Such a comment can, in some cases drive a narcissist so crazy that they wind up doing something even crazier in an effort to save face. We've seen it, and it's very sad to see somebody digging themselves such an incredible hole.
Diagnosing narcissism is tricky, but does have some common characteristics associated with it that could just as easily be associated with a typical, self-entitled jerk or spoiled brat, a few of which we all know.
The narcissist will always have an extreme view of self-importance and be obsessed with success, power, money and all that grandeur that it brings with it. They will also feel a sense of entitlement to the biggest and best of everything without the need to work for it as well as expect a constant stream of admiration. They never do things for the good of the endeavor, it's always with the expectation of praise or for some similar self-indulgent need.
The narcissist will also lack much level of empathy for anyone and will feel it's their right to take advantage of, maliciously lie about, or walk on anyone if it furthers their goals, whether right or wrong. They will feel that everybody is jealous of them, when, in reality they are often the jealous party of anyone that is happy and feels successful by their own standards.
Their opposing inner forces, whether conscious or not, leads to very dysfunctional parenting, social interaction and work situations. These traits often make the narcissist be overly involved and even intrusive in some aspects of the roles and very neglectful in others. The willingness to exploit others, sense of personal entitlement, lack of empathy, complete disregard for others feelings, ideas or goals and constant need for attention, praise and admiration that a narcissist has adversely affects interpersonal relationships of all kinds for the narcissist.
Because of these traits the narcissistic rarely achieves any sort of the personal or professional success they so desperately crave due to their inability to deal with even minor setbacks or criticisms, or be able to work cooperatively with others for any real length of time. The narcissist walks into every situation to take control over it and start pushing people around.
It is basically impossible to deal with a severely narcissistic person that does not recognize themselves as such. The world owes them, they owe nothing, they have no concern for the welfare of others to achieve what they feel they deserve, and have no problem doing what they need to get what they want regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They have extreme reactions to even the most mild correction, disagreement or even constructive criticisms or input that is against their ultimate goal.
Of course, that is in the most serious cases, like any mental illness, there are varying degrees of the disorder, many of which allows a person to live a reasonably normal life but just may have a few more dramatic or frequent ups and downs (in their opinion) in their lives than the average person.
If your or your family are the focus of somebody with this disorder, as I feel my family is, ignoring them or trying to stay away from them is quite likely not a viable option due to their complete inability to accept it since this is, in fact, their world, and will often only get them that much more angry.
Dealing with a Narcissist Personality Disorder In The Courtroom
How can you deal with a narcissistic person, especially in a courtroom situation when they are so confident and convincing since they actually do believe what they are saying and how they feel.
Narcissistic personalities have an unbelievable ability to distort reality and twist alternative scenarios into a believable story that fit most of the important facts of any given situation. From watching people close up that have done it, and been personally involved in it, I can say the ability is actually quite impressive in a very disturbing way. But in truth, it isn't really difficult to trip them up sometimes if you know what you are doing.
When under pressure and forced to disprove or "break" a narcissist the only thing that is required is to break their ego. As previously explained, the narcissist has an incredible feeling of self-entitlement and an ego that is massive, but, typically very fragile because more often than not, deep down inside there is a serious lack of self-esteem and self-doubt that they are afraid of being exposed as the fraud they feel like they are.
Therefore, the surest way to break them is to call any statement of fact that belittles any accomplishments they brag about, or any talent or skill on which they base their pride or ego. Any statement that proves them subordinate, weak, unintelligent, or, even simply indicating that they are, in fact just an average person will often break their confidence, and, if pressed even a little bit beyond that can often bring them to a fit of rage.
Very often during such rages the narcissist will end up saying thing and exposing things that there was no intention to expose. All of this will simply be done as a way to try and re-establish the entitlement that they feel due to them but typically it will only undermine them further after all is said and done.
These fits of rage can explode into angry, shouting, hysterical rages, and sometimes even promote violent outbursts due to their feeling of complete vulnerability having been exposed.
After this rage, it is necessary to simply point out that he or she is simply an average person like everybody else, that their needs and priorities are not the priorities of everybody and they will not be catered to or treated any better or worse than anyone else and their childish outbursts will not be tolerated. This will push many narcissists to loose control.
