Tag Archives: narcissist

Stealth Narcissism

It’s Narcissist Friday!


I was recently prompted to think about those people in our lives who touch us with their narcissism, but are not in close family or marriage relationships.  These are friends, co-workers, comrades in some project or club, or just acquaintances.  Often you don’t know these people well enough to determine whether they are narcissists, but you experience things from them that are clearly narcissistic.

Here’s an example:  You arrive a little early for a meeting or seminar and find a good seat.  There are things happening elsewhere prior to the meeting so you put your things on a chair to mark the seat as yours and you do whatever you need to do.  When you return to your seat, you find someone else sitting there.  Your belongings have been put on the floor in the aisle or down several chairs to a less desirable spot.  If you are bold enough, you might ask the person what happened to your things.  His or her response is, “Oh, those were yours?  I moved them over there.”

So what just happened?  You have been depersonalized and manipulated.  The narcissistic interloper simply wanted the place that you had marked and took it.  You could make a big deal of it and you would look like a fool.  Or you could just find a different place to sit.  Of course, that’s what you do.  Later the person who took your place acts as though you don’t exist.  He certainly does not think he did anything wrong and what you think simply doesn’t matter.

This is clearly narcissistic behavior.  You tell yourself that you are thankful not to work for this person or be connected to him and you move on.  Yet, your experience of the meeting has been damaged.

This is the co-worker who takes credit for the work you did.  This is the “friend” who takes advantage of your willingness to help.  This is the neighbor who takes over part of your lawn.  This is the fellow club member who volunteers you for the work.  Narcissistic people are everywhere.  Sometimes you know them well enough to stay away from them.  Others you don’t really know at all.

Now, notice that I did not say narcissists are everywhere.  You don’t know whether these people are narcissists until you spend a lot more time with them in close relationship—and you don’t want to do that.  You are spared the pain of the daily cruelties and manipulations, but you experience something that hurts or makes you angry.  Narcissistic behavior.

Stealth narcissists move through life slapping people in the face and not looking back.  They do it because they don’t really see you.  They don’t think of you as a person.  You might be useful for a while or you might be in the way, but you are not really important.

So how do you handle this?  Shrug it off.  You can’t fix it or do anything about it.  You were used or abused by a person who is incapable of real relationship.  Of course she is responsible for her actions, but nothing will happen to her.  You must simply move on.  Your anger will hurt only you.  The offense you feel will never be vindicated so you might as well let it go and move on.

You see, you are loved.  You are acceptable.  You are a person and you understand that others are real people.  That allows you to enter into relationships.  The stealth narcissist knows nothing of what you know deeply and enjoy.  People add to your life.  Others are important and love is real.

No narcissist would write something like this:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

–       John Donne


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It’s Narcissist Friday!

Being without electricity for a significant time (three days) not only explains why I haven’t been able to post or respond to comments, but also gives me an illustration of my topic for this Friday.  I have had more than one person tell me that their narcissist doesn’t fit the pattern because “he has a lot of empathy.”  Lack of empathy is part of the definition of narcissism.  What these folks are saying is that the person with whom they share a relationship fits the pattern in every way, except for the empathy.  Their narcissists are cruel, uncaring, manipulative, and abusive—but they have a lot of empathy.

Obviously something is wrong here.  The truth is that empathy is quite difficult for many people to define.  They think it is the same as sympathy, which it is not.  They think it means being willing to listen and say kind words at appropriate times.  But empathy is something more.

Technically, empathy is that which allows us to understand that other people are real.  Empathy, a term invented relatively recently by psychologists and philosophers, is the idea that people have an innate ability to connect with others by feeling what the others feel at certain times.  The empathic person says, “I know just what you mean,” and really does.  There is a connection as persons that allows one person to feel, to identify within himself, what the other feels.

This is more than sympathy, or at least different.  Sympathy allows us to see what another person is feeling and relate to those feelings in a caring manner.  In other words, the sympathetic person says, “I am so sorry that you feel that way.  How can I help?”  The feelings of the other person are not felt by the sympathetic person, but they are seen.  I believe this is what victims of narcissists see.  But the narcissist deals with the pain of others in the same way he deals with other obstacles or opportunities.  The pain of the other person sometimes gets in the narcissist’s way.  Or it provides an chance to be seen as someone who cares.

