Narcissist and sick spouse

How a Narcissist Treats a Chronically Ill Spouse

Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC on February 23, 2018

Kathy woke-up startled to hear her phone ring so at 5 am. She was in her second semester of college and was busy with school and work. It was her narcissistic dad calling her, which he hadnt done since she left home, so she was immediately on high alert.

He skipped any niceties and immediately started with what a terrible daughter she was. He explained that her mother was sick and it was all her fault. He gave no details about her moms illness and when Kathy tried to inquire, he abruptly hung up the phone. She tried calling him back but he refused to answer.

Kathy went into panic mode. It was winter time and despite a huge snowstorm, she risked being on the road, called in sick to work, skipped her classes, and headed home. Her mom was surprised to see her knowing nothing of the early morning call from her dad.

It turned out her mom was diagnosed with Crohns Disease. The doctor had given strict instructions for her to rest, change her diet, take some medication, and reduce the stress in her life. Since they caught it in the early stages, the changes were not that significant.

As they pieced the panicked phone call together, they realized what upset her dad. Mom was no longer able to do many of the things around the house and her dad, instead of picking up the slack, wanted Kathy to do the work. Kathy was furious at her dad but also knew that her mom needed some help, so she stayed.

Kathy instinctively knew that she was going to receive many early morning vague phone calls from her dad going forward. So she decided to equip herself with knowledge as to why and how a narcissist treats their chronically ill spouse. Here is what she found.

  • Narcissists arent caretakers. In order for the narcissistic ego to thrive, it requires constant feeding of attention, affirmation, affection, and appreciation. While they are pros at obtaining these from family, friends, and co-workers, there is no reciprocity. Their lack of empathy limits their ability to see that others might need some caring. Expecting this is like asking a snake not to bit you when you are hurt.
  • Narcissists avoid responsibility. While some narcissists are responsible at work, being this way at home is an entirely different proposal. In this case, if Kathys dad accepted any responsibility that would mean he might be held accountable for her moms high level of stress. He might then have to apologize, change, and stop blaming her. This is too much for his ego, so he passed his responsibility to other family members.
  • Narcissists arent servants. At the core of caretaking is the heart of a servant. Since part of the definition of narcissism includes a superiority attitude and internal belief structure, an indentured servant is not part of that make-up. They physically, emotionally, and mentally cannot lower themselves to that place.
  • Narcissists protect their image. To many narcissists, a sick spouse is not the image of the perfect family that they have created. Part of their superiority comes from defining themselves as better than the average person; they are special and unique and can only be around like people. A person who is sick is beneath the average person and therefore is not someone they can associate. This is why many narcissists abandon their spouse at the first sign of any type of long-term illness.
  • Do you see a pattern? Even when their spouse is in need of additional attention and care, the narcissist cannot remove their ego in order to provide support. They might guilt-trip other family members into helping, hire expensive services, pick this time to have an affair, and sometimes prematurely hospitalize or institutionalize their spouse. It is, after all, all about the narcissist.
  • Spouse feels abandoned. Most spouses of narcissists are already accustomed to the unequal balance of caretaking. But one of the reasons spouses stay is that they hold onto the hope that when things get really bad, the narcissist will step-up to the plate. After all, the narcissist likes to rescue other people outside the family so why wont they do it for their spouse? So when this core belief is shattered, the spouse feels a deep level of abandonment, increased insecurity, and intense anxiety about the future.
  • Spouse blames self. Some narcissists pick this time to escalate the verbal assaults on their spouse or go completely silent as a way of expressing their anger over having to deal with a sick spouse. This negative talk or isolation is absorbed by the spouse as being ultimately their fault for getting sick in the first place. The narcissist even reinforces this idea by claiming that the spouses improper management of stress is causing their sickness and none of this is the narcissists fault.
  • Spouse believes the lie. Not too long after accepting full responsibility for the illness, the spouse is hit with another lie. The narcissist will start discounting doctors, minimizing the effects of the illness, and parading others around with similar illnesses in an effort to shame their spouse into believing that the sickness is only a mental manifestation of the spouses weakness. This is like pouring salt onto an open wound. Any rebuttal from the spouse is met with anger.
  • Spouse becomes sicker. All of this additional weight from the narcissist is too much for a sick spouse to bear so they become even worse, not better. Some die all too early because of the increased stress and anxiety. Many studies have shown that a positive outlook and environment can reduce the physical effects of long-term illness allowing some go into remission or even completely recover.

