MOST families and offices have them but we always struggle to understand it. Welcome to the narcissist lurking…
“Grandiose sense of importance, preoccupation with unlimited success, belief that one is special and unique, exploitative of others, lacks empathy, is arrogant, and is jealous of others.” Sound familiar?
Dr Steve Bressert, Ph.D writing for psychcentral.com explores the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder so that everyone can understand the best way to deal with the people that display them.
“People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behaviour may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.”
Blaming others for their own mistakes and misgivings, lying about personal problems that benefits their own agenda and turning on the charm to get you to do things for them. The narcissist will always manipulate a situation to their own advantage.
Psychologists will often theorise that narcissistic disorders stem from low self-esteem and issues within their own life. They will never admit these traits to themselves and will most likely only confront them through therapy, yet this is rare.
A mental health issue should always be addressed at an early stage and where people are aware of it this does speed things along. Narcissists however don’t understand these problems and feel that the world is indeed in the wrong. Psychologist John Masterson called this rigid type of thinking a “Swiss Cheese Brain” with holes in the brain and mind where good common sense and conscience should be.
It is with the deep seeded issues they experience internally that require them to put up a smokescreen to others. They will lie to get what they need to try and fill these gaps or cheat to achieve supremacy. This all happens at the expense of others, whether a parent or friend.
“Selfish people usually insist on having things their own way at the expense of others. The need to impose getting one’s way over others is an unreal attitude and expectation that sets other people off against them. When the person with narcissistic tendencies doesn’t get what he or she wanted, he feels devalued.
“Since they cannot tolerate the feelings of fear, hurt, anxiety, helplessness and despair, they defend against them. They deny and rationalise their own contribution to the problems to preserve their own internal fantasy of being all good and right,” writes psychologist Dr Lynne Namka on her website angriesout.com.
In the days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat the everyday narcissist has never had so many opportunities and platforms to tell everyone how important they are and how their life is so much better than yours.
While most people summaries this behaviour as someone just being ‘full of themselves’, narcissist can prove to be a very dangerous type of person. They will stop at nothing to pull others down and manipulate those around them into believing all the wild and wonderful stories they tell.
It is when naive friends or family start pushing the same lies, people start to get hurt.
So how do you best deal with a person displaying the signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Psychology Today’s Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. says, “Don’t let yourself get derailed. It’s easy to lose your own sense of purpose or goals when a narcissist tries to take centre stage. You don’t need to attend to everything this person says or does, no matter how much he or she clamours for your attention. Find the balance between moving ahead in the direction you want to pursue and alleviating the vulnerable narcissist’s anxieties and insecurities.”
Dr Craig Malkin speaking to the Huffington Post (US) says that having a ‘connection contract’ with the friend or family member can help set boundaries about what is acceptable behaviour.
“If I hear criticism, if I hear yelling, if I hear insults about my intelligence… I won’t be able to be in the same house as you.”
Malkin says that the reason this approach works as well as it does is because it is exposing the behaviour that is not appropriate.
While this may not always be a possible method for dealing with a colleague at work, you do have the ability to speak to a manager about their behaviour. As long as your manager is not the narcissist themselves. If they are then it may be time to look for a new job.
Besides the above, there are number of practical ways to deal with a narcissist, according to most psychologists.
The first, let them win. Nothing will change but it will make it somewhat easier for you to deal with them on a daily basis.
Second is to play the game. Resist the needs of the person in your life to get what they want. As time goes by they will realise that they are not getting what they need – attention, money or superiority – and leave.
The second option is not always an easy one for a family member. We never really want to erase a child, sister or brother from our lives but, in severe cases this is sometimes the only way to be able to get peace in your own life.
If you are dealing with a narcissistic parent, child or sibling, the other option is to not give in to their bad habits. Don’t become an ATM for their money issues, don’t reinforce their need for attention and don’t become a pawn in their chess game.
These are all difficult steps but they need to be taken to ensure that the narcissist understands that for one, you have principles and will stand up to them but, secondly that they need to take responsibility for their own lives and not expect so much from others.
I do speak from experience when writing this article. I have dealt with narcissists at both work and in my personal life. Some people will blame you for cutting them out of your life however they all need to understand that this is my life and I will choose who I share it with.
The biggest lesson I have learnt out of all of this is that by not giving a narcissist what they want they will be in endless turmoil. They are not getting what they want. This does sound mean but at times it is exactly what they deserve for the trouble they have caused in your life.
Just remember that it’s not always easy to ‘manage’ the most important person in everyone’s life. Understanding that they have a mental health issue can better help you understand the symptoms and allow you the opportunity to regain some control in your own life.
If you feel that you or someone in your life displays the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
(Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in this field. Research has been undertaken to obtain the facts presented in this article.)