By definition, the narcissist does not feel your pain.  He does not really understand what you are going through.  Think about it.  If he did, would he still be able to cause the pain?  One of the reasons most people are unable to hurt others physically is because they empathize.  You have probably had the experience of watching TV, perhaps one of those shows that make you laugh at the accidents of others, and you cringe when you see someone get hurt in a certain way.  Others may laugh, but you can feel the pain almost as though it was your own.  That’s empathy.

Somewhere along the line, the narcissist decided to reject the feelings of pain.  His feelings of rejection, sadness, anger, or whatever were so strong that he had to push them away and deny them.  He developed a different sense of self, an alternate identity that didn’t hurt.  But, in the process, he lost the ability to feel what others felt.  And when he lost the ability to connect with the feelings of others, he began to forget that others were like him—real and valuable.  Instead, he started to see others as tools, toys, or obstacles.

So I have been hearing lately about all the folks on the East coast who are without power in the midst of a heat wave.  Honestly, I sympathized with them.  Too bad for them.  Sorry they are going through that.  But when the electricity went out at my house during a heat wave and I found that it is a real challenge to sleep without the a/c and I worried about the food in the fridge and freezer, then I stopped to think of those poor folks who have already gone longer than I have and may not have electricity for several more days.  Now I empathize with them.

But, you say, that’s just because you have experienced something like what they are experiencing.  That’s right.  And empathy is the ability to connect with the pain others are feeling.  Nothing like similar experiences to make that happen.  We refer to this as “walking in their shoes” or “being — for a day.”  Empathy doesn’t have to have similar experience, but it does have to value the experience of others.  In other words, I have to see others as myself in order to connect in that way.

Empathy allows us to truly love because the pain of the other person becomes our own pain and their joy brings us joy.  Empathy allows true community and true relationship.

Sadly, narcissists have lost their ability to empathize.  Or perhaps they rejected it.  In either case, it is not there for you.

(And, by the way, our power is back on.  Pray for the folks out East.)


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Why Does It Still Hurt?


It’s Narcissist Friday!

Some time ago I answered a comment in which the commenter noted that the feelings surrounding the narcissistic injury still hurt after a considerable period of time.  That has had me thinking about why these injuries hurt us so deeply.  There are many kinds of hurt in our lives and people do mean things almost regularly.  Why do these seem to last longer than others?

So here are my thoughts so far:

  • Narcissistic injury is usually betrayal within a relationship.  That means it hurts.  Almost everyone who has suffered from narcissistic abuse has deep feelings of betrayal.  Not all betrayal happens because of a narcissist, of course, but it may be fair to suggest that narcissistic abuse almost always involves betrayal.  The narcissist hurts those around him, those who are closest.  It is from them he draws energy and life.  It is their work he takes as his own, their love he uses to manipulate, their attention he feeds on.   He can receive little from people who are far away.
  • Narcissists have an unusual ability to make you trust them.  They make you believe they love you and they care.  They gather very personal information and, because you trust them and want them to like you, you share more with them than you would with others.  You don’t realize that they will use that information to hurt you.  When they do turn on you, you have both a deeper feeling of betrayal and a fear that they will expose your secrets to others.  Once they show that they are ruthless and uncaring, you feel extremely vulnerable.  That fear remains even when you are out of the situation.  Someone cruel knows how to hurt you.
  • Empathy is part of restoration and narcissists have no empathy.  A real apology shows that the offender understands the pain he or she has caused.  Since a narcissist has no real ability to feel what others feel or even to accept that others have valid feelings, there is no sense of empathy in his apology.  Yes, a narcissist will apologize, but it will be unsatisfying to the victim because it will have a ring of insincerity. 
  • Reconciliation may be dangerous.  Because it is in the nature of narcissists to use others, reconciliation may simply be an opportunity for them to hurt you again.  Like other abusers, narcissists almost always repeat their cruelties.  Since they already know your secrets and your vulnerabilities, it is easier for them to use you again. 
  • Justice requires exposure.  You are not the only one the narcissist has hurt or is hurting, but you may be the first to realize the truth.  It is not enough for most of us to simply move on from the pain, we want to expose the offender, to show others the truth.  However, the narcissist has most others convinced that he or she is a wonderful and kind person.  How can you get them to believe you? 

