Until last night, I never believed there were actual narcissists in my world, at least, not within my circle. Maybe I’m too much of a believer in the idea that people cannot be solely classified in psychological terms because that demeans their person. Like when you classify a person as an addict, you look at the factors that make them an addict, but they are still their actual selves. They didn’t start out as addicts, so we can’t always call them that. The problem with calling them this way is that the labels stick. And instead of us looking at the person as that, a person, we now look at them under microscopic lenses or as a ‘study’ or a ‘case’ of all these psychological terms. But last night, I was convinced it was true.
Now, whether we admit it or not, all of us have that narcissism in us, some more pronounced than others. It’s normal for some to be very confident of themselves, proud, selfish. But for the record, I know of two people who truly qualify under the real narcissistic syndrome, which they call Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even Christians can be narcissists, for Christians are human beings like everybody else. You can’t be a narcissist and be subtle about it. At one point or another, people around you are bound to discover (—I hope sooner than later) that the things they observed (e.g. he is too self-absorbed, wow what arrogance, he has feelings of self-importance and grandiosity) and the truths they managed to convert to lies (e.g. maybe it’s just me, maybe he’s just going through a lot, maybe it’s just a flaw that can be fixed) are actually whole, absolute truths. We have been deceived. They are facts —real, observable facts that can be determined/tested/proven, and all this time we made ourselves believe we can fix it, or we can help it, or we can do something about it.
I’m sitting here and I’m telling myself, “it does not at all feel good to realize we have been victims for such a long time, try two years.” Why did I put up with that? One, because I didn’t know he was that. A narcissist. Two, my heart always deceived me. Like they say, there’s a lot of self-deception when it comes to matters of the heart.
After getting this assessment from my discipler/counsellor, I did my research just to make sure. True enough, I already recognized the traits on the very first line, and in the succeeding paragraphs. I was reading and I noticed not just the similarities, but that I saw him, I read him, and I related. Quite exhaustive, frankly. But it helps us as we grieve and mourn the part that we were preyed upon and stubbornly we would just not accept it at that time. Well, now there is no more denying it. We learn to pull away, to pull ourselves out of the cycle in which these people entice us in, and we get away. We get away, we don’t only close the door, but we pack up and leave. We do not give them any more entry in our lives, and we cling on to God for dear strength and grace, praying, “Lord, I’m tired. Please take it from here.”
In the meantime, here are interesting facts I’d like to share with you as I was googling for answers. They were really helpful to me as I understand better how for two years I stupidly settled and put up that masochist self.
In a website I found on NPD or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it says,
In America, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) sets out the criteria for NPD where sufferers exhibit:
“Behaviour or a fantasy of grandiosity, a lack of empathy and a need to be admired by others. As indicated by at least five of the following:
A. Grandiose sense of self-importance.
B. Fantasies of and preoccupied with beauty, brilliance, ideal love, power, or unlimited success.
C. A belief of being special and unique and can only be understood or a need to associate with people of high status.
D. Requires excessive admiration.
E. Has a sense of entitlement: An unreasonable expectation of being treated with favour or excepting an automatic compliance to her / his wishes.
F. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
G. Lacks empathy.
H. Believes others are envious of her / him or is envious of others.
I. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes
The most striking characteristic was when it described narsi people as “lacking empathy.” One writer even said, “It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of narcissists’ lack of empathy. It colors everything about them.” I know that like I know the back of my hand. I’ve seen that many, many times in the course of my relationship with him, back and fourth. Empathy is described as the ability to recognize and interpret other people’s emotions. Lacking of empathy therefore means that they are unwilling to recognize or sympathize with other people’s feelings and needs. They “tune out” when other people want to talk about their own problems. Let me add what Joanna M. Ashmun states in her website.
Now, it is possible to have a relatively smooth relationship with a narcissist, and it’s possible to maintain it for a long time. The first requirement for this, though, is distance (which we had); this simply cannot be done with a narcissist you live with. Given distance, or only transient and intermittent contact, you can get along with narcissists by treating them as infants: you give them whatever they want or need whenever they ask and do not expect any reciprocation at all, do not expect them to show the slightest interest in you or your life (or even in why you’re bothering with them at all), do not expect them to be able to do anything that you need or want, do not expect them to apologize or make amends or show any consideration for your feelings, do not expect them to take ordinary responsibility in any way.
