….. if you are, or have been, involved with a toxic / personality disordered individual? As in, FOR SURE know…? Maybe your gut instincts are screaming out that “things aren’t right”, or “there is something seriously wrong here”. Chances are, you are right.
Here, I will break down some key factors and traits of someone who is affected by a personality disorder, specifically Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Disclaimer: Please know that ALL behavior is on a continuum, from very mild to severe. For someone to be clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder by a psychiatrist or psychologist through assessments and testing, the symptoms must be significant and pervasive, long standing over time, and negatively affect the person’s life and relationships. This is also predicated by the HONEST self-reporting of the personality disordered individual, something a Narcissist (aka Narc) is unlikely to be.
Having a personality disorder is altogether DIFFERENT than someone who may exhibit these behaviors from time to time, here and there, RARELY affecting others with their behavior. We ALL can exhibit maladaptive behavior from time to time, and we ARE human, with failings, faults, and our own quirks. This is NOT what I’m talking about here, as having these failings and faults, being a bit quirky or even hard to understand, is unlikely to affect one’s life on a grand, long-lasting scale. I AM talking about someone who’s very perception of the world is skewed, reality and the truth look NOTHING like reality and the truth, and there is REAL illness here. This is not an attempt, nor meant, to diagnose anyone you have in your life; rather it is my goal to provide an overview of behavior that we observe in others that COULD indicate the presence of something more than just being human and having a bad day, or being in a bad mood. Ready? Here we go (in no particular order):
‘Every day hallmarks’ of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Lies. Small lies. Big lies. Hidden truths (that you may find out about later). Lies that don’t make sense. Lies about things that don’t matter. Lies about things that DO matter. ALL NARCS LIE. The trick here is to FULLY AND 100 % STICK TO THE TRUTH. YOU know the truth, and a narc will do everything within his or her power to CHANGE YOUR REALITY, to suit them, their demands, and their wants/needs at the moment. REPEAT: ALL NARCS LIE.
- Manipulation through a variety of methods: Working to make YOU feel guilty for saying (or not saying), or doing (or not doing) something? Yep. A narc does this, big time. Pretending to be sick, overstating a situation, retelling of stories that do not resemble the truth, playing the victim, switching up a topic that YOU are trying to discuss to something that has NOTHING to do with the topic at hand…? Yep. Narcs do this. And do it well. I could write an entire book on manipulation tactics alone. DO. NOT. FALL. FOR. THIS. Stick with the TRUTH. Always.
- Acting for an audience: Oh, the pretense! Oh, the performances! Oh, the twisting of the TRUTH for attention, admiration, to be seen as an esteemed and honorable person – all for the audience! Academy Award winning caliber performances? You bet. If you ever have the opportunity to witness one of these performances, don’t be surprised if YOUR jaw falls to the floor in horror (because YOU know the truth), while the audience is kept in rapt attention, oooohing and ahhhhing over the spell-binding, captivating performance. Remember, stick to the TRUTH. Always.
- Belittling and demeaning comments: Make no mistake, even those little jokes here and there, the little nicknames you may be ‘awarded’ that you don’t like or enjoy, the little slights that seem mean to you (that are brushed off by the narc) are done intentionally, with purpose, and with the GOAL of making you feel ‘less than’. A narc will use the guise of ‘humor’ to make snide and cutting remarks about nearly anything important to you: Your job, your achievements, your appearance, your personality, your friends / family, and on and on. Disguised in ‘humor’, make no mistake; these comments are meant to bolster the narc, and TEAR. YOU. DOWN. The narc feels powerful when they employ this tactic, and what a sick and twisted mentality it shows to demean others to feel better about yourself. Hallmark of a narc.
- Demands without reciprocity: This is HUGE for a narc. We are meant to serve; they ONLY absorb. We are meant to bring the coffee, milk, cookies, help them in all tasks of daily life, extend ourselves for THEIR interests, be there for THEIR friends and family, talk in a certain way, dress in a certain way, do this and that in a certain way – but make NO mistake; there will be LITTLE TO NO reciprocity. I’ll never forget the time I was told, “You have to watch what you say with me and how you phrase things.” When I asked for the same consideration, I was told, “I won’t live my life watching what I say.” And there you have it. The crux of a narc’s expectations. WE MUST do as they say; they have NO compunction to return the consideration. Let that sink in for a bit. WE must serve. The NARC absorbs.
- Who we got to know in the beginning of the relationship, in NO WAY resembles the person who eventually surfaces: Whew. This is one of the REALLY tough ones. In the beginning, OUR VERY SELVES are MIRRORED back to us – this means the narc will watch, listen, and display back to US the very things we talk about, our body posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, nearly everything. This is INTENTIONAL, and allows US to feel comfortable (they are so much like us!, we think), let down our guard (this person is so normal!, we think), and most of all, drives us to truly believe we are getting to know someone who UNDERSTANDS US, and is SIMILAR to us. This is a narc’s MASTER PERFORMANCE. We just don’t know it. Yet. Over time, all the wonderful qualities we observed slip away, rarely (if ever) to be seen again. Sadly, by the time the REAL person shows up (known as the MASK falling off), we have likely invested so much time, emotion, and our very hopes and thoughts of a ‘dream come true’, we are unlikely to get out of the relationship right away. This is OUR mistake, and one I will be writing about in the future (our responsibilities in the relationship). The ‘person’ we get to know in the beginning of the relationship does not exist, and is created by the narc as a TOOL to get us hooked, and boy, do we EVER get hooked. Who wouldn’t?? We are being presented with a person we truly believe is our one-in-a-million love match! Oh, how I thought I had won the love lottery! Oh, how WRONG I was. We fall in love with a phantom; someone who saves their TRUE character until we are fully invested in making the relationship work. Dastardly and vile machinations of a VERY sick mind, all in an effort to secure and lock in their target.
- Punishment: ALL narcs punish their victims, in some form or fashion. While I will be devoting a separate post about this, please know that if you go against a narc in any way via word or action, stand up for yourself, and/or work to bring awareness to them about their issues – you WILL be punished. This could be a ‘discard’, when the narc (temporarily – they always come back) obliterates you from his / her life, like you never existed in the first place. It could take the form of withholding; withholding affection, attention, MONEY for even daily necessities (this is common), or some other important aspect of your life…. a narc will take these things away in a flash – as punishment. Narcs are driven by power, control, and expectation of servitude; when we go against these things the balance is tilted for the narc, and WE pay the price.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen…. This is quite a bit to assimilate into our often tired, weary, and worn out souls. I will leave it here for the moment, as my goal is to inform, educate, allow clarity of thought and understanding, bit by bit. ANY personality disordered individual affects others significantly, and it is important to NOT become overwhelmed in the early stages of awareness and awakening. This is A LONG JOURNEY, this healing journey, and should be handled with care, and above all else, with the resonating belief that there is no person on the planet who should STAY in a relationship with a narc. Not. ONE. Person. To do so is to give up your soul, your sanity, to work tirelessly for NOTHING equitable. Our lives are not meant to be lived being chained to vile people who are so internally weak and empty, they hurt others to feel worthy. Whew. Tough stuff everyone, tough stuff. Best, L.A.