So, you see, there are several reasons why the pain continues.  Like a sore that never quite heals, narcissistic injury can last a long time. 

But how do you move on then?  Again some thoughts:

  • Embrace the pain and realize that, while it still hurts, it no longer defines you.  You have a right to hurt.  Denying it won’t help.  Let the hurt work its way outward until it can finally be released. 
  • Accept the fact that you can never trust that person again.  The old “fool me once” adage certainly fits here.  The narcissist is responsible for the cruelty, but you would be somehow responsible for returning to it.  Even if you have to maintain some kind of relationship with the narcissist, you don’t have to open yourself in the same way again.
  • Remember that the narcissist “super-power” is manipulating what people think of them.  Don’t be surprised that others don’t see what you see.  They might, in the future, but they might not.  You are not responsible for their decisions.  Warn them, tell them, but don’t expect anything from them.   It’s understandable if they don’t believe you.

You can move on with your life, even though the memory of the offense still brings pain.



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Helping a Friend

It’s Narcissist Friday!

How do you help a friend who is in a relationship with a narcissist?  Maybe you see the situation and your friend doesn’t.  She makes excuses.  She explains.  She gets defensive.  Maybe she sees the truth but doesn’t know what to do.  What do you say?  How do you help?

Narcissistic relationships are almost always toxic and almost always addictive.  In other words, the victim has many reasons for maintaining the relationship, some of which may even make sense.  He may stay for the kids or because he made a commitment when he married his narcissist.  She may feel that she is the only one who understands her narcissist and cares enough to stand by him.  Narcissists threaten and manipulate.  Leaving the relationship may bring more anxiety for the victim than staying.

So how can you help?

  • First, the victim of the narcissist needs someone who cares for her.  Narcissists tend to pull life and purpose from their victims so the victims almost lose their sense of identity.  Having a friend who cares “just because” is important.
  • Second, be a friend without trying to fix the problem.  Don’t be dishonest.  Share your concerns, then back off.  Victims of narcissism live in denial and it may take time and patience for them to see the truth.  They may just need someone to dump problems on, someone who will listen with compassion.  A friend can listen without interfering.  At the same time, you can give information.  Naming the problem and helping the victims understand that there are others who have been through this kind of situation, people who understand, can be a lifeline when troubles come.  Warning someone who is not yet committed to a narcissistic relationship is certainly something a friend should do, but the decision will not be yours.
  • Third, believe the feelings.  If he shares his confusion or anger or sense of loss in the relationship, acknowledge those feelings.  Victims of narcissism are often told that their feelings are not valid, silly, or just wrong.  But people feel what they feel.  If she says she is afraid, but shows no willingness to leave, understand that she feels just that.  Tell her that she has a place to go and someone who cares, but allow her to struggle with conflicting feelings as she sorts things out.  You may be the one person to whom she can reveal the struggle in her heart.
  • Fourth, help your friend to set boundaries by letting her set them in your relationship.  Be an example of someone who values her right to say no or set limits.  Setting a boundary in your relationship, where she is safe, may give her strength to do it more in her relationship with the narcissist.
  • Finally, understand that not every narcissistic relationship will end or should end, but every victim of a narcissist needs someone who will stand alongside and remind them of their value as a person and the legitimacy of their feelings.  No one wants to see a friend hurt, but sometimes interfering friends make things worse.  You cannot decide the future of the relationship, but you can be a point of reference and truth in the midst of it.

Over the years I have learned that people can handle many things I feel I would not be able to handle.  Many times I have been caught trying to help people out of situations simply because I could not understand how they could continue in them.  But I have come to believe that the Lord gives special grace in the midst of trials that we cannot access outside of those trials.  So it is not my place to tell people what they should do.  My place is to take their concerns to Jesus (to pray) and to be a friend.

