It’s Narcissist Friday!   

Maybe someday the professional counselors will break narcissism into several parts. If so, I have a suggestion for one aspect of narcissism: Attention Obsessive Disorder. Of the nine clinical characteristics of narcissism (which you can find here) seven of them have something to do with the narcissistic need for attention. I think it would be hard to overstate this characteristic.

Now, this is obvious with the overt narcissists, right? They jump in front of the camera, in front of the stage, so others will notice them. They will be loud, or funny, or sarcastic, or cruel, or whatever it takes to bring the light on themselves. For some, all attention is good attention. Politicians, preachers, sports heros, “reality stars,” and others often seem to live for the attention.

But we have to make sure we understand this in the right way. Attention does not mean just the limelight. It means focus. The narcissist wants you to focus on him/her. It means that the narcissist wants your life.

A commenter recently noted something many have experienced. The narcissist often pulls people into intense personal relationships quickly. Many people relate a feeling of “love at first sight.” Narcissists talk of marriage much earlier in the relationship than expected. They demand exclusivity. They know how to attract and keep the focus of a person they want. Once the hook is set, they keep the pressure up until the victim is reeled in. That means focus. The young lady is overwhelmed by the attention the narcissist seems to give. Then she is told what to wear and how to eat and what to buy and who her friends should be. She is so smitten by the intensity of the relationship that she doesn’t sense the dangers. She loses herself in his need for her attention or focus.

Someone might wonder about the more covert narcissist, the one who seems to avoid the spotlight, but still manipulates all of her relationships. Again, this is a need for attention/focus. Your mother might be nearly unknown in the community or church, but your father does whatever she says, and you live in dreadful anticipation of her phone calls. Do you see what she wants and gets? Your focus. She is supposed to be the center of her family. Anything less than concentrated focus from her victims will be met with anger. Even if you are constantly looking over your shoulder in case she shows up or worried about what she will say next, she has your attention.

Remember Captain Jack Sparrow? The officer says, “You are without doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of!” And Sparrow answers, “But you have heard of me.” Even the person at church who takes every job and succeeds at none of them might be doing so just for the attention. The failure doesn’t matter, in fact it could draw even more attention to the narcissist, especially if the narcissist is the victim of some other person who failed. The person at work who never really works but knows everything about everyone, including the boss, might thrive on the attention of others who are both angry that she doesn’t carry her load and worried that she might tell what she knows. In either case, you are watching her.

And that friend who has no other friends besides you, but seems to expect—even demand—your constant availability and sympathy, may well be a narcissist who loves the focus you give to her. She is sick. She is out of money. She is being picked on by others. She is misunderstood. You care until you realize it never ends. When you stop, you move so quickly from friend to enemy that you really don’t understand what happened. You are demonized simply because you no longer provide the focus she wants.

The narcissist walks into a room full of people and immediately separates them into three categories. A certain number are instant friends. Another number are instant enemies. The rest might as well be invisible. On what basis does he make these assessments? By whether he thinks he will become the center of their focus. Some will give him what he wants. They will oooh and aaaah at whatever he says or does. Friends. Others will expect attention for themselves. Competitors. Enemies. The rest are too stupid to notice his specialness, or of such little value that it wouldn’t lift him up if they did.

Never underestimate the value of attention for narcissist. And, of course, we understand that this is not really attention for the narcissist, but for the image the narcissist has put up for himself. You are required to worship the image. Everything the narcissist does is for the purpose of lifting up that image. He wants you to believe in his superiority.

Attention. The drug of the narcissist. Your attention. Your focus. Your life. The narcissist is obsessed with getting as much of it as he/she can.


Filed under Narcissism

17 responses to “AOD

  1. Kitkat

    This reminds me of Jesus being tempted by Satan, the ultimate narcissist. They look at your needs and try to manipulate you, and all for the purpose of control, possession and worship. And Jesus by example shows us how we must deal with them. Even Jesus had His angels come and minister to Him after the encounter. The Lord does know what it is like to suffer at the hands of narcissists. We are not alone in our suffering. He knows and cares for us because He understands. Thank you Pastor Dave for another spot on post.