I caught the words “Do not expect” and in the course of our complicated relationship, that’s mostly the reason I’m always frustrated and disappointed. I expect him to do the normal, natural things people ought to do, like consider my feelings when he does something that would really hurt. But I’ve long realized that he hardly was interested in me or my life, and that he does not make amends or if he does, it’s to protect his reputation, and he rarely initiates and talk about things in our relationship. There hardly was a sincere apology, and all those tearfests and waterworks at home were mere dramas he has so painfully mastered. Now in being in a relationship with a narcissist, she writes,
“It is also essential that you keep emotional distance from narcissists. They’re pretty good at maintaining a conventional persona in superficial associations with people who mean absolutely nothing to them, and they’ll flatter the hell out of you if you have something they can use or if, for some reason, they perceive you as an authority figure. That is, as long as they think you don’t count or they’re afraid of you, they’ll treat you well enough that you may mistake it for love. Once they know you are emotionally attached to them, they expect to be able to use you like an appliance and shove you around like a piece of furniture. If you should be so uppity as to express a mind and heart of your own, then they will cut you off — just like that, sometimes trashing you and all your friends on the way out the door. The narcissist will treat you just like a broken toy or tool or an unruly body part: “If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off” [Matt. 18:8]. This means you.
I failed to keep an emotional distance from him, precisely the two years I stayed, or right after the relationship took a sour turn when I had turned him down before. And pesonally, not only is lack of empathy an issue, there really is no “others” for him, but just his self. Ate Anne puts it in a meaner, but truer term. “Object.” Add to that “devaluation.” “abuse.” “Lies.” “Distortion.” These are terms and facts I know so well.
I also got a good deal of information from this website. Everything I wanted to know was basically there.
So the Question is, can Narcissists love other people?
Here’s what Hotchkiss has to say.
“NARCISSISTS ARE PEOPLE WHO never learned to make it on their own. Except for their fantasies of perfection, envy of others who have what they lack, and unacknowledged fears of humiliation, they are empty on the inside. They have no real Self to bring to a relationship with another person, but they desperately need someone else to join them in their emptiness and help them maintain emotional equilibrium. The ideal candidate is someone willing to become an extension of the Narcissist’s fragile ego, to serve as an object of admiration, contempt, or often enough both. The sign over their door ought to read: Abandon Self All Ye Who Enter Here.” Hotchkiss (pg. 121)
It doesn’t sound good so far does it?
The problem is that Narcissists don’t know the true meaning of “others”; people are mere objects to them at best extensions of themselves. A narcissistic person may love:
(1) According to the narcissistic type:
(a) what he himself is (i.e. himself),
(b) what he himself was,
(c) what he himself would like to be,
(d) someone who was once part of himself
(2) According to the anaclitic (attachment) type:
(a) the woman who feeds him,
(b) the man who protects him.” (pg. 33)
Throughout their life time most people will alternate between the two methods of object choice, often exhibiting a preference for a particular type. Narcissists have a tendency to select a partner according to the narcissistic type – as you can see this choice is all about their image.
Admittedly, I fall under number 2a, “the woman who feeds him”. I give him care, love, sincerity, and my whole heart, because I was absolutely believing he was a good man. Self-deception of the heart again.
These are the victims of the narcissist’s deceiving emotional messages. The narcissist mimics real emotions artfully. He exudes the air of someone really capable of loving or of being hurt, of one passionate and soft, empathic and caring. Most people are misled into believing that he is even more humane than average. They fall in love with the mirage, the fleeting image, with the fata morgana of a lush emotional oasis in the midst of their emotional desert. They succumb to the luring proposition that he is. They give in, give up, and give everything only to be discarded ruthlessly when judged by the narcissist to be no longer useful. Riding high on the crest of the narcissist’s over-valuation only to crash into the abysmal depths of his devaluation, they lose control over their emotional life. The narcissist drains them, exhausts their resources, sucks the blood-life of Narcissistic Supply from their dwindling, depleted selves. This emotional roller coaster is so harrowing that the experience borders on the truly traumatic.
A Narcissists charming behaviour lasts as long as they get what they want from you i.e. that you provide evidence to confirm their view of themselves as special.
But I am still conflicted. That’s it? The 2 years I’ve been going through is summarized into a personality disorder? I can tell myself now that he is not considered anything to me anymore. Not special, not alive. I guess I have seen and heard the truth. I have swam in a sea of lies for a long, long time and I am so ready to get back on dry land. But at the same time, I want to suspend my disbelief in him. Because after all, he is a person. He’s not just a label or a case study. Could he really be this or are his character flaws really just magnified? If he has the narcissistic tendencies, it’s sad he is a Christian then. Or is he one, really? Can you both? Can you be both narcissistic (self) and Christian (death to self and submission to Christ) at the same time?