A word of caution: victims of narcissists can become narcissistic themselves.  They may look to friends and family for life, to draw out of others what they are losing in themselves.  You must also set boundaries and protect yourself.  In fact, you can model that for your friend.  Not every crisis of hers is a crisis of yours.  She needs to understand that so she can see that not every crisis of his is a crisis of hers.  Make sense?

So. . . I would like to hear from some of you who have been in narcissistic relationships what you think of these ideas and what you would have liked from your friends in the midst of the struggle.  Ideas?


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A Higher Power

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It struck me a few years ago that the reason so many areas of the world do not change when opportunity is given is because the people have adapted to life without power.  A friend who is back in Afghanistan with the military is convinced that any change that has happened there is doomed to being short-lived because the people haven’t changed.  They simply adapt to whatever group or person is in power at the time.  They expect to be used, even abused; and it has been this way for generations.  So the US comes in to “liberate” them, but they have nowhere to go in their own hearts.

Perhaps more than others, narcissists understand the value of power.  If you have no power, others can hurt you.  The power of others over them is, in many cases, the factor that moved them to protect themselves by narcissistic behavior.  And narcissistic behavior is all about power.

Think of the things that make a person feel powerful.  Knowing a secret, holding a higher position, greater physical strength, greater influence, a higher intelligence, etc.  These are all things toward which narcissists strive.  For the narcissist, it isn’t about being strong, but about being stronger.  It isn’t about looking good, it is about looking better.  The power position is the one the narcissist wants.

This is why the narcissist chafes under authority—and exactly why authority is so important in the life of a narcissist.  It is why the narcissist hates your boundaries—and why your boundaries are so important.  It is why the narcissist fears truly coming into relationship with God—and why coming into relationship with God is the key to health for the narcissist.

So this explains some things and offers some ideas.  First, children of narcissists often find themselves going from one narcissistic relationship to another in their adult lives.  They have never learned that life can have power.  They simply adapt to whatever new oppressor comes along.  This is why learning boundaries is so vital.

Second, narcissists can be controlled.  They fear power.  They may hate it, but they will yield to it.  The husband who speaks disparagingly about the police when he speeds down the road will be amazingly docile when the patrolman is standing at his car door.  The serial killer, when finally caught, gives up peacefully and becomes a model prisoner.  Many victims of narcissists have noted how their narcissist completely reverses his attitude and behavior at certain times.  Often this is because he recognizes a greater power.

Third, as long as the narcissist has power over someone, he is getting his supply.  He needs to be superior.  When he feels powerless, he becomes afraid and vulnerable.  He may recede into depression as a way of hiding.

The Christian in a narcissistic relationship should pray for brokenness.  We have talked about that before.  The narcissist may need to come to the end of his resources in order to begin to understand that there is Someone who loves him.  Be prepared to go for a ride, because the ability of the narcissist to deny and manipulate is amazing.  (But you knew that.)

One more thing: the narcissist is already a small, fearful, broken person hiding behind a monster he uses to keep people away and control them.  He has created this “alter-ego,” and it may be the only thing you know about him.  It is this “Mr. Hyde” that needs to be broken.  And when the screen falls, the great “Wizard of Oz” is shown to be an ordinary little man.

You may not be able to knock the screen down to reveal the truth.  You might be too weak or too compromised.  But God can do it.  Pray for that.  There is a Higher Power.


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The Open Narcissist


It’s Narcissist Friday!

“‘Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited’ was written under extreme conditions of duress.  It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me.  My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a chocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed.  Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me.”


Sam Vaknin is a narcissist. 

When I found myself engaged in a psychological battle with a narcissist in a counseling relationship, I happened on Vaknin’s book at Barnes & Noble.  I opened the book and found a precise description of the strange feelings I saw in the wife of the narcissist I was working with.  From that point on, I was hooked.  I bought a large cup of coffee and read nearly all of the 400-page book right there.  What he said was amazing!  It explained so much and opened my eyes to a world of pain and struggle that I had never seen before.  At least, I had never understood what it was before. 