    • Still Reforming

      Thank you, Kitkat, for that reminder that the Lord knows what suffering at the hands of narcissists is like and that He has not left us alone.

    • Rachel

      Kitkat, that is both brilliant and consoling. Thanks so much for this clear view of the Christian way to deal with it all.

  2. Pastor Dave you are so very right . My ex husband’s favorite saying was ” you don’t put me number one”. He was always number one in my heart, but he didn’t like it when I would share my attention with anyone else if it took away from him. That meant sharing my life and joy with family and friends. My whole life was to revolve around him. He didn’t like it if I had other interests if he felt they took away from him. My whole life was turned upside down and it’s been a long struggle. It’s been over 5 years since our divorce and I still struggle with what I did wrong other than just being myself…I pray everyday for God to release me from this overwhelming sadness and the thoughts of what I could have done better…I always wonder what I did wrong …. I really wanted my marriage to work but his threats of divorce every time I did something “wrong” took a toll on me and I finally cracked…. I just want to be the person I was before I met him… As I wish I never had…

    • Still Reforming

      I’m glad you commented here, ladyblue2015, because it sounds like you need friends to reassure you that you in fact didn’t do anything wrong. If he really loved you and you had done something wrong, he would have worked it through with you. The fact that you’re still wondering what you did is proof that you didn’t do anything wrong. I used to have to tell my now ex-husband over and over again to not qualify me (so unloving, so unforgiving, etc) but to tell me just the facts, ie, what did I do, what did I say, etc. He never could and never did. I wasn’t perfect, of course, but like you, I kept trying and trying – and the more I worked to make/keep him happy, the more miserable and angry he got. I’ve heard similar words as you did (“You don’t put me number one”) – but what I heard was “You love the dog more than you love me” when I would just pet the dog or coo over him. My response was, “Well, then you should feel comforted that if I care this much for just a dog, how much more would I care for you if you’re ever sick or hurt?” (At the time, the dog was terminally ill.) All to say – please keep commenting here and talk it out in safe forums (this and A Cry for Justice’s blog) so you can be less blue as you learn that it isn’t you. It wasn’t your fault. He will take that blaming, hateful attitude into every ‘relationship’ he has. That person you were before you met him is still in there. She is. She’s just likely been so intimidated that she’s coiling up inside. Please do speak again and again and she’ll resurface. Be gentle with yourself. (((hugs)))

  3. Still Reforming

    Bingo. And at a certain point in my marriage I began to realize that I was constantly thinking about him and how he would react to this, that, or the other thing – likely all minor little insignificant things, but things that could make him react in any unpredictable way. I began to see how very much of my time and attention was being given over to thoughts of him – and they were not happy, content thoughts, but anxious thoughts. It took a lot of time and work to regain those thoughts to things that I enjoyed and life again, but they were still there – buried under the mire that is his own sick world. Thanks be to God who gave me the eyes to see the evil and the wisdom to slowly learn how to handle it.

    • In, what you have experienced falls under “walking on eggshells”…I have been through the same ordeal. I can’t actually understand it then as I didn’t know about what narcissists ‘really’ are. The feeling was uncomfortable, veey uncomfortable for me that I feel like being with him is draining me of my energy and vitality but then my whole being just can’t force myself to leave him even if he is making me feel unpleasant and bad about myself almost all the time.

  4. Cora Marandino

    Pastor Dave, your articles on narcissism have really helped me come out of ignorance and denial about the relationship I was in for 13 years, and am still in to some extent , mentally and emotionally … its only been 5 months since I finally left the relationship … I say “ditto ” to what ladyblue2015 said above , especially “I just want to be the person I was before I met him.” but then, do I really? I believe I have grown in ways I would not have otherwise because of wrestling with this relationship … and that God is helping me “take the best and leave the rest” as they say in AA.