Kathy could no longer watch from the sidelines as her mom deteriorated so she contacted her siblings and they worked out a plan for her mom to leave and stay with each of them. In a matter of months, her moms health greatly improved as she was cared for well by her children.

6 TACTICS! How a Narcissist Treats You When You're Sick

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A common complaint among the difficult personality relationships is how a narcissist treats you when you’re sick.

Let’s be honest, when you’re in a tight relationship with someone, whether it be an intimate partner, parent or child, you kind of assume it’s “in sickness and in health,” right?

Nope, not when it comes to a narcissist.

How a narcissist treats you when you’re sick is through the only lens they’ve got, one of pure selfishness. In short, you can count on the fact that they won’t give a damn. Narcissists are extremely self-centred and ultimately, your sickness is your problem, not theirs.

How they actually treat you can range from ignoring you and bailing, to devaluing your sickness and any symptoms you might be experiencing. In some cases, they may even put on a public show of being the ‘perfect support person,’ just to gain supply from your sickness, without actually being there for you at all.

Let’s explore how a narcissist treats you when you’re sick, covering six common tactics they employ.

Page Contents

How a Narcissist Treats You When You’re Sick

Narcissists won’t give you empathy when you’re sick

It was a hot summer’s day and my partner and I had planned to get stuck into the yard work. At some point throughout the morning though, I started to get some cramping in my lower abdomen. My period was due, but it was very late, which was unusual for me. So, I figured that’s what was causing the cramping.

Then the pain hit me hard and fast. I was lying on the bed with excruciating period pain, which was coming in waves, much like contractions. I’d had this pain in the past on some occasions, but never to this severity.

All I could do was lie there and breath my way through it. I was thinking, “I wish I’d had time to get a hot water bottle first.”

To be honest, I just didn’t feel right. I was wondering if it was possible for me to be having a very early pregnancy loss.

Then my partner came in to see where I was, because he’d already started in the yard. He saw me lying on the bed and I explained what was happening.

He reacted with such a complete lack of empathy and compassion, I was totally gobsmacked. “Fucking hell. You’ll do anything to get out of the yard work. No, you’re right, I’ll do all of the work,” then went back outside and left me lying there feeling ashamed and guilty as hell.

I can still remember being curled up on the bed, sobbing quietly. Between the waves of physical pain, I was feeling all of the emotional pain of a partner who literally could not care less about me. I was completely discarded in a time of need.

He’d made it abundantly clear that I would get nothing from him, so I definitely didn’t ask him to heat me a hot water bottle. Not to mention that I certainly couldn’t talk to him later about my concerns over possibly having a pregnancy.

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is an extremely lonely experience.

To this day I still don’t know if it was a pregnancy loss, or just a very intense period. Either way, I’m so damn grateful to have not brought another child into the world with a narcissistic father.

Narcissists will invalidate you when you’re sick

An extremely common trait of how a narcissist treats you when you’re sick is to completely invalidate you.

Using the example above, not only did the narcissist show zero empathy, he totally invalidated my experience. The invalidation was executed by belittling me and twisting the situation around to throw me in the light of being ‘selfish’ for being in pain and not being outside helping him with the yard work.

Remember, everything must be about the narcissist, not you.

Common narcissistic invalidation terms:

“You’re such a sook.”

“Toughen up.”

“What’s your problem?”

“Get over it already.”

“If you weren’t so overweight/ unfit/ weak you wouldn’t be sick.

“There’s always something wrong with you, isn’t there.”

