The Secret Lie of Narcissism

secret

Beneath all of that bravado and charm lies a hidden secret the narcissist doesn’t want you to find. They will do anything to protect their secret from you.

They might lie about it.  Or they might divert your attention with an innovative story. Or they might project their secret onto you. Come close to figuring it out and the result is warfare for control.

Narcissists will use all types of abuse to dominate you. They use verbal (i.e. threats, intimidation), physical (i.e. restraining, choking), emotional (i.e. fear or guilt tactics), mental (i.e. gaslighting, silent treatment), financial (i.e. withholding, exploitation), sexual (i.e. forced, coerced) or spiritual (i.e. isolation from family, legalism) forms of abuse.

Their fear is this… information equals power. If you know their secret, you will then embarrass or humiliate them. This is the worst thing they can imagine… others thinking less of them.

So what is this precious secret? Hidden deep inside, all narcissists have an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. Their lack of self-worth stems from some unmet need. Find the unmet need and you have discovered the Achilles’ heel. Here are a few examples.

Need for love. Many narcissists are raised by narcissists who practice conditional instead of unconditional love. This uncertainty of love often manifests in the insatiable desire for affirmation, attention, intimacy, or sex. When they don’t feel loved, narcissists seek out anyone who will satisfy their need.

Need for safety. When a narcissist has been traumatized as a child and hurt by someone they love, the need for future safety becomes myopic. They are consumed by the need for security and protection for themselves and family members.  Unsafe environments breed the desire for greater control and stronger intensity.

Need for acceptance. Repeated bullying at a young age can cause a narcissist to feel like they don’t belong. This can create a sense of isolation in peer groups. Or instead some narcissists strive in vain to appear to be all things to everyone in order to be accepted. A lack of acceptance often brings out offensive behavior and overreaction to others.

Need for respect. Over use of the phrase, “That is disrespectful” indicates the narcissist feels everyone is against them. Their strong sense of entitlement and favorable treatment creates a tense atmosphere whenever they feel impertinence. Whenever they report being disrespected, expect a verbal or even physical attack as demonstration of their intolerance.

Need for fundamentals. This is not as common in younger narcissists because they have not endured an economical depression. But for the older generation who grew up during the Great Depression, the need for food, shelter, and clothing became a driving force. Not having the fundamentals leads to hording and miserly attitudes.

So what do you do with the new found Achilles’ heel? Recognize that at the heart of a narcissist is a very broken person with the same needs as everyone else. The difference is that their secret need is concealed because of their deep shame and guilt. This is no way justifies their poor behavior but it can help to explain it. How you handle the information is your choice.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Narcissists Use Emotion to Abuse

narcissist abuse

narcissist abuse

The conversation with your narcissistic spouse starts with good intentions over some issue needing to be addressed. Knowing the propensity of overreaction, you gently proceed. At first, your spouse takes everything in stride so you relax. You let your guard down. Then it happens.

An insignificant comment (not the main point) suddenly ignites a firestorm. Instantly, you are being accused of things far out of your scheme. You become emotional and react.

Your spouse, in turn, uses your emotional reaction to justify further control, power, dominance, and superiority. It is emotional blackmail. However, they take no responsibility for igniting the flame. You are to blame.

This is emotionally abuse behavior. But just how does a narcissist use your emotions to gain further control? Beside each emotion is an example of how that emotional reaction can trap you into a cycle of abuse.

Nitpicked: If it feels like you are being picked apart bit by bit, most likely you are. Narcissists say your feelings are wrong, your behavior is inappropriate, or you are too sensitive. Whatever is important to you is minimized in comparison to their own agenda.

Surprised: You are surprised by their behavior in treating one child as a favorite while discounting the others. You are shocked that they accuse you of things they are guilt of. And you are stunned when they sabotage a calm atmosphere with unnecessary conflict in order to get attention.

Embarrassed: Narcissists detest being embarrassed but they love to embarrass you. They do this by sharing your private information without consent, treating you like a child in front of others, or exposing some shameful event.

Anxiety: It is easy to become anxious when you are questioned about your every move, motive or aptitude. Yet, their poor behavior or your important conversations are conveniently forgotten leaving you to question yourself. To top it off, their insecurity demands that you prove your love or commitment over and over.

