Narcissists R Us

Pinocchio DSM 5

Pinocchio DSM 5 (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

Between dealing with my water troubles and my virus particles it’s been an interesting month or so.  M and I are also organizing some big changes with our decision that he should go back to university for a Master’s degree, so lots of stuff happening on the home front. I’ve also had the opportunity to keep up with my reader and as I indicated in my last post, there’s so much great commentary, fiction and poetry being produced. It’s about time that I produced something, too, although it might not be as good as what I’ve been reading from the rest of you.

This post has been prompted to some extent by an excellent piece written by bettylaluna who discussed the difference between a narcissist and a garden-variety jerk. Her piece is quite academic and gives the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV definition of a narcissist while noting the significant differences between those types of individuals and people who are just “jerks.” I’ve been thinking about this for some time and given that my main intent here is to throw out a general warning about narcissists, I’m going to weigh in as well, but purely only from the perspective of experience. I am not a therapist.

So, what is the difference between an annoying douche nozzle who can drive you batshit in 2.2 seconds and a narcissist? Well, just that, for one thing. Jerks tend to be upfront about their jerkness, while the narcissist is as smooth as a glass bottle. Whether they admit it to themselves or not, or even recognize it, narcissists have a definite plan for the development of their “relationship” with you. The basics of this plan do not vary much from person to person but it can become more sophisticated with time and practise. Jerks, on the other hand, may not understand that they are jerks, but they also are not developing a plan to take advantage of you, either.

As I’ve noted in other posts, narcissists, if they’re interested in you at all, will start with a charm offensive. At some point in your first interactions with him you will likely hear alarm bells going off in your head, but if the narcissist is well practised, he will swamp you with so many effusive compliments that you will soon forget about those pesky warnings and will reach over and pull the plug. Of course, the best thing to do at that point is to walk away, no matter how attractive you find him, but many of us have had our evolutionary instincts socialized down to a sort of background static that we’re usually taught to ignore.

If you fall for the charm, the compliments, the flattery, the small “thoughtful” presents and attention to detail, you will start to feel wonderful, as if you are floating on air. You will see him as perfect. He dresses well, is well spoken and polite and money does not seem to be an issue. It seems as if he will do anything for you. In fact, what he has done is idealize you.

Once he realizes that he “has” you and that you are also a fallible human being, he will slowly begin to lose interest in you. You are no longer a challenge and in his eyes you will only have importance insofar as you are useful to him.  Technically, this is known as the “devaluation” stage of the narcissistic relationship.

Yes, this is where he is, but where are you? You’re back on cloud nine wondering why the sky has suddenly turned black. You keep trying to figure out where your “perfect” relationship has disappeared to and inevitably, you start to think that its deterioration is your fault. Your narcissist will also actively encourage this thinking and you might start to believe that you’re going a little crazy.

You will do everything in your power to mend the situation, to return to that state of bliss that you had been enjoying. In fact, you’re not unlike an addict who is chasing a high. Unless you do some thinking and self-assessment, you could wind up in this position for a long time.

Meanwhile, as you’re trying to sort out and save your relationship, he’s entered the “discard” phase. The name speaks for itself. He will now endeavour to get rid of you, as long as he can keep whatever he deems to be of value from your “relationship.” During this last phase he may also “play” with you by frequently changing his mind, by moving out and then back in, by giving you glimpses of what you thought you had during the idealization phase.

The only exception to this pattern is if you decide to leave him first. Then he will likely re-enter the idealization phase and if you allow it, you will start this roller-coaster all over again. People are not supposed to leave them – only they can do that.

I did not allow it, although he pulled out all the stops and tried everything to get me back under his control, from suicide threats to death threats. No kidding. Once I had decided that there was something seriously wrong with him – I didn’t know at the time what exactly it was – I knew that I had to get my perfectly ordinary, but perfectly good, life back again. In the world of psychopathy, it’s either the narcissist or us.

On the other hand, jerks are just jerks. They can be annoying, they can be hurtful, they can demonstrate a serious lack of social graces. But they don’t necessarily indulge in an active plan to “conquer” you.

What do you think? Are jerks just jerks or are they closer to being like narcissists than I think they are? I’d really like to hear from all of you.

Master or Slave?  (Flash Question)

44 thoughts on “Narcissists R Us

  1. I may be misinformed, but I have been led to believe that narcissists see the world as a function of themselves – and everything that happens is understood not for itself but only in relation to the narcissist? However, since narcissism is predicated on a broken or absent self-esteem, anything a narcissist gets is then seen as being as crap as the narcissist privately believes themselves to be.
    A jerk is a narcissist without the broken self-esteem. A jerk thinks highly of themselves while actually being a pointless dick.
    That’s my take anyway.
    I’d be interested in a post that looked at the other side. What makes someone chase a narcissist instead of telling them to F* off?
    RoS

    • Thanks for weighing in RoS; I appreciate your comments. I agree that narcissists do tend to see the world as a function of themselves, but according to much of the literature this can depend on how entrenched the narcissism is. Many of them also believe that they are in a race to take advantage of others before others take advantage of them, which has lead to a great deal of debate as to the extent of their self-awareness. According to some researchers, narcissism may not be predicated on broken or absent self-esteem (love how you have worded that – the idea of “broken” self-esteem is so visceral, for me at least) but may instead be the result of a rogue gene or set of genes. My opinion is that it’s probably both.

