Tag Archives: Nina Brown

Dating a Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

(This blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


I had wanted to write something to provide to parents, particularly parents of daughters, to help them discern if the person their child is dating could be a narcissist.  Obviously, that’s a tall order – since not all narcissists are the same.  Then I found this and I doubt that I could have written it better.  Take your daughter (or son) through this and see how the questions are answered.  Or just give it to her/him and see what happens.  The webpage, on which you will find more, is at the end:

Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with?
Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield
you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be
abuser. Here’s how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal
responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep
blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune
for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured,
and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children
impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions
towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does
he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is
his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you
only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he
immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for
exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as
much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get
hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for
instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as
consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object
or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or
calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings
while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in
his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your
bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go
to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen
anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks?
Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you
often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he
exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly
unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding
relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be
impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you
make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.

Thanks and acknowledgements to Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-Love“.  The webpage where the above is found is:



Filed under Narcissism

I see you!

 It’s Narcissist Friday!  

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)



Okay, I may be the last person in the US to watch the Avatar movie.  I watched it last week.  No particular comments on the movie.  But there was one thing that stood out and I think I will remember for a long time.  When the people wanted to communicate real connection, they said, “I see you.”

A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter with one of the narcissists in my life.  I have to limit the details because I don’t even want to come close to identifying him.  I was visiting with two friends when the narcissist came up to me (most likely to see why I was there—this was his turf).  He put his hand on my shoulder and I turned and we exchanged greetings.  So far, so good.  It lasted about a minute.  After very brief conversation, he began to berate the two friends with whom I had been speaking.  He spoke so negatively about them that I was afraid of what they would think.  Apparently they were (or pretended to be) in conversation themselves and didn’t hear what he said.

Now, the narcissist couldn’t have missed the fact that someone was standing with me.  He should have known them by name and position.  The only thing I can figure out is that he simply didn’t see them as anything important to him at the moment.  After his statements, he looked up at the clock and said that it was slow.  Then he walked away without a further word to me.

So, what happened?  He didn’t see them; at least not in the sense the Avatar movie uses the phrase.  Because his mind was on what he was saying, because he was positioning and preening, because he didn’t know if I was still a threat to him, he didn’t pay any attention to the people standing nearest to him.  He sent the same message to me when he walked away without finishing the conversation.  Once his little purpose was over, he moved on to the next opportunity to make himself look important.

You say, Dave, didn’t you try to defend your friends?  Didn’t you try to fix the situation?  Nope.  As I often am around narcissists, I was dumbfounded.  What had happened was so far from anything I saw as normal that it took me a few moments to understand it.  By that time, the opportunity had passed.

This is what the narcissist is like.  Others are not important until they are important to him.  He simply doesn’t see them.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized

More Books

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Since we have had several things on the general narcissism topic this past week, it seems like time for more books.

Where Egos Dare, Dean B. McFarlin and Paul D. Sweeney, Kogan Page, London, 2000.

Narcissistic leaders are found in almost every profession and organization.  They feed on the sense of accomplishment and glory that can come with leadership and they often claim credit for the work of others.  Identifying them and dealing with them is the subject of this book. 

Why Is It Always About You?, Sandy Hotchkiss, Free Press,  New York, 2003.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the label given to a certain set of characteristics by psychologists.  Hotchkiss takes the major points of the NPD symptoms and explains them in an easy-to-read book that I found to be very helpful.  This would be a good book for beginning a serious study of the issue.  The author presents strategies for dealing with narcissists and explains how and why people got that way.

Trapped In The Mirror, Elan Golomb, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1992.

Children of narcissistic parents have peculiar struggles that a counselor may not recognize at the outset.  These people often believe they have no value or even any real existence.  They also often grow up to become narcissists themselves.  Golomb writes to explain the narcissistic parent and the lasting effect on adult children.  The book is a series of case study stories that give a look at particular problems. 

Help! I’m In Love With A Narcissist, Steven Carter and Julia Sookol,M. Evans & Co., New York, 2005.

Narcissism does its greatest damage to the people who are drawn into close relationship with the narcissist.  Why do some people find themselves in love with these hurtful people?  Why do these people hurt others?  Through many case stories, the authors attempt to answer these and other questions about narcissism in relationships.

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Filed under Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized

Children of Narcissists


It’s Narcissist Friday!

Imagine being raised by a narcissist… 

Unfortunately, many people don’t have to imagine at all.  They have lived that life.  And many don’t understand what happened to them.

