Can someone with narcissistic personality disorder change

Can a Narcissist Actually Change? Experts Explain What It Takes

No one wants to be called a narcissist. In our day-to-day lexicon, the term’s become a go-to insult for abusive exes, demanding bosses, selfie-obsessed influencers, and celebrities who casually decide to run for public office. Often, narcissists are boiled down to self-centered jerks you’re best off avoiding at all costs.

In the world of psychology, though, narcissism is far more complex than that. “As a personality trait, narcissism exists on a spectrum from healthy functioning to severely disordered,” explains Mark Ettensohn, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Unmasking Narcissism . Some level of narcissism is normal and even healthy and adaptive, he says. It’s only when your narcissistic tendencies become a life-disrupting constant that you veer into the territory of a bona-fide mental health condition known as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

According to the DSM-5, people living with NPD have an overblown self-image, an inexhaustible need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. They believe they’re part of an elite group and therefore deserve the best of everything, from special treatment at the DMV to the perfect love to match their idealized version of themselves. About 6% of Americans may fit the criteria for a diagnosis of NPD at some point in their lives, and risk factors include being young, male, and single.

Are all narcissists the same?

There are two main subtypes of narcissists to be aware of, explains W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of The New Science of Narcissism. Grandiose narcissists are most closely aligned with the stereotypical narcissist: They’re often charmers with off-the-charts high self-esteem driven by a relentless need for more attention and a higher status. Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, suffer from dangerously low self-esteem and can be more quiet, reserved, and resentful, like the undiscovered “genius” who refuses to get a job that’s “below” him.

If you suspect that someone in your life is highly narcissistic (or may even be living with NPD), maintaining your relationship can be a huge burden, especially if you’re romantically involved, per a 2019 study published in the Journal of Personality Disorders. In order to prop themselves up, narcissists may put you down, sabotage you, or even publicly humiliate you, says Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., a therapist, lawyer, and author of Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In the worst-case scenario, some people with NPD could also become aggressive or violent when they sense their shaky ego has been threatened.

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Besides letting it out on you, narcissists can also hurt themselves. Often, a diagnosis comes along with health issues including addiction, depression, and anxiety. All in all, people with NPD are more likely to end up with a criminal conviction and spend time in prison.

If you’re living with a narcissist, the advice caring friends give tends to be along the lines of, “Run fast and don’t look back.” For the sake of self-preservation, that makes sense. However, it’s not always easy or even possible to cut off all contact with a narcissist when they’re your parent, partner, or friend.

In this case, a few questions are likely top of mind: Can narcissists change? And if so, what does it take? As someone who cares about them (or at least has to live with them), is there anything you can do to support their recovery while protecting yourself?

Can narcissists actually change?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question, and it may depend on where exactly this person falls on the spectrum of narcissism. “Anyone can change, but as is true with any personality disorder, the path to healing is long and difficult,” says Ettensohn.

The greatest barrier to a narcissist’s success tends to be their own narcissism.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, therapy with an experienced mental health professional can help a narcissist reflect on their feelings, come to understand their history, and develop new skills to cope with their condition. As far as the empathy deficit goes, research suggests that it is possible for some narcissists to build up their capacity for empathy when they practice taking on someone else’s perspective, says Campbell.

Ultimately, the greatest barrier to a narcissist’s success tends to be their own narcissism. Narcissists have to be motivated to change, and many aren’t simply because they can’t see that they have a problem or they just don’t care. Sometimes, it isn’t until they experience a major personal crisis such as a failure at work, the loss of an important relationship, or another deeply humbling experience that they feel compelled to seek help.

Even if a narcissist makes it into therapy, though, it can be a herculean task to keep them committed to the hard work that real and lasting change requires, as many would rather quit than kill their ego.

What should you do if you think someone in your life may have narcissistic personality disorder?

If you’re looking for a sign that change is possible, ask yourself if this person has ever taken responsibility for their own behavior or tried to behave differently, says Eddy. An acknowledgement such as, “I’m sorry I hurt you, that wasn’t my intent,” may indicate that there is a path forward.

Then, use these tips to navigate life with a narcissist:

1. Check in with yourself.

It’s extremely difficult to change yourself let alone your partner or family members, so remember that it’s not your job to “fix” a narcissist in your life. While narcissism and abuse are not always intertwined, if this person is abusive towards you (or you’ve noticed some red flags in your relationship), your first priority should be your own safety, says Ettensohn. Talking to a domestic violence advocate or therapist can help you figure out what next steps are right for you (to reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522).

