It’s Narcissist Friday!    


Pain causes most of us to turn inward.  We begin to see the world through the feelings we experience.  What that means is that we are less likely to empathize or even listen to others.  All we know is that we hurt.  If we know the cause of the pain, we see little else.

I recently got an email from someone (anonymous) who accused me of incompetence and ignorance because I didn’t portray a narcissist like the person he/she had experienced.  That narcissist was a “vampire” and a “monster” apparently.  I was doing a disservice because I suggested that some narcissists are less than that; at least that’s what I think the person was trying to say.

I sympathize.  Once this person understood that the cause of the pain was a narcissist, then a narcissist was defined by his/her experience.

In my last post on formula spirituality, I talked about the problem of making general statements based on individual or a small number of examples.  It’s easy to do, especially when it is something you have experienced in pain.  If I were to describe a classic narcissist according to the first person I identified as being narcissistic, the classic narcissist would be a soft-spoken, gentle, manipulative man who managed to put others down and control them by using calculated words and ideas.  In other words, the classic narcissist would be covert.  However, if I were to describe the classic narcissist by the second one I recognized, he would be loud, cruel, and boastful.  He would be a leader without any heart and you would bow down to him or suffer serious loss.  In other words, overt.

What would the classic narcissist be like according to your experience?  Judging from the comments here, we would have some disagreements.  So, of course, we don’t define narcissism according to our limited experience.  We try to look past our pain to understand the basic motivations and failings of the narcissist.  We recognize that narcissists come in different shapes and sizes and act in different ways.  Some are men and some are women.  Some are family and some are bosses and some are neighbors.  Some are friendly and some attack and some do both so that you never know what to expect.  Some are young and some are old and some are the same age as you.

There are things we know about all narcissists.  All lack empathy, even though they can trick you into thinking they understand and care.  All manipulate for control, even those who make you think they are helping you.  All abuse and, ultimately, hurt those who love them.

And, because we are all different people, the narcissists in our lives affect us differently.  Some can work for a narcissistic boss—without thinking about killing him.  Some can stay in a marriage to a narcissist.  Some want to try even though they know what they are getting.  Some are able to leave and shake the dust off their feet.  Some are hurt deeply by a friend.

If you think of all the possible permutations, with different narcissists causing different responses in us, it is a wonder we can talk with each other about this.  But one thing we are learning: there are no simple answers.  You can’t just tell someone to get a divorce, even though that what you had to do.  And, in the same way, you can’t tell someone to stay, even though you think it is right.  Instead, we can listen and pray and love.

Someone once told me that Job’s friends offered the best counsel until they opened their mouths.  They just sat with him for something like a week, saying nothing.  They were good friends.  Then they started telling him what to do and why these things had happened to him.  Suddenly they became accusers and experts.  Then they weren’t good friends.

The goal of my heart is to bring hurting people to Jesus.  He’s the only One who truly understands.  I know that narcissism often comes into our lives in the context of religion and I grieve for that.  The truth is that the healing comes from Jesus.  It comes as we take our own pain and our own situation to One who knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows your loss.  He knows the change that has taken place in your heart because of the abuse.  He also knows the person you really are.  Others may not understand, but He does.

Be patient as He works his love into your life and shows you the way to strength and peace.

And, along the way, be patient with others whose walk may be similar, but not the same.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

22 responses to “Generalizations

  1. Maggie

    I am so impressed with your writing today Pastor Dave. I feel more and more safety and security in reading your posts and applying the wisdom I read in each one. I thank you and I thank God for the power of His Holy Spirit working in you. I read a maturity in your tone and content that reflects a “looking at all sides of a problem” approach and I like that.
    My own personal experience with waking up to the knowledge of my spouse’s N has led me to seek balance and perspective when I share and read other comments and that is very grounding for me. Some Friday mornings I “try on ” what others are experiencing and writing and I can reflect clearly and come to my own conclusions. Some Friday mornings another story may trigger me and my acceptance of my spouse and my serenity in my current situation is disturbed. It is always through self reflection and prayer and then letting go that I can see what pertains to my situation and what does not. Some Friday mornings I may not be strong enough to read comments because of where I am in my own recovery and I wait until I receive the gentle nudging to seek fellowship. I could do none of this without Jesus. When I do not do this well I am not waiting in silence with Him. I may be trying too hard to get it all wrapped up or to relate to the many comments/experiences that may not in fact pertain to my situation. I think this is the natural progression of recovering from deception and covert or overt abuse. Recovering is rigorous work, I humbly submit.
    Thank you Pastor Dave.