I have neither the time nor the expertise to write the kind of help the children of narcissists need.  However, I can tell you what happened and that may be a place to begin healing.  After you read this, you may want to follow up with books like “Children of the Self-Absorbed” by Nina Brown, or “The Mirror Effect” by Drew Pinsky (the final chapters of this book are quite helpful).  Then you may want to find someone to talk with, someone who understands narcissism.

So, what happened?  Step back for a moment and think about your parent(s), particularly the one(s) that fit the narcissistic characteristics we have discussed here.  Let’s pick on Mom.  Mom cares very deeply, on a true heart level . . .  about her own image.  What, you thought I might say “about you?”  No, that wouldn’t describe a narcissist.  She cares about what others think of her.  She got married for that reason.  When she got pregnant, she pictured herself as the center of attention and just knew that her baby would cause people to say “ooh” and “aah.”  She would be the envy of the neighborhood and the extended family.

So, the baby probably was never really seen as a separate person.  You were just an extension of her.  Praise given to you was hers.  Attention given to you was hers as well.  Because the narcissist has an inability to empathize with others, you got attention from her only when she was affected by you.  In other words, only when you brought her something positive or something negative.  The rest of the time you just were not that important.  Not exactly real. 

Think about this.  When you did something good, she felt praised and important.  When you did something bad, you were a threat to her image.  The same mother could tell you how special you were and treat you like a prince or princess—and then cuss you out or degrade you for some minor infraction.  You might have worn the most expensive clothes, because you were so special.  But when you got those clothes dirty, you were an ungrateful little wretch.  But you were only three and you didn’t understand.  You didn’t know whether you were special or disgusting, worthy of praise or a disgrace to the family. 

Children of narcissists grow up without foundations.  They never quite know where they stand with people.  Sometimes that becomes their primary concern in life, what people think of them, and they carry the narcissism into the next generation.  Sometimes, so weakened in personal resolve and value, they become supply/food for other narcissists. 

What do you do now?  First, understand that it was never about you.  You were used and abused.  Read the books I mentioned and seek out some help.  It will help.

There is so much that could be said about this.  I apologize for keeping it short, but it could be very long.  In my experience, when the father is a narcissist, look for religious legalism.  His image is reflected by the behavior of his family.  Bottom line: it isn’t about the kids.  The kids are just normal kids who grew up with narcissistic parents. 

There is a love that is beyond the love of parents, more foundational, more important.  That love is there for you.  It has never changed.  You are acceptable to Jesus.  He does love you.



Filed under Legalism, Narcissism, Relationship

Living with a Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!

How do you live with a narcissist?  I suppose the flippant answer would be, “With difficulty!”

Narcissists are hard to live with.  The more a person exhibits narcissistic characteristics, the more difficult he or she will be to live with.  Now, notice that this is “to live with.”  He may do just fine at work or she may be well accepted and enjoyed in the women’s group.  Those who don’t really know the narcissists usually find them to be stimulating and intelligent and superior people.  Those who live with them (or work closely with them over a long period of time) see the negative qualities much more clearly. 

 So what do you do if you are stuck with one of these people?  Once again, not everyone who exhibits narcissist tendencies is a narcissist.  On the other hand, your options are probably the same.  You can leave them or stay with them.  If you are married, you will probably try very hard to stay.  If you are in a club with them, you may want to leave.  It may depend on your level of commitment to the relationship.  But here are a few rules for your health.

Forget trying to fix the person.  Narcissism is developed at very early and usually very traumatic stages of life.  These people have learned that life only works by manipulation.  They usually do not understand the basic concepts of love and cooperation, although they are able to simulate either to get what they need.  Most of the literature offers little hope for easy fixes.  In fact, it just isn’t something you will be able to do.

Protect yourself.  The best way to manipulate another person is through his or her emotions.  Narcissists are often expert at manipulating your emotions.  If guilt works, they will use it.  If fear works, they will use it.  If love works, they will use that.  In fact, they will probably be able to find just the right combination of these emotions to trap you into doing what they want.  So you will have to accept reality, know the truth, set clear boundaries, and be willing to fight.

Let’s look at each of these.  First, you have to accept the reality of your relationship.  The narcissist does not see you in the same way you see him.  He may not even understand what it means to love you or treat you as a person.  Very often the realization of this is painful.  One author says that the most common response to this fact is rage.  It feels like long-term betrayal, deceit, and abuse.  To be fair, the narcissist doesn’t see this as deceptive at all.  He simply lacks the capacity to care about you.  Accepting that reality takes away the burden of trying to find real love or compassion from this person.  You may be able to have a relationship based on something else, a functional life that really does work for both of you. 