2. Don’t call them a “narcissist.”

Only a therapist or psychiatrist can make an official diagnosis of NPD and just as you shouldn’t diagnose yourself with a mental disorder, it’s best to avoid flinging labels that could be stigmatizing or hurtful at a loved one.

“I wouldn’t recommend suggesting to the person that they are narcissistic or have narcissistic personality disorder because those terms are so loaded,” says Ettensohn. And if they do indeed fit the criteria for NPD, it’s important to approach the issue carefully because they’re likely very sensitive to feeling criticized, he says.

3. Focus on symptoms.

Having NPD can be deeply distressing, especially if the person is in an endless battle with low self-esteem. As such, it may help to point out that they seem to have trouble feeling consistently good about themselves and that therapy might help them feel better, says Ettensohn. To balance out these observations, reassure them that they’re loved and valued just the way they are, he suggests.

4. Set boundaries.

If this person has shown you that they’re not interested in changing, it’s important to identify what you want from this relationship and what you’re willing to put up with. While setting boundaries can be a difficult task if you’ve gotten used to putting up with hurtful behavior, it’s a great way to protect yourself from the worst of someone’s narcissistic tendencies, says Eddy.

For example, if you have a family member who frequently jabs at you with petty insults, calmly and clearly communicate that you will not allow this to go on: “If you’re going to speak to me like that, I’m going to have to end this conversation and talk when you’re ready to be respectful. It isn’t good for either of us for you to talk to me that way.”

5. Walk away.

“If a narcissistic loved one refuses to get help, then you should consider whether staying in the relationship is the best option moving forward,” says Ettensohn. While it’s painful to break up, consider divorce, or distance yourself from a family member, especially if you’ve shared a lot of great memories, it is possible to move on—for your benefit and theirs.

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Lauren Krouse

Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer who covers health, domestic violence, and self-advocacy. Her work appears in _Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Self, HuffPost, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to meditate more, weightlifting, or walking in the woods with her partner and black lab.

Can a Narcissist Change? What to Expect

If you’ve ever done research to determine whether someone you know is a narcissist, you’ve probably encountered plenty of articles alleging that narcissists are inherently evil and incapable of change.

These assumptions don’t do justice to narcissism’s complexity, though. The truth is, everyone is capableof change. It’s just that many people with narcissism lack the desire or face other barriers (including harmful stereotypes).

People with narcissistic tendencies may display:

  • grandiose behavior and fantasies
  • arrogance and entitlement
  • low empathy
  • a need for admiration and attention

These traits, while often deeply entrenched, aren’t always permanent. In fact, a 2019 study suggests that narcissistic tendencies naturally tend to decrease with age.

That doesn’t mean you have to wait around for nature to take its course, though. If someone’s ready to change, therapy offers a faster, more effective path.

Again, some people with narcissistic tendencies might not have an interest in changing. But others do.

How do you determine whether you or someone close to you is ready to change? There’s no single answer.

“Someone would have to recognize that primarily seeing others as resources, rather than people with their own interests, is causing them to suffer, and be interested enough in their thoughts and feelings to find out how and why they approach others in that way,” says Jason Wheeler, PhD, a New York psychologist.

These following signs suggest someone is open to examining their behavior and exploring ways to create change.

Acknowledging the feelings of others

Many people believe “narcissism” equals “no empathy.” While people with narcissistic tendencies often find it difficult to consider the feelings and perspectives of other people, research from 2014 suggests that empathy, while often low, isn’t always absent.

People with narcissism can develop greater empathy when motivated to do so, most notably when taking on the perspective of a person they see as similar to themselves or when considering the experiences of their children or others who idealize or value them.

Someone who shows affection or concern for certain people may be ready to explore further change in therapy.

Interest in their behavior

Someone who wonders why they act the way they do may be open to exploring their behavior in therapy. This interest might come about after reading articles or books on narcissism, or when someone points out their narcissistic tendencies.

It’s possible for people with narcissistic traits to function fairly well in daily life. Intelligence and a drive to succeed can fuel an interest in not only their own behavior, but the behavior of others. This can lead to progress toward viewing other people as equals rather than inferiors.

Willingness to self-reflect

Self-reflection can be a challenge for people dealing with narcissism because it damages their protective shell of perfection.

A key characteristic of narcissism is the inability to see the mix of positive and negative characteristics that all people possess (known as whole object relations).

