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Article written by Randi G. Fine
Excerpted from the podcast transcript of the first of a six part series on the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
People with NPD may either be obvious or secretive in the way they express their disorder. Their expression of it may be overt or covert.
Those who express it overtly are more outward and open about it. They like attention and have an insatiable need to always be in the spotlight. Often these people are very successful, high achievers, or in the public eye. They will do whatever it takes to attain the limelight and captive the attention of what they perceive as an awe-filled audience. They may intimidate others, make demands, or even use their charm to accomplish that.
Overt narcissists show little interest or enthusiasm in what others have to say or share. They will deliberately show boredom or impatience, while doing their best to steer the focus back to their selves. When they succeed at redirecting the attention, their enthusiasm and animation will noticeably resume. If there is physical violence displayed in the home of a narcissist is usually the sign of overt narcissism at work.
Covert Narcissists gain the constant attention they seek using indirect or secondary methods. They are not obvious in their pursuit of this stardom. They may gain their admiration and feelings of importance through engaging in helping or nurturing roles, though they actually care little for the other people or the cause. Covert narcissists like to play the role of martyr—they take on heroic responsibilities, claiming that they have to do everything themselves because everyone else is undependable, unqualified, or uncooperative. They claim that no one is helpful to them, that they sacrifice a great deal for others and get nothing in return. This is a tactic used to get sympathy and admiration. Their sacrifices are always grandly exaggerated or imagined and always self-serving. They do nothing sincerely or for the good of others.
People with NPD are extremely sensitive to criticism and do not take blame very well. Anyone giving them negative feedback, even if it is something as innocent as the other person saying he or she would like to be treated better, will be subject to the outbursts and viciousness commonly known as narcissistic rage.
Just below the surface of every narcissist lie repressed aggression, paranoia, suspicion, and fear. He is quick to react erratically with rage or blame whenever his expectations are not met. Any form of criticism or disapproval will make him furious. He simply cannot tolerate the suggestion that he is less than perfect. This often causes problems in the workplace because narcissists refuse to compromise their needs for the good of everyone else…and they never think they are wrong. It can be very stressful working with someone like this.
The fury of narcissist rage may be released at the slightest provocation. Any challenge, insult, lack of respect, or defiance, whether real, trivial, or imagined can send them flying into this rage—screaming, spewing horrible insults, belittling their target, dredging up sensitive or confidential information that was shared before and throwing it in the person’s face, acting out aggressively, or seeking revenge.
The interesting thing is that people with this disorder are very critical and judgmental of others. They cannot accept people for whom they are. They see others only as the people they want them to be. Others are judged as being good or bad based on whether they flatter or agree with the narcissist. Those good and bad labels are never carved in stone. They can easily shift in the narcissist’s eye. Narcissists are self-righteous gossips—they put everyone down (even their closest friends), by making snide or degrading comments either to their face or behind their backs. And they enjoy turning other people against each other.
One of the most insidious forms of emotional and psychological abuse typically used by narcissists is a tactic known as “gaslighting.” Because narcissists are so subtle and sneaky with their cruelty, the person on the receiving end finds himself questioning his own reality. The narcissist is a pathological liar—they lie, sometimes intentionally sometimes not, even about inconsequential or trivial matters. They also believe their twisted realities. They try to convince the other person that his reality is the wrong one. This tactic makes the other person feel insane. And the narcissist will outright tell the other person that he is insane for believing whatever he believes to be true, or not believing what the narcissist claims is true. This is very confusing and crazy-making.
The narcissist continually walks a fine line between fantasy and reality. He confuses imagination with true memories, or he forms false memories and then distorts things to make them fit into his fabricated, recreated world. Narcissists have a very selective memory—they’ll say they don’t remember something, deny it happened, or claim that the other person is just making it up. They will argue obstinately that they are right.
These people are very clever and diabolical. It is nearly impossible to pin them down or call them on their predatory behavior because they are deliberate about where and when they do things. There will never be witnesses to what they say and do to their victims. It is very difficult for victims to explain to others what happened because nobody ever sees it happening. To the outside world the narcissist seems harmless and innocent. They wear a disguise in public and painstakingly cover their tracks.