Lest you think I cheated the author and the bookstore out of a book by reading it there, the contrary is true.  In fact, I bought three copies of the paperback book at $45 each.  One for me, one for the narcissist, and one for his wife.  You can probably guess what happened to them.  I still have mine and use it.  His went into the trash.  Hers became trashed by innumerable comments, highlights, paperclips, and other markings. 

Vaknin’s writings have been very popular on the web, partly because he offers them freely and gives people a place to communicate with each other.  He is probably not, as I read from someone, the “world’s foremost authority on narcissism.”  He is simply a narcissist who is able to communicate well about how he and other narcissists relate to the people around them.  His writing is blunt and surprisingly helpful for those who want to understand why their narcissist acts the way he or she does.  He has produced many YouTube videos as another method of getting his message out.

But Vaknin is not a professional psychologist.  As I understand it, his degree is in Philosophy, which may establish him as a reader and thinker, but not a mental health professional.  And he is up front with this.  Nor does he write from a Christian perspective.  I know nothing of his personal faith, but he writes from his own reasoning tempered by what he has learned through study.

All of this is fine, of course, and I have no desire to disrespect Sam Vaknin or his work.  Not only is he very popular, but he helped me at an important time.  I only have one question:

Can I trust a narcissist?

If a narcissist confesses his narcissism and tries to teach me about his problems, can I trust him?  Those who have been in close relationship with narcissists will almost universally agree that when the narcissist seems to be sharing from his heart, he is simply using another method of deception and manipulation.  The narcissistic need for hiding and self-preservation is so fundamental to the disorder that any sharing from the heart, honest and intimate communication, would be the ultimate risk.  So experience would suggest that when a narcissist says, “Hey, I am a narcissist and here’s how I operate,” we should be on the alert.

It may be enough, of course, that Vaknin has achieved through his disorder far more than he had previously achieved in business.  He has an opportunity to touch the lives of thousands of people with his own perspective.  He is well-respected as a writer and teacher.  And, even though he has not designed his website for significant revenue, he appears to sell both his books and his presence as a speaker. 

Sometimes a narcissist will surprise you with what seems to be honest personal exposure.  He may tell you something of the pain of his childhood.  He may reveal how he thinks about people.  She might show you what makes her afraid.  You may be encouraged by this and open yourself in the same way.  You may think that you are sharing something intimate.  But beware.  The narcissist will only be vulnerable to the point where he begins to feel vulnerable.  In other words, if it serves his purpose and he can control the effect, he will share beyond your expectations.  But he will not really open his heart to you and you may be suddenly betrayed and used.

Now, I will make a bold statement.  I do not consider myself to be an expert on narcissism, nor do I think of myself as a mental health professional.  But it seems to me that:

When a narcissist can truly open his heart to reveal his fear and pain, and be honest about how he hurts others in protecting himself, and can feel remorse for what he has done and empathy toward those he has hurt—he has ceased to be a narcissist. 


Your thoughts?

(Sam Vaknin’s website is here.)


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Pastor Narcissist pt2

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I wish this wasn’t a true story.

Pastor Narcissist continues merrily on his way as the dead bodies of his former staff line the halls of First Church.  But he’s okay.

(For those of you who don’t remember Pastor Narcissist’s story, it begins here.)

Pastor A came to First Church to make a difference and he has certainly accomplished that.  Many of the people have left, but those who have stayed believe that he is the greatest blessing God ever gave the church.  The core purpose of the church hasn’t been talked about for a while, but that’s okay because Pastor A has had so many problems to deal with.  The staff has stood against him and so many former members have challenged his leadership.  The supporters know that Pastor will come through this and the church will be stronger.  They just have to stay with him.

The last to go was the associate pastor.  AP held the church together after Pastor X left.  There was considerable interest in making him the senior pastor, but AP wanted a support role.  He wanted to believe that a dynamic new pastor could take the church forward in significant ways.  He was surprised when the church leadership called Pastor A, because his style and focus were so different from Pastor X, but AP was positive and things went well.

