BY CHRISTINE LOUIS DE CANONVILLE, MIACP

The original article can be found on the author’s website here

A NARCISSISTIC RELATIONSHIP IS A MOST DIFFICULT THING TO HANDLE:

Without doubt, being in a narcissistic toxic relationship is a most difficult thing to handle, that is because it can be very frustrating and confusing to work out what is happening to you in this personal relationship. But that is the nature of narcissism and narcissistic abuse. However, when it comes to narcissistic abuse, prevention truly is better than cure. If we want to protect ourselves from becoming targets for narcissists and their toxic narcissistic abuse, we all need to learn how to spot narcissistic behaviour so we can put down healthy boundaries from the start of the relationship (true boundary).  That way we are less likely to be taken advantage of by these toxic individuals in what will most definitely turn into an abusive relationship (i.e. physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, etc.).  Below is a list of some of the most common narcissistic personality traits found in this type of intimate relationship with a toxic person:

1) THE GRANDIOSE NARCISSIST:

Grandiosity is the hallmark of narcissism. A grandiose sense of self is usually the most outstanding and discriminating feature of individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder  (NPD). Grandiosity can be expressed in an unrealistic overvaluation of talents and abilities; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited beauty, power, wealth or success; and a belief in their unrealistic sense of superiority and uniqueness. Indicators of narcissism is in the narcissist’s conduct.  Their grandiosity is accompanied by boastful, pretentious, self-centred and self-referential behaviour.  The research shows that the grandiose narcissist exaggerates their talents, capacity, and achievements unrealistically.  They believe in their invulnerability and do not recognize their limitations.  The narcissist’s grandiosity (and magical thinking) leads them to believe that they are better than everybody else, therefore deserves special privileges and attention. These abusive people’s grandiosity leaves them feeling unrealistically powerful, important, invincible and therefore, highly dangerous.

2) THE NARCISSIST’S SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT:

Individuals with NPD have an absolute strong sense of narcissistic entitlement.  Entitlement, when accompanied by a low sense of emotional intelligence, is likely to lead to toxic relationships.  Narcissists feel entitled to certain things like attention, money, sex, and admiration. In addition, they will exploit their victim’s vulnerabilities for personal gain, leaving them with deep personal wounds.  If the targeted victim does not acquiesce to their will, they will experience a terrorising personal attack at every level of the self (physical, psychological, and spiritual). Narcissists expect others, especially their narcissistic supply (victims), to provide them with what they want, if they fail the narcissist will take it as personal rejection and abandonment which will cause them to feel shame. When their shame is triggered it is likely to lead to a rage. Why do they act this way? Because, in their sickness they perceive themselves to be “special people”, and not the disordered person they really are.

The pathological narcissist operates between their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personas.  So, when you first meet a narcissist during the Idealising Phase, you will be introduced to their “False Self”; the wonderful, charming, and mesmerising Dr Jekyll. This is an illusionary self; a shallow façade that is a temporary fantasied self. However, underneath that façade lurks the narcissist’s “True Self”; the terrifying and controlling Mr Hyde. In the first phase of the relationship, the narcissist’s control seems benign, that is because it is deliberately wrapped up in what resembles loving, seductive behaviour, and therefore it is hard for the victim to spot. They appear to be lovely people, with positive traits designed to seduce the victim into thinking they have met their soul mate, and are embarking on a long-term relationship.  But all is not what it seems.   The Mr Hyde persona is only likely to show him/herself when the Devaluing Phase of the relationship begins (Phase 2). Before that, he/she will be kept hidden out of sight while their Dr Jekyll persona “hooks” the victim in their highly complex dance. These hooks bury deep into the victim’s psyche and are hard to remove (it is a slow painful business).

Entitlement is often associated with feelings of anger, resentment, jealousy, envy, and inferiority. These emotions cause the narcissistic individual to become hostile towards other people who don’t give them what they think they deserve. Narcissistic abusers are very skilled at manipulating their victims into thinking that they care deeply about them. They are also adept at convincing their victims that they are special and unique. In reality, narcissists are  self-centred and see themselves as superior to everyone else.  They take advantage of others’ weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and insecurities. They are often charming, seductive, and manipulative. Narcissists use their position of power over people to get what they want, usually at the expense of someone else. They may pretend that they care about you when they don’t care about you at all. They are extremely self-centred   therefore, only think about themselves.

