Many people who consider themselves to be excellent judges of character can have difficulty in seeing a narcissist for who they really are. Their true identity may eventually reveal itself to some, but to most others, narcissists may appear driven, charismatic, ambitious, disciplined and even fun.Marianne Vicelich
One in three Australian women are said to experience physical, emotional and financial abuse in their lifetime. This horrifying statistic has played out to full effect over the pandemic lockdowns and as the pressure of living with uncertainty puts extreme stress on relationships.
However, there is another type of relationship that is already doomed to fail, that is a relationship with someone with a Narcisistic Personality Disorder. Whilst the term Narcissist is widely used to describe a self absorbed individual, a Narcissist is a dangerous and toxic bedfellow. We spoke to Psychologist and author of Destruction: Free Yourself From The Narcissist Marianne Vicelich on this ever increasing psychological phenomena that wreaks havoc on lives.
Narcissism … the label is used everywhere, but it’s widely misused to describe anyone who offends us. The synonyms of narcissism include conceit, egoism, vanity, self-admiration, self-obsession, self andddd
self. An obvious reoccurring theme.
We all exhibit traits of narcissism to a greater or lesser degree. Narcissism fuels the confidence to take risks, like seeking a promotion or asking out an attractive stranger. The dysfunction might be related to identity or self-direction or cause friction in relationships due to problems with empathy and intimacy. It may also arise from pathological antagonism characterised by grandiosity and attention-seeking. A narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive disturbance in a person’s ability to manage his or her emotions, hold onto a stable sense of self and identity, and maintain healthy relationships in work, friendships and love.
Many people who consider themselves to be excellent judges of character can have difficulty in seeing a narcissist for who they really are. Their true identity may eventually reveal itself to some, but to most others, narcissists may appear driven, charismatic, ambitious, disciplined and even fun. They also display attributes of glibness, feelings of high self-worth, pathological lying, proneness to boredom and emotional unavailability. Charles Manson, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were all very passionate, charismatic, intelligent, successful guys who also displayed narcissistic traits.
Spotting narcissistic personalities
Not all narcissists care about looks or fame or money. If you focus too much on the stereotype, you’ll miss red flags that have nothing to do with vanity or greed.
Some narcissists may be of the communal variety and actually devote their lives to helping others. They are grandiosely altruistic martyrs, self-sacrificing and big noting themselves at all times.
And there are highly introverted, or vulnerable narcissists. These individuals feel they are more temperamentally sensitive than others. They react poorly to gentle criticism and need constant reassurance. Narcissists feel superior to others and they are not necessarily satisfied with themselves as a person.
Nurture or nature?
It is not fully understood how a person becomes a narcissist, but they do have some common background influences. This personality disorder can be diagnosed as early as puberty. Usually a parent gave excessive pampering in childhood years. They might have come from a broken home, having abandonment issues that forced them to rely only on themselves. These people have substituted the lack of love and support from a parent by over emphasising their own self-worth. Narcissistic personality disorder seems to effect more males than females.
The impaired empathy aspect of narcissistic personality disorder can confuse those who haven’t been trained to diagnose it. A complete lack of empathy would identify a psychopathic personality, but people high in narcissism, exhibit flashes of compassion. The higher functioning narcissists have the capacity and ability to empathise, but ultimately their own needs come first. The empathy is often short-lived they will acknowledge that someone else is suffering, but that will quickly dissipate so they can get back to their own self-promotion. Within a relationship, narcissists might be able to show empathy until something upsetting occurs and they reflexively move to soothe themselves by putting a partner down. Even a partner is worth self-sacrificing if it makes them feel superior.
Understanding what constitutes the personality disorder is the first step to identifying a narcissist. With that knowledge one is better equipped to identify a potential narcissist and respond appropriately.
Changing narcissistic behaviours
It’s only when the narcissist recognises, corrects and discourages such behaviour that any real and meaningful change occurs. We must have the strength and capabilities to do so to combat such hurtful and destructive behavioural patterns.
We never know when or under what circumstance we will meet a narcissist. This book focuses on the high-level narcissist, masters of charm, purveyors of magnetism. Meeting one of these individuals is a memorable experience whether the encounter is positive, negative or mixed. Narcissists beguile and persuade with a special brand of magic.
Being unaware and uninformed of the psychopathology, origins and unconscious motivations of the narcissistic personality disorder is counterproductive and injurious to those who naively tangle with narcissists.
We have asked Marianne Vicelich for an extract from her book. You can find that here.
If anyone has been impacted by emotional or physical abuse to contact a free support counselling service here:
Marianne Vicelich is a psychologist, relationship coach and author of 8 published self-help books including ‘Destruction: Free Yourself From The Narcissist‘.