This excerpt is from the writing of Joanna M. Ashmun. Joanna says of this writing:
“This material is offered for comfort and solace to people who’ve had bad (or merely weird) experiences with narcissists. If you’re looking for ammunition to attack someone, please look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a diagnosis, you’ll need to consult a psychiatrist. If you’re looking for help with your term paper, go here. I’ve written entirely from my own experience and personal interest; I’m not a therapist or counselor, have no relevant credentials, and can’t refer you to lawyers.”
(Note: SOME bolding and blockquote/emphasis below is mine. –Admin)
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“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….”
To my knowledge, none of the narcissistic individuals I’ve known personally have had official diagnoses of Narcissistic Personality Disorder; they have not sought help and so haven’t been assessed clinically. On the other hand, members of their families have sought help to cope with them — and I have sought help in understanding every one of them! Thus these pages.
These are field notes — that is, descriptions and observations to assist in identifying narcissists and also, I hope, to give aid and comfort to others who live and work with narcissists. I’m sorry that I cannot also give hope, but, since a prime characteristic of narcissists is believing that they are always right no matter what, narcissists are extremely resistant to change and, unfortunately, tend to get worse as they get older.
I have also never had to cope with a physically aggressive or sadistic narcissist. The narcissists I’ve known have pretty much stuck to neglect and verbal and emotional abuse. But lots of people have not been so lucky, and their narcissist parents or partners have been relentlessly interfering and cruel in efforts to reform and re-form their “beloveds,” including but not limited to plastic surgery or bleaching and perming little babies’ hair to make them more perfectly beautiful blondes. [If you had a narcissist for a parent, you may find some of these books helpful.]
Nearly everyone has some narcissistic traits. It’s possible to be arrogant, selfish, conceited, or out of touch without being a narcissist. The practical test, so far as I know, is that with normal people, no matter how difficult, you can get some improvements, at least temporarily, by saying, essentially, “Please have a heart.” This doesn’t work with narcissists; in fact, it usually makes things worse. [See discussion of the relationship between normal personality traits and personality disorders.]
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of narcissists’ lack of empathy. It colors everything about them. I have observed very closely some narcissists I’ve loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning. These are educated people with high IQs, who’ve had ordinary middle-class backgrounds and schooling, and their thinking is not only illogical but weird: with narcissists, you have to know them pretty well to understand their behavior. For instance, they always fill in their gaps (which make up just about the entirety of their visible life) with bits of behavior, ideas, tastes, opinions, etc., borrowed from someone else whom they regard as an authority. Their authoritative sources, as far as I know, are always people they’ve actually known, not something from a book, for instance, and narcissists’ opinions may actually come from someone you know, too, but who is not to you obviously an authority on the matter at hand, so narcissists can seem totally arbitrary, virtually random in their motivations and reasoning. They are evidently transfixed by a static fantasy image of themselves, like Narcissus gazing at his reflection, and this produces an odd kind of stillness and passivity. Because their inner life is so restricted and essentially dead, it doesn’t contain images of how to live a full life — these things are not important to them, they expect others to look after day-to-day chores, they resent wasting their specialness on common things, they don’t put their heart into their work (though they’ll tell you how many hours they put into it), they borrow their opinions and preferences and tastes from whomever strikes them as authoritative at the moment.
From my personal experience, and from what I’ve seen in the clinical literature, narcissists don’t talk about their inner life — memories, dreams, reflections — much at all. They rarely recount dreams. They seem not to make typical memory associations — i.e., in the way one thing leads to another, “That reminds me of something that happened when I was…of something I read…of something somebody said….” They don’t tell how they learned something about themselves or the world. They don’t share their thoughts or feelings or dreams. They don’t say, “I have an idea and need some help,” or “There’s something I’ve always wanted to do…did you ever want to do that?” They do not discuss how they’ve overcome difficulties they’ve encountered or continuing problems that they’re trying to solve (beyond trying to get someone else to do what they want)….
Adult narcissists can be as demanding of your time and energy as little babies but without the gratification of their growing or learning anything from what they suck from you. Babies love you back, but adult narcissists are like vampires: they will take all you can give while giving nothing back, then curse you for running dry and discard you as a waste of their precious time.
It is also essential that you keep emotional distance from narcissists. They’re pretty good at maintaining a conventional persona in superficial associations with people who mean absolutely nothing to them, and they’ll flatter the hell out of you if you have something they can use or if, for some reason, they perceive you as an authority figure. That is, as long as they think you don’t count or they’re afraid of you, they’ll treat you well enough that you may mistake it for love. But, as soon as you try to get close to them, they’ll say that you are too demanding — and, if you ever say “I love you,” they’ll presume that you belong to them as a possession or an appendage, and treat you very very badly right away. The abrupt change from decent treatment to outright abuse is very shocking and bewildering, and it’s so contrary to normal experience that I was plenty old before I realized that it was actually my expression of affection that triggered the narcissists’ nasty reactions.
And from elsewhere on this same site:
“NPD as described in DSM-IV is defined less by grandiosity than by severely disturbed interpersonal relations. All narcissists have attachment problems, and narcissists make lousy parents, so many of their children also have attachment problems.”