Narcissists will disappear when you’re sick

To a narcissist, you are merely a source of energy. Whether that comes in the form of validation (praise, laughing at their jokes and going along with their antics) or doing things for them.

If you’re sick, you literally serve no purpose to the narcissist. You’re basically a broken toy that gets thrown to the corner so that they can go find another exciting toy to play with.

Not to mention, how dare you take the focus off them! In other words, how dare you take your energetic supply away from them.

The narcissist will treat you with utter contempt if they do have to stick around and care for you. Honestly, you’re better off if they do disappear, as hurtful as that is.

Whenever I was sick, my partner would literally just disappear and leave me to my devices. He never offered help and he’d never come to check on me.

If the kids asked him for a drink, he’d get it for them, but offers of help with the household chores was never forthcoming. The place would be a mess until I was well enough again to pick up where I’d left off.

Another reason that a narcissist may disappear when you’re ill is because image is everything to them. If you being sick brings down how they look in their world or makes them look weak, they won’t want to have anything to do with you.

Narcissists will still expect you to wait on them, even when you’re sick

Don’t be under any false illusions that just because you’re sick, you get the day off from being at the beck and call of the narcissist.

You must still wait on the narcissist hand and foot, even when you’re sick. After all, being sick is your inconvenience, not theirs. Why should that stop you from being their ever-loyal servant?

I’ve witnessed many times, in a family relationship between a codependent husband and narcissistic wife, where this exact scenario played out time and time again.

The covert narcissist forever had something ‘wrong’ with her, which consistently kept her in the victim role. The husband had completely been programmed to always ‘feel sorry for her’ and pander to her ailments. She had him running around after him like a servant. Heaven forbid he ever (even jokingly) questioned her, she would turn very vicious and just like that, he’d be back in line.

So, you can only imagine that when he was sick, the dynamics were so set it stone that the husband would still be the one running after the wife. The storyline had been painted so that her illness always superseded his, no matter what.

There was a very rare occasion where the husband was bed-bound and extremely unwell. During this time, the covert narcissistic wife was absolutely beside herself. Not because she genuinely cared for her husband’s health, but because she recognised how much she was set to lose if he wasn’t around anymore to be her servant.

Deep inside, she had extremely low self-worth and knew that without her husband, she’d be left with no supply. By that late stage in her life, it’d be much harder to find a replacement.

Narcissists will use your illness to gain supply for themselves

On some occasions, how a narcissist treats you when you’re sick may appear to be caring… at least in the presence of other people. You see, if the narcissist can gain sympathy and energy from others due to your illness, they’ll soak it up like there’s no tomorrow!

The game here is that they need to appear to be the ‘loving support person’ of someone who’s suffering, so that people will either feel sorry for them, or peg them as a hero.

This may come in social media posts, which paint the narcissist as a champion for all that they do for you (even though you know that it’s false).

Example of a social media post where the narcissist can use your illness to their advantage:

“Sarah is back in hospital again.

I’m so exhausted between being there for her, as well as taking care of the kids, plus having to fit in work so that we can afford all of the medications.

But it’s all good, as long as Sarah gets better.”

Notice in the above example how the narc has made his sick partner’s hospital visit all about himself. There’s not even a mention of how the sick person is actually doing.

You can only imagine all of the comments of concern and validation they’ll get from their friends and family – “you’re doing such an amazing job, you’re such a superstar!”

Another way that narcissists use your sickness to their own advantage is by using it to get days off work. They’ll pour out the sob story to their boss and claim that they need to be at home to care for you (or to take care of the kids). You’ll find out soon enough that they really don’t do much at all in the way of caring for you, it was merely an excuse to take a ‘sickie’ for themselves.

Narcissists will use your sickness to reinforce that they are the important ones, not you

The dynamics in a narcissistic relationship dictate that the narcissist is really the only important one, therefore making everyone else much less important, or not important at all.

This is reinforced by gaslightning the other party in the relationship to basically make sure that they know their place and will comply with the narcissist. By squashing their victim’s self-worth, they are much less likely to rise up and call out the narcissist on their bullshit.

