The Dark Triad Rises

Today I want to examine the notion that Narcissim isn’t out on its own on the “everyday people it is not good to have a relationships with” stakes.  In fact Narcissism is one of the so called “Dark Triad” of personality types .  The Triad is so called because of similarities between three profoundly negative personality types which have overlapping characteristics and one personality trait common to all three – a lack of empathy.

Empathy is an essential ingredient in mature, psychologically healthy relationships.  Having the right amount of empathy means you can feel and share, to some degree the emotions of others.  For example, recognising that something said or done may have hurt feelings and apologising for it.  An empathetic person chooses to understand and respond to the emotions of others and in most cases, this will curb the worst excesses of selfishness characterised by the Freudian “Id”.  An empathetic person with think first then act.

A complete lack of empathy in the extreme leads to psychopathy, an ability to harm another person either deliberately or because they “get in the way” without any conscience at all.  Most serial killers and historical figures such as Adolf Eichmann – the architect of “The Final Solution” would be characterised as psychopathic. In his book “Zero Degrees of Empathy”, professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading expert on Autism suggests that a lack of empathy diminishes or dehumanises “the other” making them less than “the I “which represents the person without empathy. Whilst we all do this to some extent, to lack empathy makes it the preferred mode of operation.

So what are the dark triad?

The dark triad are Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy.  As readers of this site will be aware, Narcissists have an enormous ego, over inflated sense of self-importance, are proud and have low or non-existent empathy.  And as I have explored elsewhere, they are often found in the ranks of successful businessmen and politicians and the like.

Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism, named after the 5th century politician and writer, Niccolò Machiavelli  who,  wrote an instruction manual for prince regents during the Italian renaissance, the most enduring aspect of which was the concept of “The end justifying the means”.  The main characteristic of this “dark” personality is an ability to manipulate others for self-gain combined with actions which lean towards the amoral. Machiavelli himself is much maligned and did not necessarily approve of the mechanisms he described.  However, his name has been for ever linked with underhand and manipulative acts, though he himself did none.

Psychopathy

Psychopathy is the big daddy of the triad, and the behaviour of psychopaths generally involves some type of antisocial acts, impulsivity and a callous selfishness arising from a total lack of empathy. It is believed that many serial killers have psychopathic tendencies and because they completely lack any empathy, they are extremely dangerous.

No whilst there are obvious differences, some psychologists are beginning to argue that rather than being separate, these conditions overlap or at best are a continuum..

Does the dark triad exist  as a separate entity?

Well according to research done by  Delroy Paulhus and Kevin William  of the university of British Columbia, the short answer is “no”. However, certain correlations do seem to exist.  They are all “disagreeable” (yes, surprisingly that can be objectively measured by a questionnaire) but whilst psychopaths and narcissists are both extroverts, Machiavellians, appear to be introverted.

Machiavellians and psychopaths are not conscientious.  Psychopaths are not neurotic, but the other two are. If you want a person who is realistic about themselves then the Machiavellian guy or gal is a better bet since their self-identity is grounded in reality, unlike the other two Thus leading to a relationship which can be illustrated thus:


Fig1: correlations amongst measurements of narcissism, Machiavellianism,psychpathology based on n=245. Results significant to p<001, two tailed test. (after Paulhaus &Williams)

Apparently Narcissists are slightly more intelligent, so there may be a basis for their smugness after all, however psychopaths and Machiavellians are better on non-verbal IQ tests.

So what does this mean for the rest of us ?

Narcissist’s self-belief make them more easy to spot since they are not shy, retiring and they are confident in themselves.  If he’s your boss, your president then his confidence may serve his team well.  If they are your friend or your lover and you are committed to them then you may have to hold back your own needs or develop strategies to deal with them in the interests of peace and understanding.

Machiavellians are likely to be equally successful, but in a quieter way.  For in all too many cases, manipulation can be a positive attribute if he or she is on your side.  As my grandad used to say, make sure he is in your tent pissing outwards rather than the other way in.  If they are your friend or partner, then you must find a way of living with the uncertainty that they may manipulate or leave you.

Psychopaths overall are less successful than their triad counterparts in business. They are dangerous, antisocial and impulsive.  If you are in a relationship, you need to ask yourself just one question, am I safe? and if you are still unsure, remind yourself of Ted Bundy; Fred West or Harold Shipman. Where it is possible to support a narcissist, appreciate a manipulative Machiavellian, if you disagree with a psychopath you may end up the worse for it so just run!

It sounds like the beginning of some awful joke but if faced with the choice between a narcissist, a Machiavellian and a psychopath, the dark triad, the narcissist may in these circumstances be the least bad!

References:

Paulhus, D & Williams, K (2002) : The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy in Journal of Research in Personality 36 pp 556–563

Baron-Cohen, S: Zero degrees of Empathy, Pub Allen Lane, 2011

Trump, Farage, Le Pen And The Wizard Of Oz

trump-wizard-of-oz

“I believe JR really loved Sue Ellen
And that things sound better when you’re yellin’
I believe that the Devil is ready to repent
But I can’t believe Donald Trump Is president”
Not The Nine O’Clock News circa 1980, edited for 2016″

The song “I Believe” was a parody American folk song from British satirical comedy programme which mocked the election of Ronald Regan to the office of president. The election of former B-movie actor, Regan was not as absurd as might at first appear, since at least he had held political office as Governor of California for 10 years eschewing his previous identity as an actor. By all accounts he was a pretty skilled politician with a past when he entered the White house in 1981. Comparisons between Trump and Regan should end there. The incredulity of his many in his electorate and those of us in Europe however will not go away as easily.