Instead, most people with narcissistic traits tend to see people, themselves included, as entirely good (perfect) or entirely bad (worthless). If their assumption of their own perfection is challenged, they might lash out or become trapped in a spiral of shame and self-hatred.

Those who can examine and reflect on negative behaviors — without responding by devaluing the person offering criticism or themselves — may be ready for more extensive exploration.

Dual diagnosis

It’s not uncommon for people with narcissistic tendencies to experience other mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, anorexia nervosa, and substance misuse.

These other issues, rather than narcissistic traits, often encourage people to seek therapy. The desire to relieve existing emotional pain and prevent future distress may be a strong motivator to work toward change.

While therapy can help address issues related to narcissism, it works best when provided by a therapist with specialized training for dealing with narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Even with a qualified therapist, the process can take several years. It’s not uncommon for people to leave therapy once they see some improvement of specific unwanted symptoms, such as depression, or when they no longer feel invested in the work involved.

There are several approaches to dealing with narcissism, but therapy typically involves these essential steps:

  • identifying existing defense mechanisms
  • exploring reasons behind these coping methods
  • learning and practicing new patterns of behavior
  • exploring how behaviors affect others
  • examining connections between their internal voice and their treatment of others

The key to lasting progress often lies in:

  • helping someone see how positive change can benefit them
  • helping them explore causes of narcissistic defenses without criticism or judgment
  • offering validation
  • encouraging self-forgiveness and self-compassion to manage shame and vulnerability

There are a few types of therapy that are particularly useful for dealing with narcissism.

Schema therapy, a newer approach to treatment shown to have benefit for treating narcissism, works to help people address trauma of early experiences that may have contributed to narcissistic defenses.

Other beneficial therapies include:

  • Gestalt therapy
  • mentalization-based therapy
  • transference-focused psychotherapy
  • psychoanalysis

Dr. Wheeler also emphasizes the importance of group therapy for people with personality-related issues. Group therapy provides an opportunity for people to see how others perceive them. It also allows people to note how parts of their personality impact others.

The causes of personality disorders aren’t fully known, but narcissistic tendencies typically emerge as a type of self-protection.

In other words, many people with narcissism had a narcissistic parent or experienced some type of abuse or neglect early in life. The negative messages and criticism they absorb become their internal voice.

To defend against this negative voice, they develop maladaptive coping strategies, or narcissistic defenses. Their treatment of others typically reflects how they feel about themselves.

If someone you love has chosen to get help for narcissism, here are some ways you can support them.

Offer encouragement and validation

People with narcissism typically respond well to praise. They may want to do well in order to demonstrate their ability, especially as therapy begins. Your recognition of the effort they’re putting in may motivate them to keep going and increase the likelihood of successful therapy.

Understand when they’re making progress

Therapy for narcissism can take a long time, and progress may happen slowly. You might notice some changes early on, such as attempts to control outbursts or avoid dishonesty or manipulation. But other behaviors, like anger in response to perceived criticism, may persist.

Working with your own therapist can help you learn to recognize improvements and determine for yourself what behavioral change has to happen for you to continue the relationship.

Learn what apologizing behaviors look like

Part of therapy may involve recognizing problematic behavior and learning to make amends. But the person will probably continue having a hard time admitting wrongdoing or sincerely apologizing.

Instead of discussing the situation or saying, “I’m sorry,” they may opt to show a gesture of apology, such as treating you to a fancy dinner or doing something nice for you.

When maintaining a relationship with someone who has narcissistic traits, remember that mental health conditions don’t excuse abuse and other bad behavior. Your well-being should remain your priority.

Look out for abuse

Narcissistic behaviors aren’t always abusive, but keep an eye out for:

  • put-downs, gaslighting, and silent treatment
  • lying
  • become enraged when they don’t receive what they see as their due
  • lashing out when feeling insecure or humiliated

It’s never wrong to have compassion, but don’t let it keep you from noting abuse or manipulation. You may care about your partner, but you also have to look after yourself.

Don’t treat therapy like a miracle cure

Therapy can have a lot of benefit, but it may not be enough to help you and your partner to sustain a mutually fulfilling relationship.

Also keep in mind that small positive changes don’t suggest total improvement. Try to accept and encourage these instances of growth without expecting more of the same to follow right away.

Pushing someone too hard may lead them to resist further change, so it often helps to pick your battles.

You might choose to call out attempts at manipulation, for example, but let self-admiring remarks go by without comment. Balancing this with encouragement for their effort can also have positive results.

