It’s Narcissist Friday!
“Wherever two or three are gathered, they are probably talking about me.”
Ever feel that way? I was in my early twenties when I began work in my first church. I was the only pastor for a church of nearly 300. The church had more than its share of problems and had them for years. They didn’t particularly like or trust pastors. We had little money, so one time we stayed home for our vacation. That meant we stayed in the parsonage right next to the church. The trustees chose to have a work project during that week, and I decided it wouldn’t be much of a vacation if I had to help. So, we stayed indoors. I remember looking out the window of the house to see some of the men talking. A strong feeling of paranoia came over me. I just knew they were talking about me.
The narcissist lives with this every day. On one hand, the narcissist fears what people are saying. He believes others dislike him, misunderstand him, and want to hurt him. On the other hand, he is afraid they might not be talking about him at all. Maybe they aren’t focused on him. To be ignored or forgotten is worse, in the narcissist’s mind, than to be disliked. But be sure you notice the connection. The narcissist is afraid of what people talk about.
So, the narcissistic response is to control the conversation. If at all possible, the narcissist will give people something to talk about. I suppose the best thing would be for them to talk in admiration of him. So, he will do things to impress others or to make them grateful to him. But, it may also be acceptable to the narcissist to have people fear him. So, he will make them want his approval or feel dependent on him. If they speak negatively about him, with awe or fear, at least he stays in a higher position. And at least he knows what they are saying.
Have you ever wondered why your narcissist is willing to do strange, even negative things, to get attention? Have you wondered why she is willing to look like an invalid or a nut case to have people take care of her? Why he will act like a fool, tell an inappropriate joke, or say mean things? It may all be to control the conversation. Remember that the only thing worse than speaking negatively of the narcissist is not speaking of them at all.
To sit quietly in a room full of people is difficult for a narcissist. He can’t listen to a speaker without making comments or fidgeting in ways that draw attention. I have known narcissists to throw things at others while in a meeting. Even when it’s only funny to the narcissist, it brings attention back to him.
To gather with family and be included only as one of the participants is not enough for her. She has to get sick or offer rude criticisms or try to start an argument. Why? Because the conversations are not about her.
This paranoia may not be clinical, but it is real. I have said that the narcissist’s super-power is the ability to control what others think of him. That ability is the result of years of serious cultivation. It matters to the narcissist. He/she must know what others are saying. Friendships, whatever that means to the narcissist, rise or fall based on what the other thinks of the narcissist.
Don’t forget that the narcissist is a phony. It is the image that is great, not the narcissist. The image that the frightened and inferior person created is what is superior. The narcissist sees himself as weak and small. Of course, he doesn’t want you to think of him that way so he will do his best never to reveal those hidden fears. It is still how he sees himself, and he lives with the concern that others will see the truth.
How did I handle the feeling that people were talking about me? I had to learn to shrug it off. You can’t control what others think or say about you, especially if you are not willing to go to the extremes of the narcissist. As uncomfortable as it is to be the focal point, remember that it is temporary. People actually have other things to discuss.
I snagged this picture from Facebook. It was shared by someone who got it from someone else. I have no idea whose it is, but I like it. It is a good visual of the struggle of the narcissist. If you know the artist, I would love to give proper credit. The caption is mine.