2016 has been a year of the unexpected in democratic terms. Firstly, in June the Brits voted to divorce themselves from Europe and now this month, Trump, whom everyone thought of as a Joke has been elected 44(5)th president of the United States, arguably the most powerful democratic office in the democratic world. Next year, if the surprise lurch to what was considered electoral margins continues, stalwart of European politics, Angela Merkel will be ousted, and in France, darling of the right, Marine Le Pen will do something her father in his extremism could only dream of, be elected president of France.

Uncertain Times

We live in uncertain times. The pace of change has increased to that which we as human beings can’t hold on to (as demonstrated by the many iterations of the presentation “Shift Happens” an original representation from Arapahoe High School in 2006). This itself causes a kind of mental pain which Alvin Toffler termed “Future Shock”. Add to this mass migration (Europe, Syria and North Africa) and an employment market which has been stripped of “traditional” “working class” jobs, combined with a lack of security in employment for the “lower” middle classes (clerical and administrative) who have suffered proletarianisation with stable jobs being off-shored to Mumbai or stateless organisations such as Elance and Upwork.

For those who have additional sensibilities, depite the shrinking of the Ozone Hole above the Antarctic, global warming is killing off polar bears and our addiction to all- things palm oil is causing orangutans and their neighbours to verge on the borders of extinction. Modern life is scary.

Wizzie Of Oz

So we want the Wizard of Oz. The wizard of Oz was authoritarian, offering certainty, a mere man who gave gifts of sawdust, plastic and oil to help those who were afraid manage the uncertainties of their existence. Trump and Farage offer the same and in doing so offer their narcissism in exchange.

The Diagnostic and statistical manner describes narcissists as having an exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements). The confidence of politicians such as Farage, Trump and Le Pen, compensate for our lack of certainty and it doesn’t matter to us whether they are right, merely that they believe they are .

Trump’s speeches focussed on the phrase “It’s going to be great”. Trump names everything after himself and lives on a “Golden Tower” which in metaphorically speaking, not unlike the “Emerald City” both Gold and Emeralds have powerful symbolism in our culture. His confidence and sense of self-importance, I think, are a lot more secure for us than the intellectual maybes of Obama and Merkel.

Unlimited Success

The second characteristic of a narcissist is a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love. To those of us stuck in our mundane, ordinary lives of flatulence, failures and personal falling downs can be swept away by the self-belief of these politicians. Nigel Farage has “resigned” from the leadership of UKIP (The United Kingdom Independence Party) at least twice. Each time making bold statements about it being time for someone else to take on the leadership mantle, only to return when the party cannot find anyone as brilliant as him to take it on.

Never fear, Nigel is here and his grandiose sense of self-importance can only be inflated by his relationship with Trump, but a certain element in the English electorate love him and take comfort from his confidence on the world stage, however short lived it might be.

Take Advantage of Others

Narcissists too are said to selfishly take advantage of others for their own ends. What most politicians want is power, to that extent it could be said that they are all alike. What sets the current cadre apart from those of the past is their exploitation of the electorate for their own ends and not out of any sense of service. Insecurities about employment and the failure of governments to provide ready and quick answers have been set upon and turned into phrases with mantra-like qualities: “Its going to be great!” or “I want to take our country back” wonderful sounds full of “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

Hilary and the remain camp had no way of arguing against these meaningless but powerfully expressed ideas and I suspect Merkel and Hollande will similarly fall like ten pins in the months to come. Even the very public accusations of sexual harassment levelled at Trump and charges of racism at Farage did not diminish their appeal.

Whilst these politicians demonstrate contempt for us be overly simplifying the difficulties we face in the 21st century. We lap up the patronizing attitude of these narcissists because it is more palatable than uncertainty we live in. We want to burn up fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow; to have cheap consumer goods and services without losing our jobs; to be slim and eat junk food; not to pay taxes but for all the services we need to be always there for us; to live in a world which has forgotten the answer to the question “who is my neighbour” and for it all to be OK just like the endings of a thousand blockbuster movies. Child-like people need to believe in the Wizard of Oz and his or her booming voice but what happens when the curtain falls away to reveal a little man from New York who knows little and understands less?

Why I Would Quite Like To Be A Narcissist.

bad-guyOK, I admit it. I am a worrier and I don’t always sleep well. During my worst nights, I toss and turn reliving painful moments which embarrass me or worry that something I have said or done might have hurt another person. It doesn’t help too that in the morning after, the mirror feeds my insecurities – the wrinkles, the odd grey hair and that spot which miraculously appears when I need it least. Plus, the burning questions, “why can’t everyone age as well as George Clooney?” and “How much effort will it take me to be selfie ready?”

It is on these mornings in particular, that I would quite like to be a narcissist. To sleep soundly in my bed without worry, to look at the mirror in the morning and see that expected handsome face and then share those god-like qualities in the best possible selfies for all my thousands of followers on Facebook.

One person, two realities and the only thing which would be different would be the model of my reality in my head. Yes, I would quite like to be a narcissist and this is why..

I would feel self-important

My qualifications are OK and certainly good enough for the work I do, but wouldn’t my CV look better if that four day course I went on in a famous English university town became “studied at Cambridge” ? Narcissists you see, feel they have a right to be seen as superior without necessarily having the qualifications to match, and a little exaggeration never hurt anyone did it ? The English former politician and novelist Lord Jeffery Archer claimed to hold an undergraduate degree from Oxford which in reality, was a diploma. The truth too, never got in the way for Frank Abagnale Jr who posed successfully as an airline pilot, lawyer and doctor without the necessary qualifications. Now where did I put that Pulitzer prizewinning web article

I want to feel special or entitled

We are all special to our parents but I want to be special to everyone and I want to demonstrate this by how I park my car. When I go to the supermarket I carefully park my car in the right zone. I don’t have children or a disability so I never occupy those car parking spaces close to the doors. So I park where I am supposed to, but as I do so and walk across the entire width of the car park in the rain, I invariably spy some guy in a Lexus or that ridiculous of cars, a Range Rover Evoque, slamming into the space nearest the door and lithely nipping into the store without child or any physical impairment to stop him. These too are the same people who park on pavements forcing people with buggies into the road because rules of the pavement and parking restrictions don’t apply to them, obviously!