3) THE NARCISSIST’S MANIPULATION:

Manipulation is another characteristic of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and narcissists are particularly fond of manipulating others into surrendering their firm boundaries and using them as narcissistic supply. Manipulation involves many behaviours, such as lying, deceit, and using charm to get what the narcissist wants from others. They will use flattery, guilt, fear, shame, intimidation, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to control others. Abusive narcissists also use  manipulation as a defence mechanism for hiding their true intentions, for example, they use their charm and charisma to make people feel good about themselves. That way the victim is more likely to get hooked during the Idealisation Phase, and willingly do things that benefit the master manipulator. In other words, the narcissist makes themselves look like someone trustworthy, kind, honest, and sincere. They cunningly manipulate the target person into believing that they have their best interests at heart, which of course, is untrue.  Probably their favourite tool of manipulation is ‘Gaslighting’.  Gaslighting is the narcissist’s covert psychological aggression in which they will manipulate and erode their victims sense of reality, leaving them unable to trust even their intuition.  This insidious form of mental abuse will eventually leave the victim reeling from the effects of gaslighting, leaving them feeling confused, compliant, drained, lifeless and easy to control. Remember, pathological narcissists only see people as objects that exist only to facilitate their  desires.

4) THE NARCISSISTS EXPLOITATIVENESS:

Exploitativeness (a personality trait) would seem to be the motivational engine that drives entitled people (narcissists) to get what they believe they ‘‘deserve’’.  Narcissists are good at ’emotional recognition’ (reading other peoples positive and negative emotions).  This emotional competency makes them quick to recognise hostile faces (negative affective states) and vulnerable faces (positive affective states).  So, they instinctively know who to avoid and who to target (undesirable V’s desirable victims) when looking for a new source of narcissistic supply.  There is a correlation between the narcissist’s exploitativeness and entitlement, these two dimensions go hand in hand with each other, becoming the narcissist’s modus operandi, and a predictor of their aggression.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder exploit others for personal gain, without a moral compass  they will take advantage of others’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Because they have an inflated sense of entitlement, they believe that they deserve special treatment or that what they do is more important than what others do.  For them, because they are so special, the normal ‘rules’ of engagement do not apply to them.

As narcissists are self-absorbed, their focus is only on themselves (rather than other people). They are unable to empathize with their victims because they are too busy focusing on themselves and their wants and needs.  They also lack empathy due to a failure to understand the perspectives of others and will blame others for their shortcomings. What some people call taking advantage of others, the narcissist calls “taking care of myself”.  So, if they can get the upper hand, in any situation, you can be sure that they will.

5) THE SELF-ABSORBED NARCISSIST:

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are self-absorbed (egocentricity),who find it difficult
to empathise with others. They focus on themselves rather than other people, and they make sure to call all the shots in their relationships. They are unable to empathise with others because generally, they are too busy focusing on themselves. Due to their lack of empathy, they fail to understand the perspectives of others.  Narcissists are not attracted to self-absorbed individuals like themselves, that is for sure. They want to surround themselves with people who are compassionate and caring, people they can milk for their human kindness. When in a relationship with them, everything becomes a competition, a “convoluted dance” in action. Just like the Tango, one partner leads and controls the movement of the dance, while the other partner submits. The narcissist and the victim becomes locked into a pattern of one-up-man-ship, and one-down-man-ship, and the dance continues as long as both are willing to be dance partners.

6) THE ARROGANT NARCISSIST:

Arrogance is a trait of narcissism. It is characterized by conceitedness, haughtiness, and contemptuous behaviour.  This leads to an exaggeration of the narcissist’s importance, allowing them to lord themselves over others.  The narcissist’s exaggerated and excessive self-worth does a great job of chasing off their inferiority complex and replacing it with an outer veneer of superiority through their False Self. Narcissistic individuals are not open to taking advice, not because they are confident, but because they see others as incompetent. Their arrogance leaves them condescending and  unable to bend, and the need to be always right.  These patterns of behaviours go a long way to disguising their inner sense of vulnerability that is far too shameful to be seen by others. This, to a large extent, creates the narcissist’s typical arrogance that is all too apparent. Some of the ways the narcissists distract their thoughts of shame are through their fantasies of power, control, grandiosity, sense of entitlement, envy, and arrogance, this tends to leave them shame deficient, and likely to carry out shameless acts on their victims (their ‘narcissistic supply’).