Second, know the truth.  So much could be said here.  If you know the truth about your narcissist, you might be able to deal with her oddities.  You might begin to understand that she doesn’t really have anything to give you and you can lower your expectations.  If you know the truth about yourself, you won’t be so open to being manipulated.  Particularly for those who understand the Christian concept of grace and God’s acceptance, there will be less opportunity for guilt and shame based manipulation.  Knowing the truth about what works and what doesn’t in your relationship can protect you from being hurt or used.

Third, understand that the narcissist is broken but don’t let yourself be manipulated by your compassion.  He is not like you.  He does not think the way you do.  You will be tempted to try to interpret her actions and attitudes by your experience and perspective. Don’t.  Something has happened to this person and his or her way of coping was different from yours.  So don’t expect what you would consider normal.  Be kind, but don’t trust.  Be helpful, but don’t invest.  Be careful always.

Fourth, set and maintain your boundaries.  The narcissist does not understand your boundaries.  If she sees them at all, which she may not, she will see them only as obstacles to be overcome.  The narcissist has no hesitation to call you at 10:30 PM and expect to talk for a couple of hours.  You will have to stop him.  Either use your caller id or tell him not to call at that time.  Cut the conversation where you want it to stop.  Tell her you won’t serve on her committee or that you won’t be responsible to pick up her slack.  Then do it.

Finally, be prepared to fight.  Just like a little child, the narcissist does not like being told, “no.”  He will continue to call you late.  If you relax, he will assume that you have given in.  If you agree, in a moment of weakness, to one of her demands, she will believe that you are back under control.  You will have to keep up. 

All of this sounds like work because it is.  But all relationships are work to some extent.  If you choose to stay with a narcissist, or if you don’t have any real choice, these are the kinds of things that will help.  You may find some help from some of the books that are coming out.  Again, Nina Brown’s books are particularly helpful. 



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

Am I a Narcissist?

 Every time I teach on narcissism and describe the narcissist, people find that they know someone very much like the person I describe.  And almost every time I teach this, some people end up feeling guilty that they dared to think of others in a negative way.  Then comes the question: Aren’t we all narcissists in some way?

Now, I don’t want to disrespect that thinking.  Of course all sin is connected and we all suffer from the same problems.  Jesus taught us that we are all murderers, all adulterers, all capable of any sin and in desperate need of a Savior.  There is a sense in which we are all narcissistic.  The flesh, that system of living which we developed apart from Christ, is necessarily concerned with the promotion and protection of itself.  So, yes, we are all narcissists in some way.

But there are a couple of important things that we should acknowledge.  One is that most of us have learned to control our narcissism.  What I mean is we learned early that other people do exist and they have their own concerns and lives.  In order to make life work, we learned that there were boundaries we ought not to cross.  Some things are private and we must allow others to have their privacy.  We learned that cooperation is reciprocal.  That means that we give and others give and we give again and they give again.  Relationships work because we respect the fact that we need others and they are free not to help us.  We learned that part of maturity was the realization that we don’t get everything we want in life and usually that isn’t someone else’s fault.  We learned to actually be sorry for the things we did wrong and to empathize with the pain of others.  We learned that we were not really the center of the world.

The narcissist did not learn these things.  He learned to manipulate others and use them to get what he wants.  She learned that others are wrong and cruel when they don’t acknowledge her as the center.  Narcissists are usually quite intelligent and very skilled in social interactions.  They know how to move people.  But people are toys or tools or obstacles.  Others are not real living beings in the same way the narcissist is. 

Most of us are capable of love.  We may not love as we ought, but we know that love means sacrifice for the good of someone else.  We know that love means putting ourselves and our desires in second place.  The narcissist doesn’t understand love.  Love is saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done in order to get what the narcissist wants.  On the surface, the narcissist will appear loving because he has learned to do that and is very good at what he has learned; but those who depend on the love of a narcissist will eventually realize that there was nothing there.  It was all a lie. 

Bottom line: the narcissist is broken.  Broken in different ways from most of us.  Broken in ways that have not adapted to Christian society.  Broken in ways that hurt others. 

