Well-meaning friends often ask what is narcissism. They often do this because they are unsure if their friend is in it. I know many people call themselves “narcissists” and think that they have it in a special way. The truth of the matter is that everyone has a certain amount of vanity. True narcissists are individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (narcissistic personality disorder); a complex mental health condition characterized with a set of characteristic traits.
It is sad to say, but narcissists are often those whose lives are severely impacted by the demands of their image. Narcissistic behavior is often fueled by the need for reassurance, control, or admiration. These needs can be addressed and satisfied through processes such as ventriloquism (exaggerating the self), gaslighting (lying about your background and personality to create a relationship), and erasing conflict through minimisation and diversion. It is interesting to note that narcissists will sometimes use these strategies in non-explanatory ways, to the point where the victim actually begins to believe that everything is wrong with their life.
A narcissist usually lacks empathy; this is an essential component of the narcissistic personality disorder. Insecure people feel threatened by other people’s feelings and may try to manipulate, lie, and outright lie to create a relationship of power where they control and manipulate the other. Sadly, in narcissistic relationships, there usually is no reconciliation or opening up, no room for expression. That’s why it’s so important not to confuse narcissism with feelings of empathy.
There is some possibility that narcissists can feel empathetic when they are being attacked by others, however there is nothing sincere or authentic about their motivations. Feelings of empathy are simply a product of human psychology and survival. As long as humans survive, feelings of guilt, shame, and loss are involved. As a result of these feelings, humans may try to recreate these feelings, either emotionally or through various actions and postures. Narcissists lack feelings of empathy and are incapable of any genuine feelings of compassion. They rely on their need to control and manipulate to keep their relationships and their lives complicated.
A narcissist does not take the pain of others into consideration; he or she believes that the pain they are causing is their own fault and that only they can fix it. When a narcissist hurts another person, he or she believe that a person should be punished because he or she caused the hurt. It doesn’t matter whether the other person acted out of revenge or was acting out of a genuine concern for the hurtful narcissist. The narcissist blames everyone but himself or herself.
A healthy parent would teach their children that blame has no place in a relationship and that love is the answer. However, a narcissist will often insist that he or she is the victim in all sorts of relationships. If you are having difficulties with your narcissistic partner, take time away from the situation and speak with a therapist or counselor about this behavior. A relationship counselor can help you work through your feelings of betrayal and the resulting discomfort with healthy discussion and non-accriminatory feedback.
Narcissists and their partners can adopt many different types of manipulative and controlling behaviors. One common method is called gaslighting, which is when one partner suggests that the other person is emotionally unstable, untrustworthy, incompetent, or in some way psychologically harmful to them. This kind of attack on the other person’s character and emotions is often the result of sustained abuse during childhood, by a narcissistic parent or within an emotionally abusive environment.
Setting boundaries and rules for your narcissistic partner is also important, especially if you find yourself struggling with the more subtle types of control. A good way to keep your distance is to take time away from the situation and ask yourself why you are being drawn into this relationship in the first place. Is it because you are desperate for attention? Is your excitement about being with someone else the same as your excitement over living without anyone else?