Don’t let boundaries slip

Maybe you’ve previously said, “If you use nasty language, I’ll leave for the night.” After a few months of your partner offering some kind words with no put-downs, they devalue you on one occasion during an argument.

You feel inclined to let this go, since they’ve been doing so well. But this can reinforce the behavior, which hurts you both. Instead, stick to your boundary while encouraging them to keep up their progress.

Narcissistic tendencies can improve with support from a compassionate, trained therapist. If you choose to remain in a relationship someone dealing with these issues, it’s essential to work with your own therapist to establish healthy boundaries and develop resilience.

Therapy does require a significant commitment and effort. Even during and after therapy, your partner may never respond in the way you hope. They may struggle with vulnerability throughout life and continue to find empathy challenging.

If they have interest in the process and stick with it, though, small improvements in their behavior and emotional outlook may lead to greater, lasting change.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

Narcissists: who they are, signs of narcissism, rules of conduct

The article was checked and commented by clinical psychologist and scientific researcher Christina Andreyuk.

  1. Who is
  2. How to recognize
  3. Men and women
  4. Types
  5. Treatment
  6. How to communicate
  7. How to leave

Who is a narcissist?

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Narcissism is a feature of the psyche in which a person perceives himself as a unique individual, considers himself better than others, which is not always true. In fact, these traits are present in the character of many people. In a healthy personality, they result in ambition and a desire to please. But under a certain scenario, laid down in childhood, such behavior can turn into a pathology, which is often accompanied by other diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder and depression.

Contrary to popular belief, people with narcissistic personality disorder do not like themselves very much. Rather, they admire their grandiose projection, which allows them to close gaps in their own self-esteem. Such protection allows narcissists to avoid deep feelings and self-doubt. A person with this disorder does not tolerate minimal criticism, he perceives remarks as a personal insult and is able to throw a tantrum if someone refuses to admire him. You can check how narcissistic traits are characteristic of you or your partner using the NPI questionnaire [1]. The more positive answers a person gives to statements from the list compiled by American psychologists and researchers Robert Raskin and Howard Terry, the more narcissistic features appear in him. Meeting people with a true personality disorder is not easy. According to various sources, their number in society varies from 1 to 6%.

How to recognize a narcissist?

According to the American psychiatrists' handbook "Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" [2], there are nine signs of narcissistic personality disorder. If at least five of these are present, a doctor may suspect a disorder. Usually such a person:

  1. Has an inflated sense of self-importance. He often exaggerates his achievements and talents. Expects people to admire his actions, even if they were minor. If the narcissist organized the cleaning of the yard, then at least the district newspaper should write about it.
  2. Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, or ideal love. To each new partner, the narcissist can say that he is the love of his life or wait for him to fulfill his fantasies. The beginning of such a relationship is a magical, but short period. In work, the narcissist, according to him, is a genius. If he has not been able to achieve great results, he is simply sure that success lies ahead of him, even if it is time for him to retire.
  3. Believes that he is not like others and has few equals. Therefore, the environment must match. The narcissist chooses “special” people as friends and partners, for example, with high social status or model appearance. Thus, he seems to reflect himself through them, because his problems are unique and can only be understood by special people. Narcissists like to be associated with big brands, whether it be in their work projects or clothing choices.
  4. Requires constant attention, recognition and admiration, even if you just took out the trash or cooked dinner.
  5. Absolutely sure that everyone owes him. Expectations for other people are usually very high. Close people are obliged to fulfill the requests of the narcissist at the first call.
  6. Uses other people to achieve his own goals. For him, it goes without saying. The narcissist is not used to sincerely thanking for services and does it only within the framework of the accepted ethical norm.
  7. It is difficult for him to experience empathy. Such people are not able to draw a parallel between their feelings and the feelings of others. Therefore, the narcissist does not even think about when he hurts someone. Very often, this behavior is mistaken for abuse by partners of narcissists. In fact, he may be concerned with how to hide the shame of his failure and not lose his greatness.
  8. Often jealous of others and believes that others envy him. In the latter case, it is by this circumstance that the narcissist explains the criticism of others in his address.
  9. Arrogant towards other people. Such a person absolutely sincerely believes that he is better than others, and other people's shortcomings are an excellent reason to assert himself.

To decide to end a relationship with a narcissist, write down the reasons for breaking up and keep the list with you

© Unsplash

Men and women are narcissists disorder in one form or another, men are more likely to be affected by this disorder than women.

