All month I've been trying to think about what kind of gift I could give you all for Valentine's Day and then it finally hit me, the gift of knowledge is something each one of us can pass on to one another. Knowledge is power!
With that in mind, I wrote this blog in hopes that anyone who reads it will pass it on to a friend or post it on their FB or Twitter feed.
In the spirit of sisterhood, please help us build awareness this Valentine's Day and "Tell a Sister" by sharing this or any of your favorite blogs or posts from our forum with others who would benefit from such knowledge.
What is a narcissist....and are you dating one?
Have you suddenly found yourself in a relationship with someone who no longer understands you? Someone YOU no longer understand, but in the beginning you thought you were soul mates and destined to be together?
Did he put you on a pedestal at first, but now you suddenly feel as though you can do nothing right in his eyes? Are you constantly made to feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong? Has he become overly critical, demeaning and even cruel? Does everything seem to be ALL ABOUT HIM? Is he insensitive to your needs, unappreciative of your input and indifferent to your feelings? Is he hot and then cold? Is your gut telling you something is off, but you can’t quite figure out what?
If you are you banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how your relationship went from a fairy-tale to a train-wreck over night and blaming yourself…..
You have done nothing wrong. You may be in a relationship with a NARCISSIST.
It is very difficult to see what lies underneath the charisma of a narcissist. A narcissist is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing...charming, alluring, and often the life of the party. The beginning of the relationship is euphoric, intense and exhilarating. It is like nothing you have ever experienced before, and you can’t get enough of your newfound love. A narcissist sweeps you off your feet and appears more caring and compassionate than any person you have ever met. Unfortunately, once you settle down with a narcissist, you will see a side of him you never knew existed. A side, quite frankly, you would rather not acknowledge but must.
Underneath the flashy exterior of a narcissist is a fragile ego, which requires constant attention and validation. The implications this has on a relationship are far more damaging than you could ever imagine.
Eventually, a narcissist will discard, devalue, belittle and criticize you. Emotional abuse is inevitable in any long-term relationship with a narcissist. The abuse is not only devastating, but comes out of nowhere and causes you to question everything you thought you ever knew. The only reason a narcissist seeks out a relationship is to ensure someone is always present to meet his never-ending needs and stroke his fragile ego.
Let’s first look at the signs or red flags that you are dating a narcissist and then discuss the steps you can take to break free from such a man and move forward.
The Six Red Flags
1 – He’s too good to be true
He possesses all the qualities you’ve been looking for in a mate. He’s handsome, charming and perfect. He almost seems too good to be true. There’s a reason for the old adage, if he seems too good to be true, he is and you should trust your gut. Nobody is that perfect or possesses all the qualities you’ve been looking for in a mate. Look closer and you’ll see that he’s putting on an act.
A narcissist sees his life as a movie or dramatic story in which he has the starring role. He creates a character (a.k.a. false self) based on what your likes and dislikes are in a partner and then assumes the traits and emotions of that character to lure you in. Narcissists are master manipulators and brilliant actors who pride themselves on how well they are able to con others.
2 – He talks only about himself
Narcissists need to be the center of attention and the life of the party. People are often drawn to them. You will notice a narcissist easily becomes bored in a conversation unless the spotlight is on him. He will get a glazed-over look in his eyes if the discussion is not revolving around him, but suddenly light up when the focus returns to him. Narcissists are completely disconnected from their true self and depend entirely on external validation to feel alive.
You are most likely dating a narcissist if he only talks of himself the majority of the time. He gives you a lengthy auto-biography about his life, including his school days as star football quarterback. He pauses occasionally to ask you a question about yourself only because he senses he needs to and then quickly finds a way to revert the conversation back to himself. He often refers to himself in the third person.
3 – He believes he is perfect and always right
One way to recognize a narcissist is to ask him in what ways he thinks he needs to grow or change. Narcissists are incapable of introspection or any type of self-reflection. A healthy well-adjusted person will give you a list of things they can do to improve themselves. A narcissist, on the other hand, will tell you he has nothing to change. A narcissist believes he is perfect and always right.
Ask him about past relationships and see how he responds. If it’s always the other person’s fault when a relationship ends, you could be dealing with a narcissist. Healthy people can take accountability for their part in a failed relationship. A narcissist cannot. He is always right.