    I have a question for you. Do you think covert and overt narcissists are drawn to each other … I am more aware of my own covert narcissistic neediness to be known and seen as “special” in a certain way and it has cost me many relationships in my life, the most painful being my own daughter … but I also have come to realize that I am drawn to narcissists because of the focused attention they give me, their “dependence” on me …. most of my closest women friends are pretty narcissistic and are not really that interested in me other than to be the audience to their lives … and I’ve been a willing (if mostly ignorant) victim because of the “hit” of being seen as the one who meets their needs and thus gives me a sense of importance … otherwise I am left feeling invisible and on the outside looking in … ugh! anybody need a Savior? Were it not for God opening me to a relationship with Jesus and the revelations He brings to me about myself and others I would be … well I don’t know what I would be, but it wouldn’t be pretty ….

    anyway I would love to hear your insights on overt/covert narcissistic dynamics in a relationship.

    • I like what you said about not totally being the same person I was before. I don’t want to find myself in another relationship like this and I am focusing on what drew me in. What I do miss is the joy and happiness I had before. Things that I could give myself. Sadly I can’t seem to being that back. The things I did “wrong” we’re give those also important in my life the same qualities that first drew my narcissist to me. My focus wasn’t 100% on him at all times. I had two aging sick parents and had moved almost an hour away from family and my job when we were married. Spending time with family and friends were limited just by the drive alone and my parents weren’t able to visit. No one really wanted to make the drive and I was exhausted by the additional hours of driving put onto my work schedule. He blamed me saying I didn’t really want to be married to him if I wanted to do things back from where I was from. Frankly the drive wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I had a kinder more supportive husband, but I didn’t. I felt like I was doing everything to please him, and like you, everything I said or wanted to do had to go through a mental sieve in my mind as to whether he would get mad or not or punish me at a later date somehow just for asking. Anxiety and depression took over. I want the old me back , the non anxious , non depressed woman I was.

      Both of my parents have since passed away, my Mother was 3 weeks ago. He was never there for me or them. He then showed up at my Mothers funeral both days and went to the wake afterwards, acting like a caring person. It just reopened old wounds and I am just so sad about the whole situation.

      I wish you well and will pray for you. I am praying hard that Jesus can help take this pain away…

      • Still Reforming

        oh dear ladyblue2015, I am so so so sorry for your loss. Grieving is such a strange animal unto itself even without the narcissist rubbing yet more salt in the wound. I am so sorry about your mother’s passing. Do be gentle with yourself now. I know you want that old self back. In some ways perhaps you will find her again – in little things. Perhaps an activity you enjoy. Or a sight or smell. Little things may well creep back into your life the longer he is out of it.

        It’s possible that your depression and sadness have connection with the passing of your parents, especially with your mother’s departing so recently. It takes a lot of time to mourn and grieve – and there’s no set time for it. It takes as long as it takes – and however you mourn and grieve is all acceptable. There’s no wrong way to live through it.

        In some ways, I think those people we remember who we used to be have also changed in ways that won’t return. We who have encountered this particular evil (the one that masquerades as good) will forever be changed by that knowledge. In some ways, we can’t go back to the innocent days when we didn’t know it existed – at least not in a way that touched us as this has. So, in that, we have to take that knowledge, I think, and use it for God’s glory and our own good and that of His people.

        I will hold you in prayer. I am so sorry for you, dear one, for your loss and pain and suffering. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad. It’s okay to be sad. And know that happiness is not totally gone just because you have days upon days upon days and nights of sadness. Happiness can return. But just because you’re not feeling it right now doesn’t mean it’s not out there. Allow yourself time to grieve and be sad – and also, pray. Pray to the Lord for His mercy and comfort as only He can give. (((hugs)))

    • New Creature

      Cora, I am wondering if how you describe yourself in paragraph 2 might be more about codependence than about covert narcissism. I don’t know a lot about this stuff, but it might be worth looking into.

      Relationship with them does give us a hit of adrenaline, doesn’t it? Even when we are free of them, there is still this odd craving…for a while at least. I think Dave has written before about the adrenaline craving.

      I can’t help but feeling that you are being way too hard on yourself. I agree that I am grateful to have a Savior! He will gently heal you over time as you persist in walking with Him. It takes time and we need to figure out how to rest in Him as He takes us through the growth process. I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Needing to heal is not a character flaw on your part.

