Dragon Expert

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You have entered new territory. The old is behind and the new is in front of you. But there are dragons, someone has said. So, you decided to study dragons. And wow did you learn about dragons! You spent hours reading and scrolling and listening until you knew more about dragons than anyone in your circle. Dragons fascinated you, frightened you, and made you angry. And all the time, you are focused on the dragon.

Remember when you hadn’t heard of narcissism? Remember the confusion from the betrayal or manipulation of the narcissist? You didn’t know what was happening. You didn’t know who to ask or where to go for help. All you knew was that something was terribly wrong.

Then you found a book or listened to something online. The fact that there were others who experienced something similar was astounding. You began to consume everything you could about narcissism, psychopaths, abusers, and more. And there was a lot of information available. Websites, books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and more.

The more you read, the more you understand. Narcissism is everywhere! You see it in your family, in your marriage, in your church, almost everywhere you look. You can spot a narcissist from across the room. You have become an expert.

I know I have to tread carefully here. This could be my story and the story of many others who truly desire to help people. But we have to understand what it means to be an expert.

An expert is simply someone who has more answers than you do. When you were wondering what was happening in your marriage, someone who could explain what you saw and felt appeared to have expert knowledge. Suddenly you had answers. The more you read from the “experts” the more you learned. It wasn’t long before you had more answers than others you met. A friend or acquaintance begins to tell their story and you know you have the answers.

But there’s a problem. Familiarity with a subject sometimes leads to blindspots about other subjects. It is a principle of learning that we see and understand more based on what we already know. Continuing to study a subject makes that subject even more available to us. In other words, we begin to see it all around us.

When you go to the doctor, you do well to consider what specialty the doctor has. If you have headaches and go to a chiropractor, for example, he/she might want to adjust your back. The cancer doctor might want to scan for a tumor. The holistic doctor might have certain supplements for you to try. The GP might prescribe a stronger pain reliever. It all depends on their focus. I am not trying to disparage these professionals. I want to illustrate how a singular focus can mislead us.

Once we learned about narcissism, we began to see it everywhere. Our eyes were opened to the narcissism around us. We had the information we needed to explain the problems we saw. But were we right?

Let’s be honest. The attitudes and actions of narcissists look like those of many different kinds of abusers. They also look like actions and attitudes of people who suffer or exhibit other personality dysfunctions. There are several disorders that move people to abuse or manipulate others. All may be narcissistic, but not all may be narcissists.

This is why I try to caution about labeling someone a narcissist, particularly someone you don’t know personally. You might see only a fraction of this person’s interactions—and what you see might be narcissistic—but you can’t diagnose or accuse someone of being a narcissist based on that limited perspective.

“But it fits so well!” I know. And I think it may be appropriate to use adjectives rather than nouns. Someone may be narcissistic or abusive or manipulative without being a narcissist. Describing the actions of the person will go much further than trying to pronounce a diagnosis.

You see, too often we attach certain other judgments to a diagnosis. Narcissists can’t be Christians. Narcissists can never change. Narcissists will eventually leave or betray you. Once you diagnose someone, you open the door to these attachments. Even if you disagree with them, others will bring them in.

So, yes, it might fit. When you listen to a story or see someone on the television, you may be ready to apply what you have learned. That isn’t bad, but it may be dangerous. Be careful with what you know, what you have learned. Remember that there is much you haven’t learned.

It was Alexander Pope who wrote “A little learning is a dangerous thing” in his poem called “A Little Learning.” He was right.


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5 responses to “Dragon Expert

  1. Janet F

    And although narcissists have many similar traits, each one has differences , too. I made the mistake of labeling my father. He definitely had narcissistic tendencies. He hurt me many times with his self centered focus. But I do not believe, now, he ever willfully tried to hurt me. He did many good things for me in my life as well. If I said, “Oh, I need a new water heater” just in conversation, a week later there would be a check from him that I never expected, for a new water heater. Just as an example. He did many kind things for me and others, like this.
    As he aged, I felt angry toward him, though for all the hurts and the no “I am sorries.” He was in a nursing home. I made sure he had everything he needed and I visited him often. But, because of all I had read about narcissists, I had a chip on my shoulder. I assumed he was nice just to get what he needed from me, for example. As he began to fail; remaining alert and oriented, I realized how vulnerable he had been in that place. He told me how much he had appreciated my help, throughout his stay there. I remembered the good lessons he had taught me in life; the kind things he had done. I had labeled him a narcissist and given him all the traits of a narcissist. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But judging him made me irritable with him when there was no need to be. I wish I could have those moments back. I was able to apologize to him before he died and I asked God for forgiveness. I learned this valuable lesson that Dave discusses today.

  2. This is such a good reminder, Pastor Dave! We are not qualified to diagnose, and can only identify hurtful behaviors for what they are, just as you said. As I talk to younger women these days, I even try to steer away from too much of that and focus instead on our own insides. How do I need to heal from that kind of abusive treatment? Identifying that I was hurt, how I was hurt, what that did to me, what I need to do to heal and how to protect myself from that kind of thing in the future, doesn’t really require that I call anyone anything.

  3. Batya Ahul

    For years I thought my golden child brother was ASD, specifically Asperger’s. Having worked in school health for many years I was involved in the assessment and referral process for children & young people showing symptoms of ASD (the diagnosis was obviously made by a Paediatric educational psychologist or psychiatrist), so I had a significant amount of knowledge in the area, one of the most significant symptoms he displayed was a lack of empathy.
    In recent years it became apparent that during his 10 year relationship with my sister-in-law, his frequent business trips usually involved cheating on her with various women. My sister-in-law has been left destroyed and my niece is damaged beyond repair because of his behaviour, my heart breaks for them. My brothers complete entitlement to behave this way was totally astonishing.
    I questioned my ASD theory when this became apparent, In my experience dealing with children and adults with Asperger’s a common denominator is having an incredibly strong moral compass- this clearly isn’t the case with my brother.
    I know my brothers extreme entitlement was probably a product of his golden child status and treatment as a child. The lack of empathy due to his lack of object constancy and ability to see others and separate from himself. I once heard all people with Aspergers have narcissistic traits but not all narcissists have Asperger’s.
    My brother could be also on occasion incredibly kind despite this and I love him because he is my brother regardless of any ASD/narcissism traits. He just has no idea how much pain he has caused.
    Being the scapegoat of the family meant I knew things were not right from a young age but also I seem to have a subconscious “door mat” imprinted which does invite narcissistic behaviour from others- conflict arises when I engage my firm boundaries that I have developed as an adult. I guess this is subconsciously trying to repair the trauma of my failed primary relationship with my mother. In nature if the mother- infant bond fails, the infant will often die. The relationship is that important- if the relationship is broken, how do we ever fix it?

    Eternally looking for the love that you can’t have is extremely painful and re traumatising.

    I know God is good all the time, but I just want to feel safe and loved consistently, I just don’t know how to get there.

    I know this has been a bit of a monologue but it is so nice to have somewhere safe to express these things. If even one person reads this and prays for me, please know I am so grateful.

    Thank you Pastor Dave for all you do😎

  4. beautiful swan

    You are prayed for, cared for and God loves you consistently.

    • Batya Ahul

      Thank you so much 😊, after a wonderful Christian counselling session focussing on Jesus I am feeling His presence and slowly working towards peace.

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