It seems we’ve hit the cooler weather with grey skies that often keeps us hiding indoors wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace. It is during these months that my husband and I turn to playing board games when we cannot enjoy walking outside much or riding our bikes, let alone sunbathing.
I often fantasize about creating my own board games based on my knowledge as a therapist. After someone sent me the video you’ll find below recently, I was inspired. I thought it could be fun to sit around with a few close friends and figure out what type of narcissist lurks in your midst by educating yourself on the four kinds outlined in this article.
I think it goes without saying that it would be much kinder to pick from people you don’t actually know like politicians, actors and irritating people with YouTube channels but I’ll leave that up to your discretion.
One of the most common topics that arises in therapy sessions is how to deal with narcissists both near and far. You can check out the following pieces I wrote which you may find helpful as resources on the subject:
The following video features psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist and gives you a primer on the four main categories of narcissists. Following that is an excerpt from an American Psychological Association interview with Dr. Durvasula entitled, Speaking of Psychology:Recognizing a narcissist where she goes over all of the traits narcissists share in common and what it’s like being in a relationship with one:
Narcissism is very much sort of the buzzword of our time. And it is woefully misunderstood. Narcissism is very much viewed as a disorder of sort of inflated self-esteem and grandiosity. It is those things, but in fact, it’s a disorder of self-esteem. People with narcissism are often the most insecure people in the room and they’ve established a way of showing themselves as anything but – that they often look like the most confident person in the room but there’s an emptiness there.
I often say there are sort of four pillars to narcissism. Lack of empathy, grandiosity, a chronic sense of entitlement and a chronic need to seek out admiration from other people and validation from other people. Those really create the core of that disorder. And then that’s coupled with this sort of inability to regulate self-esteem – that sense of always peddling faster to get the regard of other people. And has even been viewed very much as a disorder of attachment – that inability to make deep, intimate, connected and phatic ties to another human being.
When you’re with someone who’s narcissistic, it can often throw you off because initially, because they’re so good at putting on that admiration seeking show – they can be charismatic, often quite smart, charming and very gripping. But over time, all of that superficial façade is met behind with a real lack of empathy, often a lack of compassion, they often don’t listen very well, they’ll be prone to patterns like deceit and lying. It’s not the stuff that is good for very connected relationships. And the fact is, the impacts of narcissism aren’t just in the intimate relationship. We see them in any critical relationships. Narcissistic parents, narcissistic children, siblings, friends, co-workers and bosses. It behaves the same in all of those situations, but more than anything it often feels like we’re not being heard, we’re not being noticed and in fact we’re often being criticized and rejected on a chronic day after day way.
The tough thing about a relationship with a narcissist is that they often run on hope. Most people, especially in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, these relationships run on the hope of a someday’s better. I always call it the Beauty and the Beast piece of this because what did Beauty do? She just sort of danced around and loved the Beast and one day he went from a raging beast to a prince. A lot of people have taken that fairytale and they have injected it into their lives saying if I love him enough, if I dance around enough, if I’m sweet enough, if I’m pretty enough, if I’m this enough, if I’m that enough, then I will please him and he will go from being a raging beast to a prince. It is never going to be enough and I think that’s the real paradox in the narcissistic relationship.
So then the bigger question becomes, what do you do? If you’re never going to be enough, one thing you need to do is to stop exhausting yourself to try to be so. Every human being in the world comes into this world more than enough and exits this world more than enough. So that’s got to be the central premise. The key then becomes managing your expectations. Nothing is ever going to be enough for the narcissist and so it’s really to be your best version of yourself for yourself, for your meaning, for your purpose, to live in line with that. If it works for that person, great. If it doesn’t, you’re never going to be the one to please them anyhow. That’s a really difficult thing to ask people to do because again, managing expectations often does mean giving up hope. I think it’s more like a re-rendering of hope. It’s re-writing that hope in a way that’s less about trying to run around in circles and trying to please one person, but really embedding it in your larger version of being again, a compassionate person yourself.
And for many people to hear that this is all about a hope of a someday that’s never going to come, rather than making them feel more hopeless, for many of them they say, “I now feel like I’m living in less futility. Thank you. And I can manage my expectations.” And in lying with managing those expectations, comes a need to make sure that you build up supportive networks around you. So if you have that partner that doesn’t listen, if you have that boss that’s sabotaging you, if you have that friend who is chronically not compassionate, when you have something good happen to you or something you want a sounding board for, don’t take it to them. Take it to those people in your world, your stakeholders who are good listeners – who are your cheerleaders, who do support you. So many people exhaust themselves in the process of trying to please the unpleasable narcissist. They forget all of the great listeners and all of the compassionate and phatic people they already have in their lives.