The data were collected over a period of 30 years, and the percentage ratio between the sexes did not change much during this time [3].

In doing so, the researchers noted two important points. First, male narcissists were more likely than females to exploit others and believe they were entitled to certain privileges. Secondly, men were more likely to seek power. Scientists explain this by the fact that until recently, leadership qualities did not meet the criteria for femininity. According to one of the authors of the study, Emily Griyalva, girls are more often criticized for aggressiveness and authoritarianism. Thus, society unconsciously suppressed manifestations of narcissistic behavior [4].

As regards vanity and striving for a bright self-presentation, in this respect there was no significant difference between men and women.

Types of narcissists and how they are formed

There are different approaches to the formation of narcissism, including studies that allow for genetic influence, but this is not a decisive factor in the formation of personality.

In 1914, Sigmund Freud stated that children somehow go through a stage of primary narcissism. He believed that this was an intermediate stage of growing up, but later he singled out other forms of narcissism, to a greater extent associated with mental disorders.

Neuro-Freudian Karen Horney argued that the development of such character traits may be due to the fact that parents in various ways pushed the child to create psychological protection. For example, they could delegate the embodiment of their ambitions or rejected the real manifestations of the child, instilling a sense of inferiority.

The contribution of parental figures to the formation of narcissistic disorder is also noted by psychotherapist and researcher Otto Kernberg. He compares narcissism with a false prop that a person erects in order to receive from others the admiration and confidence that he did not receive from his parents in childhood and cannot give himself in adulthood [5].

In the book of psychologist Elinor Greenberg "Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: the pursuit of Love Admiration and Safety" [6], the author divides narcissists into three types:

  1. Open, or grandiose. Embodied stereotype. A bright character illustrating this feature of development and behavior. His whole being screams, "Look at me." This childish behavior indicates that a person is stuck at an age when adults pay a lot of attention to the child, praise him excessively, suggest that he is special, forgetting to teach him empathy.
  2. Hidden or depressive. Such people can grow up in families where one of the relatives, including mother or father, was a narcissist. At the same time, there was a high level of competition for love and attention. On the one hand, children copied the behavior model of narcissistic parents, on the other hand, such a child formed protective mechanisms, since an adult narcissist would certainly assert himself at his expense. Growing up, such people may not openly say that they are special. They would rather choose a person, a book, an object and exalt their virtues. Thus, the narcissist puts them on a par with himself. In personal relationships, such people do not like direct conflicts. Their weapon is passive aggression. A favorite technique is to promise and not deliver, and then blame the other person for everything. They tend to be insecure, and ambivalent behavior often leads them to depression.
  3. Perverse or toxic. Such people go even further. They love not only admiration, but also submission. Narcissists of this type love to wreak havoc around themselves, the same that reigned in their childhood in relationships with their parents. These narcissists often give their partners an emotional rollercoaster of humiliation and praise. They take pleasure in destroying other people's careers, destroying people morally and spiritually.

Mixed representatives of these types also exist.

Treatment for Narcissism

Most often, narcissists do not even suspect that something is wrong with them, because they do not tend to blame themselves for something. So if such people were seen by a specialist, then the reason for this could be related problems: depression, bipolar disorder, or excessive alcohol consumption. There is no cure for narcissism yet. Psychotherapy has a positive effect on such patients. Properly structured classes can help a person establish relationships with loved ones, learn to withstand criticism, stop despising themselves and others, set realistic goals and achieve them, and not dream of sky-high heights [7].

Although there is no cure for narcissism yet, psychotherapy has a positive effect

© Thiago Matos / Pexels

How to communicate with a narcissist?

Building an even relationship with a narcissist is not always easy. Some prefer to just cut them off. But what if this is not possible? Let's say that person is a family member or ex-husband/wife with whom you have children in common.

  • The first thing psychologists advise is to try to detach yourself emotionally. Ignore toxic statements and manipulations. It is useless to expect sudden changes in behavior from such people. According to research, narcissists do not tend to learn from their own mistakes simply because they are sure they did not make them [8].
  • Your personal boundaries are your guard against the actions of a narcissist. “This won’t happen to me anymore”, “I won’t fall for these manipulations” - phrases that will help to avoid an unpleasant conversation or intrusive requests of a narcissist. You can't wait for a response.
  • The shortest possible answers, conditionally “yes” and “no”, are your main allies in a dialogue with such a person if he began to resort to manipulation. By minimizing communication, you give him much less reason to hook on to some phrase and launch an attack.
  • Stick to the topic of conversation and don't get sidetracked. Perhaps your counterpart will try to knock you out of the saddle with accusations or get personal. In this case, the phrase “We are going off topic” will help bring the discussion back on track.
  • Compliments. If you really need to get something out of a narcissist, don't be stingy with praise. Most likely, he will even enjoy fulfilling your request. Yes, this is manipulation, but who said that only a narcissist can use this technique?