  2. SM

    Everyone’s pain is real. Everyone’s hurt has merit. One persons situation is not better or worse than another’s. Both are equally important as both are a personal experience to the victim of the pain. My brother is currently going through a real hard time right now having just been thrown out by his wife, extreme anger issues, loss of the business, sleeping in his car. When I speak with him to offer support and a shoulder to lean on during HIS difficult situation I listen, encourage. I am there for him although I too am suffering. He on the other hand when asking how I am will immediately compare our problems and validate his as being worse and tell me stuff like ‘you think you got it bad?’ or ‘Id switch with you in a heartbeat’. While his current crisis from the perspective of another who is not going through a trial may indeed seem more severe, it isn’t. Both of our pain is equally important and valid personally and there isn’t one that’s ‘worse’ or ‘better’. People do this as a way of self protection, compare and determine they have it worse which does nothing but make it worse because it focuses on the problem not the cause and cure. Just like all of us who are trying to manage our pain caused by a N whether they were/are a spouse, significant other, friend, relative, each one of our situations is different just as each of the Ns are different. But one thing that isn’t different is the it means something to ourselves individually that no body knows except us and Jesus. Its not a pain competition, its a desire to heal and become whole. A desire for a hand to reach out and help us up not point and compare and determine who has it worse. Worse doesn’t matter, healing does.

    • Cecilia K

      “It’s not a pain competition, it’s a desire to heal and become whole.” SM, that is beautifully put! I have found myself comparing with stories on here, only thinking that my situation was not nearly as bad as some that I have read, but you are right – there is no sense in comparing. We all experienced what was painful to us and are looking for healing. I believe I have received that healing, but I still enjoy coming and reading Pastor Dave’s posts and everyone’s comments and experiences.

  3. UnForsaken

    Maggie and SM, your words totally cover it! I’ve tried almost too hard to be able to say what you both hit right on the head…..Thank You!!
    When I first came here what really made me come back was the practical way you described the N’s various forms of thinking, Pastor Dave. I had read the description at Wikip. and seen a highly overt type , but needed further proof that my idea was True. I am fully convinced now, but it was your kind patience that lead me to just treat it that way, even if I never came to know. All of you gave me the confidence I needed to believe my own conclusions. Thank YOU!
    This holiday my N is depressed, serious and I can feel the disapproval in the air, but because of all of your stories and Srength , I know I’ll make it!

  4. Kay

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:

    ” He knows your loss. He knows the change that has taken place in your heart because of the abuse. He also knows the person you really are.”

    Sometimes I feel wistful and long to return to the person I used to be, because I feel so jaded and a little cynical these days. There truly is a change that has taken place in my heart, even though I still love. It’s just not the same, like scales falling off of the eyes. It is very comforting to me that Jesus does indeed know the REAL person, even better than we know ourselves.

    • Kay, I think I can relate to how you are feeling. The way I describe it is that I feel I lost myself…the loving person I USED to be. The narcissist in my life squeezed out the love, compassion, kindness…etc that USED to b me every day. I keep mulling over in my mind how I could have possibly let this happen. I didn’t even realize I was in an abusive friendship until I finally got away from it…then the devastation set it…the anger, the bitterness. I long for the person I used to be, but I guess I’m wiser now in many ways. It’s a constant conflict.

      • UnForsaken

        Kay, there is an empty feeling now( and in No way do I want to over-look the pain you are in), but it is also an opportunity for God to do great things. You have lost your old self, now He is making a new one. It takes patience and faith to believe that He will do what HE says…give you ” a hope and a future” ….but part of the journey is simply taking the next step. I have been terribly alone and felt as empty as you describe so from experience I can say the feelings are probably true, But , you may also feel thet way a little while into the next stage. Waking up one day you Will be able to see God has been working in your life in ways you couldn’t see before, and you have been growing in leaps and bounds . Rest in Him and He will do it. We have to shed the old–bad Or good– to become new. Keep persisting as you have been and the results will come! You will be stonger then you thought you could be!

  5. Amy Nygren

    What a great read. My mother is the primary narcissist in my life. In a recent counseling session I realized that my healing means that I experience more pain and disappointment in my relationship with my mom. I’m letting go of my defenses and this means that I can feel the warmth of my husband’s embrace, the encouragement of a friend and the sting of my mother’s inability to empathize with me. My mother’s father, my Papa, is dying. There is no formula or program to touch the reality of our situation. I see that she is hurting and I’m wrestling with how I can safely respond and show genuine love to her. I am comforted by the gifts of God and how he meets me throughout my day.

