When I met Richard (name changed for privacy) he had a story. He fully supported his wife during their divorce to return to law school (stellar guy), struggled in a relationship with his children because he travelled so much and as a result of the divorce, really wanted to reconnect with his daughter but she wouldn’t talk to him, and I felt that conviction.
Richard was a narcissist.
He left out the part where he cheated on his former wife, was verbally and physically abusive to his children, the true reason they didn’t want a relationship with him, and took his traveling as an opportunity to have a woman in every port. He wasn’t actually divorced, only separated which spoke to his desire to ‘collect’ all of the women in his life and stay connected with each and every one of them. Another sign of narcissism — keeping a collection of exes in your social circle.
Richard was also and expert story teller and isn’t that the hook? Playing the victim, building himself up as the bewildered party and beginning the narrative at the point where he was standing in the light (sent his former wife to law school, brooding over broken relationship with children) is a classic narcissists tactic. The reason Richard did this constantly was to seek validation and reassurance from others that the problem was not him, it was them!
Recently an email was received in my partners inbox with unfounded and unsolicited criticisms and advice about me. I’d never met this person. When he called them out on this their response and the fact that they’d never met me, they had zero self reflection of the fact that words can be very damaging to another persons soul, no apology and it was quite lengthy describing what an outstanding Christian and person of faith and God she is. Perplexing given the judgement and condemnation. Her email finished with ‘you win’.
To the narcissist it’s always a game of win or lose.
This is another example of ‘building the story’ as if to say ‘I am the one of a moral high ground and you are the one who is bullying me’.
The basic story is that the narcissist is “good,” “caring,” “moral, “selfless,” “victim” was the “good relationship partner or friend” and the partner/ex-partner is “bad,” “abusive,” “cruel,” “immoral,” “selfish,” “toxic,”
Citing the victim in the narcissists story seems counter intuitive to what we know and understand on the basic level of narcissists — a shield of bravado, success, depth, a person who has it all and has it all figured out. So what makes the crutch or the go to of the victim narrative so attractive?
Narcissists lack authentic self-esteem and poo poo anyone who possesses it. Because of this they’ll resort to pity making them the mistreated and misunderstood hero of their own story. Have you ever had a conversation where they’re facing conflict and yet it’s all the other persons fault? They’re not accountable for anything because it’s the softly formed grey matter or shallow emotional tides of the other that is at the centre of the conflict? Why is this?
The narcissist lives in fear of others finding out how truly damaged and hollow they are at the centre of their core. And at that core, it’s scary.
This is at the core of every effort to present themselves as the“good one” or the unknowing and undeserving victim of the “bad one”
The Narcissists True Colours
What I didn’t understand in the past and do now is that the narcissist shows their true colours in conflict.
It’s in conflict — when even the healthiest among us becomes defensive and self-protective — that the narcissist reveals him or herself in fullness. Refer to the email story above. They fully expose their lack of empathy — the cornerstone of the narcissist — because when the narcissist feels threatened, winning or succeeding to protect him or herself or their image is all that matters, not consequences. A narcissist’s focus and determination to win and be ‘right’ at any cost underscore the shallow nature of their emotional connection.
If lack of empathy is one of the narcissist’s key characteristics, I think we often misunderstand it. Some of the difficulty may have to do with distinguishing fully between sympathy and empathy. When we are sympathetic, we connect largely through intellectual understanding and feel badly about the situation in which a person finds him or herself. Empathy is an emotional response in which we literally feel another’s pain as opposed to understanding his or her pain in the abstract. The truth is that most of us are not consistently empathic, nor are we equally skilled at this most important trait.
3 New Subtypes
As if all of this information wasn’t enough to overwhelm you and make you question when you’ve stumbled upon someone who exhibits these traits, three new narcissistic types have emerged.
- The Closet Narcissist
This one can be trickier to spot than other types of narcissists because the person isn’t always obvious about their disorder. “A closet narcissist is one who doesn’t inflict their personality upon others or society but firmly believes in the characteristics of narcissism,” says Dr. Mayer. That can mean a host of things, including feeling entitled, constantly needing other people to admire them, being preoccupied with success, and being jealous or envious of other people.
2. The Bullying Narcissist
This person combines two terrible traits: bullying and self-absorption. Bullying narcissists build themselves up by trashing other people, Dr. Mayer says. They’re often fixated on winning and will mock or threaten others to get their way. They ultimately get joy from making other people feel bad, small, or unworthy. This is different from a “regular” bully who tends to put people down for social gain, where a bullying narcissist does it for personal motivation and satisfaction.
3. The Seducer Narcissist
This is a particularly tricky type of narcissist: The seducer will “make you feel great about yourself just to ‘win’ you over,” Dr. Mayer says. They will often seem to admire or fawn over you, only to write you off once they no longer have a use for you. Think: Regina George.
The morale? It’s not great to have any kind of narcissist in your circle but the most dangerous one would be a toxic narcissist where the behaviour borders abusive, controlling and manipulative.
Have you dealt with any of the 3 subtypes above? What coping mechanisms do you have in place?
Until next time,