Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a label coined by psychologists to describe a particular set of defenses and behaviors in a group of individuals who meet the criteria.
These behaviors have been found to have a very emotionally damaging impact on those who find themselves in relationship with them.
Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
(3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
(4) requires excessive admiration
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association
Moving Beyond Narcissism
Many people are led to the discovery of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in response to an extremely difficult relationship that has left them feeling depleted, used up and discarded.
The Internet, being the great resource it is, provides in depth information on narcissism to those looking to understand what has transpired in their lives.
There is very little information that shows people how to overcome the damage created through the relationship and even use the relationship to help them grow stronger.
There are many Online support groups that are a Godsend to most who are just discovering the kind of abuse they have suffered. The support groups can be very helpful as long as there is an agreement to stay focused on the recovery and not the story of abuse.
Our stories of abuse can only take us so far! We can actually find ourselves stuck in our stories! We may end up feeling so victimized by the experiences we went through while living with a narcissistic mate that we are moved to tell the story of what happened to us over and over.
The primary purpose for wanting to tell our stories is that we are looking for some kind of validation that we are really not as crazy as we may feel we are.
If we tell others about what happened and they agree with us that we have just experienced a type of abuse, it is a confirmation of something we may be feeling deep down.
I find many people continue to seek validation that their ex-mate was indeed a narcissist. This is not productive!
It doesn't really matter whether or not that person has received a diagnosis of narcissism or whether or not he would if he was evaluated. What does matter is that you recognize that you were in a relationship that did not support your empowerment as an individual.
We can spent our days dwelling on the topic of narcissism; lord knows I did, or we can move on in our lives!
It is good to initially understand what narcissism is so we can make sense out of what happened. Making sense out of things helps us restore our sanity. However, the truth is, we can't really make sense out of narcissism. It doesn't make sense!
Any abusive personality does not live in the same reality we do and when we try and evaluate the situation from our perspective of reality it will never fit. You have to come to realize you were dealing with someone from another planet, so to speak.
Think about what it might be like to try and have an emotional conversation with Spock, from Star Trek, if you remember him. He was from a planet where everything was logical and there were no emotions.
Now imagine trying to relate to someone who didn't have our sense of logic or emotions. That would be near impossible, wouldn't it?
It would be a futile effort to try and understand someone who is from another planet who doesn't think, feel, or react as we do. We would have to eventually just come to accept that we are different from them.
It is the same with Narcissism. I like to look at narcissism as simply the result of a very damaged childhood. Many of us feel we come from damaged childhoods, its certainly not unusual, however we all develop different sets of defenses to cope with our environment.
Narcissism is simply a set of defenses one has developed that has prevented him from relating to others in a loving, caring way for any length of time.
Initially it can seem everything is great! But it's like putting your hand on a stove and slowly turning up the heat. You don't feel the pain at the beginining when everything is new and full of promise. But as you engage for longer periods of time the suppressed issues begin to rise the surface. This is when you begin to experience the abuse with the narcissist.
Over time his learned defenses begin to kick in to compensate for issues arising in the relationship, and there are always issues in any relationship.
A healthy relationship is simply a relationship where both parties find healthy solutions to the problems that come up.
You can't have a healthy relationship with a narcissist because he is not healthy and has no real means to deal effectively with issus. One of his defenses is to project his issues onto you and hold you responsible for them.
Where we are Unhealthy!
If we are whole and healthy ourselves we wouldn't last past the honeymoon period with the narcissist. It is important to understand this because we can have a tendency to project our own repressed dark side back onto the narcissist when we end the relationship.
We can spend our energy making ourselves good and the narcissist bad, which is black and white thinking. You find that most people with addictions engage in black and white thinking. It is either black or white, good or bad, happy or sad, hot or cold. Most addicts have to learn about all the shades of grey in between.
Although there is much argument on whether or not Narcissism is the worst kind of evil, I would have to say that not all narcissists are alike. Investing our precious life energy in asigning our ex-mates labels like evil and even narcissistic don't serve us for long.
It is good to acknowledge that they do have a problem, possibly narcissism and they have done a lot of damage in our lives, however if we are to recover our attention has to leave them and turn back to ourselves.
