Have you ever wondered what narcissism is, or if your partner or spouse is a narcissist?
Let us first start by looking at what the definition of narcissism is.
A narcissist is a person who thinks highly of himself with no or very little regard for other people.
Common attributes include vanity, selfishness and being the focus of all attention (6). Narcissism is a diagnosable personality disorder, and underneath the facade of confidence lies a very fragile self-esteem plus a very low self-worth (3).
A person who suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder will experience various difficulties in life, especially in situations where he must work with people.
One hallmark of a narcissist is the trail of broken relationships, both romantic and friendship, that follow behind them. Narcissists find relationships unfulfilling and on the flip side of the coin, people do not really want to be close to people with this personality disorder.
Hallmarks of a Narcissist
- A narcissist is initially a very likable person, till you get to know him better.
- A person with narcissistic traits can normally be found in a position of leadership.
- He can turn any conversation so that the focus is on him and his experiences.
- When you are talking to a person with a narcissistic personality disorder, you will find he will make use of strategic name-dropping in the conversation.
- The stories that narcissists tell are not always about how good he is, but can also be about situations where he failed or was ill-treated. These stories have an underlying theme of entitlement or being the victim. In stories of failure, it will never be the narcissist’s fault.
- Appearance is everything to the narcissist, he also loves to have nice and expensive things. Not everyone who takes care of themselves is a narcissist but in some cases, it can be an indicator. Their possessions are mostly prestige or status orientated.
- It is interesting to note that narcissists have many social media friends and none of their photos are bad photos. Social media is a tool that they use to maintain their status.
- Narcissists are not open to criticism at all, and do not react well when criticised.
- Narcissists love to externalise blame. They will never take responsibility if things go sour, it is always someone else’s fault, they are never to blame.
- They are more likely to cheat when in relationships.
- Everything is personal for a narcissist.
- A person who is a narcissist, is not likely to know he or she is a narcissist.
- Men are more likely to be narcissists than woman (1).
Are you in a Relationship with a Narcissist?
When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you will find that everything is about them. Even if it was originally your idea, he will change it to be about him.
A person that is in a relationship with a narcissist will discover that their own value will deteriorate, and the whole relationship will revolve around the other person (4). They may be subjected to abuse: mental, physical, spiritual, financial, or sexual. For example:
- Verbal abuse: it can have various forms, such as belittling, shaming, embarrassing and criticising.
- Manipulation: Indirectly influencing someone to do something he wants to be done.
- Emotional blackmail.
- The narcissist always wants to come out as the winner, everything is a competition.
- Negative contrasting: making comparisons between you and the narcissist or other people with the purpose to belittle and embarrass.
- The narcissist wants you to question your mental state and not trust your perceptions of reality (2).
Can Therapy help a Narcissist?
Due to the nature of the narcissistic personality disorder it is difficult to counsel a narcissist. The narcissist will not come willingly for therapy because he will not admit he needs help, and will find it difficult to believe that there is anything about him that needs change.
Therapy is not a quick process; the Person-Centred approach is proven to work best when counselling a Narcissist. In this process, the individual is encouraged by the counsellor to explore and express his true self. For a person to embrace change, he must become aware of areas he needs to change, and it might take some time to reach this stage in therapy.
The second part of the work the counsellor does with the narcissist, is to focus on how he relates to other people, particularly, working on his perception and ability to see other people more as human beings, than objects. This will involve encouraging the narcissistic person to show more empathy, and to realise that other people have rights and needs that are separate from his needs.
Therapy will also require the counsellor to address the issue of self-esteem with the narcissistic client. Due to many unsuccessful relationships, the person will likely have signs of low self-esteem, and struggle with rejection issues.
Narcissism is a reality and can cause real damage to relationships; it is important to be aware of signs of abuse if you are in a relationship with a narcissist. Always remember that abuse is never acceptable and there is no excuse for abuse. You may benefit from counselling if you are in a relationship with a narcissistic person.
The good news is that there is help, narcissists can be helped through therapy, and can respond well to counselling. The only issue is for the narcissist to admit he needs help, and counselling does take some time to show results.
Author: Corey Human, B Th (Hons), M Counselling, Dip Youth Work, Dip Youth Justice, Dip Couns, Dip Pentecostal Theology, Dip Ministry. Member of PACFA and CCAA.
Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- Chan, A. 18 Ways to Spot a Narcissist. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/signs-of-narcissism_us_5a26cf6de4b069df71fa196b
- Lancer, D. How to spot Narcissistic abuse. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/toxic-relationships/201709/how-spot-narcissistic-abuse
- Mayo Clinic. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
- Saeed, K. The Dangers of Staying in a Relationship with a Narcissist. https://letmereach.com/2017/03/27/the-dangers-of-staying-in-a-relationship-with-a-narcissist/
- Seddon, D. 2012. How can counselling help with Narcissism? https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/how-can-counselling-help-with-narcissism
- What is Narcissism? https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/ss/slideshow-mental-narcissism