  6. I think this post is very thoughtful and right on point. The Narcissist in my life is my ex-husband was married to while I was weak and naive. I left him for almost three years and now we are back “together” if you call it that. He has caused me a lot of pain but also brought me a lot of great experiences and what at times, seems like great love. Sometimes, I have thought the best thing I could do is run and never look back. Sometimes, I think that I have made him a better person. He has made great strides. He is a better father. I feel I can continue to bring him to the right path. Maybe it is just him hiding it better and acting the way he thinks he should to get more of what he wants or to please the right people. The fact is, it has made his children feel more loved and more important to him. It has helped heal some of the damage that has been caused. Who is to tell me that I should leave because of who he is and what he will do? If the outcome is better and I am strong and centered enough to stay with him, how is that wrong? Maybe I will feel different in a day or a month. Right now, things are good. There is hope for our future. Christmas is coming and it will be the first year we spend it all together in a while. Thanksgiving together was great. The kids will be ecstatic. That is my truth with my Narcissist, right now.

  7. Fellow Survivor

    Mia, I wish I had the chance you have. You obviously love him so see if you can make it work, armed with the knowledge that you have now to protect your heart. Protect your heat Mia, protect your heart. I will say again. protect your heart.

    • Broken and emptied

      Mia & Fellow Survivor,
      What I find so difficult with being in a N relationship is the ambivalence. Should I love and hope that things will get better? Trust and have faith in God who makes all things possible? Or should I protect myself whom I have already lost somewhere back there in my effort to make the marriage work and be a good testimony of a submissive wife? And for us victims who still hope for the best, we bring down our walls that shield us from getting hurt…then BAM! He throws a grenade and we fall apart.
      Pastor Dave, you’re right. Leaving is easier said than done. I’ve never felt so understood and empowered by what you and the others say in Narcissist Friday! …and I have read so many books about narcissism and domestic abuse. Knowledge about the matter gives us strength, yet application is not possible without the support from fellow victims who understand what we go through from the moment we wake up till we lay our heads on our pillows (whether to cry or sleep) at night.
      Really, at the end of the day, we MUST guard our hearts! It’s good to be strong to guard against the N’s attacks, but it’s wrong for our hearts to be hardened.
      We need to always be vigilant, because once our hearts turn jello-like because of the seemingly changed heart of the N, that’s when he attacks – and since your defenses are down we’ll never know what hit us.

      • UnForsaken

        Broken and emptied, I Really appreciate what you said here. Ambivalence Does take a lot of vigilance….and listening to God. Sometimes all I hear is my confusion and it takes Time to hear what He is saying. And it is hard to stay open to grief and acceptance when our culture is against it and we don’t yet see the answers. Thanks for putting this so well!

  8. Recovering

    My ex husband NPD is getting remarried. I am already remarried myself. He deserted our marriage with his adulterous lover. Why am I SO annoyed that he is remarrying? He isn’t my problem anymore. But he HURT me so treacherously. My husband now is so loving, caring and absolutely not a NPD. When will the pain from the former ever end? How do I get him out of my head when I run into his family and hear of his latest news? It feels like he landed on his feet and is just setting up a whole new life like the other one was a waste of his time which I am sure he sees as…22 years of waste I guess. He tells his family the last half of his life will be better than the first. I am SO angry that it looks like he got away with adultery, desertion, financial treachery. He is moving up the ladder so to speak in his chosen NPD profession. I do not want this hanging in to my new marriage. God set me from the NPD. I feel like he gets away with all of it though.

  9. Fellow Survivor

    Recovering. I know how you feel. We were married for 23.5 years and she dropped me like I never existed. New boyfriend before the divorce was final and I am still a wreck, although not so bad as 6 months ago. All the crimes your ex was guilty of were the same type of crimes my ex committed against me. And they get away with it without a scratch on their character.

    I am so sorry for your pain. I would never wish this kind of pain on anyone.

  10. Recovering

    Thank you Fellow Survivor. What they did to us is just full of injustice. I know at the Judgement Seat of Christ, they will give full account for every sin if they are not saved. I think we just would like to know they don’t get away with it in this life.

    • UnForsaken

      It sounds like your N is working overtime to convince everyone he is better then fine. But it’s hard to really know how a N is feeling esp. by what they say or spread by others who believe them. I used to know a textbook N and even though he appears great I’d swear he is miserable . Take heart, Recovering! They don’t get away with as much as it seems – even on this earth. And beside that, they are living with a personally damaged self and will not choose the Truth ….which has st us Free!!!!

