Why we have a problem with narcissism

When you search the internet on narcissistic personality disorder, you will run into lots of angry comments from people who have been hurt (“burned”) by one or more persons with the disorder. These persons are often charming and anything but boring. That is far from the only reason why persons can end up with narcissists in their lives, however, and no one is to blame for ending up in such a situation.

After a while, it becomes obvious that there is another side to persons who have the disorder. And that is when the problems start.

Because the rest of us, we want to change these persons. We want them to “behave”. We want them to learn. And that is simply not possible. Many also want justification for some of the less  nice things they do (and probably aren’t able to find it).

It’s worse than accusing a person who grew up in Japan of being guilty of speaking Japanese and wanting them to speak English instantly because a person who speaks Japanese can start learning English. But a narcissist can’t do that (although some narcissists are able to benefit from therapy).

Essentially, what we do is like blaming the colour red for being red, the sea for being the sea, a cloud for being a cloud, or blaming a heap of rocks for being a heap of rocks, or bricks.

Again, I am not trying to put the blame on people, merely trying to show the futility of wanting to change a narcissist.

The heap of bricks usually gets angry and/or confused, feels hurt and starts throwing bricks.

He or she is a perfect heap of bricks but we want them to be neat, well-organized stacks of bricks. It is just not what they are.

By the way, I am not trying to suggest that a stack of bricks is better than a heap of bricks or the other way around.

One is not better than the other. Both exist. That’s the way it is.

In many cases, something went wrong for the person with narcissistic personality disorder in early childhood when his or her personality was being formed. If you see a normal personality as a well-organized stack of bricks, well, then maybe someone pulled one of the lower bricks out of the stack, resulting in a perfect heap of bricks. (That can be called trauma in psychology, or injury, which can be confusing.)

Some people who got hurt by a narcissist may get angry when they read what I wrote above, and I think I understand that. To them it may feel as if I am saying that it is okay that they got hurt. Or that I am somehow “justifying” what narcissists do and are. (They may also think that I have never lost anything in my life and aren’t familiar with the havoc narcissists can wreak.)

That is not at all what I am trying to say, or do.

You cannot change a narcissist.

That is where a lot of the problems come from, us wanting to fix them, heal them, make them whole, change them, correct them, make them more like us, make them behave better, make them see the truth, make them grow up, be more mature, less this, more that and so on.

But – generally speaking -you can only avoid the clashes – or make them less severe – if a) you have some understanding of what narcissistic personality disorder is like and b) if you are able to recognize the disorder in someone else early enough. The latter is very hard, in my experience.

I used to think that narcissists are people who spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. I based that on some Greek mythology I was taught about in high school. Clearly, I was clueless.

In the course of my life, I have come across a few persons with the disorder without having an idea of what was going on. Sometimes, it was perfectly fine. At other times, the situation was much more complicated.

I think I’ve just recognized another one in my geographical vicinity. Hopefully, this means that from now on, I’ll be able to avoid clashes with that person. In hindsight, I’ve been really stupid in my dealings with that person so far, in fact. In hindsight, why didn’t I see it? In hindsight, it is so blatantly obvious! In hindsight, it also taught me a tough lesson about myself. To others, my “helpfulness” can be an arrogant declaration of their incapability (and that can trigger a lot of anger in some people, which may not be visible on the surface but can turn into contempt and viciousness, which maybe isn’t so surprising if you think about it a bit more).

Will I be able to spot this disorder right away in the future? Doubtful! But I will probably recognize it much sooner from now on. So that I can avoid the clashes, spot the games before I get drawn into them, and for instance won’t even begin to give them helpful suggestions when they complain about this or that because that only enrages them as it suggests to them they aren’t perfect.

Reading up on the disorder is not pleasant, for instance because it almost unavoidably makes you wonder if you might have the disorder yourself. And if you’ve had someone with the disorder in your life, chances are that you have adopted some of the person’s behaviour and emotions. Fortunately, that does not make you a narcissist.

But please, stop trying to change narcissists. It’s impossible.

And don’t blame them. They did not choose to be this way. That is not a “justification”. That is  saying things the way they are. A daffodil is a daffodil, a rose a rose and a tulip a tulip. It’s as simple as that. There is no justification, and no blame, for a tulip being a tulip. A tulip is just the way a tulip is.

I suspect that as long as you keep showering a narcissist with positive feedback, things go much better. If you’re a well-balanced person, showering someone else with praise to keep them happy and balanced too does not have to be the end of the world. Is this easy to say? Yes. Is this easy to do? No! But it gets progressively easier.