The bottom line in dealing with a narcissist, especially in a courtroom type situation to prove your need for legal restraints or protection under the law, you simply need to belittle, undermine, humiliate or expose the narcissist to get them to break. They think they are the most clever, most intelligent person in the room far above any lawyer, judge or courtroom attendant. Proving otherwise, or even putting that feeling of exposure in the narcissist's mind, will cause them to break. Aggressive, targeted and purposeful cross-examination by a skilled attorney can easily get this done.
Treating a Person With Narcissistic Personality Disorder
It is the opinion of many clinical psychologists that someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder really can't be treated successfully. However, since the disorder has only been defined around 20 years ago, nobody can really claim in depth knowledge of it, and there is only limited historical data on the subject.
The bottom line is that little is known about this personality disorder other than that sufferers of it are typically disliked by those that know them for being overbearing, demanding, aggressive and has little to no regard for the feelings or space of others.
As true with most any mental disorder, in order to really do anything other than prescribe drugs, the sufferer has to recognize the problem themselves. If they lack that then any sort of interactive therapy or counseling is feudal as they typically wind up confrontational and argumentative with their counselors, being absolutely sure they know more than the counselor.
If you do have a person that has acknowledged their problem, and are willing to take action to better the situation for themselves and everybody around them, only then can anything about it, which is typically medication or reconditioning therapy.
Reconditioning a Narcissist
Reconditioning is the act of reprogramming how you think, this is a multi-teired approach to treatment. It starts with a seemingly simply, though somewhat painful and insightful task. That is to start documenting their behavior. Start documenting what behaviors cause trouble in their lives or the lives around them, and document which cause a positive impact on them and the people around them.
With that you design a list of dos and do nots, now, the key is reinforcement of the good, and discipline of the bad. Now they need to establish a reward/punishment mechanism for themselves. This will likely have to be overlooked by a spouse or other involved family member or friend. It may suck, but it's for the good of the person.
Narcissism is deceptive and tricky, the sufferer themselves could, if in "that place" easily justify to themselves why a disciplinary measure isn't necessary in some situation, which is where the other loved one must step up.
Over time, according to this theory of reconditioning, will reinforce proper behavior in the narcissist.
Without any real education in the area, I tend to have my doubts about this theory since, having dealt with a narcissist, I know they have very little sense of right and wrong or truth and lies. If it suits their means, it's right and true, if it doesn't suit their means it's wrong and lies. There is never middle ground or negotiable areas with them. This would, as I see it make it very difficult to treat somebody if they are being "punished" for things they simply have not done wrong, in their minds.
I would think first it's necessary they know, though perhaps not accept, what societies norms of behavior are before anything else can do any good at all.
Getting Even With a Narcissist
Now, I can not say that I really condone any vigilante type "getting even" because it almost never ends well. That being said, there has to be few types of people that are easier to mess with than a narcissist.
There are really three things that make the typical narcissist very vulnerable to head games, and very, very easy to drive absolutely crazy if you really want to (again, not condoning such activity, doesn't do much for your karma):
- They are certain that the world revolves around them, and nothing else and no one else matters. People that don't succumb to their will are idiots. Generally, that includes their own spouse and children.
- A narcissist will often never, ever let things go, good or bad.
- Probably the aspect of the typical narcissist that makes them most vulnerable is the fact that deep down inside, perhaps even beyond their own immediate awareness, they feel inferior and are scared to death of being exposed.
That final bullet point is the biggy.
They already feel inferior, and often are defensive before any offensive play has begun, and may not even be aware of it, it's simply part of their off-balance psyche that is the nature of the disorder. The arrogant, self-entitled behavior they exhibit is an unquenchable desire to be accepted, respected and revered in their community or social circle, and their constant obsessive involvement in whatever they choose is to "prove" themselves as worthy.
You can, very seriously, bring a narcissist to their emotional knees by simply making a subtle, non-confrontational remark regarding how people laugh at them, dislike them, know that they [insert weakness here], or some such remark. Of course, that is the way to do it if you want them to know you are being mean and messing with them.
Often, if already in a confrontation with the narcissist, it'll be the seemingly smallest, most calm verbal jab that will do the most damage over the long term. If the confrontation has already escalated to screaming and hysteria, it's possible they won't even remember anything you say, as they aren't listening, or, possibly even not aware of whats going on as they could be in mid-blackout.
