WHAT ARE THE SIGNS SOMEONE IS A NARCISSIST?
Do you think you may be involved with or just got out of a relationship with a narcissist?
Sadly, it may not be just narcissism you’ve been dealing with. Narcissism is also known as a Cluster B personality disorder. It’s possible you may have been with a personality-disordered individual who has multiple personality disorders. Either way, if you’ve been involved with what you think is a narcissist, you may have been in what’s called a Pathological Love Relationship (PLR). For the purposes of this page, a personality-disordered individual will be referred to as a Narcissist to keep it simple.
A Narcissist can be a spouse, partner, ex, parent, and even children, but what exactly is a narcissist? Narcissists are very good at what they do, it can be years after a crazy horrific experience before the victim realizes they were in the trap of a narcissist. Knowing the signs is critical for self-protection.
According to the American Psychology Association, a narcissist is obsessed with self. Here is a list of a few traits that I believe someone who is obsessed with self demonstrates:
- Will often wear the “great person” mask in the beginning of knowing them.
- Everything is all about them. They must be the center of attention. This attention is known as fuel to the narcissist and they must have a constant supply of it.
- They are often very grandiose. They must have constant attention whether it is negative or positive. They will usually tell you how popular and great they are or they will have a superiority about them.
- Will do things and then say they didn’t do it (Gaslighting).
- They will never take ownership but will blame and point the finger at others instead
- Nothing is ever enough for him. They will always need more, more, more.
- They never show remorse for their bad behaviors.
- They will never be wrong because they are always right.
- They will do whatever it takes to get their way with lying, cheating, manipulation, and intimidation.
- It is their way or the highway.
- They are incapable of love, empathy, or compassion because the focus must be on them.
- Boundaries, consequences, codes of ethics, and integrity do not apply to them.
- The outside world must see them as the shining star, if they have friends and they usually don’t, they will be people that admire them (flying monkeys) They target empathetic compassionate people they can control and manipulate. They usually have a sob story to tell them to gain their empathy.
- Nobody else’s opinion matters. Theirs is the only one they can hear or want to hear.
- Always focused on what they want or need. They will rarely ask about you, if ever. If they do, they are going to use it against you or for their gain.
- A need for constant praise, attention, and admiration.
- Easily angered when things don’t go their way. Will blow up or stonewall (shut down), or discard to manipulate.
- Their activities are more important than anyone else’s.
- It must be their idea or they will steal yours.
- They look in the mirror a lot to admire themselves or look for perfection.
- They must win at everything they do, if they don’t, narcissistic rage may follow.
- They don’t have concern for other people’s feelings or interests because self is first.
- They are highly critical of everyone but themselves.
- Always looking to trade up in their relationships and material possessions. They discard with no remorse.
- Incapable of deep relationships because that would put focus on someone other than self.
- Uses word salad or communication mayhem to confuse someone who may be getting close to the truth.
- May enjoy triangulating between several love interests because the more people that love them, the more focus they have on themselves.
- Love bombs to manipulate others into a fake relationship that is intended to harm the other and not love them. The goal is to gain control and ensnare the empathetic person.
- Will often come back repeatedly after a breakup or separation to reconcile if they are not getting enough fuel elsewhere. Of course, nothing changes once the reconciliation happens.
- Devalue and abuse others to inflate a sense of self.
- Emotionally unavailable because all focus is on self.
- Will stir things up to make things crazy before they will admit fault and may even call someone else crazy to deflect from their bad behaviors. This is also known as crazy-making.
- They will project the things that they are doing like cheating onto their partner and accuse the partner of cheating.
- May stalk someone to get their way or to dominate.
Narcissistic Abuse in a Pathological Love Relationship (PLR)
A narcissist will initially be the victim’s greatest dream for a partner. Sadly, it doesn’t last long. They typically target and mirror their prey and promise them they are everything the prey ever dreamed of. They rush the relationship forward and try to start the sexual aspect as quickly as possible to further entrap the victim. They may even claim a desire to quickly marry the victim. They will love bomb emotionally, spiritually, and sexually long enough for the prey to be captured and controlled. Then, they will begin to slowly and insidiously deliver a nightmare. Anything the narcissist promised during the love bombing phase will never materialize.
GAS LIGHTING / CRAZY MAKING
This is where the narcissist’s sole goal is to devalue the victim. They want to erode their self-esteem and self-worth. They see some prey as weak and easy prey. They see others as strong and a harder capture. They will blame the victim for something they did or try to convince them something happened that didn’t. They may accuse their victim of cheating when they are the one cheating, also known as projection. The effects of gaslighting on the victim result in feelings of confusion that cause the victim to struggle to make decisions or cling to the hope and belief that it will get better or change. The victim typically walks on eggshells and may even start apologizing for everything and questioning their own judgment.
As soon as they have gained control and the admiration of their prey, they will start isolating them from their friends and family usually stating they don’t like them or they don’t feel they are good enough for the prey. Getting the prey isolated keeps the prey from being alerted by others to the truth or dangers others see in the narcissist. This is the beginning of the devaluing stage which will continue and escalate throughout the relationship. The narcissist’s goal is to destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of their prey. If the victim has told them anything about their painful past or things they are ashamed of, the narcissist will take every opportunity to turn the information into a weapon to harm the prey and further devalue them.