For me personally, some “problems” started after I read a lot of very negative posts and comments from those who have been burned by narcissists because it led to accusations from me, and some fear. It can be very unsettling to read about how “evil” some people are supposed to be when you have them in your life and have been getting along with them okay. It can make you doubt yourself. The word “evil” is probably used much too quickly in this context. That doesn’t mean that the word never applies. Narcissists can become dangerous, says a clinical psychologist in Australia (see my previous posts), if they experience great internal turmoil as a result of external triggers. Yet another reason to try and understand the disorder better.



However, “working with a narcissist can also be extremely rewarding and inspiring”

See also this post.

When you start reading up on narcissistic personality disorder, you may find yourself wondering if you have it yourself, which can be unsettling at first. But after those first moments of concern, you will probably very quickly be able to decide that no, it isn’t the case.

You can also start to feel that it is wrong of you, that you are making a mistake or are weak or gullible if you are actually trying to find out how you can get along with a narcissist, for which it is necessary – or at least very helpful – to understand the disorder. (After all, the golden rule is “No contact”, which applies to people who are trying to break out of a close relationship.)

However, working with a narcissist can also be extremely rewarding and inspiring because of their nearly superhuman skills for getting things done — when they want it and how they want it.

From an article in Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241355

Narcissists are part of society so you will run into them.

  • One could become that neighbor from hell who seemed so nice when he or she moved in if you don’t recognize the manipulative disorder hence don’t know how to deal with it.
  • One can turn up as your new boss or a new colleague at the desk next to yours.
  • If you’re self-employed, that strange client with inflated ideas about the importance of his work who suggests that if it becomes known you are working for him, burglary is likely and who suddenly starts calling you names for no reason at all may be one too. A little bit of extra knowledge may enable you to avoid the energy-draining conflict situations narcissists are famous for. That benefits everyone in the situation.

When you look into narcissistic personality disorder (or similar disorders), you may end up developing much greater insight into yourself. What your weaknesses are, which are usually strengths at the same time. You may discover a few highly surprising ones. That can cause you to stand much firmer.

You also have to decide for yourself what you need in life, what you want or like, what you are willing to accept (put up with) and where you absolutely put your foot down and draw the line if you want to be able to get along well with narcissists.

Narcissistic personality disorder explained – very good!

The “very good” refers to the videos below.

I talked about this disorder in relation to Donald Trump, before. Please, do remember that persons with narcissistic personality disorder DID NOT CHOOSE to have this disorder. In most cases, something happened in early childhood while the person’s personality was being formed. (There is a video below about that.)

It’s my interest in bioethics in combination with a zen tinge of acceptance, among other things (including two personal situations), that is causing me to look deeper into particularly these personality disorders.

Bioethicist Julian Savulescu, for instance, advocates for removing essentially all disorders and diseases from the human gene pool, even when we can do a lot to prevent certain conditions or keep them under control (think asthma and air quality). A lot of what he wants is like demolishing homes to prevent that they ever burn down. He also is highly critical with regard to various personality disorders.

If you are able to be compassionate and keep in mind that the line between compassion and stupidity is very thin, you may find that dealing with a narcissist becomes much easier. Also, not everyone with narcissistic personality disorder has the affliction to the same degree or in the same way.

It is, for instance, possible to be friends with someone with narcissistic personality disorder. You have to be very steady on your feet and recognize every instance you’re being played so that you can stop each manipulative game before it starts (such as being told that you’re wrong, that red is black and then when you agree it’s black, being told it’s red).

Recognize the toddler part in narcissists when they behave like toddlers. Respond the way you would respond to a toddler. (Calmly.)

You also have to be aware of what may be happening behind your back (lies that are being told about you) and realize that if you try to talk to third parties about the disorder or about what is going on, YOU will sound like the “crazy” and “jealous” one. Can you handle that?

I am not recommending that we all become friends with narcissists, but they are a part of human diversity so we run into them whether we like it or not. Being able to deal with them well is better for everyone.

You can often choose how you respond emotionally to all sorts of occurrences and being able to choose how you respond can make a great difference. Often, you can either choose to get upset and feel victimized or shrug, smile and calmly carry on with whatever you were doing (or walk away). Understanding more about narcissistic personality disorder can facilitate this ability to choose your own responses.

The upside? Narcissists may all have a great sense of humor and no one can ever accuse them of being boring. Sometimes, you can actually learn from them, or from having encountered them.

