Tag Archives: Superficial charm

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)

Peekaboo, I See Me

Portrait: 73/365 "N is for Narcissism"
Portrait: 73/365 “N is for Narcissism” (Photo credit: Twaize)

Last time in “I See Myself, Therefore I am” I discussed how the narcissist generates a sense of self through an often invented mirror image and also through unremitting attention-seeking. They believe themselves to be completely empty or at best shallow and although they are afraid that others might discover this about them, they also believe that everyone else is just like themselves. This metastasizes into one of the worst evils about narcissism: the notion that all others operate in the same way that they do. Although this sounds contradictory, given that they’re worried that others will learn about their emptiness, they cannot abide the fact that most people do have an interior being and are, to some degree or another, concerned about the impact they may have on others. Narcissists just don’t accept this.

This type of projection is poisonous and crazy-making. Because narcissists at some point in their lives were damaged (or perhaps were even born that way) and had their ability to feel empathy turned off,  they all come to the conclusion that everyone else has had the same thing happen and that no one is capable of feeling  for another. The narcissist believes that essentially, we are all walking around lying about our feelings for others; at best we are pretending. Even though they have an inkling that this might not be true, as evidenced by their fear of having their emptiness found out, they behave as if it is true. The result is this then: every relationship they enter into is nothing more than a battle ground where they fight to inflict damage before it can be inflicted on them, where everyone is an enemy to be controlled and defeated, and where no one is to be trusted unless he or she can be absolutely subdued and mastered. All must be viewed with suspicion, because remember, we’re all waiting to do the same to them.

You might be wondering, then, why with this level of projection going on, they might ever enter into a relationship in the first place. Don’t forget that they’re empty and need attention to feel that they actually exist; therefore, they must have someone to provide that for them, so then the search begins. Their method of choice for winning people over is what I call a charm offensive. They can charm the birds right out of the trees. They compliment excessively, especially in areas where you might feel a little weak, they do little things for you, they buy you thoughtful presents; they make you feel valued and appreciated. They will walk over burning coals, hike through deserts or scale glaciers for you. They are charismatic and winning. They will make you feel like you are the only person who matters to them because you are the only person who matters to them. You are a target, a mark, a trophy, and they have a lot invested in you. And once you start to believe them, then, well, then everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world starts to tilt, because then the projection starts.

Very slowly, they begin to point out the things that are wrong with you, and because you have decided to trust them and also because you relate to others with thoughtfulness and empathy, you seriously consider what they have to say even though these negatives may be completely foreign to you. It might start with a suggestion to change your hair colour, or alter the brand of perfume you use. These “suggestions” are initially subtle and insidious but they continue to grow, both in volume and degree of importance. The next thing you know, your best friend whom you have known for 20 years is a pathetic a**hole who makes your life completely miserable. You have no taste in clothes or furniture and completely lack any sense of style. Your new car is a cheap piece of crap. Your new home has all sorts of things wrong with it. You have never worked hard in your life and you chose your career in order to be paid as much as possible for doing as little as possible. Your neighbours are a bunch of yelping harpies. You’re a miserable, fat lazy whiner who does nothing except sleep. You’re a tight fisted cheap skate. You have absolutely no idea what hardships are and would fail if you ever had to face any of them. You achieve your happiness at the expense of everyone around you. You’re a sexual adolescent who is clueless about intimacy. You don’t appreciate me.  You refuse to share. You’re stupid. You’re cruel to me. You’re a vindictive liar. You have no idea how to love anyone except yourself. You’re worthless, useless and a complete waste of skin. It would solve a lot of problems if you didn’t exist.

Do you see the projection? This is what they think of themselves. They swim in a vast cistern of jealousy-inspired hatred – hatred for themselves and hatred for all those people out there who seem to be better than they are, so they set out to prove that no one is superior to them, and they tear apart anyone with whom they become involved. Apart from stealing whatever they can from you, that is their raison d’être. The upshot is that unless you extricate yourself from this downward spiral, you wind up in a completely isolated deathtrap of a relationship with only a dim awareness of the fact that once upon a time, you had a perfectly good life.

For part three of this very lengthy definition, I am going to quote Gertrude Stein, who famously said, “There’s no there there.” She wasn’t referring to narcissists at the time, but as a succinct description of what they are, or perhaps I should say what they aren’t, truer words were never spoken.