In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful, young man – the son of a river god and a nymph. A nymph named Echo fell in love with Narcissus but he rejected her, which in turn offended the goddess of love, Aphrodite. As punishment for his rejection of Echo, Aphrodite cursed Narcissus: giving him a taste of his own medicine – making him fall in love with his own reflection. Like Echo, Narcissus was now tortured with a love that could never be truly obtained or returned and died alone, unable to take his gaze off the object of his affection/affliction.
Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) stems from this myth where someone who is narcissistic mirrors the qualities that led Narcissus to his bad end. Although there tends to be more men then women who have NPD, women CAN be narcissists. The symptioms of Narcissism include:
- An excessive, inflated sense of self-esteem and self-worth
- A self-preoccupation that blinds the narcissist to the feelings or plight of others
- A belief that they’re special, gifted, more beautiful, more talented, more exceptional then others while perceiving others as inferior.
- Having a HUGE sense of entitlement which leads them to take advantage of others (but the narcissist, with no concept, clue or care for the feelings of others does not recognize their exploitation of others; they feel they’re owed or deserve to be treated in the way that they expect)
- When a narcissist DOESN’T get their way all the time, they’re angry, bitter, impatient, jealous, resentful, critical, blaming and generally miserable, unhappy people; as long as their needs/wants are satisfied, they could care less about anyone else.
- Projecting an invincible, tough-as-nails facade that shelters (in actuality) a very weak, fragile self-esteem that is EASILY hurt and offended. Remarkably, however, the “turn around time” in recovering from real or perceived “injuries” is rather quick because narcissists are able to get out of a funk by pumping themselves up (usually at the expense of others, ie: blaming others, criticizing/tearing down/invalidating someone else).
- Expecting recognition, admiration, fame, accolades, attention, compliments and praise in everything they do (and if you don’t give them what they’re seeking, they’ll sing their own praises). These are the people who’ll TELL you how good and generous they are, yet you don’t see any evidence of it. Point that out an you’ll incur their wrath.
- The reaction to criticism (both real and/or perceived) is rage.
The consequences of narcissism – as you might imagine – aren’t pretty. If you don’t buy into the narcissist’s view of the world/themselves, YOU’RE going to have a problem.
Narcissists are not “user friendly” – if they’re in a group setting, they’ll want to be the leader, at the helm or the center of attention, taking control, doling out advice or direction. They CAN be a part of a group, but will be secretly getting angry and resentful at not being recognized for the “obviously missed talent” that they possess. Completely blind to what’s really going on around them (because all that matters is what they think/feel/see, etc.) narcissists fail to recognize the appropriateness of their actions (Example A) and don’t have an objective sense of reality (Example B).
Example A: a narcissistic entry-level new hire reads the family-run business manual then promptly requests an appointment with the CEO to share his/her ideas on how to revamp the business based upon their detailed analysis. (Nevermind that they weren’t asked to do this analysis, that’s it’s not a part of their job description, that they haven’t even been at the job for a week or the inappropriateness of trying to insert oneself into the management of a family-run business but) when the CEO’s receptionist refuses to give the new hire an appointment or balks at the new hire’s audacity, the new hire is incensed and quits.
Example B: a female narcissist believes that she has the most shiny, beautiful hair in the world despite the fact that she has chronic dandruff, an excessively oily scalp and a bald spot on the top of her head that is slowly spreading.
Becoming involved in a relationship with a narcissist is a lesson in futility because the relationship will never be a reciprocal one; ultimately “it’s all about me” which neglects the needs of the second person. As long as the narcissist’s needs and wants are being met, the good times will roll but the moment that stops or is interrupted – oh boy, watch out!
What does this have to do with domestic violence? A narcissistic personality is one of the pre-requisites that goes into an abuser’s make-up. Not all narcissists are violent, abusive and strike out at others (some just self-implode) but for those who MUST have their way (because it IS the RIGHT way after all) and are willing to use force and/or violence, the relationship between narcissism and domestic violence is no coincidence.
The sad thing about narcissism is that the prognosis for change is poor because they cannot see themselves as part of the equation that equals a problem; it’s ALWAYS got to be someone else’s fault.
There is no medication to “cure” narcissism and good luck trying to get a narcissist into therapy to change because they see nothing wrong with themselves to warrant therapy – to the contrary, they’ll see YOU as the one with the problem for suggesting therapy to them in the first place!
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and are willing to accept the blame for everything that goes wrong, are willing to cater to all their behaviors, ideas, habits and peculiarities and you’re not expecting the love you’re putting into the relationship to be returned in the same way, it could “work” (but it’ll work primarily for the narcissist). When a narcissist chooses to use violence or force as a means to obtain their ends, you’ll end up with an abuser.
Because the narcissist is so self-absorbed, trying to empathize with the plight or needs of another is simply not a part of their make-up and they don’t make the best parents either because their feelings and needs are going to come before ANYONE else’s. Self-sacrifice, a very necessary component of parenting, isn’t their style and they’ll resent it if pushed upon them; resentment will lead to anger and that anger that will lead to abuse if they’re not opposed to using violence to ultimately get their way.
“No” is not a part of the narcissist’s world unless they’re the one saying it. “No” is not an order to be taken but an argument to be overcome and once that’s accomplished, they’ll marvel at their superior wit that got them their way.
Not all narcissists are overtly so; some can very successfully pull off a humble, shy, vulnerable or needy facade to hide their superiority and draw in sympathetic caretaker-types. Abusers will spend their lifetimes perfecting their public, outward appearance – after all, you can’t get away with abuse if everyone knows you’re an abuser…
Abuse thrives in secrecy and in a world all it’s own which is a world that precisely mirrors where the narcissist lives.