We find that we are unhealthy when we look outside ourselves for the answers. We look to this person who we feel devastated by and somehow hope they can make us feel whole again.
However the liklihood that we ever felt whole is quite slim. It is our own feelings of lack and worthlessness that we must begin working with.
If we never felt the lack and the worthlessness to begin with the narcissist could never have projected his feelings of lack and worthlessness onto us. We wouldn't have accepted it!
What he has done, in a sense, is to take us to the very core of our own inner woundedness. It is easy to believe he has wounded us but lets try and look at it from another perspective.
What if he really just shattered all of our illusions about ourselves until there was nothing left but our own inner wounded child? What if he showed us our own false selves that have been built on sand instead of stone?
What if when he threw water at our carefully constructed illusions the sand was washed away right out from underneith us and we found ourselves feeling completely naked without any real sense of self?
Now we must rebuild our lives only this time we will build a rock solid foundation! We call back all those pieces of our soul that we have given away to him and to others throughout our life time. We learn, in the depths of our own despair, who we really are and this is where we begin to build something more real for ourselves.
Now we can look back at this person who brought us to our knees and see that as much as we feel devastated by what happened that person has provided us a service. He has destroyed all of our illusions about what we believed was real and left us with only one thing! What is real!
Rewriting Your Story
Now that you are discovering that the evil witch or warlock in your life has provided you a great gift you can begin to re-write your story!
Move past the story of you as victim and the narcissist as perpetrator. See now the narcissist as the hurricane that swept through your life stripping you down to the bone.
Sounds pretty aweful doesn't it? But really it is like rebuilding a house that was built with cheap materials. The hurricane may strip away the house and you can clean up all the old debree and begin building a nice new home with a rock solid foundation and the best building materials.
Your old story is about how he/she did this to you! Your new story is how he/she played a role in your life that helped you to discover your true self.
Your quest now needs to shift from focusing on the narcissist and what he took from you, to focusing on knowing and understanding who you really are.
You may have to look deeply within and see just where you are wounded and know these wounds go way back! You don't have to spend years in therapy to heal your wounds. Healing can happen instantaneously on a spiritual level.
The most empowering part of indentifying the wounds is knowing you can also heal them.
When I searched deep within myself I realized I had created an unconscious pattern that was running my life. My Father died when I was a baby and my Mother remarried when I was two. I never had a real relationship with my Step-father. He seemed cold, aloof, distance, non-empathetic, and unapproving. I spent a lot of energy trying to get his approval. I worked hard, got good grades, lost my childhood fat so he wouldn't poke fun of my chubby little body, and did everything I could think of to win his love.
I never succeeded at feeling loved and accepted by my step-father. So I simply carried on the quest with the different men who came into my life. I unconsciously drew in cold, aloof, distance, non-empathetic and unapproving men so I could try and get their attention and approval.
There was some unconscoius part of myself that was trying to right the wrongs of my past by finally getting what I needed from someone who was incapable of giving it.
When all the illusions were stripped away I could finally see the truth. I was never going to get what I needed as long as I went looking for it outside of myself. I had to find that approval from within. I had to love that little girl who felt abandoned as an infant.
My journey was about seeing the value in myself. Once I did this I no longer allowed anyone to devalue me. Nobody can really take our value from us.
I learned this lesson before I left my last narcissistic relationship. He tried to put his agenda on me that I had no value and I simply wouldn't take it on. He became furious and angry like I'd never seen him. Of course I was upset by the escalating abuse but once I was out and disconnected the psychic chords between us, I began really coming out of myself in a whole new way.
The next relationship I attracted was with someone who was a friend. He was an open book, something I wouldn't have attracted in the past. He was kind and loving. As I cleared my old patterns I was able to change the type of mate I was pulling into my life.
Our stories of abuse have to be upgraded to stories of victory! We have to learn to see our lives from a higher perspective and see how all of our relationships play an important role in our personal evolution.
Although it is important to understand narcissism we don't want to build our house there. Use the knowledge you gain to help you move past narcissism and into your true destiny.
Recovery From Narcissism