It’s Narcissist Friday!
I was recently prompted to think about those people in our lives who touch us with their narcissism, but are not in close family or marriage relationships. These are friends, co-workers, comrades in some project or club, or just acquaintances. Often you don’t know these people well enough to determine whether they are narcissists, but you experience things from them that are clearly narcissistic.
Here’s an example: You arrive a little early for a meeting or seminar and find a good seat. There are things happening elsewhere prior to the meeting so you put your things on a chair to mark the seat as yours and you do whatever you need to do. When you return to your seat, you find someone else sitting there. Your belongings have been put on the floor in the aisle or down several chairs to a less desirable spot. If you are bold enough, you might ask the person what happened to your things. His or her response is, “Oh, those were yours? I moved them over there.”
So what just happened? You have been depersonalized and manipulated. The narcissistic interloper simply wanted the place that you had marked and took it. You could make a big deal of it and you would look like a fool. Or you could just find a different place to sit. Of course, that’s what you do. Later the person who took your place acts as though you don’t exist. He certainly does not think he did anything wrong and what you think simply doesn’t matter.
This is clearly narcissistic behavior. You tell yourself that you are thankful not to work for this person or be connected to him and you move on. Yet, your experience of the meeting has been damaged.
This is the co-worker who takes credit for the work you did. This is the “friend” who takes advantage of your willingness to help. This is the neighbor who takes over part of your lawn. This is the fellow club member who volunteers you for the work. Narcissistic people are everywhere. Sometimes you know them well enough to stay away from them. Others you don’t really know at all.
Now, notice that I did not say narcissists are everywhere. You don’t know whether these people are narcissists until you spend a lot more time with them in close relationship—and you don’t want to do that. You are spared the pain of the daily cruelties and manipulations, but you experience something that hurts or makes you angry. Narcissistic behavior.
Stealth narcissists move through life slapping people in the face and not looking back. They do it because they don’t really see you. They don’t think of you as a person. You might be useful for a while or you might be in the way, but you are not really important.
So how do you handle this? Shrug it off. You can’t fix it or do anything about it. You were used or abused by a person who is incapable of real relationship. Of course she is responsible for her actions, but nothing will happen to her. You must simply move on. Your anger will hurt only you. The offense you feel will never be vindicated so you might as well let it go and move on.
You see, you are loved. You are acceptable. You are a person and you understand that others are real people. That allows you to enter into relationships. The stealth narcissist knows nothing of what you know deeply and enjoy. People add to your life. Others are important and love is real.
No narcissist would write something like this:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
– John Donne