NARCISSISTS AMONG US!
There are plenty of them! We all have narcissistic traits, and that is healthy. It facilitates self assurance and personal growth in who we are and our ability to defend and protect the essence of who we are, particularly in terms of personal development and self care.
However, I was very surprised to hear that narcissism, in its unhealthy/dysfunctional form affects a lot more people and is a lot more prevalent here in Ireland than we think!
As part of an awareness campaign in 2017, I invited psychotherapist and author Christine Louis De Canonville along to Dublin South Fm to talk about narcissism. With 25 years of experience behind her, she had a lot to say. Two of the main accreditation bodies for Counselling and Psychotherapy in Ireland had invited Christine to give a workshop to their members to help counsellors and psychotherapists to identify clients who were impacted by narcissists, and also to train them to work with clients around this ever growing problem.
Christine has written a book called The Three Faces of Evil – How To Identify A Pathological Narcissist.
This book is considered ‘imperative reading for anyone wanting to understand the relationship dynamics between predatory narcissists and their victims’.
What if you are not a counsellor or psychotherapis? What if you are in a relationship with a narcissist? Or your boss is a narcissist? How do you identify a narcissist? Even if you were never to come in contact with a narcissist (you most probably will at some point in your life), just understanding how they operate will help you to be more prepared through awareness.
I have met 4 narcissists (so far!), and my advice is to avoid them (low or no contact). I don’t engage with them, and as soon as I have identified unhealthy narcissistic traits in someone, I break contact and I insisted on a no contact policy. It’s not always as easy as that though, so recognising signs early could save you a lot of anxiety.
I have worked with clients who have been impacted by narcissists, and the outcome largely depends on what state of distress a client presents with.
The systematic breaking down of another human being is soul destroying. The relentless manipulation and subtle destruction of such a covert dictatorship is disturbing, the impact is often crushing, simply because this is the goal of the narcissist – to control.
THE DARK TRIAD
The dark triad focuses on three personality traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Essentially, according to Christine, these are the three faces of evil. The term ‘dark’ implies a shadow side that is hidden, and predatory. Today I am discussing narcissism.
NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is a personality disorder that is defined by certain traits. There is a selfish streak that negates the feelings or needs of anyone outside of themselves. They have a distorted and damaging sense of entitlement, coupled with a lack of empathy among other traits. Lets look at the 9 traits that are attributed to narcissism, at least 5 or which have to be identified in terms of diagnosis.
1. Self Importance:
Has a sense of grandeur and self importance.
They will take advantage of, manipulate or exploit people or situations to benefit themselves.
Narrcissists have a huge sense of entitlement, and have no regard for the rights or entitlement of others. It’s pretty straigh forward – they believe that they come first.
4. Needs Constant Reassurance.
Sounds strange that they need to be complimented, and flattered. This isn’t merely an ego boost for them, they’ve gone past that. At their core, they are the opposite to what they project. On a core level their self esteem is delicate, their self belief is limited, their ability to engage in a meaningful way is fractured. However, they have convinced themselves of the opposite – that they are confident, competent, engaged, so for them your reassurance is more of an acknowledgement to them.
They spend a lot of time being envious of others, especially those who lead empowered lives, who make their own decisions etc. They are actually attracted to people that they admire and respect. People who actually are who the narcissist secretly wants to be.
They can also believe that others envy them, which ties into the sense of grandeur.
They fantasize about how great they are, how much they have, their power, their looks, and brilliance. They have an unrealistic view of their situation.
7. Inflated Sense Of Self:
They feel that they are unique and that nobody can really understand them unless they are of equal importance. They place value on status and will expect to be affiliated with respected, high status individuals or organisation.
Exaggerated sense of importance, immodest, pretentious, scornful, condescending behaviour. All linking in with the sense of grandeur, fantasy, entitlement and self importance traits.
9. Lacks Empathy:
The jury seems to be still out on whether a narcissist just doesn’t empathise or if they actually can’t – either way – they don’t! They won’t respond to a situation with empathy, regardless of your relationship with them. They can fein the motions, but the ‘tell’ is in the fact that they won’t follow up with actions. They won’t (or possibly can’t) identify with feelings or emotions outside of themselves.
This is a helpful link to help you to ascertain whether you are in the company of a narcissist, its also helpful for self assessment. Narcissist Test
There is a tool called The Dirty Dozen Scale which can give you some insight, in terms of the lack of transparency that dark triad traits present with. It’s basically a test on a 7 point scale that can be rated in terms of identifying those traits. It is a useful tool that can help you to ascertain whether someone in your life is a narcissist.
What can you do?
Awareness is key. Identifying a narcissist is the first step in this process. You can assess this by asking yourself some probing questions:
Am I in control of every aspect of my life? If not, identify the areas where you are not.
Do I have the freedom to develop friendships and relationships independently?
Do I have the freedom to feel confident in making decisions at work, or in relation to my career development?
Am I in control of my/our finances. Am I aware of my/our financial situation and involved in making decisions around finances?
Am I free to engage in sports/activities that I have an interest if I choose to?
Do I have peace of mind when choosing what to wear or what to say?
Do I seek permission/approval when making personal decisions?
At the end of the day, you should be the one who controls your life. Certainly, there are boundaries in your career and personal lives, but these boundaries are agreed and accepted to us as our societal norm. Whether we are married, in a relationship or single, independence is our right. If someone is trying to control you, this should be probed. If you feel that you need to be controlled or guided, you might want to gain some insight into why you feel you need this.
Look at your options, and choose become proactive.
Support: talking to someone you trust about how you feel. Asking them for support, such as accompanying you to support groups initially, or even just listening to you.
Helplines: They can be very useful, especially with regard to signposting you in the right direction.
Life Coaching/Counselling: Both can be effective in helping you to assess and unravel obstacles in your life.