Narcissists Handbook: The Revenge

27 11 2011

So, did you enjoy the last post I did on Narcissistic Personality Disorder? If you didn’t read it, you can catch up here. Hopefully it makes sense as a general overview, however I’ve been asked to get a bit more specific, more in depth,  more personal.

Yay.

Right, let me start by saying this; I feel very uncomfortable talking about myself because it’s a matter of trying to say things without editing for the sake of personal vanity. Pretty much against what a narcissist is about. So this is going to take me a while to write as I try to say things without saying things. I also want to add that I’m not a doctor, I hold no PhDs of any form (real or bought, like some alleged experts), I’m just giving you a view from my perspective.

Anyway.

The image portrayed by popular thinking, along with one of the experts, of narcissists is that they are bad people who will use people for their own gain. As such they are to be avoided as they’ll only cause you harm. People such as Hitler and a few of the top ranking members of the third Reich, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, all of which tend to get hauled out as examples of how bad narcissists are. Way to make those with NPD feel great about themselves.

Here’s the bit that supports the idea of those with NPD being bad people. Part of life with the condition is a lack of empathy. This allows people to, in a blunt way, not give a shit about others. Let me give an example to make things clearer.

I’ve had friends and colleagues have loved ones die and I must admit that I felt nothing, I could intellectualise about it but I felt nothing. Distance allows a little emotional separation, but this becomes a little more serious when the same reaction came into play when my grandparents died. It wasn’t a good thing but I didn’t get upset about it, didn’t really feel anything about it. A little sad but that would be it. Hell, even remember going to catch a train and being furious because the trains weren’t running due to a ‘one under’ further up the line. Couldn’t care less about the person who’d died, my transport plans were disrupted and the staff hadn’t bothered to say anything for quite a while.

It’s not about dehumanizing people, it’s about people not being relevant to me. Starving children in Africa? Ok, intellectually speaking, a bad thing, but I don’t actually care, doesn’t affect me or mine. Sounds callous doesn’t it, but that’s how it is.

Gonna let you in a little secret here, lacking empathy is not necessarily a bad thing. The application of it can be bad, but it can also be good. By not involving emotion at the level of empathy, you can look at things in a clinical fashion which means analysis can be vastly better. Proof of this in a fictional sense can be seen if you watch House, the lead character lacking empathy makes good analytical decisions, at least till emotions come into play. In a non-fictional sense, con men perform much better without empathy because it allows them to understand human behaviour quite well. Ok, they then turn this to an advantage but it’s evidence of the analysis taking place, they just apply the knowledge badly.

One last thing to clear up regarding empathy is that it’s about a lack of emotion, it’s also claimed narcissists cannot feel love. Wrong and then some. Empathy implies a level of emotion which is based around interpolation of social factors etc to reach a feeling. Emotions themselves are chemically based things tied in with genetically programmed responses so narcissists feel happy, they feel sad, they feel love, they feel hate. However it’s very egocentric, it’s based around what affects the individual, not how it affects anyone else, unless that in turn affects them. Emotional response can be fleeting which seems to me to be a way of suggesting that all base emotional response is fleeting, it’s empathy which extends this.

Just a thought.

So how does it all start? As I said in the previous post, it’s a way for the young developing personality to protect itself from damage, much like PTSD. Like PTSD, it’s a manifestation of issues raised by trauma, PTSD being for intense trauma, personality disorders being lower level trauma sustained over a longer period of time. I’m probably getting the wrong end of the stick with PTSD so apologies if I am but it’s the best comparison  I could think of.

The best way to tell you about NPD is probably to tell you what’s behind it.

Whether the narcissist will admit it or not, they are the way they are because they’re not good enough. It’s a belief so very deeply seated I can’t begin to describe it. It comes either from being raised with extremely high expectations or being belittled for not achieving whatever the expectations may be.

I’m not good enough, I know I’m not good enough, I haven’t been since pre teen years at least, probably a bit before too. I’ve been weird for longer than I can remember and of course that  is frowned upon, certainly didn’t help me. I can, but won’t, describe things, you can read my book (should it ever be published, it’s written, I’m just not good at typing up) or make wild conjecture as to what my failings were, perceived of real. Suffice to say that when failing so much, I did what any good narcissist would do. I faked it.

