I have always believed that conversations are a two way exchange of information, not a situation where one is supposed to sit their passively whilst someone else bombards you with information. Never actually allowing you a chance to say something or if doing it in message form never making you feel like your part of the conversation was read or acknowledged before they bombard you with a series of more short messages so that your phone is continually pinging and your head feels like it will explode.
When someone treats me like this it is a massive red flag. It has taken me years to identify these red flags and I wanted to share some examples with you so that you know the sort of things to look for. They can be subtle but as a rule of thumb anything that leaves you feeling anxious, guilt ridden or just plain uncomfortable should be listened to. Don’t be like me and let this go on and on. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
For example of a red flag, what reasonable person would attempt to guilt trip you for not getting your husband to do their shopping when we went into lock-down when a) he was not in work as he was in a vulnerable category, so we are having our shopping done by friends b) you live 30 minutes away from them so it isn’t a case of just dropping it on their doorstep? In typical Narc style when you offer them solutions such as their local community Facebook groups that have been set up to help people there is a long list of excuses as to why they can’t access them.
You know those conversations that leave you feeling emotionally drained? That you haven’t been heard, despite your best efforts you are left feeling guilty when you haven’t done anything at all wrong, other than state your boundaries by using the word no. Sound familiar? If so then you have probably been in contact with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic tendencies.
Now not everyone that bombards you with information without allowing you the chance to respond is a narcissist and sometimes conversations are emotionally draining due to the subject matter. I know that I can be guilty of talking too much and too quickly when I haven’t had any contact with the outside world other than Mr Myasthenia Kid. But I am not like that in every conversation you have with me, nor am I like it in every message. I’m talking about a very specific kind of person that either a) I seem to attract or b) I have had so much experience with this personality type that I can spot it a mile off. Yet I am still struggling to distance myself from them because I worry that because I have dealt with Narcs before perhaps I “see” those tendencies when they aren’t there. Narcs have the ability to make you doubt yourself even when you know 100% that it isn’t you, it’s them.
The problem with narcissism is that is it a massively under diagnosed disorder, so it is much more common than we are lead to believe. The reason it isn’t recognised as much as it should be is because no one gets diagnosed with something unless they visit a health professional because they believe that something is wrong with them. The issue with narcissists is they truly believe there is nothing wrong with them and it is the rest of the world that is the problem. So why would they ever visit someone to get a diagnosis or fix them? Plus no two narcissists are the same, they may do similar things from the narcissists play book – they are always the victim of someone else’s behaviour eg jealousy, greed, abuse, poor ability to do their job etc etc Once you have been around a narc or a series of narcs you will notice how things are never ever their fault. They could be caught red handed and they will tell you to your face that it is your fault because you caught them! They never take responsibility for their own actions and their ability to rewrite history is breathtaking.
Confront a narcissist and you will be told that a) they have no clue what you are talking about b) whatever they said or did wasn’t meant like that and you should let it go, c) that it was a joke or d) it didn’t happen. The default setting is usually that it just didn’t happen. Even if you have the evidence in your hand that shows what took place they will tell you that it didn’t happen the way you think it did. This is called gas-lighting and is designed to make you question your own ability to recall events and situations. It is a way to keep you constantly off balance so that you never have the chance to question the behaviour of the narc as you are too busy blaming yourself for the events that have transpired.
Confrontation also runs the risk of narcissistic rage which if you have never been exposed to before can be frightening. They will literally lose their shit and be out for revenge by any means. There is nothing so angry as a narcissist who has been exposed, they really can’t handle the fact that they aren’t quite as superior as they have been making themselves out to be. There is no logic with a narcissist they simply don’t believe that you have the same intellectual capacity as them and as I have already said they will deny anything you confront them with and will attempt to change the path of the argument to make it about something they believe you have done and they will end up being the aggrieved party. It is crazy making and that is the way they behave, to have you constantly doubting yourself or making you feel guilty for not doing what they want.