Eventually, however, the truth began to dawn on AP.  No one was safe.  The more supportive a staff member was, the more advantage Pastor A would take.  AP did the work and Pastor A stood before the church and took the credit.  Pastor A would make a mistake and blame it on AP.  As long as AP was willing to keep his place, Pastor A was happy.

But Pastor A made too many mistakes.  He really is an incompetent pastor.  His primary skill is self-aggrandizement.  He knows how to make himself look good.  He is well-connected, popular, and smooth.  He just doesn’t know how to put together a sermon, or a committee, or a project.  Other people are supposed to do those things so he can take the credit.  That’s what staff members are for.

Yet, staff members who do well are a threat to a narcissistic leader.  If they become noticed for doing well, they might be able to stand against him.  So Pastor A had to do something to make himself look good.  When he tried to do something on his own, though, it turned out badly.  So, he had to blame it on AP.  Pretty soon it looked like AP was so incompetent that he would have to be replaced.

So the pushing began.  Support in front of the congregation: “We are standing with AP during this difficult personal time.”  Negative behind the scenes: “I don’t think you are fitting into our new direction.”  AP was supposed to quit.  That way anything and everything could be blamed on him.

But AP didn’t quit.  Pastor A had to work for this one.  People of the church remembered how AP had helped so much through the transition.  The nature of AP’s job connected him with almost all the people in personal ways.  AP had support.  So the traditional bomb had to be used.  “We are not at liberty to discuss the nature of the problem.”  Whoa!  What did AP do?  The innuendoes and the gossip began, fed by comments from Pastor A, until much of the support for AP was gone.  No one wants to stand by someone who might have done XXX.

Finally, after several grueling months, it is over.  AP is out.  This one cost Pastor A a little, but it was worth it.  For the next year, any church problems can be blamed on AP and on the battle.

Then the clincher.  On the last day of AP’s time at the church, Pastor A takes him out for lunch and asks, “So are we okay?”

You know, narcissists can push people past reasonable.

This is the stuff murder is made of.

Ruthless destruction followed by disingenuous kindness.

The narcissist does not care.

He only wants to look good.


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A Narcissist Cure?


It’s Narcissist Friday!

I have received a couple questions recently about how a narcissist can change.  There is a surprising lack of literature on methods of treatment for narcissism.  Most books are written for family members, spouses, and others in relationships with narcissists; in other words, the victims.  In fact, most books that even mention the idea of treatment say something like this quote I found in a clinical book specifically about narcissism:  “Narcissistic disorders are prevalent and believed to be among the most difficult clinical problems to treat.”  I find the combination of “prevalent” and “most difficult” to be concerning.

Does that mean there are a lot of narcissists out there and there is nothing anyone can do about them?  It may seem that way, and that’s why most of the books are about how to deal with them, avoid them or recuperate from them.  Most family counselors, pastoral therapists, etc. have never tried to treat a narcissist and most wouldn’t know where to begin.  Fortunately, that seems to be balanced by the fact that so few narcissists believe anything is wrong with them.  Their problems are easily blamed on others.  Not many narcissists will ever come to a counselor for treatment.

The problem, in general, is that narcissism is usually a survival technique learned in early childhood through repetitive traumatic situations in which the child feels powerless, rejected, and valueless.  The particular technique used is to deny the negative feelings and the negative self-appraisal and replace the perceived reality by a more positive and personally-designed substitute.  Since the narcissist knows that the substitute is not real, he must continually reinforce it and reject any attempt to reveal the truth.

Now, if you understand the above paragraph, you see why narcissists are hard to treat and usually don’t seek treatment.  Counselors who understand narcissism often find that the most reasonable types of treatment don’t work because the narcissists will not cooperate.  They will not do homework, will reject the counselor’s assessments, or will lie to manipulate the exposure.

So what can a narcissist do if he really does want to change?  He should find a good counselor, someone who has an understanding of and experience with narcissism.  If he truly wants to change and isn’t playing a game, there are things that will help.  The counselor will want to look at what happened so long ago and why the child chose that survival technique.  The narcissist will find this process very difficult, but going through it will be the key.