Most of us would be bugged by such things and think the person saying them is a jerk, but pretty much brush off after a bit. However, a narcissist will let it burn like a grease fire in their mind, getting hotter and hotter and deeper and deeper as it bounces around their head, they spin it worse and worse in their minds and they end up terrorizing themselves at the thought of being exposed as the inferior person they feel they are. Then, in an effort to save face they could do something incredibly over the top to "prove their worth". We've seen it, it's funny and it's sad at the same time.
Don't be directly mean if you just want to subtly mess with a narcissist. If you are on any assignments, committees or some such thing with them, or even in neighborhood social circles, all it really takes is small every day type comments, if placed right, to get them all worked up.
If working with them in some capacity, simply disagree with their ideas, or offer yourself to take on a duty of the project yourself. They are typically control freaks, and insist nobody can do a job as good as they can. If you see flaws in their plans, or ideas, mention them. If you get others on board with your idea, it will drive them crazy. If they give some reasons it can't work (they will lie cheat and steal to get their way), offer to do it if you know it can.
However, when you do that, be ready for some smack-talkin' to go on behind your back, because you'll be getting a lot of it. The good thing is, if you are professional, diplomatic, prompt and courteous (you know, act like an adult), most people you are being smack talked to will know, even if they don't say it, who is being the jerk.
Plant The Seed and Watch It Grow
Opportunities present themselves frequently if you are in close contact with a narcissist, and you are not in regular contact or confrontations, they will find a reason very shortly to start one if you are a target of theirs because they can not stand to be ignored.
When they come up and start accusing you of this and that, you stay perfectly calm and just hear it out, when you don't react, or better yet try to just walk away, they get more angry, then, before they slip into a blackout of rage, you just calmly take a dig at their reputation or some such thing. It will usually shut them up and really sting, and by the time the confrontation is over and they get in private and have time to think about, it'll drive them into a manic episode of some sort if the dig was well placed.
Don't Over-Think It
It's very easy to play a narcissist. Don't make it harder than it is...but, for your own safety, don't plant that seed in a situation where you have no escape route, a well placed comment like that, planted at the best time, could result in a rage.
Again, none of this is really necessary, while the mind of a narcissist is incredibly easy to play based on their basic mental processes, we have done nothing to "get even", just learned a little bit inadvertently with simple, normal, interaction. However, as stated above, odds are more than just you are affected by this person, I suggest letting another person "get even", angry and vengeful is not a good way to live. Just be glad you are not them.
Dealing With A Narcissist
This is a tough proposition. Changes are you don't have the knowledge that the narcissist actually has mental issues until after you have got to know them. By the time you realize somethings not right, you are already attached, so as soon as you try to get distance, you have become a target. If you suddenly disappear, their mind spins it into all sorts of crazy things, all of which somehow end up in your being a threat to exposing them as the fraud they feel they are.
If such is the case with you, and things have never exploded to an unrecoverable point, your best bet is simply being friendly when engaged and exiting as soon as you find a reason. Set up exit plans for anyone else in your house. If your spouse sees you outside, engaged, have a plan for the spouse to call you in for a phone call you received or some such things to be able to exit gracefully.
If kids are involved, never, ever let your children play at their home, and be very wary of their kids playing at yours. The problem here is multi-faceted, as narcissists are frequently irresponsible parents and supervisors. Due to the feelings of self-importance and perfection, no matter what happens when the kids play, any arguments, scraped knees or some such innocent kids stuff will always be your kids fault and the narcissist can be quite aggressive in saying so, even to a child. The other problem is lack of supervision, as if the kids are doing something that does not interest the narcissist, they will pay zero attention to the play, which, in the case of young children is quite troubling.
If you have their kids in your yard, always keep them playing in plain view of the neighbors (any neighbor that happens to be outside), presumably the front yard, because you simply never know what weird ways stories get twisted in the narcissist's mind and what strange things pop out of nowhere as having been a huge problem.
If, however, things have already escalated to a serious level, it may already be too late. Do what you have to to defend yourself and your family. Don't participate in the ensuing character-bashing in the neighborhood (you can bet the narcissist is), but only defend yourself, and only concern yourself with the people that actually matter. It is impossible to talk rationally to a narcissist when they are getting manic, as the ways they can twist stories and reality is amazing. From what I have seen it's either twisting the truth to suit their means or they are simply detached and not really aware of what really happened...or a little of both.
