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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Are you in a toxic relationship with a narcissist?

It may be your boss, a work colleague, friend or heaven forbid, your partner – a narcissist. The somewhat charming, charismatic personalities who display their often self proclaimed brilliance before suck us for all we are worth and moving on to their next unsuspecting victim. While the personality trait of narcissism is increasing across the population thanks to the increasing focus on “self”, the core personality trait can be one of the most damaging we ever come across when it comes to relationships.

One of the key personality traits of a narcissist is that they are virtually incapable of seeing things from another person’s perspective and are basically unable to express empathy to others – such self focused behaviour inevitably leads to challenging relationships for a narcissist throughout the course of their life.

The reason that we all get burned by narcissists is that they appear so very charming initially – they are often attentive, have illusions of grandeur and promise you the earth. It is only as you start to get to know them that you learn more about their true motivations and their habits of picking people up who suit them at the time, using them then discarding when the novelty wears off.

Narcissistic bosses will choose subservient staff that do much of the work and then claim the credit; have little time or interest in their employees and will fly into a classic narcissistic rage when questioned or challenged. Narcissistic lovers generally have a long history of failed relationships; feel no guilt or issue with their own behaviour as generally they are only interested on the impact any interaction has on them and will always find a reason to blame others for the scenario, rarely taking any personal accountability and narcissists rarely apologise and mean it – they are the “I’m sorry, BUT” kind of people.

While we may all have some narcissistic tendencies, simply being aware of the effect our behaviours have on others tends to keep us in line and not negatively affecting others with thoughtless behaviour.

If though, you have found yourself in a relationship with another person who can leave you feeling as if you are completely drained from the interaction and NEVER get anything back, it is highly likely you are in a relationship with a raging narcissist.

Narcissists may develop for a couple of reasons, Most commonly they have been over indulged and had their ego inflated by overly invested parents who treat them like they are special from a very young age. The less common, but equally as toxic covert narcissists may have grown up in a family in which emotional connection from one parent in particular has been lacking (often a narcissist themselves) and in this scenario the other parent has over compensated. The child who is most desperate for acknowledgment from the absent parent develops a false sense of self, believing they are not good enough for the absent parent and are completely unable to express themselves emotionally as they really are. A false self develops, usually at a young age which leaves the individual unable to fully experience and express emotion, which leads to much unresolved anger over time. This covert narcissist has such little insight to self and feeling they are literally unable to experience this in their relationships, and spend their lives in an unsatisfied, unfulfilled state, never knowing who they are or what they really want.

The best way to manage a narcissist if you cannot leave the relationship is to not reinforce their narcissistic behaviours – refuse to acknowledge their self focused tendencies, ensure you do not allow them to treat you badly as they pursue their own goals and desires and most importantly do not invest too much emotionally in the as they will inevitably use it and discard it once they have the perception they have moved on to bigger and better things. But beware, a narcissist hates nothing more than being ignored so be very ready to deal with the nasty narcissistic rage that is set to follow once they realise they have lost their grip over you.

And finally, enjoy watching the narcissist you have finally diagnosed – they are fascinating human beings, often lonely, unable to maintain good relationships and can be read like a book, ultimately allowing you to usually predict their reactions and responses to various scenarios well before events play out which can allow for a lot of fun and games with these self focused, toxic personalities. For anyone who feels as if they have fully been railroaded by a narcissist, I have the book for you – “The Wizard of Oz and other narcissists” will help your understand these individuals more fully, and help you develop a management plan for them if you find that you have to keep them in your life -