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Narcissism and Narcissistic abuse

Updated: May 17, 2023

Narcissism is typically defined as an extreme sense of self involvement to a degree at which a person tends to ignore people surrounding them.

Generally a person may show traits of this type but a typical narcissist frequently refuses to acknowledge other people or their emotions/ feelings, this being said it also must be mentioned that they do not understand the behaviour that they are projecting onto others.

Narcissism is a trait yet it can be a part of a greater category i.e. personality disorder.

Narcissism is a spectrum thus, not every narcissist falls in the category of a disorder.

Lets learn from a case study:

​​Jaya is a successful marketing manager who has worked her way up in a well-established advertising agency. She is known for her assertiveness, confidence, and charismatic personality. However, despite her professional accomplishments, Jaya's personal life has been tumultuous, marked by failed relationships and a constant need for validation.

DSM-5 Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

To diagnose Jaya with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), her symptoms need to meet the following criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5):

Grandiosity: Jaya displays a pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy or behavior. She exaggerates her achievements, talents, and abilities. For instance, she often claims sole credit for successful marketing campaigns, disregarding the contributions of her team members.

Need for Admiration: Jaya has an excessive need for admiration and constant attention from others. She seeks validation through compliments, praises, and recognition from colleagues, friends, and romantic partners. She becomes distressed if her accomplishments are not acknowledged or if she is not the center of attention.

Lack of Empathy: Jaya demonstrates a lack of empathy and disregard for the feelings and the needs of others. She frequently dismisses or minimizes other people's emotions and struggles, focusing primarily on her own needs and desires. She tends to exploit others to further her own goals and lacks remorse for any harm caused.

Sense of Entitlement: Jaya has an unwarranted sense of entitlement and believes she deserves special treatment. She expects others to cater to her needs and comply with her demands without question. When her expectations are not met, she may become angry or resentful.

Interpersonal Exploitation: Jaya frequently exploits others for personal gain, often using her charm and charisma to manipulate people to meet her needs or advance her career. She tends to maintain relationships only if they serve her interests, and she may discard or devalue individuals who no longer provide her with the desired admiration or benefits.

Envy and Arrogance: Jaya exhibits feelings of envy towards others who she perceives as superior or more successful than herself. She may react with arrogance or contempt, belittling others to preserve her own self-esteem.

We learnt the DSM criteria for Narcissistic Personality but, when you meet a person with narcissism the above mentioned traits may not be what you first observe, common signs seen of a narcissist include them being very charming and charismatic especially in relationships.

What must be pointed out is that these relationships are built for the purpose of reinforcing their ideas about themselves, and also they like to surround themselves with people who tend to feed off their ego.

So, what is it like to live with someone who has a narcissistic personality?

  • Living or working with someone who is narcissistic can have extreme and long lasting effects.

  • Self-doubt, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy can be a few challenges that one might face when living with or around a narcissistic person.

  • What it feels like to be exposed to a person with narcissism-

  • Blaming you may be a daily thing

  • Criticism is frequent

  • Opinions and feelings may be termed as unimportant

A constant feeling of you never doing enough may be felt

Your past events, and situations may feel like stories narrated by them.

When I was doing my research on this topic I found some interesting comments made by people on living with narcissists so let's take a glance into these anonymous stories.

“Being in a relationship with a narcissist makes you feel crazy, and that’s exactly their plan.”…

“Surviving and managing the relationship with a narcissistic mother has been the greatest challenge of my life. I continue to experience patterns of control, manipulation, egocentrism, codependency, compulsive lying, blaming/shaming, threats, condescension, verbal attacks and much more.

However, shifting from a space of resistance to one of surrender and acceptance that the behavior will not change has been the key to my healing. I am finding effective ways to set healthy boundaries, protect my energy, limit contact and work through the trauma, stress, exhaustion, feelings of unworthiness and the mental and emotional abuse. At times it can feel like a rollercoaster, however, for the most part, there is steady progress each day and I can feel myself moving out of survival mode and into thriving mode.”

“I am a survivor. I was married into a family of narcissists. I always describe the experience as ‘living with a live leech who deliberately sucked the joy and life out of me.’ Surviving is exhausting, but I wish I knew of all the resources that are available.”

“The pressure to conform was constant, autonomy was out of the question growing up. If I didn’t feed the air supply, I didn’t have value, I was only visible as a people pleaser. I was told I was selfish for having my own views, I was plagued with self-doubt. I had a sense that something was just not right. I hit many rock bottoms in my late 40’s and early 50’s. As I started to deconstruct the beliefs I took on, that is when I realized my family was messed up.”

Narcissistic abuse is a term that became prominent in the early 21st century but emerged in the late 20s itself. It originally alludes to a specific type of emotional abuse done by narcissistic parents to their children.

Sándor Ferenczi wrote about narcissistic parents and abuse in 1994 in one of his seminar papers called “Confusion of Tongues between adults and the child”, he said, parents can have distorted patterns of interactions with children which ultimately produce what he termed as “Narcissistic Modifications”.

Half a century later, Kohut talked about “maternal and paternal misrecognition amounts to a failure to perform anti narcissistic behaviours”

Karen Horney later stated independently that childhood hurt breed’s narcissism and abuse in parents.

Lenore Walker in 1979 gave “ The cycle of abuse” a theory that takes into notice continual, repeated events in an abusive form of relationship.

This theory states that there are four stages to abuse-

a. Tension

b. Incident

c. Honeymoon

d. Calm

A relationship doesn’t not specifically have to be physically violent but emotional, spiritual and psychological abuse may also count for the cause of causing harm or being abusive.

A narcissistic abuse follows this very pattern of abuse, but, there is no beginning or end to this abuse, it is perhaps a continuous cycle of abuse so if you feel you have been in a mentally abusive relationship reach out to us at Psychoflakes.

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