I need to be admired for the beauty I am

Everyone must agree that wholefood muesli tastes of nothing and has the consistency of small-piece gravel. Similarly, a hot and steamy workout at the gym takes time away from the things I enjoy most: writing this web page (obviously?) socialising with friends, and binge-watching the latest box-sets. Vladimir Putin is famous for stripping off to the waist and showing off his aptitude in a range of physical challenges. This is too much effort for me. I am afraid the only work out my body will get is through the means of photoshop…

I want to take advantage of others to get what I want

The psychologist Stanley Milgram did a famous experiment where he convinced his participants to deliver electric shocks to people, or at least think they did. One explanation of why this worked was that he got “gradual commitment” from the people. His first request was reasonable, but became increasingly unreasonable incrementally. In real-life asking a favour and then extending it has been shown to work……So who can I get to write some guest articles for my web page……..

I don’t want to feel other’s pain.

History is littered with famous people who lacked empathy. Too little empathy and there is a danger that a person may be a sociopath, too much and a person becomes frozen and can’t act. For me, the tension in this duality was represented in an old episode of Star Trek the original series. In the episode “The Enemy Within” Kirk is transported on to the ship during a storm and unknown to the crew is split into two halves. One, the sociopathic Kirk, is quickly spotted as he attempts to sexually assault a crew member and locked up in the brig. The other, whilst retaining command, lacked the ability to take decisions because people may be killed and he can’t switch off his pain, leaving him frozen. Normality is restored when the two halves are re-joined. The moral of the tale is that too much or too little empathy is bad for you. So, perhaps although I want to have a little less empathy, so that I worry about others less, I need some.

I want to quit listening to others and tell my story instead

I should really be English I am so polite and am completely unable to say “no”. There are whole years of my life and a least a tree-worth of tissues I will never get back. Girlfriends (friends not lovers) are the worst, coming around for coffee and pouring their heart out about what a b*****d their partner has been only to be all loved up the following week with the same guy or gal. Just for once I want to be able to say “Shut up you’re boring me now and I want to tell you about how life is for me”. Instead I just sit and listen offering coffee and endless boxes of tissues, one must never forget the tissues.

I know metaphorically speaking that you can eat an elephant by cutting a task up into small chunks but I don’t think, (to continue the extended animal metaphor ) a leopard can change his spots. So whilst I may be confident I am as devilishly handsome as Clooney, I know I will still have disturbed sleep and have to walk across store car parks in the rain to buy tissues.

Me, My Narcissistic Lover and I (Story From A Dedicated Reader)

love-storyHow It Began, Dating a Narcissist

I never intended to date a narcissist but until it was all over, I don’t know that was what he was. At first he made me feel good he told me how beautiful I was. As a student of Industrial Chemistry at university I spent most of my time with people more focussed on compounds than women. I was living at home so to make a little money I took on some bar work and that is where we met. My self- confidence with boys and men had always been quite low. People told me that I was pretty, but I didn’t believe them. This was probably in part a result of the fact that my parents had extremely high expectations of me. I have a high IQ, but I expect their high expectations of me were because my older brother has Downs’ syndrome and takes a lot of looking after so my parents tried to compensate.

He was charming, very good looking and even though he was 12 years’ older than me, it felt like he had a young attitude, being able to mix with a group of people my age and even lead the whole crowd in what to do. If Ian said “let’s go into town” they would all follow. He was the life and soul of the party. And, what was best, he made me the focus of his attention, when his wife wasn’t there that was. She was older than him and he told me stories about how, before him, she had been a mess and he had straightened her out. He had been a step-dad to her children and made himself out to be some sort of heroic rescuer especially of her son who had been in big trouble at school.

Getting To Know The Narcissist

Before I knew it, we were sneaking away after closing time and having cheeky, romantic, rendezvous at the beach in the dark. It was idyllic, moonshine, stars and the lapping of waves, his strong arm around my shoulders, I was in love. I left my boyfriend and he left his wife but not before he told me everything about himself. He had been expelled from school and had gone to borstal. He had served a short prison sentence for getting into a fight in which the other guy had suffered a serious assault. He said he was sorry for his actions, but at the same time there was a boastfulness in his remorse. He would often say “The school hasn’t been built that could contain and manage me”. I guess I colluded with his story, that the world had been unfair on him.

I agreed with this self-diagnosis that he was intelligent but his rough start in life had got in the way of his ability to succeed. He boasted that when he was assessed at special school his IQ was in the top 1%, higher than mine. I believed everything he told me and defended him to my parents who said little but I could tell they didn’t approve my choice of a fork-lift truck driver who spent nearly every evening in the pub.

trees

After The Honeymoon

We moved in together after about a year of dating. My parents helped us financially because as a student I didn’t have much money and Ian hadn’t managed to save any money in the six months we had been planning to get a house. He had loads of excuses. All he contributed to the home was his weightlifting equipment. But all too quickly, his behaviour changed. He started to go out on “all-nighters” including going to a lap dancing club and a casino where he managed to spend £500 in one night. His friends thought he was generous but I couldn’t afford to turn the heating on and sat alone at home shivering.

One night on my day off, we were at the pub and a male student on my course came in. we started to chat about a practical we had recently done and before I knew it, Ian was standing next to him and began to threaten him for talking to me. He put his arm around my waist and almost dragged me back to where we had been sitting. The guy I had been talking to left he pub soon after and hasn’t spoken to me since.

