It’s Narcissist Friday!
Since this is the first “Narcissist Friday” post of the year, it seemed wise to point out the definition of narcissism I am using.
As I have said before, narcissism is a clinical term used by psychologists, psychiatrists, and others to describe a certain personality disorder. The professionals have a list of guidelines they use to determine whether someone fits this diagnosis. Sometimes the professionals don’t like the rest of us meddling in their domain.
I understand. I am not a professional psycho-therapist. I am a theologian who counsels and writes. So you have to take whatever I say with a grain of salt.
But when I use the word “narcissist” here, I mean someone who exhibits enough of the characteristics of narcissism to be called one by the layman (or the victim). If a man came to my house to install a water heater and did a good job, I would call him a plumber. He might not have a plumbing degree or certification, but he did the work a plumber would do. So someone who acts like a narcissist gets called a narcissist. It seems a lot better than the other things the person could be called. 😉
Most of those who have written about narcissism admit that there is a continuum, a sliding scale, of narcissistic behavior. The person diagnosed as a narcissist by a professional who has to document both diagnoses and treatments may be much higher on that scale than someone who lives and acts like a narcissistic jerk at home or at work.
I have written on this before, but it seems helpful for me to write these things again from a fresh or updated perspective. Narcissists exhibit certain behavioral characteristics. Here are some of them:
Blames others for his own mistakes or inadequacies
Takes advantage of others
Lies easily and often, even about small things
Is unable to listen to or understand the struggles of another person
Believes himself to be better than others
Notices things about others to put them down or exploit them
Exaggerates his accomplishments or abilities
Has a need to be seen as right and will argue beyond reason
Expects others to treat him as superior
Exhibits envy of others in higher positions or with nicer possessions
Demands agreement or concession from others
Is not as competent or able as he portrays or would like others to believe
Often cheats to accomplish a goal
Will steal or take credit for the work of others
Moves easily from one relationship to another
Cuts people off abruptly despite long term or intimate relationship
Knows everything about you, but you know little about him
Cannot bear to lose an argument
Has little or no respect for personal boundaries of others
Seems to use people as objects or toys
Exhibits no sense of empathy
Claims to have high standards, but does not apply them to himself
Well, that’s enough for now. These are all characteristics of narcissism. Many who are not narcissists will do these things or have these attitudes, but almost all narcissists will have many of them.
So, for our use, a narcissist is someone who exhibits several of these characteristics.
The problem we have is twofold. First, because narcissism is a clinical diagnosis, many professionals will refuse to use the word unless they see evidence of certain things on their list. So you may have some real trouble getting a therapist to believe that you are dealing with a narcissist. Second, narcissists are experts at manipulating what others think of them, so victims often find that no one among their friends or family or church will believe them either. Calling someone a narcissist isn’t helpful if you can’t get others to see what you mean.
My suggestion is to point to the behaviors that hurt. When you are lied to or used, that is wrong no matter what we call the person who has done it. When someone blames others for his own failures, that’s wrong no matter what we call the behavior. Others may see similar behavior and believe you long before they agree that you are dealing with a narcissist.
As always, I invite your comments. What would you add to this list? Have you experienced the disbelief of others, either the professionals or others? Considering that this post might be a place where someone could come to understand what is happening in his/her relationship, what brief words of wisdom would you give? Your comments are so helpful and bring a personal touch to these posts. I appreciate you!