I find I’m getting regular private messages now from people who see a Narcissist in their lives, and want to know where to go, and what to read, to figure out how to deal with them. It has made me realize, this site may give excellent info on how to deal with Narcissists in the political world, and in public debate within that world, but terrible info on how to deal with them in the personal world. So here are some comments and questions I have heard, and thoughts on them.
My Narcissist is only a moderate version of what you describe…..
Maybe, maybe not. Narcissists are like deep cover CIA operatives, only more so, because they don’t remember a time when they weren’t operating under a cover identity – it is second nature to them, and they often will even convince themselves that their cover identity is real. They really are nice, selfless, discriminated against, victimized, etc. See that Narcissist who just shot up his office? He really believed he had been victimized, when his boss fired him for raging at his coworkers every day, and threatening to kill them. It was the boss’s fault.
When the Narcissist was a child, and they let their noxious personality range free and unfettered, their peers recognized them as defective in some regard, and tormented them. They quickly realized they needed to pretend to be normal, and they did. Every time they transgressed as a child, by letting their real personality out, they were punished with ostracization. As a result, they ended up conditioned from their earliest years, like a child prodigy, to never allow anyone to know what they are, or how they think. Combined with their neural wiring, designed to believe whatever makes them feel good, they ended up being like evil secret agents who believed their own noble cover. It’s very difficult to read a person easily, when they probably can’t read themselves.
Their ability to manipulate is enhanced because they see others around them who are so different – people bound by human urges the Narcissist views as patently ridiculous. Highlighted by their perceived anomaly, these “human” urges quickly become an easy means of manipulating their peers, further allowing them to conceal their motives and behavioral drives. You do something nice, once, to earn loyalty, and then you harken back to it every time you screw your victim, so they feel you are loyal, and you aren’t screwing them purposely. In the Narcissist’s mind, it is ridiculously simple, and you are stupid for not seeing it. In your mind, “Why would he screw me when we have a loyal relationship, and I would go to bat for him?”
As young Narcissists, these individuals will have been molded relentlessly by these circumstances, to be Mozarts of the Machiavellian world, playing the people around them like fine musical instruments. They have been rigorously trained, from the earliest ages, and being young will have more than enough cognitive capacity to mask their noxious natures behind facades which appear all too real. As they get older, they lose cognitive capacity, and the mask will begin to slip. Additional stresses, like advancing age, reduced attractiveness, and others around them who are young and have their whole lives ahead of them, will all coalesce into a psychic stress which will further erode cognitive capacity. At this point, they will become much easier to spot. But when young, and on top of the world, they can be very difficult to understand.
I can spot Narcissists over 50 very quickly – and I view that as quite good. Their facial expressions, mannerisms, and patterns of speech are astonishingly predictable and consistent to me. But show me a 22 year old, beautiful fashion model with malignant narcissism, and I can easily miss it. She will smile a dazzlingly beautiful, practiced smile at all the right moments, say the right things, and act the right way.
The bottom line is, if you have noticed something moderately wrong, especially in a young Narcissist, you have just out-composed Mozart, in a music composing competition – even though you know nothing of music composition. Even if you only won by a hair, Mozart must have been under one hell of a handicap, and your Narcissist may be hiding one hell of a problem.
I would assume the worst – that I was facing an astonishingly human-like machine, programmed to screw me over at every turn, while trying to look normal, and hide all of this from me. That way, I may be pleasantly surprised to be off in my prediction, but I wouldn’t be caught sleeping.
What do you mean “caught Sleeping?”
Watch any TV show about some person who let another person into their life, and ended up missing or dead. 48 Hours is a good one, as is Dateline. None of the victims saw it coming, or they wouldn’t be dead now. Narcissists operate by different rules – to the point that they are, on one level, baffled by your humanity, and on another, amused by its illogical nature – but it is more than that. They are damaged, in a way that they become panicked if they do not do certain things – regardless of whether those things are logical. So they are driven to hurt others by an envy which will destroy them if they do not yield to its whim. Then they see normal people, not so driven, and tell themselves that they are not damaged, but rather the other people are stupid to not try to advance their own position by screwing others.
In the end, you have a person who thinks they can do anything to you, is driven to screw you by an unrelenting envy and illogical anger at trifles, views you as deserving it due to your inferiority, and in whom all of this coalesces into a psychic force which they cannot ignore, and which they must satisfy.