How to get away from a narcissist

The end of a relationship is never easy. With a narcissist, breaking up can be doubly difficult. For him, the fact that he was abandoned is an intolerable insult. That is why he will try by hook or by crook to bring the partner back. During this period, he will become sensitive and gentle, will swear eternal love and will do this until his victim loses his vigilance. Often, therefore, relationships with a narcissist develop into a cycle of breaks and reunions. Nevertheless, if you decide to put an end to your communication, psychologists recommend the following:

  • Write down the reasons why you want to leave. It's best to keep this list around in case the narcissist decides to drag you back into the relationship by talking about eternal love.
  • Give up illusions. It is difficult for such people to change, especially without the help of a specialist. Do you have time to wait until he finally learns to show empathy and respect?
  • Break all contacts. Ask a friend to pick up your belongings from the narcissist. Block this person in all phones and messengers. If you have children in common, at first ask someone close to you to be with you at general meetings.
  • Release your feelings. Breaking up, even with a toxic person, is always hard. Give yourself time to get over this situation. Just don't expect the narcissist to suffer in return. Most likely, during this period, he will try to restore his shattered ego and will choose not the most pleasant ways for this: either he will tell everyone what a bad person you are, or seek solace in the arms of someone else.

There are nine signs of narcissism, but five signs can already be suspected of it

© Martino Pietropoli / Unsplash

Kristina Andreyuk, clinical psychologist, researcher. Research interests: mentalization, manipulative behavior, personality disorders

In addition to family relationships, external factors can also enhance narcissistic traits. Media and social networks broadcast often unattainable ideals, and self-improvement services are imposed by advertising. All this can affect the psyche.

In "normal narcissism" people try to please others, to achieve success in work, which helps them to adapt in society. However, in the case of pathology, a person's ideas about themselves are distorted. In this case, the emphasis is on the grandiosity of his figure. He experiences difficulties in forming adequate ideas about other people, abuses manipulations, grossly violates the boundaries of the interlocutor and ignores his comfort. Narcissistic features can manifest themselves in pathological perfectionism, hypochondria, constant attempts to correct their "flaws", including, for example, transforming one's appearance as the most noticeable attribute of self-presentation for others.

On the surface, narcissists give the impression of being rather pleasant people. According to research, many socially active narcissists have charisma, know how to hold an audience, are not afraid to express themselves, appear self-confident, and have high claims regarding academic and professional achievements. These qualities often show up in job interviews and help narcissists get into leadership positions. However, such bosses may use too subjective criteria when evaluating employees, focusing not on their professional achievements, but on the degree of admiration, devotion, and the absence of doubts about the correctness of the leader's decisions.

Close relationships are difficult for narcissists. In partners and friends, they are primarily looking for confirmation of their exclusivity, superiority (which reinforces vulnerable self-esteem). Often, such people confuse the attachment that accompanies healthy partnerships and collaborations with the addiction that can shackle and inspire fear. The demands of constant adoration and recognition of their grandiosity, which the narcissist often implements in the form of excessive control over the thoughts and feelings of a partner, in most cases, sooner or later are not fully satisfied, which leads to conflicts and increased manipulative behavior.

If you have found any manifestations of narcissistic traits in yourself and want to change them, then it will be useful for you to develop the skills of self-reflection, mentalization (understanding mental states), work on the development of emotional intelligence, empathy (for example, discuss with friends the films you have watched, read books in terms of understanding the inner world of the characters, their motivation, etc.). It is very important to learn to analyze what is happening from different positions, without sliding into extreme points, such as, for example, idealization and depreciation - look for alternative explanations. Try to look at situations or actions from different angles, noting the possible positive aspects of seemingly negative events, including during conversations with loved ones.

If your loved one has narcissistic traits, you need to learn how to track the emotional states of both you and your interlocutor. It is necessary to soberly analyze situations of interpersonal communication. For example, learning to recognize imposed guilt requires being able to maintain your boundaries and autonomy of choice. Psychotherapeutic help will be useful in both cases.