Soon, he began to be drunk almost every day and started to miss work. It was a miracle he didn’t get the sack, but the owner was a friend of his dad’s so he was given more chances than was reasonable. We stopped going out together and he started to hang around with a group of impressionable lads who were only about 20. I will never forget our conversations, which would veer from settling down and having kids to his assertion that “you can’t put a ball and chain on me baby!”. The fact that we went to three weddings in a year of our peer group seemed to make matters worse.

Several times I planned to leave, but even though I had said nothing to him each time he managed to do something to redeem himself – he helped my parents move house, even wore a suit for my graduation and smiled proudly as I collected an achievement prize. These little things kept us going.

The End Of The Affair

About five months before we split, he stopped coming to bed and would sleep on the couch. Then he started to drive into the next town to drink, stay up all night and turn up at home after I had left for university. Then came the event that blew me out of the water. A friend shared a photo on Facebook of them all out for the night an event I hadn’t been invited to. He had his arm around a girl and the next photo was of them kissing. I suddenly knew what I had tried not to believe, he had someone else.

What My Therapist Told Me

For months after I returned home to my parents, I was miserable. I felt ugly, worthless, because he had dumped me for someone else. After a few months’ I started to feel very unhappy until one day I broke down in tears on my way to work and realised I was suffering with depression. I found a therapist and began talking to her about my relationship and feelings.

The therapist helped me understand that it wasn’t me who had a problem. She described him as a “narcissist”. Apparently, their whole focus in their lives is about them. They can justify their behaviours and believe it too. Even their explanations for failure in any aspect of their lives can be blamed on others or bad luck. She said he showed classic signs of narcissism: a focus on himself, a justification for his behaviour and his “love bombs” which made me feel so good and which I missed with all my heart.

I am getting better and I am back at work. My advice to anyone reading this who thinks that their relationship with someone, man or woman is anything like the one described here is run, you can’t change them and like a moth to a bright flame, you might get your wings burned.

Lucifer A Well-Executed Portrait Of a Narcissist?

luciferIn the beginning…

The Huffington Post is a home for excellent, online journalism and  Brittany Wong, one of its associate editors, is no slouch in that department. In 2015 she wrote a cracking piece about  the tell-tale signs of being in love with a narcissist. Now,  whilst I am a fan of the good old “Huff” I also have other passions including my  guilty,  secret addiction to Fox’s “police procedural drama” “Lucifer” which hit our screens in January 2016.  In my own mind, I have juxtaposed these two pieces of popular media and have concluded that Lucifer Morningstar is a narcissist!

A quick recap – what “The Bible” doesn’t tell you

Lucifer Morningstar was God’s favourite angel, but was cast out of hell because of his pride.  He was the serpent in The Garden of Eden, the curator of Hell and the tempter of Christ. In 21st Century comic-book revisionism he became an anti-hero who left Hell for the cooler climate (well, when compared to Hell anyway) of Los Angeles where he proved that he had been badly libelled, by the writers of The Bible at least!

Enter Fox media, who picked up the character and adapted the comic books into a TV series.  Tom Ellis, devilishly dark, jazzy and eccentrically English, plays the title role of Lucifer, who lives to punish wrong-doers. If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle unintentionally created an Asperger hero in Sherlock Holmes, Neil Gaiman unwittingly did the same by creating a perfect narcissist in Lucifer.

Meanwhile, Lucifer, completely oblivious of the obvious personality traits, storms his was through LAPD sometimes helping to solve crimes.

In the words of Brittany Wong…

Lucifer is a narcissist because:

The Love Bomb: Lucifer can charm the birds from the trees and then chew them up and spit out the feathers.  Surrounded as he is in his nightclub by beautiful women he approaches them with charm and praise that would melt any woman’s heart.  He can serenade, mix a cocktail and can seduce with a classic line “Tell me what you most desire?”. His therapist played by Rachel Harris accepts his payment “in kind” for their sessions and his “pet” demon, the beautiful Mazikeen, hangs on his every word.  Lucifer’s philosophy of “love them and leave them” means only those useful to him get to keep his attention.

The sweeping gesture: Lucifer has taken a bullet for many people but whilst that may impress mere mortals it is important to remember, he is immortal so a mere bullet means nothing.  Likewise, he has solved many police cases, but he never lets anyone forget how he has helped.  He can turn on the charm to get people to confess or if they don’t appear to, look like a person for whom a derma peel has been left on too long – bright red with glowing eyes. The result of this gesture is insanity, not a recommended police interrogation technique.

Can’t admit when he is wrong…Everyone is stupid in the eyes of  Lucifer.  Whilst there are a few exceptions, Morningstar appears to lack any inner ability to reflect on his actions.  His forte is failing to follow procedure and then justifying his behaviour and  the irrelevance of the rules of engagement.

Envy of others relationships. He has a pet name for everyone, including his partner Detective Dekker’s ex-husband Dan, (Kevin Alejandro) who he calls “Detective Douche”. Lucifer spends a lot of energy denigrating Dan and his brother Amenadiel who has been sent by God, to return him to Hell and restore order in the universe.  He appears to hate anyone who get close to Dekker, even to some extent her daughter.  He does however appear to want to protect her too.

They live for the “Likes” Whilst, the real Lucifer Morningstar does not have a Facebook account (In an act of life imitating art, I checked!), if he did have he would no doubt be continually updating his status.  Indeed, once he discovered “The Selfie” there was no stopping him. He also parades himself through his showy nightclub, “Lux”, which is an extension of his personality and is even given to impromptu performances for his fawning fans.

lux

Everything, including the empathy is about a payoff: With only one exception in the first series (no spoilers), all of Lucifer’s actions are about the payoff.  At first he is trying to seduce Dekker (Lauren German) but later he is trying to understand what she has that makes her so special, and immune to his charms.

The conversation is all about him: At every turn, Lucifer turns each conversation to his favourite topic, himself.  Even his journey of self-discovery facilitated by his therapist is not about becoming a better person, but at first trying to understand why Detective Dekker is immune to him.  He is unable to empathise with people and even when they are grieving he asks insensitive questions on matters which have peeked his curiosity, even if it damages the criminal case.

