Thanks to POTUS, the word Narcissist has gotten a lot of air time. And thank goodness. As more and more people get educated about this personality disorder, the more our culture can heal and grow up, and the more people can avoid getting into relationship with them. Watch out for the shiny ones who shower you with the attention you are lacking in your life, who seem to meet your fantasy, it never ends well.
One thing to look out for with narcissists is their tendency to forget the past and rewrite the story to their current reality or desires. Even if the evidence of their abuse is right in front of them, they won’t see it. This gaslighting is incredibly confusing because you don’t know what is real and what isn’t. You question if you are crazy.
One thing to look out for with people who have suffered emotional and developmental trauma is that they forget abuse in order to be able to wake up each day and survive. They rewrite the story of their reality to their fantasy because it makes the behavior of their abusers normal and bearable. Good even. (Betrayal Blindness) This is a terrible setup for adult relationships.
We can also deduce that narcissists have suffered developmental trauma - mostly the early trauma of being told and shown in many ways that their true self is useless and must be replaced with a dominating and successful archetype. (This has also been culturally supported as the way to be.) Their true self has never had the experience of being reflected and related to, therefore it is invisible to them and empathy cannot develop.
They need a constant feed of external adoration to experience themselves, cannot tolerate criticism, treat people as objects and tend towards delusions of grandeur. They also are not clear on reality and live in a fantasy they can’t keep track of, but can easily convince others of their position.
It's important to stop thinking that a narcissist thinks like someone with empathy. THEY DO NOT, their brain does not function that way, so there is no use trying to get them to understand. Put them in a different category altogether. A skilled practitioner must access the deeper wounds within them, often pre-verbal, to begin the healing process of rewiring their relational pathways. This may take years and may or may not work depending on the severity.
Narcissists and trauma victims/empathic types have some things in common, which often bring them together- 2 sides of the same coin. If you stay with a narcissist for awhile, or were raised by one (or two), your brain will operate in much the same way, unintentionally hurting those around you.
When you leave or are left by a narcissist, which will cause more trauma, you have to take special care to not only get your self esteem and true self back, but to heal your brain and redevelop healthy relational and memory pathways. The process of the illusion crashing and facing the truth, layer by layer, is the hardest of all, for both parties, although a full blown narcissist will never go there since they just can’t admit they were wrong or accurately see themselves.
At this point, with all the exposure on narcissism and the damage created in relationships, it would be great if they went through the painstaking process of connecting with who they really are, and then learned how to become relationally responsible. I’m not holding my breath, but I have seen this happening a little more recently.
We all have degrees of narcissism that prevent true intimacy. If you have people walking away from you, children who don’t want you in their lives, and a general lack of intimacy and trust in your relationships, you probably have a higher degree of it.
Have the courage to start admitting you might bear some of the responsibility and get to work - ESPECIALLY if you have always insisted that it was everyone else’s fault. The reward is that long sought after realness, depth and connection with yourself and in your relationships you’ve desired all along.
And if you keep bringing them into your life and getting hurt, it’s time to do the hard work of building your self esteem, healing your codependency, giving yourself the special attention you desire and learning the nuts and bolts of true intimacy based in mutuality.
Narcissism is a spectrum, those lower on the spectrum have the possibility to heal and grow. Those higher on the spectrum do not. If you are with one of those, get your support system in place and leave.
With Love and Compassion,