  5. Savedbygrace

    Thanks Dave- I needed this reminder today as my separated Nh seeks to hijack my Christmas /holiday plans… I couldn’t really understand the why of some of his behaviour, but needing to be the centre of attention fits wrote:
    It means focus. The narcissist wants you to focus on him/her. It means that the narcissist wants your life.
    this explains why the Ns attention does not feel like love.. it feels creepy and stalker like .. I feel like his is a slow sucking the life out of you..
    Is there any hope for a Narcissist? If they truly became a Christian and sought to follow Jesus.. are these character traits able to be modified? What do we make of God being able to transform us by His Spirit? Does anyone know a N who has made these changes?

  6. Rachel

    Thank you Dave for another great post, always something new to learn in this crazy game!
    You said “You are required to worship the image. ”
    Wow! That made me jump, it’s a form of Idolatry!
    It’s something I have been praying about with my prayer friends, slowly things are being unravelled.
    As Christians, we can’t put another person first, that is the place due to the Lord, number one in our lives. When we do this and God has His place, everything else falls into the correct order.
    Lots to think about this week…..

    • Bruised Reed

      I was also thinking of similar things while in church the other day. More often than not, I struggle with being free in my worship toward God, and I realized that it’s because I grew up with my mother demanding my worship. She never said as much, of course, but I know now that was behind her covert messages that everything I was or did was a reflection of her, and that I owed her my best no matter how unreasonable her expectations were. She also liked to behave as though my talents were hers to enjoy and exploit, though she had very little do with their development. All that to say, I understand what it feels like to be forced to worship a person instead of our Creator. And it can be very difficult to unlearn those deeply ingrained habits. :/

  7. SAM

    Your articles continue to provide much needed insight and practical advice. For this we are so grateful. Lives are being changed through healing and restoration with our Father. I can’t say thank you enough. I also appreciate that you do not ask for money . However I would like to inquire about contributing to your ministry.
    Blessings on you and yours.

    • Thanks, Sam, for the kind words and for asking about donations. I have a tab at the top for donations, but realized that this time of year I probably should have a button on the main page. The donations button will take you to a Paypal portal, but you don’t have to have a Paypal account to give. On the Donations page, there is an address for mailing as well. This ministry is completely funded by donations. We have some who give each month and others who give as they are able. The goal, of course, is simply to be an encouragement and help to those who are struggling in their relationships and in their faith. Thanks again!

  8. UnForsaken

    This is a great explanation of how obsession coincides with Narcissism. Of course it also exists on its own and I often see it as something that rubs off on the enablers of Narcs.

    I don’t put much store in “thriller” dreams except as a gauge of my psychological state. Recently I had one about my m., where a woman was just like her , ignoring me and saying things about my grandmother as if she was her mother. But this woman turned out to be someone else who was pretending to be my m. and trying to convince me of it as well as everyone else. It was a strong case for identity theft, but she would have claimed jokingly it was my mistake. And as dreams go, my real m. came by and I told her what had been happening, that this woman had waltzed in dressed like her and sitting in her place and convincing everyone she Was her. The real chill came when my real m. tried to Befriend her – a possible Psychopath, major fraud, etc!

    But all of what happened could happen, and that is what makes a dream like this so awful. My own m. has never really been a m. to me in her behaviors and she has given up her very being to my Narc. She has also tried to take over my existence like this woman did. And she would try to befriend an obvious user who wanted to take over her life….although there is no real fear of that permanently because the N. wants All. I realize now that the other woman was just like an aunt of mine that my m. has chosen to deny things about. Obsession on top of obsession is shockingly twisted and almost “contagious”.

    I learned my state of mind from this dream but I’m very grateful that God has seen fit to take her obsessions in other directions at the moment, nothing like this over blown nightmare. Thinking about Christmas my main hope is that she doesn’t ruin the atmosphere by shrugging off all her gifts, but if she does the N will behave better because he loves setting her against us. 😉

    I hope y’all have a really Good Christmas and a Very Happy New Year! Keep looking up. God makes all things work for our good! ❤

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