They are very good looking: Lucifer is tall, dark and very definitely extremely handsome. He wears suites, the cut of which would make James Bond feel scruffy and under-dressed, and whilst his car a black corvette isn’t an Aston Martin, it suites the slick image. Even without his supernatural charms, very few women would be able to resist an advance.

The needs of other people don’t matter: To Lucifer, the world is quite literally his oyster. He has obviously made a lot of money; he can have anything or anyone he wants and all his relationships including with Dekker’s young daughter are based on his needs. As the disgraced son of God and ruler of Hell, he has a superiority complex and self-importance which no one on Earth can match.

Whilst this exercise has been mainly humorous there is a serious side to the discussion.  Lucifer typifies what is attractive and compelling about a Narcissistic personality.  I am sure he is not the only such character in the box sets that make up our TV schedules.  The question remains however, why,  if we are so skilled at creating characters which closely resemble narcissists, are we so very bad at recognising them when we meet them in life? Is it because even Lucifer has some endearing qualities out with the Narcissistic spectrum or is it something else?

Do Male Narcissists Have Friends of the Same Sex? Or Too Much Competition?

narcissist-friendsDo Narcissists Have Friends Of The Same Sex?

Q: Thanks to this blog, my faith, and help from family, friends, and a few visits to a therapist, I have been free of my narcissist ex for 7 months. A friend of mine is going through a break-up with a narcissist now and is having a difficult time (I’ve shared this site with her). As she talks to me about her ex, we realized something both exes have in common: neither men had any friendships with other men.

At best, they had remote acquaintances with other male figures (and in his case, because my ex is a locally-known celebrity with a self-inflated opinion of himself, these few males about whom he bragged were of ‘high standing’ in our community…athletes, political figures, wealthy businessmen with whom he spoke rarely!), but even then that was only once or twice-a-year communication. My ex regularly referred to these acquaintances as “his friends” but had not a single male friends. Her ex shared this trait. Is this common for male narcissists, and if so, why? Too much competition?

A: Congratulations on successfully breaking free of a narcissist; that is not an easy accomplishment and it sounds like you had a wonderful support system to help you. Your friend is very lucky to have you in her support system! Narcissists do not have friends as we know them, neither same sex or opposite sex. They will label someone their friend if they are acquainted with them and have high standing in the community, thereby providing them with narcissistic supply by association.

It is not because of competition per se (in some specific cases that may be true), it is because he has no empathy and does not need friends- he has himself and his need for supply and that is all that matters in his world. He or she may have ‘followers’ for a while until even they can no longer tolerate the chaos or abuse that is the narcissist’s life. As Sam Vaknin says, “The narcissist is a human roller coaster- fun for a limited time, nauseating in the long run.”

Would you also like to ask us a question and see it answered on this website?Ask your Question Here!

The History of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

history-of-narcissismA Short History Of Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is “a pervasive disorder characterized by symptoms that include grandiosity, an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others” according to the revised fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Similar to other personality disorders (bipolar, histrionic, antisocial), NPD involves a pattern of behaviors and thoughts over a lengthier amount of time that negatively impacts multiple facets of a person’s life including work, family and friendships. While the concept dates back thousands of years ago, NPD only became a recognized illness in the past 50 years.

Early Roots

The story of Narcissus comes from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a beautiful, proud young man. When he chanced to see his reflection in a pool of water for the first time, and did not recognize it as his own image, he became so enamored that he was unable to stop gazing at his own image. He was unable to leave the image at the water’s edge and eventually wasted away, changing into a flower that bears his name (the Narcissus flower).

This idea of excessive self-admiration has also been explored by a variety of philosophers throughout history. In Ancient Greece, the idea was known as “hubris”, which is a state of extreme arrogance and overwhelming pride that can go so far as to become out of touch with reality. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that the notion of narcissism as an illness became a subject of scientific interest in the field of psychology.

In the early 1900s, the topic of narcissism started to attract interest in the flourishing school of thought known as psychoanalysis. In 1911, Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank published one of the earliest descriptions of narcissism in which he linked it to self-admiration and vanity.

Shortly thereafter, Sigmund Freud published a paper in 1914 titled On Narcissism: An Introduction. Freud suggested that narcissism is actually a normal part of the human psyche. He referred to this as “primary narcissism”, or the energy that lies behind each person’s survival instincts. According to Freud’s theory, people are born without a basic sense of self. It is only through infancy and early childhood experiences that people develop what Freud called “ego”, or a sense of self. As children interact with others and the outside world, they begin to learn social norms and cultural expectations which leads to the development of an “ego idea”, that is, a perfect image of oneself that the ego strives to attain.
Freud’s theory of personality goes on to say that this love of one’s self could be transferred onto another person or object. By giving away that self-love, Freud believed that people then experienced diminished primary narcissism, leaving them less capable of nurturing and protecting themselves. He believed that receiving love and affection from others in return was essential to replenish the reduced supply of primary narcissism.

The History of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Narcissism as a Disorder

During the 1960s, psychoanalysts Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut helped develop more interest and debate about narcissism with their publications. Kernberg introduced the term “narcissistic personality structure” in 1967. His theory of narcissism included three major types: normal adult narcissism, normal infantile narcissism and pathological narcissism. Pathological narcissism was the basis for NPD.

In 1968, Kohut expanded on some of Freud’s earlier ideas about narcissism and first coined the term “narcissistic personality disorder”. Narcissism played an important role in Kohut’s theory of ‘self-psychology’. He suggested that narcissism allows people to suppress feelings of low self-esteem and develop their sense of self.

