I read this book because my ex was a narcissistic abuser and I am determined to be able to recognize this type of person again if/when one should enter my life, so that I can either manage that relationship more effectively, or get away from him entirely.
I want to share some excerpts from the book that rang many bells with me regarding my ex’s behavior, in hopes that you may also learn to recognize this behavior in your abuser, your ex or others, and take appropriate action.
From Chapter One, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
“Unhealthy narcissism is occurring when an individual excessively pursues admiration, attention, status, understanding, support, money, power, control, or perfection in some form. It also means that the NPD person is not able to recognize, other than superficially, the feelings and needs of others. The rules of reciprocity are not operating in the relationship. This is not t say that NPD individuals don’t often shower others with attention, gifts, or favors. Indeed, they often do. But the ultimate goal is always for some kind of return. The giving may be to foster a certain image or an overall feeling of indebtedness in you, such as an IOU note to be called in at some other time. You, of course, would rather believe you received the gift because you are cared for and valued.
For NPD individuals, however, they feel endlessly entitled to special consideration and attention. The narcissist somehow never moves past the unique circumstance that requires you to put yourself aside and realize that what’s happening for him is more special, more upsetting, or more wonderful. Eventually, you realize that you and your needs are on indefinite hold.”
To relate this to my ex, he was EXTREMELY concerned about appearances and status, admiration, power and control, and perfection (in ME, according to HIS standards and was thus constantly verbally abusive, mocking, and critical). He was also unable to recognize anyone’s feelings other than his own. For instance, it never registered with him at all after he’d publicly humiliated me on more than one occasion – how that had made me feel. When I confronted him with it, I got comments such as “You’re bringing up stuff that happened hours/days/weeks/months/years ago! I don’t even remember it. IT WASN’T IMPORTANT TO ME!” That last sentence was most interesting to me. Of course it wasn’t important to HIM and of course he didn’t remember it. HE wasn’t the one who was humiliated (yelled at, denigrated) in public, and in front of friends and neighbors multiple times. I was. He couldn’t fathom what the issue was and it had never registered with him – like so many other issues in our relationship which centered around just this kind of control and abuse from him.
Regarding money, gifts and favors, my ex-abuser was very generous, but it wasn’t long before he started complaining that he had done this or that, bought or paid for this or that, or brought me or done or fixed this or that, and that I didn’t “appreciate” it. Because I didn’t reciprocate or say “thank you” or fawn over him enough for all the wonderful things he did for me (that I didn’t ask him to do).
First of all, I often couldn’t AFFORD to reciprocate having house payments and other bills HE didn’t have. He KNEW that and I expressed that to him. But, that didn’t matter. I was to pay half and eventually, more than half (I calculated it for a few months during which he STILL complained) of our joint entertainment expenses.
When I made efforts to show appreciation and say THANK YOU and copiously praise him up for things he’d done for me, his comment was “well, yea you DO it now, but you dole it out like it’s a precious commodity!” – said in the counselor’s office whilst lamenting how unappreciated he was.
The thing is, NO MATTER WHAT I did to reciprocate or show appreciation for all his favors or gifts (that I NEVER asked him for), it was NEVER ENOUGH and it would have NEVER been enough.
Dr. Irene has a good piece on her website about this “controlling caregiver” type. It’s a good read and will help you understand their methods and motives. Bottom line: BEWARE anyone who showers you with gifts or favors that YOU DIDN’T ASK FOR because it’s likely they will eventually DEMAND something in return and whatever you attempt to give them in return will NEVER be enough. This tactic is simply a method of having power and control over another person hidden behind faux generosity.
I’ll add another entry from the book soon, about narcissists in marital/couples counseling – particularly when it’s THEIR IDEA to pursue that counseling. As is usual with narcissistic abusers, there is an ulterior motive to their “generosity” and “willingness to work on the relationship” and it is entirely self-serving.
See you next time. Until then, I wish you much respect and peace!