I lied my ass off, I’d make promises I couldn’t keep because it’d appease people, people would think I’m great. Of course, when the lies were exposed and the promises broken, didn’t feel so great then. Kinda reinforced the feelings of failure because I was failing. Short term gain, long term loss.

Why fake it? Why bluff my way through things? Because it was what fitted the shell, the shell my young personality had created to hide behind and fill the void between what I believed I am and what I perceived everyone wanted.

This shell is the reason why it’s a bad idea to attack a narcissist. How would you feel if people were trying to break through the shell to see the secret you don’t want anyone to know? Visualising my personality brings up images of the elephant man, and regardless of what you think, I know so deep, that it’s just not good enough. To tell me otherwise is deeply troubling for me.

Subject change, let’s look at a bad thing. Why do we manipulate? Because it gets us what we want without consideration for others. If you consider that a lot of the personality is childlike then you can see where it comes from, and without empathy in place, it becomes relatively straightforward. Yes I’ve done it, no I’m not proud of myself but it can happen without thinking about it on a concious level.

Hmm, this brings me to possibly the most curious, at least for me, aspect of NPD; splitting. Now, I don’t quite agree with the Wikipedia entry about this as relates to NPD, but as I stated, I’m no expert, I’m just giving my side to things. For me this can be best explained by a scene from the film Equilibrium (if you haven’t seen it I can heartily recommend it, it’s awesome. In the scene, the hero is undergoing a polygraph to detect if he has emotions before meeting the boss of all things, ‘Father’. His reaction to being goaded is to have emotions (forbidden in that time) until the polygraph flatlines, at which point he becomes the awesome fighter etc, saving the day. The switch is like that for me, if the input is such that I get annoyed to the point where the level of annoyance exceeds the level of tolerance, I switch to a less caring sharing version of me. Then I can happily go on the attack, responding quite badly, and continuing till things are done.

Not pleasant, and I can be pretty nasty with it, it just is what it is unfortunately.

So. Have I gone in depth enough now? Does it show more clearly what NPD is about? If not, let me know and I’ll try to clarify a bit more. Or just ask a question and I’ll try to answer as honestly and clearly as I can.

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4 responses

27 11 2011
Rachael Black

Read this piece again and I need to hear your personal experiences and feelings, hard as they are to share, because they’re a great help to me. More! We can all help each other this way, doncha think?

27 11 2011
theurbanworrier

It could just be the immediacy of having read this post (my memory is *bad) but this strikes me as the best post I’ve ever seen you write.

It’d be cool -if you were able- to know what cogs turned for you to lead you down the NPD route. I have real trouble recognising the whitecoats’ labelling me as personality-disordered because until I got into my 30s I was (mostly) normal- as Rachael says, hearing the personal experiences is helpful.

Thanks mate!

28 12 2011
Aina Haya

I am not financially capable of hiring a therapist, so I have not been clinically diagnosed with NPD, yet I recognize its ‘symptoms’ in myself. There has been a lot of damage due to the unsavory aspects of the disorder (I dropped out of school, I’m not close to my family, and many people who initially had good impressions of me ended up not speaking to me). I’m only fifteen and I realize that this is possibly a passing phase, but ever since I was a child I shirked responsibilities and never considered other people’s feelings. I’m preoccupied with finding someone who would ‘understand me,’ and withdraw from those who point out that I’m not who I imagine I am (they say that I’m a liar, arrogant, etc). It feels as if I have nothing and no one, and if I don’t improve soon, the rest of my life will be spent trying to pacify a sadistic ego alone. My parents aren’t emotionally available for me (it doesn’t help that I recently got sent overseas to Indonesia while they stayed in America), and I don’t know who to turn to for help. I appreciate your post, and I hope you can help me.

29 12 2011
NullFuture

Hmm, not exactly sure what you would like me to do. Self diagnosis is only ever tentative, however you can read through the info on Wikipedia about Narcissistic, Borderline, Histrionic, and Antisocial personality disorders and see which feels like being closest to how you are, although it’s better to get someone who knows you well to do it as well.

No idea if there are ways for you to be seen by a professional because I don’t live in the US, but the logical way forward would be to contact charities (google them or go on Twitter) and see if/how they can help.

Again, I’ve no idea how I can help, mostly due to lack of info

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