 

7) THE NARCISSIST’S VINDICTIVENESS:

Narcissists are vindictive rageful individuals who harbour ill will against others, especially those who they perceive have abandoned or rejected them. Narcissists are black and white thinkers, which means, you are either with them or against them.  As far as a narcissist is concerned, you are rejecting and abandoning them if you challenge them in any way (i.e., criticize them, give your attention to someone else, should you not do as they say, etc.).  Should you wrong them (or fail to fulfil their need in any way), their vulnerable ego will perceive this as a direct threat to their self-worth.  Should this happen,  you will trigger their narcissistic rage, and they will surely want to get their own back on you.  They may even turn to terrorising you as a means of revenge. The narcissist’s fragile ego can only survive by maintaining the illusion that they are superior to everyone around them. The narcissist’s primary objective is to maintain control over all aspects of their life, including their relationships. This includes controlling other people, such as family members, friends, coworkers, lovers, spouses, children, bosses, subordinates, and strangers.

8) EXPLOITATION:

Narcissists are highly exploitative, they are always looking for victims to take advantage of for personal gain. They are quick to recognise narcissistic vulnerability in others. They will especially exploit that vulnerability by using manipulation tactics such as gaslighting or abuse of power (e.g., emotional blackmail) to control or manipulate.  Because they need to be the centre of attention, they are constantly looking to “hook” a juicy victim as a fresh source of narcissistic supply. The narcissist’s prominent attitude is disdain, it arises from their absolute sense of superiority that allows them to exploit others for self-gain, and then discard them. The discard comes when the victim is perceived as being no longer useful to them.  This may be because, as narcissistic supply, they are not forthcoming enough.  The narcissist quickly becomes bored and begins the task of looking for a new source of narcissistic supply. The more supply they have, the more opportunities they have to exploit for self-gain.

9) GASLIGHTING, THE NARCISSIST’S COVERT AGGRESSION:

Gaslighting is a form of covert psychological abuse.  Gaslighting is used by all pathological narcissists to instil in their victims an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their memory, perception, instinct or judgement. The tactics used in this cycle of abuse are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare for decades. The tactics include withholding, disconnecting, threatening, undermining, countering, trivializing, denial, minimising, blocking, diverting, accusing, swearing, ordering, blaming, judging, shaming, criticizing, etc.  This is very different from the physical violence that is most often associated with narcissistic abuse, its goal is to manipulate the victim’s perception and sense of reality for personal gain. Unlike physical abuse, there are no physical wounds associated with psychological abuse or non-violent intimidation, making it a lot harder to identify. Furthermore, it does not carry the same social taboo as other forms of abuse, even though it may be more damaging to the victim’s mental health, as it is designed to erode the victim’s sense of reality.

10) TOTAL DISREGARD OF BOUNDARIES:

A narcissist has no limits, they will do anything to get what they want. If you say “no” or try to stop them from doing something, they will ignore you or even threaten you with harm if you don’t comply. They will not take “No” for an answer.

11) CONSTANT NEED OF ATTENTION:

Narcissists have a constant need for attention from others to keep their egos inflated. They are addicted to a drug known as “Narcissistic Supply”, and it does not matter whether the supply is  good or bad, what matters is that the supply brings adulation, fame, and celebrity that is constant, reliable, and predictable.

 

CONCLUSION:

The narcissist’s protected “selfism” guarantees that they evaluate most situations in terms of what they will gain from any exchange, and it is of absolutely no concern to them what others get from the relationship. Narcissists do not learn from experience, they repeat the same mistakes over and over again. He or she refuses to change his or her behaviour despite experiencing negative consequences.  Many victims make the mistake of thinking that love is enough to bring about change in the narcissist….. that is a lethal mistake.

 

CHRISTINE’S BOOKS ON NARCISSISM IN ORDER OF RELEASE.

The 3 Faces Of Evil is an introduction to Narcissism and the Dark Triad.

When Shame Begets Shame is an extensive look at shame and how it fuels the narcissist’s behaviour.

The Gaslighting Syndrome covers the topic of Gaslighting and many related areas in great detail.

The 3 Faces Of Evil

When Shame Begets Shame

The Gaslighting Syndrome

Follow Christine
Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.

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