Now you may not end up dead, but you must understand, it is all a scale. Maybe they contaminate your water bottles with something to try to give you cancer, after you get a big job promotion. Maybe they poison your dog with something to make it sick, so you won’t be so happy all the time. Maybe they just break your stuff, so you have less stuff, and they don’t feel like you are doing so well compared to them. Or maybe they put a bomb under your car, or fill your house with Carbon Monoxide (Two real examples from the TV Shows I spoke about). You can get caught sleeping, because you won’t see just how defective they are, until you realize they are going to kill you, and it is too late to stop them.
If you don’t understand how they operate, and how they think, you will not see these things. You just got cancer – I mean the alternative was someone in your circle gave it to you, and that is ridiculous. Your dog must have picked up a stomach bug somewhere – I mean, the alternative is that someone poisoned your dog, but who would do that? Yeah, Larry broke your stuff, but it must have been an accident – The alternative is, he did it on purpose, but you two are friends/family/whatever – why would he destroy that loyal relationship? Or, all of a sudden, it’s “Holy crap, I’m being killed by this nutjob, and am about to die!”
In short, if you don’t understand how differently they think, you can get caught sleeping, and end up enduring bad circumstances you should not be enduring.
Can you point me to websites or books which will tell me how to deal with one on a regular basis.
Yes, and no. You need to understand the malady better, so that you realize how badly you need to break free from any relationship with a Narcissist.
These sites will explain how weird and destructive these individuals are. But you will not find a lot on coping with them, because there is no dealing with them on a long-term basis.
If we were talking about a child, I would explain it like this. You have a Terminator robot, which looks about 16 years old. It was sent back from the future, and it is programmed to kill you as soon as possible. But it is also programmed to be stealthy and charming, so your wife decided to adopt it as a child, and it is now living in a bedroom in your basement. Is there a way to deal with this Terminator robot on a daily basis, which will make it easier to interact with?
Only in real life, your Terminator is a biological robot designed to make you miserable, destroy any happy moments you may enjoy, and get progressively worse if you try to stop this. (Once in established relationships, Narcissists hate the sight of happy people, and will act out passive/aggressively or aggressively to destroy the happiness. It is what they do. And it will only get worse. The longer you stay around them, the more they think you have to stay, and the less they try to hide what they are, by being nice.)
How do you deal with it? There are three ways. Pacify through appeasement, insult the Narcissist by being angry, or Escape and Evade.
If you pacify through appeasement, the Narcissist will quickly begin to feel omnipotent. They will increasingly lash out, and when appeased, feel ever more powerful themselves, and be ever more contemptuous of you. They aren’t designed to be benign dictators under these circumstances. They are designed to pacify their amygdala in ever-increasing amounts, by reinforcing their own self-perception of their omnipotence. They will do that by grinding you into the ground ever harder, without suffering consequence.
So one day you get angry, and lash back out at them. Suddenly they are nice. How weird. You were nice, and they were mean, now you are mean, and they are nice. It makes no sense.
To the Narcissist, you are a tool, to be manipulated to satisfy them. If you lash out, your utility is in jeopardy, so they appease you. But again, it is the facade appeasing you, not them. Inside, they have made note of what a prick you are for lashing out at them. Though smiling, they have made a note to get back at you later, probably behind your back. Their amygdala will force them to. This is why they are often referred to as “grievance accumulators.” They accumulate grievances deep within the recesses of their minds, until their amygdala is so overloaded by their perceived victimization, that they are forced to take action.
You can’t predict where that point will come, or how it will manifest. Will you notice your 18 year Single Malt tastes funny, and then you get mildly sick for a day or two? Does he accidentally knock over your wife’s favorite vase and break it? Are you suddenly taking cover behind the engine block of your car, as the bullets rain down on your position? Or does the Narcissist never take action, and die an angry, festering POS? You can’t tell ahead of time how it will play out, because they are deep cover operatives, hiding who they truly are.
Should I use the Touching the Raw Amygdala stuff on them?
I advise against this in family situations, just because that battlefield can be so complicated. Narcissists are deep cover operatives, with a lifetime of experience socially manipulating others. Let’s say you lash out, and do a number on him. He may be able to use that to turn the family against you. Worse, let’s say he is your wife’s dad, and she is daddy’s little girl.
His move will almost certainly be to out-group you in the family. He will begin by trying to provoke you at every get together, but in a way he can deny was provocative. He will carefully plan these interactions weeks in advance, preparing a flawless delivery. If you take him down, as you easily could, he will portray the discord as coming from you, and portray himself as the victim of an angry, bitter, mental defective. “Why is he such a mean person to me?,” he will ask everyone innocently.