When you read about narcissists online you quite often see the word Grandiose however I would argue that narcissism is a spectrum, some of them do have over blown visions of themselves and expect deference from all that they meet. Others however are more subtle, some will play a game of being better than you in whatever area they like to use to make themselves feel good, so cleverer than you, more attractive than you, more friends than you, more Christian ( insert any religion here), more forgiving than you, sicker than you catch my drift?
A classic example of a narcissist is the type I call the martyr, they love to offer you help, they will put their own plans on hold and it would appear nothing is too much trouble. Yet behind your back slag you off for asking for help and act like a martyr to anyone who will listen ( another great way of becoming the victim for sympathy). There are a lot of these Martyr’s around, if they have to point out to you all their good works beware! Most people are humble and modest they don’t need outside appreciation for doing good, the act is enough.
At the heart of every Narc is a shattered ego, someone who doesn’t actually know who they are, lacks empathy or understanding. They play at life adopting personality traits they think will ingratiate themselves with others. They can appear on the outside as thoughtful, kind, caring individuals but essentially it is all a scam. Once they have you in their clutches the facade will drop and you will realise to your cost that nothing you do will ever be good enough. Your needs, will never be met by them as they are far too busy sucking the life out of you.
Narcissists don’t inhabit one class or group, look hard enough and you will realise that you have met at least one if not more. In chronic illness groups they will always claim to be sicker than all the other individuals in that group despite their being evidence to the contrary. They claim to be in agony 24/7 yet on their Instagram account the one they forget that you follow, they post about their various day trips out or holidays abroad. If they were as sick as they claim to be they wouldn’t manage half the stuff they do.For example, I had one tell me when I had my CSF leak ( and was confined to bed for much of the time) that hers was so much worse than mine but she had to get up out of bed as she had kids. What she failed to realise is that with an active / bad CSF leak there is no getting up, the pain is so intense you simply can’t get up. If you do you can end up projectile vomiting for hours. Regardless of having kids or not having a CSF Leak is not something you can just switch on and off or pull yourself together from. There is no putting a brave face on a continuing with life as normal with a CSF leak. I am now semi healed from my leak but I still have days where I have leak symptoms. I am lucky many people never get to the point I am at.
Have you ever been in a working / group environment where someone is always giving you orders ( obviously your boss is supposed to give you direction)? That they want you to do all the running around yet they are the only ones capable of presenting all the information that you have researched for them and they will take the credit for. I have known far too many in work and outside work that will churn out idea after idea and will expect everyone else to do all the graft because they are just far too sick / too busy / too important to be getting their hands dirty. When you challenge them on this you are either talked down to or guilt tripped . I don’t mind someone who delegates but joins in. I have an issue when someone sets themselves up as an unappointed leader and expects everyone else to do their bidding. As always the narc is the centre of everything, the queen bee, whilst all the worker bees are running around for them. Also if their plan fails it will be due to your lack of effort and nothing at all to do with them. Responsibility just ins’t their thing.
They adore being the centre of everything, they lurch from drama to drama. Usually the drama is of their own making but they wont take responsibility for it. They also love creating drama between people, sometimes known as triangulation. So they will make out that they are siding with you against someone else whilst secretly doing the same with the other person. The reason you and the other person fell out is probably to do with something the narc said anyway but by the time you realise this you are in too deep and the drama has become an everyday part of life.
Narcissist also hate being corrected or “shown up” so if you point out what they are saying is factually incorrect or you point out to them that they are asking you to breach company policy / the law, they see this as a personal insult. How dare you question them, how dare you point out they made a mistake? They simply can’t cope with their mistakes being pointed out so fragile are they to criticism yet they have no issue at all dishing it out. Most Narcs have never dealt with someone saying no or setting boundaries. Those that have said no or set boundaries, usually do it when first meeting the Narc, when the Narc learns that person won’t be manipulated to their way of thinking they are dropped and a new person is adopted. They form friendships ( I use that term lightly as they should be called dictatorships) quickly, over sharing and appearing vulnerable so that you feel sorry for them. Their spouse is abusive, their doctors don’t believe they are sick, their relative is abusive to them – again notice the pattern always the victim. It is never just one of these things but usually a whole load of people that are abusive horrible towards them.