4 – He is obsessed with his image and status symbols
A narcissist has been socialized to identify with a judgmental social system where love is given or withheld based on external criteria. If you’re beautiful, thin and smart, you will be loved. If not, forget about it. Therefore, a narcissist is obsessed with his physical image. He will spend hours at the gym, salon and tanning spa to maintain an image of perfection he believes is essential to his survival.
He is preoccupied with status symbols, designer labels, expensive homes and fancy cars. He has an external locus of control and only feels alive when validated by the outside world. He craves attention from others and if he doesn’t get it, he feels dead inside. This is because he has no real sense of self and must have his image reflected back to him at all times in order to feel alive.
A narcissist loves to hunt and pursue women. They see women as challenges to be conquered. The more attractive and unobtainable she is, the more thrilling the chase becomes for the narcissist. They look at dating like a scorecard. A narcissist will value you, not for yourself, but for how good you make him look, what he can get from you or what status you bring him.
5 – He becomes controlling or overly-possessive early on in the relationship
Underneath it all, a narcissist is very insecure. He disconnected from himself years ago. He has a fragile and damaged ego, which has left him emotionally stunted. He is not in touch with himself. He projects a puffed-up ego in order to overcompensate for his lack of self. He appears confident, but deep down, he is quite the opposite. As a result, you will notice he has a need to control and possess you very early on in the relationship. He will text and call you frequently and expect you to respond to him immediately. A narcissist must be in control at all times. If you are flattered by how often he is texting you in the beginning to see where you are or whom you are with, think again about what this really means.
6- He lacks empathy
The key indicator of narcissism is lack of empathy. Narcissists are unable to feel empathy or compassion for anyone. Therefore, they act out or mimic these emotions in order to convince people they are capable of real love. They do this through carefully observing and profiling others. As mentioned, narcissists are great actors. Watch closely, you will begin to see a narcissist’s lack of empathy when he is tired, his defenses are down or when you are sick or in distress.
The only feelings a narcissist experiences are the primal gut instincts we all need to survive, such as fear and rage. A narcissist lives in his own delusional reality and sees others as nothing more than objects to play as pawns in his quest for dominance. A narcissist has zero remorse for how his actions destroy others in his attempt to win at all costs. Lance Armstrong is a perfect example of this type of pathological narcissistic behavior.
The bottom line is that it will always be ALL ABOUT HIM.
A narcissist cares for no one but himself and is incapable of change. It is important to understand, once a woman has been conquered by a narcissist, she will inevitably be discarded. Whether this come in the form of total avoidance or full on verbal abuse, a narcissist will show his true colors and when he does, it is a devastatingly rude awakening you would not wish on your worst enemy.
My ex-husband joked from day one about being a narcissist. Unfortunately, it took me eight years to look into the true meaning of narcissism and how it impacts a relationship. When I did, it explained everything to me and was such an a-ha moment, I have made it a goal to share what I have learned with others so they don’t live in the dark like I did for years.
Recent research has proven that narcissism is most certainly on the rise and the younger generation is much more narcissistic than its predecessors. Personally, I don’t see how they could avoid succumbing to it when you look at how our culture rewards and promotes narcissism everywhere you look.
It is important to note that women can be just as narcissistic as men. The most famous role models for young women today include two people who have no real talent whatsoever. They are famous for spending daddy’s money and making pornographic videos of themselves, one of whom even allowed her boyfriend to pee on her during filming. Yes, Kim Kardashian is a mega superstar and role model for our youth. I find this frightening and disturbing, to say the least.
I grew up watching Growing Pains, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show. All of which taught virtue, value and responsibility, in my opinion. Today’s generation watches nothing but reality television, which teaches our youth nothing but how to stab someone in the back before they get to them first. If you look at television programming, which is not reality "Revenge," "Deception" and "Scandal" are the most popular shows on network tv. What does that say about our culture?
One does not have to look far to see how our society rewards narcissistic behavior. It’s important to note, however, that as a result, more and more of us are finding ourselves in relationships with people who do not know how to relate to us on any level beyond their own grandiose self. These relationships are destined to fail and ultimately destroy the psyche of anyone attempting to make them work.
I am frequently asked how to get over a narcissist. While there is no magic pill, you CAN and you WILL survive. My second book, The Path Forward, includes Six Steps I believe will help you break free from a narcissist and find the kind of love you deserve.