Over time, he can create a theme, and then give his daughter the ultimatum. Or he can just focus on trying to make her think you are disloyal, cheating etc. Let a girl who is ignorant of a Narcissist’s ways hear from daddy that you were spotted out at lunch with a hot blonde, matching the description of your secretary, sucking your face like a lamprey, and you have problems. If he is proven to be wrong, he can always claim he was mistaken, but if he can’t be proven wrong, now the seed is planted.
For a psychology which grew up manipulating everyone around them and deceiving at every opportunity, this is just normal behavior, and they will be good at it. There are no rules. They could poison themselves and go to the ER, after creating the theme of you as unbalanced and hostile towards them, and then hide a bottle of the poison in your bedroom. Now your wife is wondering. “I mean surely he wouldn’t poison himself. Somebody did it, and you are the only one he has problems with. Oh, my God, you are so sick you poisoned my Dad?”
You could end up divorced, stripped from your children, or worse. So open confrontation is a dubious proposition, if family is involved. You won’t know how bad your Narcissist is, until he has shown you by doing something crazy. Until then, you can’t predict how far he will go.
If you want to play the game, you need to shift focus from traumatizing the Narcissist, (or even make every effort not to), and focus on in-grouping yourself, and out-grouping them, below the radar. That means deploying the Heartiste arsenal of cocky-funny, and out-come indifferent about everything, being the guy everybody loves, and occasionally dropping asides and innuendo designed to turn the group against the relative, below the radar, of course. Point out to the Narcissist how much better his other Son-in-Law has it than he does, and send him in that direction. When confrontation opens up, tell everyone behind the scenes it is the Narcissist who is wrong, and in-group the other Son-in-Law, below the radar. Trip his switch with dog whistles to make him rage, while you are always happy-go-lucky with everybody. Make it clear the anger is always from him. Make sure you can’t be accused of infidelity, or child molestation, or any transgression.
But even this is dangerous. You are a normal human being going up against a target who has done nothing but manipulate others every moment of his life, from the earliest social interactions he had. You are an individual who is driven by your amygdala to follow rules, and you are going up against someone who is driven by his amygdala to break rules. You will be disadvantaged.
Een worse, by the very fact that you are playing his game, you are being deceptive, and that could be turned against you if it comes out, especially if your relatives are normal people. Let your wife find out you were bad-mouthing her Daddy behind his back, and fomenting discord, and suddenly you are playing defense again.
It is for this reason, you should either evade and escape, or patiently wait until the Narcissist grows old enough that he can no longer hide what he is, and everyone comes to see the true him. One thing about these characters, when they operate within a group. Eventually everyone in the group notices something is wrong, and one day one comment turns into a flood of note-comparisons, and suddenly everyone sees the Narcissist for what they are. It is very much like the old Sun Tzu adage, “Sit by the river long enough, and the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
But never forget, they are dangerous in many ways if you approach them recklessly, before the crowd has figured them out.
What if my Narcissist is my Boss, Son, Daughter, Father, Neighbor, Employee, etc.
Again, I can’t comment in a way which will help you without knowing the exact scenario – in a way which would really require me to be there. What is the power dynamic? Does the Narcissist need you, or do you need him? How have you known him, and for how long? If you grew up together you will have a specific dynamic to your relationship which was forged in childhood, and which will be unchangeable (Narcissists do not adapt behavior well, preferring to shoehorn everyone into simple cubbyholes of classification). Does your Narcissist associate you with someone he knew in childhood. If you are his wife, but he views his relationship to you in terms of the relationship he had with his mother, then many of his behaviors will only be understandable and predictable in that context. For more See the book Games People Play, by Eric Berne.
When you factor in the variation in Narcissist types, the different degrees of the disorder, the social terrain of the family’s different relationship bonds, the differing amounts of access the Narcissist has to various aspects of your life and property, and the different personalities and social dynamics in your social web, it is too complicated to comment on without a lot of personal information. Even then, if one detail is missed, or your execution of the strategy is off in any way, you can have a real problem.
I can’t emphasize enough, life is so much better without these jackasses in it. There is a cost to being around them. If you don’t accept this, then you have been around your’s so long you have forgotten how great life is. I wouldn’t even be surprised that you are lamenting your low energy levels, and/or reduced health, and the difficulty of realizing all of your potential. Get away, by any means necessary, and never look back. And never, ever, feel you owe the Narcissist anything. They are sub-human, and deserve nothing. Best of all, by doing this you will preserve your relationships with the people you care about, while they gradually figure out who the Narcissist is, and break from him themselves.
I really feel bad for people who have to deal with this. If I can help I will, but I want people to recognize that the Narcissist can be dangerous, especially if they are under 40 years old. If I give you advice, and I miss the smallest detail, that advice could work out badly, and that is something I want to avoid at all costs.