      Thanks also for your post suggestion – I will take you up on that. 🙂

  2. Loved your article…I thank you for the mention…”So, what is the difference between an annoying douche nozzle who can drive you batshit in 2.2 seconds and a narcissist?”…literary GOLD my dear…absolutely loved it – aside from it being one of the most popular questions…the way you ‘colored’ it my gosh! SHEER TALENT! Thank you for such a thoughtful post…we are all warriors standing strong and united…<3

  3. Reblogged this on Narc Raiders and commented:
    I enjoyed this article very much, not because my name was cited, but because the author asked a very good question that I believe is important for society as a whole to understand…media does not do this issue any justice and given media molds the minds a.k.a. “Media is the Message” the awareness of the depth of the damage a Narcissist inflicts is well past that of a jerk. Although recovered, I could not help but fall in love with how she phrased her question…”So, what is the difference between an annoying douche nozzle who can drive you batshit in 2.2 seconds and a narcissist?” If you haven’t already, check out: “One Woman’s True Story of Marriage to a Narcissist”…if you’re seeking information or validation that you’re not crazy. You won’t be disappointed…;)

  4. Good Post Lyn- alas I cannot really comment I have never been – or in a relationship with a Jerk or a Narcissist, not have I know either. Oh our PM is a JERK and Tom Cruise is a narcissist…do they count? Sorry for not having anything of added value to contribute here 😦

    • Even so, thanks for commenting, Ramblings. I love what you’ve said about your PM and Tom Cruise. I don’t know much about your PM but if he’s anything like ours then being a JERK is a job requirement! I’m very glad to hear that you’ve never really encountered either a jerk or a narcissist 🙂

  5. I find reading about the narcissist characteristics completely fascinating. Every time I do, I think back to men I have dated to see where they “fit.” It really is hard to tell where people fit, but I am completely on board with the idea of listening to your instincts – period. If it feels bad, it is bad. I don’t need evidence. They really haven’t lead me wrong. This was great! It really makes you think…

    • Thanks, Teeny. I really appreciate your comments. I agree that listening to your instincts is gold. I’m one of those people who was raised to question them, and I’m finally getting back to giving them more credit.

    • Intuition is the first line of defense. I used to always question or just flat out ignore my intuition when I was younger, and then after a situation had gone badly with a toxic person, I would reflect back on what I initially thought of the person, and regret not acting on that.

    • Thank you, Goddess! I wish I had that information back then, too, but there are also times when I realize that I’m a wiser person now because of that experience. Good luck with your divorce. I know how difficult a narcissist can be in that situation – I divorced mine 14 months ago.

  6. Pingback: Get over it, stop talking about it and move on | Spread Information

    • Your attempts weren’t stupid, they were just useless in that particular situation. Remember, narcissists hate themselves and they want the people they are in “relationships” with to feel as rotten as they do.

      The charm and then the disinterest – that certainly happened to me, too, and after we split up, I really questioned my judgement. Some counselling went a long way to helping out, but I also realized how poor my personal boundaries were, and that’s how he got in in the first place. It’s something I have to work on every day …

  7. Interesting post.

    I quite often refer to myself as a narcissist colloquially because I can be quite self-involved. But it’s more something I worry about, in a Woody Allen sort of way. I definitely don’t mean narcissist in the sense of this article, in that I’m secretly plotting to use and abuse people. That sounds more like psychopathy somehow, though I’m not sure where the line between the two is…?

    Am I a narcissist if I worry that I’m a narcissist? Or does that kind of defy the diagnosis?

    • If you’re worried that you might be a narcissist then you probably aren’t. Their defining characteristic is their firm belief that they’re fine – it’s everyone else with the problems. All of us are self-involved to a certain extent; it’s completely normal and, of course, ensures the survival of our species. The way I understand it -and I’m not an expert – narcissism is at the beginning of the continuum that describes psychopathy/sociopathy. My sense is that it’s more likely a spectrum. Nevertheless, you probably shouldn’t worry! Thanks for your comments and for taking an interest in my blog. 🙂

  8. okay, this is all great, but how do you heal after your heart is broken? you fall for a narcissist, hook -line- and sinker,,,,then when it all falls apart.. how can you trick yourself or just convince yourself to move on and be done with it? any ideas or suggestions?

    • My heart was broken, too, but because I was the one who terminated the relationship, I had more control over my feelings by the time I decided to do that. Once I had him out of my house, I really felt relieved.