In 1980, narcissistic personality disorder was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Associations’ third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). Specific criteria were established for its diagnosis which is still debated today. There is a proposal for the upcoming 5th edition of the DSM, due for publication in 2013 that suggests removal of five of the ten personality disorders that are in the current edition of the manual (DSM IV-TR). One of those suggested for removal is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The proposal to exclude the disorder has caused some heated controversy, particularly among psychiatrists and psychologists currently working with clients who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder.

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/narcissism
  2. http://psychology.about.com/od/psychiatricdisorders/a/history-of-narcissistic-personality-disorder

Questions about Narcissism Part 3

Question 1: How do I prepare to leave the narcissist?

I have just started the attempts to get my life on track again after a year and a half of living with my seemingly narcissistic boyfriend and his definitely narcissistic mother. I feel like his mother brings out the worst in him, which further aggravated things in our relationship. And I’ve been trying not to break up with him because most days I truly believe is not him that’s the problem. The real root problem is his mother. Well I just got a job and I’m looking to move out in 4 months at least and I’m wondering what I should expect. Really I’ll only be moving around the corner, but it’ll be my space again. I tried to make this an &;quot;us&;quot; decision but my boyfriend is seemingly non committal about moving in with me later or us moving together because he’s got his room and his office at the house with his mom. I fear that he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. Have the option of living with me, but the supposed comfort of his own room/office/space at home. But it’s that space at home with his mother that brings out the worst in him. So I guess my question is, how do I emotionally prepare myself to leave him (but not break up yet) in order to get away from his mother? I always say that if we broke up because of the tensions in place by his mother and I leave, he’ll still have his mother at the end of the day. And that’s not awesome. Is there a possibility that the spell of his dependent narcissistic mother will be broken if I’m gone? And he’ll go back to normal if we’re living together away from his mother? Because she’s really bringing out the worst in us and it is not attractive.

A: There is no way to know for sure how he will react to you moving out, but based on his noncommittal responses, I would say nothing is going to change. He will most likely stay at his mother’s house. And he will blame you for everything that went wrong and for “abandoning” him. Your intense dislike of his mother is putting him in the middle- not a good place to be. It is no wonder he is full of conflict and noncommittal responses- it is a no-win situation for him. His mother may be despicable and “bring out the worst in him”– but where is HIS responsibility for HIS actions? He sounds like an immature “mama’s boy” and that is not likely to change anytime soon. To help you stay yet prepare to leave read,” Living with a Narcissist if You Can’t Leave“, “How to Leave a Narcissist” and “How to end a Narcissistic Relationship“.

Question 2: The Healing process

My relationship ended two times in the last 42 years. I finally moved out of state to live with my son. To this day he still calls after a time of silence and has yet to apologize and has never admitted to anything. I have been told recently what else can you make up with your vivid imagination . The bed was never moved in the room. I’m crazy, it moved when he changed the sheets. Even though it’s an old Mediterranean style that weighs a ton Channing sheets when we were together the bed never moved. I have witness’s that saw him in the bar with her. He admitted he gave her a ride home but doesn’t give a s**t about her. He is so out of it with his gas lighting that he thinks I can’t figure it out. I just want to know if I will get it through my head he is a Narcissist and I am sane. It’s been 42 years and I finally searched for books on surviving. However, I have to get them out and read them over and over, so am I ok? Or does he have me trapped. I have to continually go back and validate to myself I’m not cray, is this normal in the healing process.

A: Yes, it is normal, especially as you have been gaslighted and manipulated for 42 years. You will have good days and bad days but you WILL get your “self” back and become more confident about your sanity and emotionally strong as time goes on. Don’t wait for an apology- it will not be forthcoming. If he is still engaging in “crazy-making” with you, why are you still talking to him? The sane thing to do now is to go No Contact. Please read the article on going No Contact. At first you will think of a dozen reasons why you HAVE to call him- they are all excuses. You won’t be able to fully heal until you get him OUT of your life.

Question 3: Is Narcissism culture dependent?

I think I know the answer to this-are men from other cultures like Asia and/ or India more narcissistic than some American males?

A: A classic narcissist- as in full blown NPD- knows no geographical boundaries. It is true that in some cultures mild narcissistic behaviors or narcissistic tendencies are encouraged but that does not mean those men are all narcissists–they will just have a few specific behaviors at a milder degree than a true narcissist. Those men still have empathy and don’t engage in gaslighting. Cultures that place an emphasis on the individualare more likely to see manifestations of narcissism than cultures that emphasize the ‘greater good’.

Questions about Narcissism Part 2

Question 1: How can she be healthy again?

In early May I began to date a wonderful girl. We spent a lot of time together and began to fall in love. She had been at least 3 months out of an 3 year abusive relationship with narcissist. She told her friends it is so great to finally be appreciated and treated well by a man. Then the old boyfriend began contacting her and she slowly put her feelings aside for me and gradually moved back to him. I have been demoted to friend who she has feelings for and does not want to loose. I want to help her break out of this vicious cycle with him. She is being victimized by him and is showing symptoms of NVS. I am not sure if we will be together again but what is more important to me is to help her so she can be healthy again. Where do I start?

A: You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. When SHE is ready to leave him she will need your support. You can’t help her or force her to break out of the cycle. She has to do that herself. It might very well not be until her life has been totally devastated by the narcissist. Having someone who cares about her needs (narcissists don’t) and her health will be a constant reminder of what she is not getting from him. Hopefully, she will realize that she is a victim and will choose to leave him. Be there to support her when that happens–don’t try to re-establish your romance right away- she will need time to recover and distance herself from him. Right now all you can do is wait and keep reminding her she is a good, worthy person.

Question 2: Should I “throw away” the Narc?

