It’s Narcissist Friday!
Narcissism is certainly one of those concepts that make so much sense when you first hear about them that you want to apply them everywhere. Suddenly everyone has a narcissist in their lives. It’s a little like the popular disease everyone is learning about on the internet. In just a short time, cases of that disease are found everywhere. It’s almost an epidemic.
There are two reasons for this phenomenon. First, there really are more cases of the disease out there than what was previously understood and the revelation of the symptoms has helped people know what is happening to them. That may well be the case with narcissism. There are more cases than we have realized and now we have a name for the problem.
But sometimes the desire for categorizing our problems overrides our caution to assign a label. In other words, we want so badly to understand what’s wrong that we jump on anything that looks close to what we are suffering. “It must be influenza, because I feel so sick.” Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. This is one reason the professionals are so stingy with their diagnoses. You might just have a cold or a stomachache.
In the same way, not everyone who exhibits narcissistic behavior is a narcissist. Sometimes people are just mean. Things might be happening in the person’s life or in your relationship which lead to cruel behavior or secrecy or attempts to control—all of which could be seen as narcissistic.
Occasionally I get an email or a comment on the blog and I find myself doubting that the person is really describing narcissism. There’s no way for me to know, of course, without asking a bunch of questions. Yet, I want to make sure to say that not everything that is mean is narcissistic and not only narcissists exhibit narcissistic behavior.
If you are arguing with someone who seems particularly dense and unwilling to yield, that person might not be a narcissist and it won’t help to call him/her one. I have consistently advised people in narcissistic relationships to avoid using the word because it so often backfires. Another good reason is that you may be wrong.
However, there is nothing wrong with learning how to deal with narcissistic behavior and educating yourself so that you know what you are dealing with. There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself against abuse. There’s nothing wrong with finding support from others who have been through difficult relationships. And sometimes it really is narcissism.
Not all who manipulate, not all who abuse, not all who are cruel, not all who hide, not all who hate, not all who are angry, not all who cause pain, not all who boast, not all who lie, not all who threaten, not all who cheat, not all who are absent or abandon or scapegoat or project or gaslight . . . are narcissists.
If several of these are present in your abuser, then it will be very helpful for you to begin to understand narcissism. But you don’t have to diagnose or label. Your primary goal should be your safety and health, and the same for those in your care. Get the help you need, whether your offender is a narcissist or not.
If, someday, someone tells you that your person is not a narcissist, that’s okay. You can handle that. They could be wrong or they could be right. The label doesn’t matter. The behavior matters. Your safety and health matter.