Overwhelmed: You feel overwhelmed from the excessive responsibility a narcissist dumps on you. A narcissist expects you to drop everything to “cheer them up” when they are depressed, angry or anxious. You are frequently blamed for their problems or unhappiness as they bombard you with unnecessary and irrelevant information.

Ridiculed: A narcissist belittles your accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. They minimize their words by saying, “It was only a joke.” Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock you.

Guilt: As soon as you try to do something positive in your life, a narcissist stops you though the use of guilt. They claim that they should be the most important person in your life, you owe them your unwavering loyalty, or you are being selfish for taking care of yourself.

Insecurity: First the narcissist holds you to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard. Then when you fail, you are treated as inferior. Your thoughts, beliefs or values become insignificant, incorrect or worthless. They may even become verbally abusive at this point.

Confused: A narcissist confuses you by treating you as an extension of themselves, not as a separate person. This becomes justification for their acquired “mind-reading” skills and general over-reaction to nearly everything you say and do. Your words become twisted into something you never meant. The narcissist uses these incidents as rational for withdrawing from you, chronically sabotaging and then re-establishing closeness.

Shame: When manipulated right, shame is a powerful motivator. A narcissist shames you by constantly reminding you of your shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way. Or they complain about how badly you treat them compared to “great” they treat you.

Alienated: A narcissist has a better chance of power and control if other people aren’t influencing you. So they belittle your friends and family and make your social engagements a nightmare (by contrast, they will be amazingly charming at their social engagements). They also restrict your normal communication by interfering in your relationships unnecessarily.

Scared: A narcissist uses intimidation to scare you into compliance. You become so frightened of what they have threatened to do that you choose the path of least resistance. This is often a reluctant agreement to a lesser issue to avoid the larger threat.

Anger: A narcissist generates an angry response by acting immature and selfish but accusing you of behaving that way. Then, they divert the discussion thereby preventing any real resolution, especially anything involving action on their part. Finally, you are set up with only you lose-they win options. Your anger is a response to feeling like you are fighting a no-win battle all the time.

Hostility: It’s difficult to think of your home as a hostile place but a narcissist sometimes creates that atmosphere. For instance, they constantly interrupt while you are talking so you feel unheard. Or they stalk you both at home and away from home. Or they restrict your sleep cycle so you are increasingly tired and frustrated.

Rejected: If you hate to feel rejection, a narcissist will prey on you. They begin by denying the relevance of your point of view. Then they refuse to acknowledge your worth even withholding love or intimacy to prove their point. Finally they threaten to abandon when you refuse to comply.

Fear: It can be a powerful motivator or a terrorizing experience. A narcissist will use intimidation, threats, frightening behavior, or destruction of your treasured possessions to incite fear. You become paralyzed, feel hopeless, and therefore rely (without questioning any further) on whatever they say.

Don’t let these emotionally abusive tactics get the best of you. Instead learn to recognize them in the moment so you can keep your emotions in check. The best way to stop emotionally abusive behavior is to not let it get to you in the first place.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Narcissistic Verbal Abuse

yell-classroom

Narcissistic verbal abuse is powerful. A talented narcissist can wear you down and then spin you around so fast you hardly know what has happened. Before you realize it, the narcissist has convinced you that what is up is really down and their verbal assaults are actually your fault.

For this reason, verbal abuse is a favorite tactic of narcissists. It very quickly intimidates the target while simultaneously establishing their dominance and superiority. The attack usually catches the target off-guard thus assuring victory. All of this is done to gain control and manipulate you into doing something.

The pattern is similar whether the narcissist is a spouse, parent, employer, coach, manager, or preacher. It first begins in secret, is infrequent, is mild in tone with minimal use of abusive language, and sometimes is followed by a shallow apology. Then it escalates to public humiliation, is more frequent, shifts blame to you, and is excessive in tone while denying abusive words.

  • Narcissists use the volume and tone of their voice to subconsciously establish dominance over you. They do this through two extremes. One way is to increase the volume by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is equally effective through complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond. Their tone reiterates the abusiveness by combining petulance and pompousness.
  • Words have meaning beyond their definition. For a narcissist, words are used to instill fear, intimidate, manipulate, oppress and constrain. Swearing and threatening language comes easily to the narcissist when you refuse to do what they want. But if you try to use the same method, their verbal assault will amplify.
  • The manner of a narcissist’s speech is argumentative, competitive, sarcastic and demanding. They will frequently interrupt, talk over you, withhold key information, bully and interrogate. Many times the verbal assault will be so rapid that you will not have the time or energy to fight point by point. This is precisely what they want.
  • Mixed in with the assault will be personal attacks such as name calling, mocking your response, defaming your character, berating your feelings, and judging your opinions. To further add to the confusion, the narcissist will mix some truth with a lot of criticism. This condemning tactic leaves you feeling inferior and defeated.
  • A narcissist will do anything to avoid embarrassment, including going on the defensive over minor infractions by blocking and diverting your remarks. Their self-inflated perception is so skewed that they frequently accuse you of making them look bad. When they perceive an attack, they refuse to take responsibility, become hostile, invalidate or dismiss your feelings, lie, and conveniently forget promises or commitments.
  • Narcissists are masters at the blame game; anything that goes wrong is your fault. They will accuse you being too sensitive, will be overly critical of your reactions, one-up your feelings and oppose your opinions. In essence, you are to blame for the negative condition in which they find themselves.
  • Typical sayings include: “I’m critical for your own good,” “I was only joking when I said that…,” “If only you would…, then I won’t have to be this way,” “You don’t know how to take a joke,” “The problem with you is…,” and “That (verbal abuse) didn’t really happen.”
  • As a result of the verbal abuse, you feel you can’t ever win, are always in the wrong, have a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, constantly walk on eggshells, are fearful of their response, and are embarrassed by their behavior.

You are not going crazy.  Verbal abuse is real and can leave you confused and frustrated. Be careful not to agree to anything the narcissist insists on during the verbal assault. Wait at least 24 hours before making any decision and get counsel outside of them. You do not have to jump through every hoop the narcissist requires.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics

religiousIs spiritual perfectionism demanded?  Are you terrified of not being accepted? Does the narcissist in your life have crazily ridiculous implausible spiritual expectations?

There was a time when your religious beliefs brought you companionship and peace, but now you struggle with intimacy, insecurity, and comparison. You used to find security in your faith, but now there is only sanctuary in ceremonies and rituals. How did you get here?

A narcissist uses their religious belief to manipulate, control and dominate you through fear. They systematically take the life out of your faith and replace themselves in the center.

It doesn’t matter the religion. Major organizations such as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish or even minor sects such as Mormon, Taoism, Confucianism, New Age, or Rastafari can be used. Even those who do not profess a belief in God such as Atheistic, Agnostic, or Satanism can be included.

It is not the type of belief but rather how the faith is used that makes it abusive.

  1. It begins with dichotomous thinking, diving people into two parts. Those who agree with the narcissist’s beliefs and those who don’t. Interestingly, only the narcissist is the judge and jury of who belongs on which side. Your opinion is insignificant.
  2. Then the narcissist makes fun of, belittles, and shows prejudice towards other beliefs. This tactic is done to remind you that if you change your views, you will be treated likewise.
  3. Suddenly the narcissist becomes elitist and refuses to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy. They prefer isolation and insist you do the same while condemning others who don’t.
  4. Next, the narcissist requires that you completely adopt their point of view. There is no room for differing opinions or questioning their authority. Any voicing of opinions to the contrary are met with threats of abandonment or divorce. There is no free will for you.
  5. Demands of total submission without question follow. You are not free to question their authority and any attempt to do so is met with spiritual, physical, and/or verbal discipline. Name calling, chastising, and the silent treatment are common maneuvers into compliance.
  6. The narcissist is no longer satisfied with private dominion but instead needs the appearance of power in public. They expect strict adherence to whatever image they have created regardless of the accuracy of that image. Even the slightest hint of challenging their façade is met with quick and cruel reprimands.
  7. To further intimidate, the narcissist labels people who don’t comply with their beliefs as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith. This is done in front of others to reinforce their opinions and instill fear inside and outside the family.
  8. There is huge emphasis on public performance. They demand perfection and happiness at all times. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity. No allowances are given even for grieving over the loss of a friend or relative.
  9. Strict adherence to their rules and regulations are commanded with absolute statements about insignificant issues such as hair color or style. Non-compliance is met with severe discipline and even excommunication.
  10. To further segregate, the narcissist uses secrecy or withholds information to a few select worthy individuals. Sometimes they require proof of advanced spirituality or some deeper level of commitment before they will share.
  11. Questioning the narcissist is worse than questioning the religion. Blind obedience to the narcissist is expected as their opinion is more important than the religion. In essence, they have replaced your religion with themselves and you are expected to worship them.
  12. The narcissist frequently uses their religious position of authority to connive for their own personal benefit which is often financial. They will justify this behavior by saying they deserve it because they are better than others. You, however, will not be included because even your best is not good enough.
  13. For the narcissist, the end justifies the means. They may engage in criminal misconduct or cover up the transgressions of others in the name of their religion. This includes covering up sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial felonies, and misdemeanors. They believe they are above the law and therefore can subvert it.
  14. To complete the isolation, estrangement from extended family members and friends outside of the religion is mandatory. This includes shunning, alienation, or persecution. You are completely alone now with only them as the voice in your life.
  15. At the end of this, you find your own beliefs have lost their vitality and your religious growth is stagnant due to the constant abuse by the narcissist. It is not unusual for you to question you faith and even abandon it due to the sadistic behavior.

You don’t have to be subject to religious abuse. Study these steps and refuse to be part of any organization that encourages this behavior. Your faith is far too precious to be destroyed by a narcissist. Don’t let them steal your joy.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The name “Narcissist” comes from Narcissus who was a beautiful hunter in Greek Mythology but also exceptionally proud.  In order to reveal his arrogance, Nemesis drew him to a pool of water.  Upon seeing his reflection and not realizing that it was his own image, Narcissus became so attracted that he refused to leave and died there.  Thus, the name Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) very correctly portrays a person who fixated on themselves.

 

So what is NPD?  Here is the technical DSM-V definition:

 

  • Identity:  Exaggerated self-appraisal
  • Self-direction:  Personal standards are unreasonably high,  sees oneself as exceptional
  • Empathy:  Impaired ability to identify with the feelings or needs of others, excessively attuned to reaction of others
  • Intimacy:  Relationship largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation
  • Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, belief that one is better than others, condescending toward others
  • Attention Seeking:  Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of attention of others

 

The practical definition looks more like this:

 

  • Believes they better than others
  • Fantasizes about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerates achievements
  • Expects constant praise and admiration
  • Believes they are special
  • No empathy for others
  • Expects others to go along with ideas and plans
  • Takes advantage of others
  • Expresses disdain for those they feel are inferior
  • Believes that others are jealous of them
  • Trouble with relationships
  • Sets unrealistic goals
  • Easily offended

 

 

 

So many movies have portrayed NPD but perhaps the funniest and most exaggerated example is of Will Ferrell’s character Ron from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”.  Ron’s admiration of his looks and talents despite his obvious flaws is characteristic of NPDs.  But NPD can be seen not just in movies, but also in real life from CEOs of large corporations to political candidates on both sides of the aisle to crime bosses and gang leaders.

 

So how do you deal with a person who might have NPD?  Here are a few suggestions:

 

  • Use sandwich method:  compliment, confront, compliment.  Don’t do it too frequently.
  • Agree with them whenever you can, don’t look for ways to disagree.
  • Be straight forward and short in explanations, too long gives too much time for attack.
  • Expect immediate decisions and don’t question their judgment.
  • Find ways to praise them without being patronizing.
  • Look them in the eye when talking and give them all of your attention.
  • Even when they are gloating, find something to admire.
  • Don’t talk too much about yourself or others; focus the conversation on them and then you will get what you want.
  • Find ways to help them feel special.

 

Once you realize the narcissism, it becomes much easier to manage the excessive admiration that a NPD craves.  But don’t lose yourself to their narcissism by constantly giving them what they need at the expense of what you need.  This is disastrous and will end badly, not for them but for you.  Get some help and learn when to walk away.

 

 

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

How to Talk to Your Narcissistic Boss

Oil on canvas

Oil on canvas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After years of speculation, you have finally come to the realization that your boss is a narcissist.  Since this is not the type of economy where you can just leave your job and expect to get another one quickly, you find yourself stuck and miserable in a job that normally you would like except for your narcissistic boss.  In the beginning everything was great.  Your boss seemed to like you and you liked him/her despite the previous dozen or so former employees who left rather abruptly.  Then one day everything changed, as if a switch just flicked without your knowledge and you went from the best employee ever to the most incompetent human alive.

But you are stuck and despite the numerous attempts to flick the switch back the other way, it’s not budging.  Every day now begins with several duck and cover attempts as you dodge the verbal bullets assaults of your boss until one day when you have no option but to confront.  Finally, the issues on your desk have built up to an unbearable level and something has to give as there is no more time. While you know you need to confront your boss, you must do it in a way that doesn’t cost your job in the process.  So how do you do it?  Try a few of these suggestions.

 Use the Hamburger method.  Think for a moment about a McDonald’s hamburger, would you ever eat the meat without the bun?  No, the meat is terrible without the bun.  Well for just about anyone, but a narcissist in particular, delivering bad news is the meat of the matter and without a bun it is likely to be spit right back out at you.  So, create a bun of praise around the meat.  Since a narcissist loves himself/herself, try praising your boss first, then follow it with the meat of the matter, and end it with yet another personal or professional praise.

Use it only once.  You are going to be shocked at how well this will work and be very tempted to repeat this for the dozen or so other meats but watch out.  Your narcissist boss will likely catch on and become even angrier thinking that you are manipulating him/her.  So when you do this, do it once per conversation, and never twice in the same day.

 Pick your meat carefully.  If possible, prioritize the meat that needs to be confronted and do the most burning issues first, then follow it with the ones for greater long-term impact and end with the other not so important short-term issues that may just go away on their own.  Whenever possible, overlook meat so your confrontations are not frequent but don’t be irresponsible about the meat.  Some meat must be dealt with however insignificant it may seem.

When in danger…If the confrontation begins to take a bad turn, don’t defend yourself.  Never ever give ground to a narcissist unless you are willing to give that ground permanently.  Instead repeat back part of what your boss is saying, not too much to be obnoxious, but just enough to let him/her know you heard what he/she said even if this includes something negative about you.  That action alone, without your overreaction will be enough to take the wind out of his/her sails.

No emotion.  The thing about a narcissist is that he/she has no empathy of anyone else except himself/herself, so don’t waste your time getting upset or teary eyed.  The quickest way for a narcissist to stop being angry is for you to have no emotion whatsoever.  When you show emotion, he/she believes you have lost and treats you like prey instead of treating you with compassion.  When you don’t show emotion, your narcissistic boss will try another tactic such as changing the subject to try again to get the upper hand.

Don’t give ground, stand still, and stand strong and your narcissistic boss will likely soften around you instead of attacking the next time.  Just remember that a narcissistic boss is common and even if you left your current position, you are likely to find another one lurking behind some corner.  So stop fighting and learn how to talk to a narcissistic boss instead of running from them.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Helpful Website for Dealing with Personality Disorders

Fog

Fog (Photo credit: jrodmanjr)

Every now and then you come across a helpful website with a ton of information about a topic that must be shared.  This is one of those times.  This website titled “Out of the FOG” (FOG = fear, obligation, and guilt) is appropriately titled for those who find themselves married to, parent of, child of, or friend of a person with a personality disorder.  Several of the personality disorders are listed but the two that are most likely to drive someone to counseling is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

This very helpful website outlines the difference between the two, in addition to other personality disorders, and offers constructive suggestions for how to manage your feelings.  A person with a personality disorder is not likely to come to counseling as they believe they are right, justified, perfect, or clear thinking but they will insist that others seek counseling because they are demented, out of touch, crazy or losing it.  Usually they are not far off as a person with a personality disorder can definitely make someone think they are demented, out of touch, crazy or losing it!  But in reality, they are not.

So sit back and read a couple of the posting to learn more about how to manage your relationship with a person who has a personality disorder.

http://www.outofthefog.net/index.html

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.