I’m not sure whether my ex was a narc or not. All the red flags were there in the beginning. He called me a goddess never felt so connected when making love etc, very loving and giving throughout our four year relationship, talked marriage after four months. But I wouldn’t sell my house and move my kids to live with his – they didnt meet till we were 16 months into relationship and at first they disliked me and didn’t get on with my kids. I didn’t want to risk my independence – throughout I held back as I felt he wanted everything in his terms though he said I wouldn’t compromise. He’d take me shopping but didn’t like giving me money for groceries and wanted to pick what we should buy – got very jealous when I spoke to other men, but showed this in subtle ways. If I raised issues they were rarely discussed and if I pushed he’d go silent treatment – I blew up three times in four years and we split and got back. In the end it got less and less and then he met an old friend and now he’s telling her all the things he told me in the beginning. Not much empathy when I lost my job. He hugged me and patted me like you would a child, but never really felt supported or he got it – I’m Blaming myself for pushing him away – make friends say I shouldn’t. He finished it in a phone call after four years saying I don’t want a long conversation I just wanted a quick call. Strung me along when I contacted him and took me out whilst his new woman was playing hard to get/not interested. He finally hooked her in but still lied to me last time I saw him saying she’s just a friend. I’ve cut contact now but it’s doo hard to come to terms. I feel I’ve thrown away a loving man who’d have cared for me but a part of me feels that man wasn’t real – am I right ? Is he a narc – I sometimes think I’m the narc.

A: He certainly has a lot of the red flags for narcissism; and if he is indeed a narcissist then your instincts led you in the right direction such as keeping your independence. Consider yourself lucky- you didn’t lose a loving man, you got away from a life of hell. If he is a narcissist then he was never a loving man, just an actor putting on a show to win you over. Getting over a narcissist can be a long, difficult process. They put their hooks in deep with their charm and pseudo-love; it would be hard to give it up, perhaps even foolish, if it were real. Based on what you describe, you are much better off without him whether or not he is or is not a narcissist. Give yourself time and distance and you will get over the loss. Please stop doubting yourself- you made a healthy choice for yourself and your children.

Question 3: Is the Narc out there to get me?

A sibling who’s a Covert Narcissist, has under the guise of “sibling rivalry” had a track record of sabotaging my life from childhood right through to me forming a family. Always when they had cause to be jealous. Often when I was at a low ebb, always with significant damage to my life. Telling lies about me to my place of work or where I live. This has lead to me losing two jobs also losing out on accommodation. In one instance I took my employer to court, just to force disclosure on who had told the lies. I have gone No Contact with that sibling and even live in a different country. But clearly the worry is still there. Although I’ve not identified any such behavior for some years now, as it is always covert behavior there is always the worry they are behind unexplained bad luck. What do I do ?

A: If you are still in No Contact, have lived in a different country for years with your sibling not knowing your whereabouts, and you are STILL worried that the narcissist is out to get you, I would say it is time to see a therapist. It certainly is understandable that you have long term symptoms after being victimized so severely. In fact, I do wonder if you have NVS (Narcissistic Victim Syndrome). Read up on it and ask any therapist you are going to see if they are familiar with it. You aren’t able to live peacefully and don’t seem to have let go of the past. Please seek professional help; it sounds as if you may have symptoms of NVS (also known as Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome).

Question 4: Not sure if he is a Narcissist

I’m not sure if he’s a narcissist. I have known this person for over 20 years but about six months ago he contacted me to come visit him. I had not seen him in over 20 years but had been friends on fb for years with little to no contact. This person was one that I idolized as a kid (he’s 10 years older than I). I agreed to come meet him for a drink. It escalated quickly through daily messaging and soon I had booked a hotel room in the town he lives in (he was married at the time but separated prior to our meeting). prior to my meeting up with him the messages were constant. I met up with him, we had sex and that was the only time I have physically seen him but the messaging and texting continued. I engaged in very sexually charged texting with him, even sent pictures which I have never done. He would threaten to pull away if I didn’t. Then it started to go bad, he blatantly would tell me about other girls, call me crazy if I questioned his motives. I fully admit I went a little nutty for a while because I was so confused by his behavior. I have attempted no contact but I either feel weak and message him it he will text me and the cycle continues, nice one day then calling me something horrible the next. I have recently found out that his marriage seemed to be wonderful and lasted for years. I’m just wondering if narcissists are able to have seemingly loving relationships with some while being overtly controlling and cruel to others (me being the other)?

A: The key word in your question is “seemingly”…yes, they can have seemingly loving relationships (its all about public appearance) if their significant other caters to them, gives them unending Supply, and doesn’t require real emotion in return or expect her priorities to be considered. Some spouses/partners put up with it for years before they figure it out. I can’t say if your “friend” is a narcissist or not, but your relationship with him is unhealthy and sounds toxic. Find your inner strength (you CAN do it!) and go No Contact. You deserve better than that- don’t waste your time and self esteem on him.

Questions About Narcissism Part 1

Question 1: How to react on my Narcissistic Mother?

I was reading your article posted about sons and daughters of narcissistic parents. My mother is narcissistic and I chose choice 3, four years ago. In December, I am attending my sisters wedding, that of which she is still in contact with our mother and will be at the wedding. I am not sure how she is going to act and cant find any information on how to re-approach/be around a narcissistic person that you haven’t had contact with in so long. As I have continued to live my life to the fullest, and have gotten married unbeknownst to my mother — thus, she will also meet my husband, at my sisters wedding. Any suggestions or articles related to this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

A: The articles, “Is My Mother a Narcissist?” and “Confronting a Narcissist” might be of some help. How you respond will depend on whether you were the scapegoat, the golden child or something in between. Start by not thinking of it as re-approaching. That will only lead to more abuse- she has not changed. Think of it as surviving one day and then going back to No Contact. How to respond? You can revert back to Choice One- cater/flatter her and pretend the estrangement never happened. The healthiest thing to do is avoid her as much as possible and avoid any personal conversations when you absolutely must talk to her– “small talk” only (the weather, current world news, her health, etc) and turn the conversation to make it all about her. Ask your sister to seat you away from her, at a different table if that is at all possible. I would not surprise her with the news of your marriage- that could easily end up with a rage response directed at you and I am sure you do not want to spoil your sister’s wedding. Have your sister or another close relative tell her ahead and be prepared for snide comments about her not being informed/last to know/ you must be ashamed because you kept it a secret etc etc. Turn the other cheek- do not respond. A blank stare will get you through the worst of times. It is only one day- you can do it!