INTERMITTANT REINFORCEMENT / JEKYLL & HYDE
Intermittent Reinforcement is a psychological abuse tactic that narcissists use to gain control. They may be sugary sweet one minute only to be condemning, critical, and hostile the next. It’s the mean/nice abuse tactic that physical abusers and cults also use. Also known as the Jekyll & Hyde tactic. Or, they may make promises only to ghost the victim instead. This can cause confusion and severe anxiety in the victim. The narcissist uses this tactic to maintain control of the victim so when they return out of the blue, the victim will be grateful to see them and gladly welcome them back. The narcissist expects the victim to prioritize them but the victim will never be a priority.
INFIDELITY AND ADDICTIONS
Narcissists almost always cheat and may have a plethora of addictions that can include porn, sex, alcohol, substances, and gambling. The cheating is part of their devaluing tactics. and their never-ending need for constant fuel from others besides the victim. Often times if caught, they will use love bombing tactics to regain control of the victim that may be attempting to flee. The narcissist uses love bombing while the victim is in shock at their discovery and will claim it will never happen again. Of course, this is exactly what the victim wants to hear. Unfortunately, there is really no remorse with the narcissist and they will be back to their cheating and addictions the second the victim is back under control.
When the narcissist finds a greater fuel supply from another, they will typically discard. Unfortunately, it is unlikely they will be gone forever. They must have constant fuel. So, after they severely traumatize their victim with a sudden discard, they will reappear from time to time. When they reappear they will appear with more love bombing or claiming they want to be the helpful friend to the victim. However, they won’t be willing to give up the new supply, unless the new supply got smart and ran for their life. Their reappearance is called hoovering (named after the hoover vacuum cleaner) and they will do this strictly for the purposes of extracting negative or positive fuel from the victim. It has absolutely nothing to do with caring about the victim because they are incapable of love or empathy. It is strictly for fuel supply.
Narcissist Abuse Syndrome
Trauma Bonding is where the victim still feels the narcissist can change and may still feel what they believe is love for the narcissist regardless of how many horrific things they have done to them. Therefore, they are still emotionally bonded to their abuser. Trauma bonding is the reason many abuse victims go back to their abuser over and over. The Trauma Bond remembers the love bombing and idealization in the early part of the relationship. This causes the victim to romanticize the good and minimize the abuse. They think this is love but rather it is a trauma bond. If the victim was discarded, they will experience withdrawal symptoms so when the abuser reappears or wants the victim back, the victim in their trauma-bonded state will return to the abuser.
Cognitive Dissonance is essentially this is the hope and belief that the narcissist or the relationship can change and get better when there is a long history of bad behaviors that prove that it won’t. The victim may say the abuser was good to them but when they are asked to explain what exactly was good, they aren’t able to give much supporting evidence. They may say something like “He was good to me” when the reality is “he cheated on me multiple times”. Cognitive Dissonance causes the victim to stay too long in a relationship they know is bad for them because they believe that change can happen. Denial keeps them from reconciling the truth.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is caused by a relational or relationship traumatic event. It can result in a victim getting activated or triggered with anxiety or emotional dysregulation like rage, crying, or isolation. The victim may relive the traumatic event if a new experience has similarities. This can happen in a new relationship if the victim feels rejection or abandonment and gets activated. The victim may also experience flashbacks. For example, if the victim experienced infidelity and saw photos of the unfaithful partner with the affair partner, the victim may flash back to the images months or years later they saw in the photos.
In a PLR relationship, the victim can experience any of these things with positive or negative memories. This is called Atypical PTSD and is a result of the constant he’s good/he’s bad thoughts and confusion in the relationship.
STRUGGLE IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS (In the aftermath)
The victim may avoid healthy relationships or see them as boring. This can be caused because the intermittent reinforcement or emotional unavailability of their previous abuser may have translated to their brain as excitement. This will make the emotionally available suitors feel engulfed and can cause the victim to run from it when they should be running to it. Conversely, they may become overly anxious instead and want an immediate relationship or connection because they fear the new partner will leave like the abuser did. If the victim runs from healthy relationships they may continue their pattern of attracting unhealthy or toxic partners.
STRUGGLES WITH EMOTIONAL REGULATION
The victim may struggle with emotional regulation. They may experience various emotions individually or simultaneously like rage, anxiety, depression, excessive crying, sadness, or isolation and not know how to control it. They may seem fine one minute and emotional the next.
LOW SELF AWARENESS AND SELF WORTH
The victim loses their identity in a narcissistically abusive relationship. Following the abuse they struggle to feel complete. They may have adopted the bad opinion of themselves that the abuser inflicted on them which is actually known as cognitive dissonance about self. They may struggle with repetitive thought processes that tell them they are not worthy of love or they are not good enough. They may believe this as truth and may look for validation in new relationships or from friends. Even with validation, they have a hard time believing the validation because they were conditioned by the narcissist to believe they weren’t good enough or not worthy. They may have lost all conscious knowledge of who they are, their character, and their desires. Often victims look back after recovery and claim they “were a shell of a person” when they got away from the narcissist.
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