  11. SM

    I broke NC and sent my XN gf an email yesterday telling her that no matter what my love does not disappear. She replied today saying how she is doing so great!!! and that I treated her so poorly (?), that shes been going out with other men that treat her respectfully (which = spending $ taking her places) and that why did I write her. I wrote back saying exactly the same thing, but just in one sentence… I wrote because I love you and am happy that you are doing well. It was painfully hard but I have come to accept that no matter what, I will love, even those who tear my heart out. Nothing bad can ever come from love, for God is love.

    I finally wrote a new song the other day after months of no interest in my passion, music. It about exactly that, love. I hope its ok to share it here Dave.

  12. UnForsaken

    SM, you have a great spirit. God’s perfect love will heal and we are learning to be more like Him right now. I’m so glad you felt like writting again! I know God is really working in my life the more I feel a need to express what He is saying to me through creativity. Brother, looking back, I just wouldn’t be the same person without those/ these hard times. So keep looking up and trusting as you have been ! And may you truly feel you are in the center of His will and Love this Christmas!

  13. Cecilia K

    I confess I was one who found it hard to “empathize and listen to others” when I went through my back-to-back abusive relationships (the second one being worse than the first, I think). It was all I could talk about for a while, and I know all my friends and my sister must have gotten sick of listening to me, but they continued to anyway without complaint. And even though I could tell myself in my head that there are other people who have gone through this or worse, I was still blind to other people’s pain – I FELT like no one could have experienced a pain like mine, but cognitively, I KNEW it wasn’t true. I was very self-absorbed.

    I am thankful that I have grown to a point where I no longer feel the need to talk about it all the time, and I am better able to listen to and appreciate other people’s pain. I am relieved when I can be moved to tears by a movie where someone has undergone intense physical and emotional pain (was watching “Captain Phillips” the other night). It helps assure me that I have not grown completely numb/callous, because sometimes I fear that I have.

  14. Trying to cope

    I don’t talk to many outside of here because no one will get it, does get it. They silly things that may help if you were dealing with a “NORMAL” person. So I probably repeat myself and try and make sense over and over. Piece by piece I feel better. I worry about my ability to trust again. I pray for Wisdom. Fight the urge to talk to people that could, would sabotage me. It is all so new, it’s like relearning what you can and can’t do. I love what you said above Cecelia k, It is not a pain competition. We all have different types of N’s in our life, varying degrees of closeness, varying degrees of ability to do no contact. I have to cope and deal and I am trying to create the situation that I can control.. The other day I used the word control I wrote it out of context. I need to control it’s affect on me. I need to create an environment where maybe N does not feel the need to be so hostile. I have not made much headway here. This N likes power, not subservience, I don’t even say sorry for whatever it is you “Think”I have done. He would rage at me. He takes joy in trying to make me jealous of his relationships with other workmates. I am becoming immune…I wish. There are no generality and our perception is our reality.

  15. Object of Contempt

    I have a question.

    As I have “awakened” to what has happenned in my childhood, and now in my marriage, I have read a lot of information (mostly on blogs) that characterize nacissists one way or another (male, evil, without empathy, violent, etc…). It /did/ make it harder to stop blaming myself, and identify the actual problem. Now that I have a little more perspective, I think, I am able to identify some of the actions as abusive.

    This idea of “no empathy”, however, it has me wondering. My wife is not overt in her abuse, nor is her narcissism. She seems to have empathy for our kids, and for her family of origin. I know that narcissism is primarily about protecting and promoting a false self, and that people fill roles in that task… I’m not sure, in that context, if
    A) a narcissist has no empathy for anyone at any time
    , or
    B) narcissists have empathy, but those who don’t fill their role (provide validation, or provide narcissistic supply) just never see it.

    This matters to me because it not only helps me identify our problems more accurately, but it also helps me know better what impact this does/could have on our kids. Aside from that, a divorce would be devastating because most of the in-laws are abusive, scapegoat me, and I have no resources for even a peaceful divorce. I take my vow seriously, and don’t want to end this anyway. But, I am miserable.

    • Cecilia K

      Hi Object, I’m not enough of an authority to really answer your questions, but regarding your comment about your wife’s narcissism/abuse not being overt, have you read Pastor Dave’s post about the differences between overt and covert narcissism? I think it’s titled just that: Overt and Covert. It’s in the archives somewhere. You may find that somewhat helpful.

      As for the empathy for your kids, a couple of possibilities come to mind (but again, I’m no expert) – perhaps your wife is not an outright, actual, full-blown narc (but does display some of the characteristics sometimes), or Pastor Dave and other sources maintain that narc’s are experts at feigning whatever quality they have to, to get what they want. Is it possible that her empathy toward the kids is merely for show, to appear like a good mother?

      If you need to, please know that Pastor Dave welcomes everyone to write to him directly on his email.

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