The Six Steps on The Path Forward
Step 1 – Understand It
We educate ourselves on the personality of a narcissist.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is like being on a roller-coaster ride that never ends. One moment, you feel loved, adored and cherished. The next, you feel devalued, discarded and abused. A narcissist engages in "crazy-making" behavior in order to make you feel as though you are losing your mind. He wants to keep you guessing and doubting yourself at all times. This way we become dependent on him and he is in control. Once we learn to see the narcissist for the person he really is and accept that he is incapable of change, we are finally able to free ourselves. We realize we do not need this person in our lives to feel whole and complete. We were whole and complete before this person entered our lives and we will be whole and complete once we end our relationship with this person. It is the narcissist who is preventing us from being truly happy. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Step 2 – Get It Out
We find an outlet to share and express our emotions.
We absolutely must process our feelings before we can recover or heal from any painful experience. This is not only important for our emotional health, but our physical health as well. Repressed feelings are toxic. Research tells us unresolved emotional trauma floods our bodies with hormones, which leave our immune systems weak and vulnerable to attack. The key is to find an outlet to express your feelings! Whether you do this through writing, working out or playing music, your feelings MUST be felt and dealt with before any healing can occur. We Gotta Get It Out!!!
We have a need to organize the trauma and chaos we experience in life. To express ourselves in a creative way helps us feel as though we have made sense of a senseless situation. Until we do this, we will always obsess about it. Sharing your story on our on-line forum should validate your experience and reassure you that you are not alone in your struggle.
Step 3 – No Contact
We accept the only way to restore our sanity and regain control of our lives is through No Contact.
The only way to break free from a narcissist is to establish and maintain a rule of NO CONTACT. We must treat the narcissist as if we are breaking a toxic drug habit. A narcissist programs you to question yourself...question everything you do, in fact. This is his goal from the very beginning. He knows if he can cause you to doubt yourself, you will become dependent on him for validation and keep coming back to him.
It is critical that you understand you will never get over a narcissist if you remain in contact with him. You CAN and WILL deprogram from him, but ONLY if you establish NO CONTACT. You must cut off all contact with him in order to break free.
Step 4 – Get Real
We no longer deny reality and are ready to face our Anger and Fear.
This step is dedicated to dealing with the feelings that are the most difficult to process and confront - Anger and Fear. We avoid these emotions like the plague. However, we must reverse our habitual pattern of trying to avoid pain by allowing ourselves to feel the moment and understand what it is we are meant to learn from it. We must totally commit to our reality. Only then do we experience the world fully. Only when we don’t hold back and prepare to escape, do we experience life and truly find ourselves. Commit to staying in the moment. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.
Anger and Fear are your most powerful emotions because they can motivate you to make necessary changes in your life or they can paralyze you to remain stuck in a state of pain. Surrender your ego! When we do not run, we discover our innermost essence. Whatever arises, we do not judge. Give up the idea that pain can be avoided and have the courage to relax with the reality of your situation. The way you handle your Anger and Fear affects all of your relationships, especially your relationship with yourself. It is critical to realize WE MUST GET REAL TO HEAL!
Step 5 – Wake Up
We tap into the power of our mind to awaken our spirit and find ourselves again.
Whatever arises, we must not judge. We must not avoid. We must use everything that happens to us as a means for waking up. The human brain is amazingly powerful. Yet, until recently, we did not know how to harness its power. Thanks to recent advances in science and technology, we now know that our brains are much more plastic (changeable) than we ever thought. The concept of brain plasticity, known as Neuroplasticity, is one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in the last decade. This field of research has proven that our brain is not permanently hardwired, but rather able to change physically, chemically and anatomically in response to our thoughts, experience and behavior.
This means that we can alter and heal our brain by directing how we respond to stimuli. It is a step-by-step process and takes time, but we now know we can reverse the damage caused by emotional abuse and psychological trauma. After being brainwashed by a narcissist, we MUST RETRAIN OUR BRAIN!
Step 6 – Heal
We have a newfound compassion for ourselves and commit to live in the moment.
We must lighten up, relax and go easy on ourselves. Many of us find it easy to have compassion for others, but have very little for ourselves. It never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. Living life with an unconditional love for ourselves changes everything.
We get rid of the “should haves” and the “could haves” and gradually discover ourselves by being honest and staying in the moment. Without any agenda except for being real, we begin to find ourselves again. We assume responsibility for being here in this messy world and realize how precious life is.
By learning from the moments in life, we become more compassionate and can aspire to live in the now. We can relax and open our heart and mind to what is right in front of us in the moment. We see, feel and experience everything more vividly. This is living. Now is the time to experience enlightenment. Not some time in the future. Keep in mind, how we relate to the now creates our future.