Question 2: How to quit the “bad habit”?

Hi, I am similar to your recent post from JW with the anger & rage however I am the one who left my narc, I got sucked in a third time – a ring & moved in with him, I left because he was intimidating my kids behind my back and saying nasty things to them which he always denied (however I should have valued myself better & left with his sleaziness) he then complained of their behaviour which I tried explaining was a result of his actions & his sons behaviour which to my narc his sons behaviour was ok. (I also had trouble leaving with my belongings as he kept saying I couldn’t take my stuff) My problem now is I have stopped all contact to my best ability unfortunately both our sons play in the same football team but different age groups, same training nights so I have to possibly still see him 3 times a week I avoid his by staying in my car close to the club rooms or “sneaking” around to avoid him but so people are always around although it doesn’t seem to matter he seems to have no fear of approaching me alone or with people. I can’t afford to change teams again. I am in therapy myself and also on antidepressants, I suffer anxiety & take sleeping pills, he is blocked in every way on the mobile, Facebook, the home phone is flat so it can’t ring. He kept coming up to me at football, he wanted to be friends pfft, he was on the ph to his ex the day I moved out, I said no way & I don’t want you to come near me even at footy, he leaves me alone for a week & there seems to be another reason to come & speak to me followed by are you ok? Asking me if I’m ok really aggravates me, as if he cares. When he does have the nerve to come near me I get so angry I feel like smashing him, I shake, my heart beats like hell, I just want him to leave me alone so I can fix myself up. I no longer even have a home because of him, my eldest took over my home & got borders so my bedroom is in the lounge room, I have no $ because I worked my butt off for him & his work (which in his eyes I was lucky he provided a home for me, again pfft I had one before he made me believe he loved me) he gave me a $100 3 days after I left only because he asked what my parents thought of him & I said an arsehole, I couldn’t even buy bread my parents have had to help me out financially coz I fell for your s**t again, that’s the only reason I got any $ off of him. 4 years dealing with this man, & I’m here starting all over again and fearful of his stalking, because one other time I stopped talking to him for 5 mths, he drove past consistently, hung around my house at all hours of the night, driving past my kids school to see me pick them up, follow me around the shops, his ex ringing me at all hours because he was playing up with someone else & she thought me, I changed my number to at least stop that. I’m afraid of all this again, the thought of all this again scares me, the police would never do anything last time. I feel frustrated. I feel so angry every time he thinks he can talk to me at footy, I really don’t know how to cope.

Second Part:

Hi Alex, i don’t mind however theres more to it since i wrote that so i don’t know if you want to know more or not? Am happy to add to it, basically after i wrote that i got weak felt like i had no ones support etc i felt i missed him & was just pure weak so i said hello first time ever i made the move – more mistakes more grief & a whole lot more anger & pain so much so i spat on him I’ve always thought spitting on people was repulsive no matter what – i turned into someone i didn’t myself like because of him, & things he said & done to get me that way. My health issues always discarded thinking it was just stress and ended up quite sick & now having to make some serious life changes in a lot of ways including getting ridding of this toxic person i still looked for for support & never got when a partner should, i still feel like i love him ( the heart says love the brain says toxic) but have to remind myself numerous times a day this isn’t love with him & i, its just toxic. I work for him now & yes get paid now, he is like god with the you need the money so you need the job, yeah i do, I’m sick of struggling i do need the money i struggle more coz of him in the first place coz i gave up my life my dreams for him in the first place in pursuit of “us” our “team” i don’t wanna rely on an income from him but feel stuck, i have told him i am looking for another job, i am tired of crying & i know i gotta go altogether & stay away to feel better, he is like a cigarette a really bad habit to kick.

A: The crying, anger/rage, and hurt are NOT going to stop until you quit–REALLY quit- this “bad habit”. Every time you go back to the narcissist is like smoking a carton of cigarettes- your bad habit is killing you. He is as toxic, if not more so, to your mental, emotional and physical health. You need to get away- for good. Don’t just threaten him that you are going to get another job–Get Another Job. You will not feel better or stronger until you leave.

Question 3: Can a Narcissist Change?

I’m pretty sure I’ve successfully diagnosed my wife as a classic narcissist. It only took me 5 years. Wikipedia sounds like it was written about her. Your article about the inability to apologize could have been written by me (if I had your skill) because it was so dead-on accurate – and I’ve been saying many of the same things for years (deflecting, explaining instead of apologizing, &;quot;the best apology for me would be that you never do this&;quot;, etc). I’m feeling ashamed and embarrassed at having let this go on for so long, but the truth is that I’ve tried for years to get her to see this problem. I originally called it &;quot;pride issues&;quot; (which she, of course, deflected and said I was the one with pride issues). Anyway, my question really is more of a comment – thank you for being there. I really need some help because I don’t think I can continue on like this, but I love this woman so f*****g much it hurts every time a problem comes – which is every couple days or so. I would love to know that there’s some hope in her changing because I don’t think I can get any stronger in dealing with it (i.e. being her supply).

A: Narcissism is a personality disorder–it is a life time disorder. On rare occasions a narcissist will come to therapy and make some changes in their behavior (so says literature- I have never personally known one). They can only change when THEY understand the negative consequences to their behavior and accept responsibility for causing that consequence. If you have read anything on narcissism, you realize that the chances of that happening are rare indeed.