As you can imagine, implementing these tactics of devaluing and messing with one’s reality can be much easier when someone is sick, as they are already in a position of vulnerability.

Let’s take a look at the words my partner used at the top of this article, when I was lying on the bed in pain and he was angry and slighted that I wasn’t outside helping him in the backyard.

“You’ll do anything to get out of the yard work, won’t you. No, you’re right, I’ll do all of the work.”

Even in a moment of physical pain for me, my narcissistic ex was incapable of feeling a scrap of empathy. As far as he was concerned, the yard work needed to be done so that he could resume kicking back on the couch, but he didn’t actually want to have to do the work.

So, he used that moment of weakness to show that I was not worthy of his time, sympathy or attention. He was basically reinforcing that he was the most important person in the relationship and that I did not matter.

When the person who’s supposed to love you literally gives zero concern when you’re sick, that is not love.

However, when a narcissist is sick, that’s a completely different scenario. Have a read of the following article to see how a narcissist acts whey they’re the sick one.

Feel free to share your experience on how a narcissist treats you when you’re sick, in the comments below.

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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

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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

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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

Flowers of evil.

How to live with a narcissist - Daria Varlamova - How to live - Site materials - Snob

The Western world trembles before cold-blooded sociopaths, and in the domestic hit parade of antiheroes with mental problems, the narcissist is still confidently leading. Most often, this is a narcissistic mother, because of which the child’s whole life then went downhill, or a lover (much less often a beloved), who lured her to the brilliance of her charisma, and then morally gutted and left with nothing. What is this disorder, how does it arise, and is it as detrimental to others as it is described?

Vanity Fair

The most characteristic features of a narcissist, which lovers of diagnosing by avatar usually stop at, are vanity and narcissism. Other characteristic but less well-known symptoms are lack of empathy, jealousy, exploitative tendencies and desire for power, as well as a sense of being special and requiring special treatment. All these features can manifest themselves in varying degrees - from mild personality specifics to a noticeable pathology - the actual narcissistic personality disorder.

Given that narcissists are often truly successful and well-loved, their expansion in society can cause a sense of injustice in the more meek, humble, and underappreciated people. It may seem that these narcissistic egoists get too much undeservedly. But at the same time, the inner world of a narcissist cannot be called harmonious. It is difficult to feel stable when your sense of self-esteem is always “outsourced” and depends on other people's assessments.

Shame and devaluation

Why is this happening? Neurobiology on this topic has not yet offered a clear explanation (except for individual studies indicating a lack of gray matter in the brain regions responsible for empathy and emotional regulation), and psychoanalysts, who have developed the topic most deeply, believed that this type of personality is formed due to inadequate an acute reaction to a sense of shame: the worst thing is when people around you consider you bad , and the worst thing that can happen to a narcissist is the public removal of covers from his apparent ideality and the discovery of his true insignificance (and everything that is not ideal is perceived by him as insignificant). It is widely believed that raising a child to be a narcissist is easiest by constantly pampering him and inappropriately appreciating his talents, but the observations of many psychologists support the effectiveness of the combination of "stormy praise for meeting high standards" plus "rejection for everything that parents consider bad behavior ( especially if this behavior is, in general, natural for a child, for example, pranks)”. Then the baby quickly learns that he is good when he seems good, and no one needs him when he just happens to be himself, with his weaknesses and shortcomings.

Narcissists, on the one hand, willingly devalue other people's achievements in order to protect themselves from comparison not in their favor, but on the other hand, their own merits are also eternally lacking. Therefore, their apparent complacency is a soap bubble (it is worth bearing in mind rather in order not to be angry at such behavior, and not in order to beat narcissists on the sick: protecting their ideal "I", they are capable of much).

