Do you want to know if you are dealing with someone’s narcissism or just plain selfishness? There is a difference between someone who is acting with garden-variety selfishness versus someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Here are ten signs of narcissism you can look for in a problem relationship.
Lack of Empathy
Lack of empathy is one of the main narcissistic traits counselors will look for when making a diagnosis. All of us struggle with being selfish at times. But healthy people will show empathy for others’ pain, fear, frustration, and struggles. Narcissists, by contrast, rarely empathize with others.
Since they work so hard to keep their own difficult feelings from coming to the surface, they despise seeing those same feelings in others. So, they create distance between themselves and others due to a lack of empathy. If you’re dealing with a narcissist, they will not respond to you with warmth or care when you are struggling.
Some people love being in the spotlight. But someone with NPD will not only love the spotlight but think they deserve it to be shown to them. Every minute of every day, narcissists seek attention for themselves and rely heavily on approval and admiration from other people.
Narcissists may be obsessed with their appearance, collecting status symbols, and be highly driven to climb the ladder at work. Their charm often wins them points with others, but the longer you know a narcissist, you more you realize that their charm is only skin deep. People can feel intimidated by a narcissist’s powerful presence. But narcissists may feel okay with this because they desire attention over relationships.
Poor Listening Skills
Narcissists are unable to listen to what others are saying. They are much more likely to use conversations to tell their own stories and share their own opinions, rather than providing support or feedback like a healthy person would do. Narcissists are impatient and self-centered, so they don’t care about the other person’s contribution to the conversation unless it benefits them.
They have a desperate need for constant attention, so they may drain other people trying to engage them in conversation. A hallmark of NPD is the narcissist’s ability to turn any conversation back on himself, even if the topic lies outside his range of experience. Poor listening skills can be off-putting to healthy people, but the narcissist usually does not notice the discomfort due to an extreme self-focus.
Narcissists struggle to make quality connections in their families, friendships, dating relationships, work relationships, and church or community groups. Their need for constant attention trumps others’ legitimate relationship needs, so their relationships are often tense, shallow, or short-lived.
At the beginning of a relationship, a narcissist may hook the other person by showering them with time, gifts, or affection in order to receive the attention and affirmation they seek. But as soon as the victim has no more use for the narcissist, the relationship quickly cools down.
More signs of narcissistic behavior in relationships include bullying, disregarding the needs of others, and taking advantage of others. Healthy people understand the give and take dynamic necessary in all relationships. But since the person with NPD only wants to take from a relationship, their relationships are often of low quality.
The hypersensitivity of a narcissist is different from what a highly sensitive person experiences. Their hypersensitivity is rooted in a refusal to accept criticism of any kind, even constructive criticism intended to help. A person with NPD will overreact to the slightest provocation and become defensive even if they are clearly in the wrong.
It is ironic that narcissists refuse to accept criticism, but are often quick to criticize other people to retain their sense of entitlement. This trait of narcissism can cause serious problems at home, at work, and in other social situations. By contrast, a healthy person will accept constructive criticism, take responsibility for his or her actions, and not overreact to minor provocation.
Obsession with Control
A narcissist will crave total control over their environment. Examples include being obsessive about having their keys, smartphone, and something to drink with them all the time. But that’s just the small stuff – they will also want to make demands on nearly everyone around them, treating them like objects who have no feelings or opinions of their own.
Healthy people can desire levels of control, but narcissists take their desire to obsession-level. Narcissists who are in positions of authority can truly make people miserable with their desire to control.
Narcissists have no problem looking down on others. They elevate their sense of self to the point that they need to look down on people to feel better about themselves. If you know a narcissist, you may have seen them as being bulletproof to any criticism, having a know-it-all attitude, and even being plastic or fake with others.
Narcissists have a desperate need to always wear a secret mask because they don’t want people to see any flaws in them. They work overtime to use their mask as a shield and will never apologize for wrongs. Their self-righteousness often pushes others away.
If you have made a narcissist angry, you haven’t forgotten their explosive reaction. They will throw fits of rage over minor triggers. A person with NPD uses anger as a tool to keep people at a distance so they won’t face criticism.
Those closest to a narcissist, such as a spouse or family member, will see their rage erupt in intimate moments when someone tries to peek behind their mask. Anyone attempting to remove the mask will become the target of the narcissist’s rage. However, a healthy person will not fly into a rage with the normal ins and outs of a relationship.
Lack of Forgiveness
A person with NPD will rarely accept responsibility for his or her actions, so they will shift blame to others. When their target inevitably fails to be perfect, the narcissist will either write the person off, pout, hold grudges, or use the silent treatment to demonstrate their lack of forgiveness.Since narcissists are extreme perfectionists, no one can live up to their demanding expectations, and they develop deep resentment over this. Many narcissists have unhealed childhood wounds, and it feels too messy and difficult to get in touch with those feelings that could require forgiveness. So, they don’t offer it to others because they aren’t willing to do the internal work themselves.
In many cases, a narcissist had parents who both ignored the child yet offered a profusion of praise when they were near. This sets up a dynamic where the child feels loved only when receiving a large amount of affection, attention, and affirmation.
Children who develop into narcissists may hold deep grudges against their parents for not meeting their needs due to physical or emotional neglect. So, they try to fill that void with dramatic cries for attention as adults. Childhood trauma informs almost every narcissist’s actions. But they can heal if they seek care from a qualified counselor.
Christian Counseling for Narcissism
Unfortunately, many narcissists do not seek treatment because they do not believe that they have a problem. Instead, they typically think that everyone else has a problem. However, if a narcissist endures enough pain from negative consequences related to their choices, they may be willing to seek guidance and treatment from a caring Christian counselor.
Though you may not be a narcissist, you may be suffering because you have a narcissist in your life. If that is the case, Christian counseling can be a great help. Your counselor will help you set boundaries and practice conversations, as well as find spiritual encouragement for the difficulties of a relationship with a narcissist. Contact us today if you need help dealing with a narcissistic person.
“Yelling into the Phone”, Courtesy of Alexandra Mirghes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Shouting Match”, Courtesy of Klara Kulikova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Puppet”, Courtesy of Sivani B, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Barbed Wire”, Courtesy of Asher Legg, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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