Now, I have no fantasies about being able to cure a disorder the professional therapists find daunting.  As a Christian, I believe the Lord can do anything, even cure a narcissist.  I also believe that it would take a miracle from Him to accomplish forward progress and I would not hesitate to ask for one.  I think a narcissist should go to the Lord, with the counselor if possible.  In the presence of the Lord, the truth can be confronted.

Narcissists do not deal well with truth.  Many victims note how easily the narcissist lies.  These folks are the ultimate utilitarians; they use whatever it takes to accomplish their purposes.  Truth, like a person, is just a tool to use.  It has little meaning outside of its usefulness.  If a falsehood will accomplish the purpose more effectively or even easier, it can be substituted without qualms.

But for the narcissist to progress away from the disorder, the truth will have to be confronted and accepted.

In the last two “Narcissist Friday” posts, I shared a couple stories that are difficult to read.  Both of them elicit sympathy from the reader.  My purpose was to show how deeply the wounds that led to the narcissism exist in the life of the narcissist.  In order to progress, the narcissist will have to look honestly at the feelings he or she experienced during that time and find a new way to survive.

I believe that the love of Jesus Christ provides a different way of hope and life.  The narcissist does not have to hide the reality of his pain and suffering.  He can take those things to Jesus and find peace and acceptance.

Easy?  Of course not!  Who wants to go there again?  But there is hope….

What do you think?


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Priscilla’s Story

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It was 1951.  Mabel and Ben had two children, with another on the way.  They were reasonably happy in their marriage and looked forward to raising their family together.  Then Ben had to go and die.

Mabel was, above all else, a practical woman.  She knew that Ben’s illness had drained their resources.  She would have a hard time working and raising her children.  She thought seriously about an abortion but, in the early ‘50s that wasn’t really an option.  She might have been able to handle things with just the two older children, but a baby was out of the question.  What was she to do without money?

There was an older gentleman in their town who had expressed an interest in Mabel.  Geoff was nearly 30 years older than she and not a likeable man.  But he was wealthy and never married.  With luck, Geoff would change or die and Mabel’s family would be taken care of.

Mabel married Geoff and lived with him for more than 25 difficult years.  Her daughter, Priscilla, was her pride and joy—and the cause of her unhappy marriage.

The little girl was the envy of her classmates.  Her parents had a big house, a new car, and lots of money.  She had the finest clothes and all the new things that adults thought children ought to have.  She was the prettiest, the smartest, the most obedient of children—according to the adults.  Other kids didn’t really like her, but they had to attend her parties and invite her to theirs because Priscilla wasn’t someone you could ignore.

When she was out in public with Mom, Priscilla had everyone’s attention.  All the adults adored her.  She was Mabel’s “little doll.”  But at home, when no one could hear, Mabel expressed her hatred of Priscilla.  She hated the noise she made, the mess she made, the sicknesses she had, and the marriage Priscilla had caused.  Often, in anger, Mabel would look at Priscilla and say, “I wish I had aborted you.”

Priscilla learned that she must act like an adult, when she was just a little girl.  She must understand adult motives and values.  She must use her prettiness and desirability to keep the focus of adults.  She could never be a little girl with other little girls, a child among children, because whenever she was a little girl her mom would react in anger.  She was only accepted when she was quiet and clean and nice.

So Priscilla found that she was hated when she was herself, the little girl, and loved when she was not herself, the “little doll.”  Eventually, Priscilla lost her sense of self and began to believe that she was the “little doll.”  Everyone was supposed to adore her, listen to her, do things her way.  She couldn’t see anything else.

Priscilla eventually married Jack, a regular sort of guy who worked as a mechanic and thought she was an angel.  Their marriage was difficult from the beginning, a combination of rebellion against Mom and affirmation of still being the “little doll” in adulthood.  Jack could never measure up, either by Mom’s or Priscilla’s standards.  Priscilla had at least one affair during their marriage, threatened suicide several times to manipulate her husband’s actions, and finally obtained a divorce.  But by this time she was alone.  Mom wouldn’t accept her.  She had cut herself off from her husband and children.  And there were no men who wanted her.  Finally, she attempted suicide one more time to get attention again, but she miscalculated and help did not come fast enough.  At barely 30 years old, Priscilla was gone.