There must be some kind of continuum, a “narcissism line,” that allows for increasing narcissistic behavior in individuals.  Some are certainly less narcissistic and some are certainly more.  But there is a point at which narcissistic behavior and thinking become abnormal.  It may be difficult to determine that exact point in any particular person, but having that point often gives us the understanding we need.  It enables us to look at a person and say, “Now I understand.  That behavior isn’t normal.  There is something wrong with her, not me.” 

We don’t like to call people names (or at least we have been taught that it is wrong), but we can still look at behavior and attitude and acknowledge that they are wrong.  Understanding narcissism will help us understand more about ourselves and the others with whom we live and work. 



Filed under grace, heart, Narcissism

What is a Narcissist?

Unfortunately the meanings of words adapt to common usage.  A narcissist used to be someone who fit a certain psychological pattern determined by a set of established guidelines.  The American Psychiatric Association publishes a manual referred to as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  The DSM-4 (edition 4) used nine criteria to determine whether a person suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  (Reports say that DSM-5 will delete NPD.)

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1.      Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2.      Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3.      Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4.      Requires excessive admiration

5.      Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6.      Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7.      Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8.      Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

9.      Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

– From Wikipedia

However, psychiatrists are notoriously stingy with assigning labels to people.  What if someone has only four of these indications?  What he or she has seven, but not quite as strongly as stated?  What if three are overt but several more are covert?  And what if the patient is particularly adept at covering or compensating for these indications? 

Nina Brown has written several books in which she describes people who don’t necessarily fit the technical definition of a narcissist, but who still exhibit the general pattern and hurt themselves and others.  She calls it “Destructive Narcissistic Pattern.”  I recommend her books.

Using Brown’s information and the above APA guidelines, I have put together a list of narcissistic tendencies that we can use to begin to understand these people.  Now, I don’t think it is wise or helpful to call someone a narcissist for several reasons.  First, they may enjoy it too much.  Second, if they disagree you will start an argument and you will lose (because you always lose).  Third, they will begin to consume books on narcissism either to understand themselves or to prove you wrong or both.  Fourth, others will disagree with you based on their perception of the great person to whom you are referring.  No, just keep it to yourself.  Understanding will help you, not so much them.

He or she might be narcissistic if:

  1.  He cannot bear to lose an argument.  She will change the discussion, the subject, the rules.  He will become angry, threatening, demeaning, etc.  She simply cannot be wrong unless it is someone else’s fault.
  2. She has no sense of your personal boundaries.  What’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers.  He sits at your desk, uses your things, and may even touch you in unwelcome ways. 
  3. After working with him on a project, you feel used.  She takes credit for what you do.  The more you work with him, the more you realize that he doesn’t do as much as you thought.
  4. He talks about himself all the time, yet you don’t really feel like you know him.  She never asks how you are or about things that are important to you.  It’s all about him.
  5. He is full of big stories that make him look good, but his accomplishments in other places don’t match what you see at work.  She has all kinds of great plans and her schedule is full, but you don’t often see her doing anything significant.
  6. He is often angry, especially with others who don’t do what he thinks they should.  She claims to be the victim of abuses of others, but you haven’t seen them being mean to her. 
  7. His words and his behavior are quite different.  He ridicules and derides others, then does the same thing himself.  She knows unkind information about everyone, but can’t seem to remember important or simple things about them.
  8. He believes he is better than others, that no one measures up to his standards, particularly bosses and other leaders.  Yet, he never expresses this to them.  She thinks others envy her and judge her unfairly, yet she does the same thing.
  9. She expects you to notice her hair or clothing, but never comments positively on yours unless she wants you to do something for her.  He shows off his watch, his car, his wife, or something, and has no interest in yours.  His kids are the greatest at everything and he has no idea whether or not you have kids.
  10. He has no qualms about calling you at inconvenient times to ask you to do difficult or inappropriate things for him.  He shows up to help you just as the job is finishing, then acts like he was helping all along.  She is very good at volunteering for a job and then getting you or someone else to do it for her, perhaps begging off at the last minute with some lame excuse. 

These are all narcissistic characteristics and this list can change.  Several people probably came to your mind as you read them.  As with other tests, the more of these things that are observed in a person, the more likelihood that person could be classified as a narcissist.  Basically, the narcissist is concerned about himself and not about you.  In fact, she may not even fully understand that you are a real person with a life and concerns of your own. 

Again, remember that this classification is for you.  Once you understand what is happening, what kind of person you are dealing with, you will be better able to handle the frustration you find rising up in you.  Anything you learn about the narcissist is for you.


Filed under heart, Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized