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Posted June 21, Reviewed by Kaja Perina. At the beginning of April this year, I was tapped by the Huffington Post Live team for a discussion on narcissism.
I happily agreed to appear, for a of reasons, not the least of which is that narcissism happens to be one of my favorite subjects. Early in my training, I had the pleasure of working with one of the foremost authorities on narcissism in our field, and in part because of that experience, I went on to work with quite a few clients who'd been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. That's where I learned that the formal diagnostic label hardly does justice to the richness and complexity of this condition.
The most glaring problems are easy to spot -- the apparent absence of even a shred of empathythe grandiose plans and posturing, the rage at being called out on the slightest of imperfections or normal human missteps -- but if you get too hung up on the obvious traits, you can easily miss the subtle and often more common features that allow a narcissist to sneak into your life and wreak havoc. Just ask Tina Swithinwho went on to write a book about surviving her experience with a man who clearly meets criteria for NPD and very likely, a few other diagnoses.
To her lovestruck eyes, her soon-to-be husband seemed more like a prince charming than the callous, deceitful spendthrift he later proved Early signs you are dating a narcissist be. Looking back, Tina explains, there were s of trouble from the start, but they were far from obvious at the time. In real life, the most dangerous villains rarely advertise their malevolence.
So what are we to do? How do we protect ourselves from narcissists if they're so adept at slipping into our lives unnoticed? I shared some of my answers to that question in our conversation, and I encourage you to watch it. But there were a few I didn't get to, and others I didn't have the chance to describe in depth, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to revisit the topic here.
Tread carefully if you catch a glimpse of any of these subtler s:. I'm talking about a different kind of projection altogether, akin to playing hot potato with a sense of smallness and deficiency. Narcissists say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent. It's as if they're saying, "I don't want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings.
Remember the saying: "Don't knock your neighbor's porch light out to make yours shine brighter. But the very fact of having a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally by friends, family, partners, and even the occasional tragedy or failure.
Narcissists abhor feeling influenced in any ificant way. It challenges their sense of perfect autonomy; to admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them. So they often change the subject when feelings come up, especially their own, and as quick as they might be to angerit's often like pulling teeth to get them to admit that they've reached the boiling point -- even when they're in the midst of the most terrifying tirade. But the very fact that narcissists, for all their posturing, are deeply insecure, also gives us an easy way to spot them.
Insecurely attached people can't talk coherently about their family and childhood ; their early memories are confused, contradictory, and riddled with gaps. Narcissists often give themselves away precisely because their childhood story makes no sense, and the most common myth they carry around is the perfect family story. If your date sings their praises for their exalted family but the reasons for their panegyric seem vague or discursive, look out. The devil is in the details, as they say -- and very likely, that's why you're not hearing them. The logic goes a bit like this: "If I find someone perfect to be close to, maybe some of their perfection will rub off on me, and I'll become perfect by association.
And stand back once that happens. Few experiences can prepare you for the vitriol of a suddenly disappointed narcissist. Look out for any pressure to conform to an image of perfection, no matter how lovely or magical the compulsive flattery might feel.
Rather than express needs or preferences themselves, they often arrange events and maneuver people to orchestrate the outcomes they desire. In the extreme form, this can manifest as abusive, controlling behaviors. Think of the man who berates his wife when dinner isn't ready as soon as he comes home. He lashes out precisely because at that very moment, he's forced to acknowledge that he depends on his wife, something he'd rather avoid.
But as with most of these red flags, the efforts at control are often far subtler than outright abuse. Be on the look out for anyone who leaves you feeling nervous about approaching certain topics or sharing your own preferences. Narcissists have a way of making choices feel off-limits without expressing any anger at all -- a disapproving wince, a last-minute call to preempt the plans, chronic lateness whenever you're in charge of arranging a night together. It's more like a war of attrition on your will than an outright assault on your freedom. None of these s, in isolation, proves that you're with a narcissist.
But if you see a lot of them, it's best to sit up and take notice. They're all way of dodging vulnerability, and that's a narcissist's favorite tactic. Craig Malkin, Ph. Worry is driven by mood, not logic. Anxiety holds your deepest yearnings. And you can subdue it for good. Three experts turn everything you know about anxiety inside out.
Craig Malkin Ph. Romance Redux. Narcissism Essential Re. About the Author. Online: Dr. Malkin's websiteFacebookLinkedInTwitter. Read Next. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Personality Passive Aggression Personality Shyness. Family Life Child Development Parenting.
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Essential Re.Early signs you are dating a narcissist
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9 Tell-Tale s You’re Dating a Narcissist