This time it seems obvious that Mom is narcissistic, doesn’t it?  After all, did she ever really love her family?  She used people to get what she wanted.  The older children are almost none existent.  The husband was only a source of money.  And Priscilla was used to show that Mom had made the right choice in life, that Mom was superior in spite of the cruel blow life had brought to her.

Many therapists point out that the children of narcissists often become narcissists.  When there is no love, or love is used to manipulate and conquer, then love is not learned.  Love is not seen as something from the heart that connects us with others.  And others are not real in their own right.  Others are to be used to make yourself feel better about yourself.

(BTW – This is a true story.  Identifying details are changed, of course.)

Next week: How can a narcissist change?

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The Beginnings

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Twenty-five years ago a little boy sat on his bed crying.  No supper again.  Mom was too busy.  “You won’t die,” she said.  “I don’t want to see you until morning,” she said.  So the little boy stayed in his room.  He played with his toys until he fell asleep.

In the morning, his dad was home.  “Mom’s asleep on the couch.  Just leave her alone,” he said.  The boy looked at his mom.  He thought she looked like she was dead.  There was a bottle on the floor near her and she smelled bad.  Then Dad went to work.  The little boy got himself ready for school, packed a lunch, and waited for his ride.  Before he left, he washed up around the kitchen, fed the dog, and put the empty milk bottles out.

When the boy got home from school, his mom was up and dressed.  The smell was gone and so was the bottle.  “We’re going to church tonight,” she said.  “Get your nice clothes on,” she said.  He found his nice clothes where he had carefully hung them last week and put them on.  He combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and went downstairs.  Mom was all dressed up and they went out to the car together.

“We’ll stop to get something to eat on the way,” she said.  They didn’t.  Instead, they went directly to the church where everyone thought the little boy was something very special.  There were a few other kids there, but everyone seemed to be watching him.  The adults would come up to him and tell him that he looked so grown up or so cute.  Everyone told Mom what a well-behaved and handsome young man she had.  “And smart, too!  You should see how well he is doing at school,” she said.

Mom held his hand most of the evening, until a couple of the other kids came to see if he wanted to play.  “Just don’t get your clothes dirty,” she said.  Then she gave him that warning look, the one where her bottom jaw stuck out for a second.

As he left, the boy heard a lady tell his mom what a wonderful little boy she had.  He turned to see her smiling at the lady.  “Oh, thank you,” she said.

The other kids wanted to go outside to play, but the boy held back.  He told them he couldn’t get his clothes dirty.  They laughed at him and called him names, just like the kids at school, but he stayed inside and walked around the church.  Then the others came in from outside.  They all looked at him and one of the boys wiped a handful of mud on his shirt.  “Oh, you naughty boy, you got your shirt all dirty,” the mean boy said as all the kids ran away laughing.

The little boy went directly to the rest room and tried to wash the dirt off his sleeve.  Most of it came off, but it didn’t look very clean.  When he finally came out of the restroom, his mom was there.  She saw the sleeve immediately and became angry.  “Get in the car,” she said.

“I told you not to get dirty!  How could you embarrass me in front of my friends?  How could you do that to me?  You are so stupid, so disobedient!  All those people think you are something special, but we know better don’t we?  I don’t want to hear your lies.  Just shut up until we get home.”

“Put your clothes in the wash.  I suppose I will have to stay up late just to get them clean.  Go to bed!”

No supper again.  Maybe Dad would make a nice breakfast in the morning.  If he is home.

This night the little boy tried hard not to cry.  He had to find a way to stop hurting.  He had to find a place to hide.  A place where no one could touch him, where he could be strong.  He knew, if he tried hard enough, that he could find a way to not be afraid or sad . . . ever again.


Quick—where’s the narcissist in this story?

No, it’s not the mom.  She’s an alcoholic trapped in a loveless marriage surrounded by a culture that demands conformity.  No, this is the sad beginning of the narcissist, the little boy who grew up to be a controlling and judgmental man who uses people to try to make himself feel good.  But he never feels good about himself . . . and he is still afraid and sad.

More next Friday!


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