It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have this image in my mind of someone reading this blog and saying that they have never met a narcissist. And I want to say, “Oh, you probably have. You just didn’t realize what was happening.”
That neighbor who keeps moving the boundary a little more into your yard each year. That driver who cut you off in traffic, endangering your family and most of the others driving nearby. That salesperson who treated you like an idiot or acted like he/she was doing you a favor to answer your question. That teacher who never seemed to care who was listening or what you thought. Or maybe the person in your homeowners’ association that makes your life miserable.
These folks are not necessarily narcissists, of course. Not everyone who rubs you the wrong way is a narcissist. Sometimes people are not careful or not caring. Sometimes they have other issues. But sometimes they are narcissists, and you are either a tool they can use, a toy they can play with, or an obstacle in their way.
As I write this, we are in the middle of the “lock down” because of the virus scare. People are actually encouraged to report those who are breaking the rules. Near my home a family was playing with a ball in the park. The father was handcuffed by four uniformed officers, in front of his 6-year-old, and forced into the back of a patrol car. After a little while, the officers decided the man wasn’t doing anything wrong. Why did they arrest him? Because someone reported the family in the park.
This is a time almost designed for narcissists. You know, the ones out on the road complaining about the others out on the road. The ones who refuse to wear a mask even when they have the cough, but complain about others who don’t wear masks. Narcissists love the rules—for others.
It was the neighborhood narcissist who reported that your grass was too long or that your car was parked on the street too long. It was the narcissist who pulled into the parking space you were so obviously waiting for. It was the narcissist who broke the rules and ruined the privileges everyone enjoyed.
You see, the narcissists know the rules. They know etiquette. They know how the game is supposed to be played. You know they know, because they expect you to obey. You might wonder because they seem to break so many of the rules, even the simple ones.
Another example: you are riding with the narcissist as he sees a car pass him. He says, “Hey, the speed limit here is only 45!” He curses at the other driver, but you look to see that he has been traveling along at 52 mph.
The narcissist hates boundaries, but expects others to abide by them. No coffee in the work area? She will disobey regularly, but scold others for doing the same thing. Narcissists expect special privileges. They are more important; their work is more important; their desires are more important. More important means the rules don’t apply to them in the same way they apply to you.
So, yes, you have probably met many narcissists. They laughed as they frightened you or hurt you. They walked away from your need. They took what was yours. They simply did not care about your pain or your heart.
One of the questions that comes up often is whether there are more narcissists today. With no statistics to back me up, I think so. I think this is a culture that supports narcissistic perspectives and actions. There seems to be more anger, more aggression, more entitlement. It may be that many of those who act out narcissistic behaviors are not technically narcissists, but they find that depersonalizing others works for them. Not caring about others frees them from responsibilities and expectations. Even if someone were to suggest that there are not more narcissists today, I would argue that we are seeing more narcissistic behavior.
Remember that we are not research professionals. It is neither our job nor our right to diagnose narcissism, at least as a clinical disorder. We observe behaviors and attitudes. Sometimes we live so closely or work so closely with a person that we can observe behavior over a long period and come to a reasonably responsible conclusion. When the person is in the other car on the highway, we have no real knowledge from which to draw conclusions. The most we can say is that person doesn’t seem to care about others.
Also, remember that narcissists can be very good at hiding their true feelings. Ted Bundy was a nice guy. The BTK killer was a respected elder in his church. Murderers, abusers, thieves, cheaters, perverts, and more live in our neighborhoods, work in our schools, and attend our churches. This is a crowded world, and there are narcissists.
We have considered narcissism in eight relationships (spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, people at work, people in organizations, and random people we meet. It is not my desire that you would live in fear of relationships. Just because there are narcissists, users, in each of these does not mean they make up the majority or that you will have one in a certain relationship. Most people are not narcissists. Don’t be afraid.
At the same time, we need to be wise. Be careful with whom you share your heart. Give trust with discernment. Go slowly into close relationships. Teach your children about those who would use them. It is neither depressing nor frightening to know that there are cruel people. It is only enlightening and empowering. Understanding the truth and preparing for the real battle is a good beginning to victory.
Apparently the audio file is not included in the email of this post. It may be too large or email filters might not let it through. If you would like to listen to the audio version of the post, you will find it on the blog site.