I want to make it clear that yes people can be in abusive relationships, yes doctors can be a nightmare – hello have you not read my blog??? but it just isn’t possible that this person is always the victim. If they tell you they have a long history of people ghosting them / dropping them / disappearing from their lives without warning be on your guard. That is a warning sign that I have failed to take notice of previously. Always feeling sorry for the person that they were treated so badly. A person I knew would have these intense friendships with people, they thought this person was the bees knees. Then slowly but surely the complaints about the “friend” would start and then in a puff of smoke the person disappeared from their life, no explanation. I asked them about it once and was fed the line that people always seemed to do it to them. That people were always awful to them…….they were the victim. I accepted what they said on face value and thought poor them. Isn’t the world full of really awful people, not realising that those people that had disappeared had headed for the hills as soon as they could, before they were subjected to anymore narcissistic abuse.
I’ve rambled on for long enough my main point is, do listen to your instincts, if they are telling you that something isn’t right then it is a red flag. A word of warning though, when exiting a “relationship” with a narcissist always expect the smear campaign, they just can’t help themselves and will make up any old shit to tell their gullible sidekicks. They will accuse you of the most heinous actions, they will tell people you are a thief ( yet their favourite thing to do was borrow your stuff and then never give it back), that you abused them mentally, physically etc that you are an awful human being, they will even make up stuff about your nearest and dearest.
They will also use their sidekick to try and hoover you back in, either by making excuses for them , “oh they didn’t mean to do that it was brain fog”, “oh they are really sorry for the way that came across”, yet they never actually manage to admit the mistake themselves, they get others to do it for them. The other one like to get their flying monkeys to do is attempt to guilt you back into the relationship ” XXX is seriously ill in hospital”/ “XXX is so sad that you didn’t wish them a happy birthday”/ ” I don’t understand why you can’t just forgive XXX and get along”. When you refuse to be hoovered back in the narcs lose their shit again because they truly believe they should be able to control everyone. Anyone who isn’t under their control is automatically an enemy.
The question to ask yourself is am I a gullible sidekick? No one wants to think of themselves as gullible and I will be kind when it comes to Narcs you will be charmed into believing everything they say. Yet at some point in time something won’t sit easy with you. Ask yourself other than telling you something what evidence has the Narc actually provided you with? Having met the other person ( if you have) that they are smearing does what they say and the person you have met match up. Almost always your experience of the person and what the narc says are diametrically opposed. So use your critical thinking and never accept things on face value from anyone. In smear campaigns I have had some pretty awful stuff said about me and my husband and people have swallowed it hook line and sinker. Yet none of my actions or his have ever lent any credence to the lies being told. There is no proof of what the person is saying, yet their puppets accept it.
Unfortunately the only way to deal with a smear campaign is to rise above it. Don’t engage with it, don’t lower yourself to their level. If people are stupid enough to swallow the lies being told to them let them carry on. The people that know you and value your friendship will know that what is being said is rubbish. There is zero point in caring about what people that don’t really know you think. There will always be people in life that don’t like you, what’s important is to only care about the ones that do like you. Trying to fight a smear campaign will drive you crazy and will end up making you look mentally unstable playing directly into the Narcs hands. I smile knowing all the bullshit said about me and knowing that they are clueless that I know.
Know that there is no depth to which they won’t sink in a effort to look like the injured party.
Remember in whatever friendship, relationship you have it is always ok to say no and it is always ok to have boundaries. Anyone who gets upset by that needs to be given a wide berth.
Great article where you can read about Narcs and the disorder in more depth here.
More info here from the Mayo Clinic