The downside? They may have ruined you (your life) completely before you even know what hit you. Taking the zen approach of mentally letting go of what you lost and acceptance can help you deal with it and enable you to stay “whole” (but that is hard to explain without sounding shallow or even flippant or, worse, as an encouragement for accepting abuse).

Video 1: How to understand people who irritate or upset you

Video 2: Understanding the mind of a narcissist

Video 3: The emotion at the heart of narcissism

Video 4: The childhood origins of narcissism

Video 5: 5 key strategies for dealing with narcissists

Video 6: How the narcissist destroys your physical health

Video 7: 5 destructive fantasies empaths have after the narcissist has left.
(This is a video about lingering beliefs or ideas some people have after the breakup of a relationship with a narcissist.)

Video 8: The hidden emotion that makes empaths vulnerable to narcissists

Video 9: 7 traits of Narcissistic Abuse Victim Syndrome

Also, this happens when you ignore a narcissist, apparently:

Knowing how manipulation works is helpful too.

Below is an example of a behavior that narcissistic personality disorder can also result in, apparently. (Notice that no one seems to have realized yet that hackers can also have narcissistic personality disorder.) I am not sure yet how that comes about. Perhaps from the realization that in real life, relationships are too hard for someone with such a personality disorder?

I post the following from the work of Dr Lorraine Sheridan.

Typology 4: Sadistic stalking (12.9%)


· victim is an obsessive target of the offender, and who’s life is seen as quarry and prey (incremental orientation)
· victim selection criteria is primarily rooted in the victim being:

(i) someone worthy of spoiling, i.e. someone who is perceived by the stalker at the commencement as being: – happy – ‘good’ – stable – content and
(ii) lacking in the victim’s perception any just rationale as to why she was targeted

· initial low level acquaintance

· apparently benign initially but unlike infatuation harassment the means of intervention tend to have negative orientation designed to disconcert, unnerve, and ergo take power away from the victim

– notes left in victim’s locked car in order to unsettle target (cf. billet-doux of infatuated harassment)
– subtle evidence being left of having been in contact with the victim’s personal items e.g. rifled underwear drawer, re-ordering/removal of private papers, cigarette ends left in ash trays, toilet having been used etc.
– ‘helping’ mend victims car that stalker had previously disabled · thereafter progressive escalation of control over all aspects (i.e. social, historical, professional, financial, physical) of the victim’s life

· offender gratification is rooted in the desire to extract evidence of the victim’s powerlessness with inverse implications for his power => sadism
· additional implication => self-perpetuating in desire to hone down relentlessly on individual victim(s)
· emotional coldness, deliberateness and psychopathy (cf. the heated nature of ex-partner harassment)
· tended to have a history of stalking behaviour and the controlling of others · stalker tended to broaden out targets to family and friends in a bid to isolate the victim and further enhance his control
· communications tended to be a blend of loving and threatening (not hate) designed to de-stabilise and confuse the victim
· threats were either overt (“We’re going to die together”) or subtle (delivery of dead roses)
· stalker could be highly dangerous

– in particular with psychological violence geared to the controlling of the victim with fear, loss of privacy and the curtailment of her social world

· physical violence was also entirely possible

– especially by means which undermine the victim’s confidence in matters normally taken for granted e.g. disabling brake cables, disarming safety equipment, cutting power off

· sexual content of communications was aimed primarily to intimidate through the victim’s humiliation, disgust and general undermining of self-esteem
· the older the offender, the more likely he would have enacted sadistic stalking before and would not be likely to offend after 40 years of age if not engaged in such stalking before
· victim was likely to be re-visited after a seeming hiatus

Case management implications

· should be taken very seriously
· acknowledge from outset that the stalker activity will be very difficult to eradicate
· acknowledge that there is no point whatsoever in appealing to the offender – indeed will exacerbate the problem
· never believe any assurances, alternative versions of events etc. which are given by the offender
· however, record them for use in legal action later
· the victim should be given as much understanding and support as can be made available
· the victim should not be given false or unrealistic assurance or guarantees that s/he will be protected
· the victim should carefully consider relocation. Geographical emphasis being less on distance per se, and more on where the offender is least able to find the victim
· the police should have in mind that the sadistic stalker will be likely to:

(i) carefully construct and calculate their activity to simultaneously minimise the risk of intervention by authorities while retaining maximum impact on victim,
(ii) be almost impervious to intervention since the overcoming of obstacles provides
(iii) new and potent means of demonstrating the victim’s powerlessness (ergo self-perpetuating) and,
(iiii) if jailed will continue both personally and vicariously with the use of a network.