Tags: psychology

Manipulate me if you can: how to recognize a narcissist

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They are smart, sweet and charming. You fall into the net of their charm after a few minutes of communicating with them. They always create only dependent relationships. Where are they from - narcissists? What do they need? How not to get hooked, how to figure them out in your environment and what to do so that you are not driven to suicide - Tatiana Skritskaya, a family psychologist at the Familia Center, answers these and other questions.

- Most of the serious research on narcissists and manipulators is translations of foreign scientists. The problem is becoming more and more urgent for Russian psychologists. In their practice, psychologists and psychotherapists are increasingly faced with victims of people with narcissistic personality disorder, returning many of them literally from the next world. And judging by the scale of the problem, there is no doubt that it will only get worse in the future.

- Foreign experts identify people with a certain type of character, with the characteristics of the so-called "dark triad". It includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and emotional coldness.

Narcissism is the need to be the center of attention and be admired. Such people maintain their grandiosity through the impression they make on others.

Machiavellianism is a lust for power, deceit and manipulation of other people. They are also distinguished by emotional coldness and are not able to experience warm feelings for others and even for close people.

People with high intelligence who have the qualities of the dark triad tend to be very successful. One example of such a person was Steve Jobs. He was unbearable for the environment, difficult to communicate with partners. At the same time, having a very difficult character, he was incredibly efficient and charismatic.

The modern world actively encourages the effectiveness, selfishness and financial solvency of a person. It is by these components that many people around us evaluate us. It is important to be more successful, earn more, get married earlier (more successfully) and so on ... The main thing is to have something to brag to your girlfriends.

Accordingly, in recent decades, there are more and more such tough, selfish and unscrupulous loners. And psychologists are increasingly turning to people who have received psychological trauma as a result of communicating with them.

In the photo: family psychologist Tatyana Skritskaya and psychologist Igor Dobryakov. Photo:

- Narcissist and manipulator - is it always an equal sign?

- No. The degree of expression of these qualities may be different in different people. Narcissism can be healthy as an indicator of good self-esteem and an incentive for self-realization and development.

Malignant daffodils are different. They are very sweet, smart, charming, it's nice to be around them, we feel a surge of strength, interest in our person, but after parting, we are covered with emotional and physical exhaustion, fatigue. And sometimes there is a vague feeling that we were used.

Narcissists are sometimes referred to as "emotional vampires". Such people have no esoteric abilities. When communicating with ordinary people, we always get something from a partner: positive emotions, support, advice.

After communicating with a narcissist, many describe their state as devastation, exhaustion, a feeling that they have been used, that is, spending our time and energy, we do not receive anything in return.

The narcissist is not interested in people who understand his nature and who are able to resist being drawn into dependent relationships, because through such people he will not be able to receive confirmation of his grandiosity, they are almost impossible to use.

— Is this the conscious behavior of a person or is it still driven by some kind of his nature? Perhaps the reason for this behavior lies elsewhere?

- Differently. The pronounced manifestation of the characteristics of the “dark triad” in a person is considered to be an innate feature. Such people have a certain value system in which it is permissible to use others.

The world and people are perceived as objects to satisfy their own needs. They easily identify potential victims, who are used and easily changed to new ones if necessary.

We can say that the highly competitive modern world contributes to the emergence of people with such character traits. Some psychologists say that this is the next stage of human evolution.

Today it is not necessary for people to live in groups to survive. The environment does not imply that we need someone for physical survival. Therefore, families and traditional relationships between people are gradually being transformed.

Money can replace interaction with other people and maintain a high quality of life. A certain amount of money implies that we can live as we please, without relying on loved ones and without needing them.

Photo: Mikhail Perikov,

- If a person gets into a dependent relationship with a narcissist, can he get out of it without loss?

- Much that happens in relations with others, we can track later - retrospectively. In the process of communication, when we are emotionally involved, we cannot observe ourselves from the outside and do not recognize that this is manipulation, and we are interesting for a partner only from the point of view of satisfying his needs. But then comes the realization that something was wrong.

For example, for my part, I did the right things, but I did not get what I expected from the communication, although my contribution was sufficient. This is the reaction that our body gives out to the manipulation that was on the part of a person with a pathological character. Such people know that there is a conscience, but its criteria do not apply to themselves.

Sometimes there are very vivid examples of the relationship of a person with the characteristics of the "dark triad" and his victim. For example, one of my clients asked: “How can I understand when my husband says that we are different stages of evolution? He says you can be used, I know how to do it, and I do it.

