By David Joel Miller.
Discovered a narcissist in your life?
Suddenly one day it dawns on you that someone in your life is a narcissist. This person is causing you pain, and you are trying to figure out what to do about them. Maybe this narcissist is a family member, a romantic partner, or maybe it is your boss.
You see all the signs. They have an inflated opinion of themselves, think they’re superior to you and others. Everything is all about them. You notice that they are constantly trying to manipulate you. This narcissist keeps asking your opinion about them. They are hungry for praise but become furious if you criticize them. The more you are around them, the more you feel used. No matter how much you give, it is never enough. They are causing you a lot of pain, and they can’t seem to see why you feel the way you do.
Sure, looks like a narcissist. What are you going to do now?
They shouldn’t act that way, but they do.
The first thing most people do when it dawns on them that they’re dealing with the narcissist is to try to get that narcissist to understand how it makes them feel, and to change their ways. You can spend a lot of time talking to them, trying to get them to understand how they are affecting you. Not only don’t they get it, but they believe they are so special that they have the right to expect everything to be about their needs and wishes. No matter how hard you try, they will not change.
They may be incapable of change.
If this person is really a narcissist, they may be incapable of change. Some people are high in self-esteem, assertive, and confident. The psychologist would say they are high in trait narcissism. Since they are competitive and want to win, they expect everyone else to take care of himself and this person may be slow to recognize how they are impacting you.
If this person has reached the point of malignant narcissism, technically diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder, one of the symptoms of their disorder is a lack of ability to empathize with you. They’re not capable of seeing your point of view. Any change in this situation is going to have to come from you.
What other problems do they have?
As you think about how you can cope with the narcissist think about what other problems, particularly mental health challenges, this person may have. Do they have a history of antisocial behavior? This increases the risk for you. Narcissists who are also paranoid, have Histrionic or Borderline Personality Disorders, present challenges even to highly trained professionals. If the narcissist in your life also has depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder professional help, for them and you, will be needed. Especially avoid narcissists with addictive disorders may be a danger to themselves and others.
What choices do you have?
If you have identified a narcissist in your life, think carefully about your choices. If it’s a boss, you can learn techniques to manage your interactions. You may be able to transfer to a different department or find a different job. Keep in mind that high level of narcissism is common in managers and in certain professions. Think carefully about whether this is something you can put up with or would it be emotionally healthier for you to leave.
For people in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to think about the long-term. If you been going together for two years, you may be telling yourself you have a lot of time invested. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have had to live with this person for 30 or 40 years?
If this is a family member, a parent or sibling, decide if you can tolerate them in small doses. Some people find they have to move away and reduce contact.
Is this a recurring pattern?
Have you been in multiple relationships with narcissists? You need to take a look at yourself; possibly you will need therapy. If you were a child of a narcissistic parent, you might be attracted to a narcissistic partner. We become comfortable with what we are used to. If you are low in self-esteem, you will attract narcissists who will believe it would be easy to manipulate you. What is the solution to the recurring problems? Work on changing yourself.
Will it get better with time?
People who are high in trait narcissism, competitive, self-confident people, tend to mellow with age. You may find that by lowering your expectations for those around you and learning to meet your own needs, that high narcissism person can become tolerable. Think about it. How will you cope with the narcissist in your life?
More about Narcissists.
As we move through our series of Narcissism posts, feel free to ask questions and leave comments. To help you find these posts, below are some links to point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that all the posts about narcissists appeared in the narcissism category but links to future posts will not be live until future posts appear.
Narcissistic traits. Psychology. (coming soon)
Narcissistic relationship partner. Relationships.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books