The only real way to get to them, trip them up and stumble their rants is moving beyond a single incident and start discussing a long series of events. Their spins and stories often are plausible one story at a time, but over the long haul simply don't add up. Such was the case in our instance...her single story spins, while completely backwards, were believable, but once you read her version chronologically it was blatantly not true, and anyone that has read it saw all the same inconsistencies. Though it is possible that a smarter narcissist could do a better job.
Relationships With a Narcissist
Narcissism, like many mental disorders, is something you have or you don't; it's part of your personality or it isn't. Most people will agree that to a very limited extent we are all narcissistic, we all like to feel entitled, think of ourselves as unique and impressive individuals. Pathological narcissism, however, is something completely different, it's a virtual inability to accept any less.
Being in a relationship with such a person can be trying, to say the least, and impossible, to say the truth. A relationship to any capacity can be difficult, be it coworker, spouse, neighbor, family member, or anything else. With such a relationship comes mandatory time that is spent with this person. While doing so you spend as much time coddling their fragile ego as much as you spend on anything else.
Most narcissists view others as objects, and little more. Everybody else is simply pawns in their little quest for admiration, praise and world domination. Therefore, they have no real sense of human-compassion, empathy or moral limits in dealing with you. While all the time expecting constant pats on the back from all these pawns that they care little about.
From what I have read, is that later in life (40's) narcissism sometimes diminishes a bit. While it always exists, age apparently softens the sufferer, so depending on the nature of the relationship, your current ages, and such factors, simply waiting it out could pay off. I can't say I agree with this, as I have seen it get progressively worse in one instance as 40 is approaching.
Dealing with a Narcissist in Casual Encounters or Impersonal Relationships
If you know a narcissist that you do need to have casual, or infrequent contact with for any reason, be it serving on some volunteer organization together, attending church or community activities, it would behoove you to keep your contact to minimum. Try not to end up partnered with them in tasks or whatever.
In a casual situation, when contact is required, the best course of action is to simply be friendly, and keep it professional, never personal, be fun and witty, and get the hell away as soon as possible.
Ending a Relationship with a Narcissist
There is an old story that goes along with the mythical dragon, the story is that some dragons can, at will, morph themselves into a human, and mingle with us. Now, while dragons are, us far as I know, a myth, it does make me illustrate that said dragons, morphed as humans, closely resemble the extreme narcissist. They are cunning, often very intelligent and very, very deadly emotionally speaking.
The first step in ridding yourself of this dragon is recognizing you indeed have one to get rid of. This can be tricky, once they are found out, or called out, they can be very nice and sweet (almost disgustingly) for a period of time, but make no mistake, the toxic behavior will return, don't fall for it.
It would be advisable to get help from family and friends, however, if the narcissist has worked according to the script, they have likely worked very hard to get you to sever the ties to anyone you were close to. You need to reach out to those people. They may be upset, or, they may be very happy to help depending how they took the "blowing off" they likely got from you, whether by your own deeds or the manipulation of the narcissist.
Ending a relationship with a narcissist can be easy. Perhaps not quick, but easy, depending on your wanted course of action and the acceptable side effects. The easiest is simply quit feeding the ego. Stop the praising and such that feeds their personality. Simply ignoring some small accomplishment and level some tiny little criticisms when appropriate (that most would consider simply part of life), but don't go reaching for things and simply be mean, just treat them like you would anyone else in ways normal people would deal with normally. That will spell out the end of the relationship soon enough.
What should guide your actions is how long you want it to take, and how soft you want the departure to be. The faster you try to do it, and uglier the results will be, typically. If you start by being downright mean, in an effort to just drive the person away, be prepared for some very mean response. Depending on how close the narcissist considers your relationship, and the value they place on it, a complete split is very, very difficult without some serious fighting, as they will keep getting in your face in an effort to control the situation.
Narcissist often become the "stalking" type, so be careful, the best way to break free is to have a new job in a new town and get the hell out of town in one swoop. De-listing your phone number is usually a good move, but some schlep at the phone company will always give it out anyway at some point. Still, it's worth trying. The farther you can get away the better, if you don't have such a situation, be in an apartment with a security front door, or with roommates or others. Have caller ID, never answer phone calls you know are from them, never respond to email, just ignore them.
For a period of time it may be tough but it's really the only way.