He told her about it openly, because she was financially and emotionally dependent on him. And he understood that she could not just jump off and leave this relationship.

Photo: Maria Kozlova, nsknews. info

- She did it?

Yes, she succeeded.

- Victims who live with such people, they don't feel they are being taken advantage of?

“Most likely they don’t realize it, because the narcissist has enough strength and self-control to keep his victim on a short leash. Victims may feel powerless, exhausted and not understand what is happening, live in some very chaotic world organized by their partner.

Manipulators are very good with people. They can read relevant literature, easily absorb people management information, and go head over heels to achieve their desired career or level of financial well-being.

Those knowledge and skills that ordinary psychologists spend years mastering, people with a pathological character acquire easily and simply. Quite often, such a person is interested in the victim, who does a lot of good, to be viable and continue to perform his functions. She is praised and supported from time to time. In general, the smarter and more functional a person is, the more sophisticated he can be.

— It is unthinkably difficult to get out of such an addiction, and it is better not to fall into it. How to protect yourself? After all, they do not walk the streets with a sign on their chests "narcissus in an active search for a new victim." And they are really in constant search.

- The experience of sincere and trusting relationships will help not to fall into such dependence. It doesn't have to be a relationship with your parents. If the parents are “warm” and supportive, then the child from childhood receives the necessary experience of recognizing people who are capable of support. Of course, in addition to parents, the environment is also important for gaining such experience - brothers and sisters, friends, and other relatives.

In order not to fall into the network of a narcissist , it is worth remembering a few rules by which he communicates with his victims. The main thing is that narcissists do not tend to invest a lot and for a long time in a relationship. Therefore, the connection with them arises almost instantly.

If there is a feeling that a person replaces the rest of the world, then this is also a reason to stop and think. It is worth talking about a special emotional closeness with a person at least after two weeks of acquaintance.

If we feel like we're "bang!" and on the same wavelength, it’s worth slowing down the development of relationships and not laying out all the details of your life to a new acquaintance.

Photo: Mikhail Perikov,

- What should alert?

- As a rule, such people choose as a victim those who can give something - money, sex, career help, or even household issues. First, it should be alert when the feeling arises very quickly that no one understands you as well as this person. When relationships develop in an extremely short time.

Secondly, if there are no conflicts at all, and the partners are so united and understand each other well, as if that very mythical soul mate literally met, this is an occasion to stop and think about who is in front of me.

You can provoke a person a little. For example, to offer an unexpected situation in which an ordinary person will not react too joyfully. For example, suggest playing a sport that a person has not done before. An ordinary person may agree, but at the same time express his fears or displeasure. The manipulator will agree and say: come on, I have always dreamed about it, we are one with you.

Thirdly, hypertrophied support at the beginning of a relationship and an emphasis on unity, merging. “We are we together. I understand you very well, I can almost read your thoughts” — this is the erasing of the personal boundaries of the victim.

And finally, it should be alarming that such a person has a “retinue” of many admirers of different sexes who listen to his opinion.

— How to explain why a person who does not need money always owes someone a hundred or two? He is always in someone's debt. For what?

- As a rule, people with a narcissistic disorder make good money, and they need this mechanism in order to more strongly involve the other person in emotional dependence.

Again, when we lend to such a person, we raise our self-esteem. Next to him, we feel our uniqueness and exclusivity - he is so competent and charming, but he chose us, it's cool.

But this is about something else - about the fact that we provide for his needs, improve his life, increase his self-esteem at the expense of our resources, including emotional ones.

Photo: Maria Kozlova,

- Among psychologists, there are those who are of the opinion that the victim is "the fool herself" that she got into a dependent relationship. This raises a logical question - so who is to blame?

- It's nobody's fault. There have always been such people. But when the society was more traditional, then people around knew about people who were inclined to use others and not give anything in return. They said about such people that they were dishonest and tried to stay away from them.

Now we live in cities, and there is less emotional closeness between people. Therefore, it is much easier for such a person to find his retinue and his victims.

— Is there a danger that emotional coldness is contagious, that the victims will never be the same again?

- It is not always so. If the affected person retains a close circle - family, friends, past relationships where it was different, then such a person will be able to differentiate the environment into a safe one, where he will demonstrate his good human qualities, and everything else.

But to return to a close circle with such a traumatized person, other people will have to spend a lot of time and their mental strength.

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