      My biggest issue was that I felt that I couldn’t trust my own judgement. I went to counselling and got some help with my boundary issues – which were almost non-existent when it came to the people I love – and I am much more aware now of what I do to leave myself open to these people. I have to work at it every day; it’s not easy.

      I would suggest that if you’re still feeling heart-broken after a couple of months over someone who really was abusive – and make no mistake, narcissists are just that – maybe you have other issues going on that need to be addressed. It’s well worth it to see a counsellor and get your life back. Thanks for coming by and good luck.

      • thank you for the reply – I am just a mess, so over this, got all caught up with a “magical” narcissist, he turned out to be a real idiot, now it is silent treatment and basically trashing me to anyone that will listen… i am so upset that I cannot be stronger and just take it for what it is and forget abou it. It is nothing, was never anything and will never be anything. Why oh why do we get caught up with these people?? thanks for listening… I guess this is one of these things that time heals? (heartache that is)

        • Time does heal it. Easy for me to say, I know, but it does work. Eventually, there will come a time (hard to envision right now) when you will depend on what you learned from your experience with this guy.

          The silent treatment and the trashing are such typical narcissistic behaviours. They do it to get back at you and to punish you for whatever they think it is that you have done – probably you were so bold as to act on your own or to see through their crap – so yes, it is upsetting, but keep in mind that they’re still just playing with you and in the end, it’s meaningless to them. Those who know you will value you in spite of whatever it is that he says. I do hope that you are able to move on from him soon – he’s not worth the anguish. Take care.

    • ann….in response to your comment on how to be done with it? I tried everything known to man. I finally did what all of my experienced friends told me to do….completely cut any sort of connection. I had to convince myself there would be NO CLOSURE which is so so hard. Keep trying and hang in there.

      • Good advice, Vivian. I also did something similar in that I wouldn’t allow myself to backtrack in any way on the decisions that I’d made. You are right to say that there is no such thing as closure with a narcissist. They would only see that as a further opportunity to abuse you.

        • I think time is the ONLY thing that helps. It just hurts less and less. Great what Lynette did: not backtracking on any decision. I remember texting at the very end…”you really dont have a soul , do you?” I made it so many times without acting ugly or bitter that I just wanted N to know that he was just plain not a decent person. I also changed my cell. No matter if he has ever tried or not, he can’t contact me.

  9. I agree with you 100% and in fact in my wiser years( the past five) I have seen both narcissist and jerk defined pretty much exactly the way you have described them. A jerk knows he is jerk, doesn’t care and will let you know immediately. A narcissist goes in for the kill in a calculating manner.

  10. I swear when I read the part of your post (see below) it is as if you ripped a page from the book of my life! I have only just begun learning to what extent my Ex is a sociopath – thanks to Paula’s Pontifications , http://paularenee.wordpress.com/ I am learning, especially when I follow bloggers she follows who inevitably led me to your blog. I never knew these types of people existed. Now that I know, I am doing whatever it takes to make sure I never fall for one of these assholes ever again!

    ***
    Yes, this is where he is, but where are you? You’re back on cloud nine wondering why the sky has suddenly turned black. You keep trying to figure out where your “perfect” relationship has disappeared to and inevitably, you start to think that its deterioration is your fault. Your narcissist will also actively encourage this thinking and you might start to believe that you’re going a little crazy.

    You will do everything in your power to mend the situation, to return to that state of bliss that you had been enjoying. In fact, you’re not unlike an addict who is chasing a high. Unless you do some thinking and self-assessment, you could wind up in this position for a long time.

    Meanwhile, as you’re trying to sort out and save your relationship, he’s entered the “discard” phase. The name speaks for itself. He will now endeavour to get rid of you, as long as he can keep whatever he deems to be of value from your “relationship.” During this last phase he may also “play” with you by frequently changing his mind, by moving out and then back in, by giving you glimpses of what you thought you had during the idealization phase.

  11. Thank you for this post and for the validation of so many unawares’ Experiences. I’m really quite certain, as much as I can be as a non professional, that my nightmare is npd. I’m just really not at all convinced that his treatment of me was an “active plan.” Rather I think the overall arc of his behavior was quite unconscious. Thoughts?

    • Thanks so much for your comment and my apologies for being so slow in getting back to you – I’ve been dealing with some health issues but am feeling much better now. I have become quite divided in my thinking about whether narcissists are conscious or unconscious of their behaviour. If anything, I’m leaning toward thinking that they are likely conscious to some degree. My ex-narcissist sometimes had flashes of insight into his own behaviour, but these flashes were just that. He never took away anything permanent from them and swiftly reverted to previous positions. In the same way, I think that they do plan to cause difficulties – they often justify or rationalize this behaviour as being what the other person deserves for their “betrayals.” You mention your nightmare – I hope for your sake that it’s over.

  12. Pingback: What Makes Someone Chase a Narcissist? | In the Net! - Stories of Life and Narcissistic Survival

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