Everyone loves the facade the narcissist secretly hides behind, the only face they allow the public to see. They know this and will shamelessly tell those who are close to them how much everyone adores them. No one outside of their family circle will ever hear them say those things—they are very careful with the image they project to others.
They truly believe that everyone loves them. They overestimate the effect they have on other people. That is because narcissists find it difficult to identify with the emotions and needs of others. Any reactions from others that are perceived as relevant to them are misread and misinterpreted.
Though narcissists generally have a wide circle of acquaintances, they keep an emotional distance from everyone because they fear vulnerability. Anyone who attempts to get close to them will be rejected. A narcissist’s true self really has nothing to give and therefore resents any demands put on him.
He is a consummate actor, often worthy of an academy award. He is able to pick up on social cues and play whatever role is needed for him to fit in. He can turn his charm on and off like a light switch. The persona shown to the public is gracious, charming, helpful, generous, light-hearted, apparently sensitive to other’s needs, and engaging. But it is only a mask.
Narcissists know exactly how to fool others to get what they need. What they need is a constant outpouring of praise, flattery, and adoration. They have an ever-dry well that must constantly be replenished. The wider their range of social connections, the more insurance they have that they will continue getting their supply. Their need for a constant influx of complements and attention can be likened to a drug addict needing their drug. As long as they have their fix they are satisfied, but it never lasts for very long and it is never enough.
If there is something the narcissist wants or needs from someone they will lure the other person into their sinister web, flatter him, flirt with him, and seduce him. They are adept manipulators. They make everything they do appear as if it is spontaneously occurring but it never is. Everything is scripted in advance and premeditated.
Narcissists are name droppers. They are highly impressed by those who have money, power, influence or those who are their superiors. So eager to please these people the narcissist will do anything to get them to recognize and like him. Impressive people are the only people the narcissist will bow down to and act slavish to.
Narcissists are excellent at imitating people. They analyze others so they can intuit their emotions and reactions. Then they use this copied behavior to manipulate others and get what they want. They imitate emotions and behaviors that show caring and concern. They know what is proper to say and the proper way to react in any given situation, only because they see other people do it and recognize it as the appropriate thing to do. They can mimic empathetic behavior but they never actually feel it. They are incapable of loving or caring for anyone else.
Not only does the narcissist lack empathy, he is unwilling to recognize others’ thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and needs—especially those that conflict with his own. With no interest in hearing the views or problems of others he will tune them out or rudely cut them off. He rarely listens, supports, or validates anyone else’s feelings.
Narcissists treat others like objects, not people. To them people are disposable and interchangeable. They are only useful if they give the narcissist what they want or need. They dislike anyone they cannot control and manipulate.
Narcissists are very volatile, dramatic, and emotional people. They feed off of any kind of drama, whether good or bad, negative or positive. If there isn’t enough drama in their lives they will create it.
They lack emotional self-control and are prone to extreme, wild, violent mood swings. External events are responsible for triggering these mood swings. As long as everything is going their way, they have everything they want, and no one is challenging them they can be happy, loving, and fun.
Their state of mind is always precarious. Those around them never know what’s coming. That makes narcissists’ behavior very confusing to those who are close to them. One minute the narcissist is up and the next minute they’re down. They’re pleasant one minute and then furious the next, euphoric one minute and depressed the next, feeling powerful one minute and helpless the next, passive one minute and punching holes in the wall the next.
But narcissists do not recognize their behavior to be irrational or unacceptable. With an insatiable need to maintain their pathological self-image of perfection, they see justification for all their reactions. It is always someone or something else’s fault.
To listen to this show in its entirety, please go to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/randi-fine/2013/04/30/narcissistic-personality-disorder-part-one
I am available to talk about any life issues that are concerning you. Private, confidential counseling by telephone. http://clarity.fm/randi-g-fine
Other Podcast Shows on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:Part Two – Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Child Abuse Part Three – Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The Family Portrait Part Four: Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Narcissistic Mothers Part Five: Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Mothers and Daughters Part Six: Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The Conclusion Whether to Forgive or Not Forgive the Narcissist Abuser