Because of his specific nature, the narcissist is not very capable of truly close relationships: he perceives the partner as a mirror to reflect himself (more precisely, his best sides). Therefore, novels often begin with idealization (“What a delightful trophy that will emphasize my uniqueness!”), And end with disappointment and an attempt to change the partner to suit your growing needs, not really considering the boundaries of his personality. Actually, this is where so many unfortunate love stories come from. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that the narcissist himself is also not easy: it is impossible to relax and show oneself to mere mortals even with a spouse.

Olga Gumanova, psychologist:

“Next to such a person it is easier for other severe neurotics to survive, for others it is difficult, too cold. Narcissists love to form alliances with schizoids - in such a pair, an extroverted and sociable narcissist can be responsible for relations with the outside world, and the schizoid keeps his own world and the general world of the couple, about which he can fantasize a lot, but he feels good in it. He keeps in silence the image of Narcissus the Magnificent.

Children of narcissists experience increased psychological stress and often grow up traumatized. Usually, narcissistic parents give birth to children not out of love for children, but as another proof of their success and viability in life. In addition, as in the case of equal partners, such mothers and fathers have a poor sense of personal boundaries and perceive the baby as an extension of themselves, trying to correct his real and apparent shortcomings by any means.

Olga Gumanova:

“Children from narcissistic families may consciously or unconsciously look for the same narcissistic partners, stick to them, fall into dependence on them, try to overcome their coldness, indifference and contempt, deserve love. Where they are rejected, where they are neglected, they are drawn there.”

Types of narcissists

The two main diagnostic manuals of psychiatry—the European International Catalog of Diseases and the American DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)—do not classify people with narcissistic disorder. Nevertheless, various psychologists and psychiatrists in their practice periodically identify characteristic types:

  • Amorous - a narcissist who asserts himself mainly by seducing others, is prone to dramatic effects and pathological lies.

  • Unscrupulous - combines narcissistic symptoms with features of antisocial disorder. Has vague ideas about morality, likes to dominate and manipulate.

  • Hypersensitive - more thin-skinned and less self-confident, with all the painful narcissistic pride, behaves more timidly and avoids situations where he can be "not on horseback".

  • Inverted - a narcissist, on the contrary, who does not want to receive universal adoration himself, but to be a faithful vassal of a brighter hero.

Olga Gumanova:

“Inverted narcissists are such “stuck fish”, admirers of talents, adherents of gurus. In fact, they have exactly the same structure of trauma with narcissists, they are also organized personally, but for some reason they deny the narcissistic in themselves and prefer to always be close to someone who allows it to themselves, with whom it can be openly reside. Moreover, “inverted” narcissists can easily be inverted in some respects and classical in others. For example, a woman is a modest housewife, a gray mouse with a brilliant, popular, high-ranking husband. And in relations with her child, she already plays the role of a classic narcissist - the child must meet her requirements, reach out, and she gives or does not give a medal.

How to get rid of narcissism

Narcissistic disorder is often demonized, narcissism is easily attributed to abusers and manipulators, and it really is part of the so-called "dark triad" - a typical list of personality traits for people prone to malicious behavior. But this does not mean that any narcissist is a cruel tyrant, and his behavior cannot be corrected. If a person realizes that the specificity of his personality creates difficulties for himself and brings pain to loved ones, he can successfully undergo psychotherapy. Drug treatment in this case is not applicable if there are no other comorbid disorders (for example, anxiety or depression).

Olga Gumanova:

“With experience, I am becoming more and more convinced that the “narcissophobia” popular today has no real basis. Any personality disorders and neurotic types of personality organization are not corrected only if a person denies his pain, depression, tries to pretend that everything is fine with him. Narcissists do have more reason to deny problems because, as a rule, they are doing well with their careers and personal lives. Why do I need a psychologist if I have a prestigious position, a high salary and a crowd of fans?

Now there are 60 percent of narcissists among the clients of psychologists. People come because they are in pain, they have a very disassembled, scattered “I”, they no longer want to endure it and want to change. And they can change if they want.”

How to live next to a narcissist

There is no universal answer to this question - the options will depend both on the degree of the hero's narcissism, and on the type of relationship and your own personality.

Learn more