Friday, March 27, 2015

Could I be a Narcissist?

From what I've seen and experienced first hand myself, the first question Children of Narcissists ask when initially learning about these ideas is undoubtedly: Could I be a narcissist? And likely, the answer is no.  But if you're not convinced, let's first get a little test out of the way.

Alright, I know that meme is a joke, but there's truth in it. Malignant narcissists, by nature, think highly of themselves.  So highly, in fact, they very rarely engage in self-doubt, if ever at all.  So by asking the question: Am I a narcissist? you have already eliminated the number one diagnostic criteria for NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), grandiosity, merely by doubting whether or not you could be one.

Next, let's check if you fit the following criteria for a clinical narcissistic diagnosis.

DSM-IV Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:[Emphasis, mine] 
(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) 
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 
(3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 
(4) requires excessive admiration 
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations 
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends 
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others 
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her 
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Still not convinced? Take this online test and come back when you've finished. I'll wait :)

No rush...take your time.

Alright, got it out of your system? I hope so.  But hey, I get it.  When I first learned about NPD and started researching, I saw myself in everything I read.  Hell, not even just NPD.  By my fifth session with my therapist, I had walked in there after many a late night Google searches and too many Wikipedia entries fully convinced that I was everything from Narcissistic to Borderline to Histrionic.  Every time I came in with one of these sure self-diagnoses, I'd sulk onto my doc's fluffy couch, admit my crazy and brace myself for the inevitable: You're nuts.  Totally gone, over the edge, looney-ville.  There's absolutely nothing anyone can do to help you. In fact I am now crazier just for having listened to you.  I award you no treatment, and may God have mercy on your soul. 

Thankfully, I have an amazing doctor. Each one of these times, she would patiently listen and then pull out her copy of the DSM.  She would ask me questions to see whether or not I fit each criteria, and then reassure me that I am not, in her clinical opinion, suffering from any type of personality disorder. Whew!

I'd find myself skipping out of her office.  It's not me! I'm not crazy! Whoooo! But within days, I'd find myself on yet another Wikipedia psychosis page at 1 A.M., staring at it in bug eyed terror and questioning how I had manipulated my therapist out of seeing the real me.  

Why, oh why, does this happen? 

Here's the thing about growing up with and spending large chunks of time with narcissists. They must be the most important person in everyone's lives.  For their victims, this means little to zero room for yourself.  You are not allowed to think for yourself, and if you do, you are punished. If you dare to put your own needs above theirs, you will inevitably be called some form of "selfish."

"Irony? Party of one! Irony??"

But most of all, if you ever get the balls to stand up to them, you will, undoubtedly, be accused of being crazy or [Insert your Narc's favorite armchair diagnosis here].  This is known as Projection

Also, as a means of simple survival, those with heavy exposure to narcissists have a strong tendency to unconsciously recognize their narc's lack of personal accountability.  Meanwhile our internal senses of "fairness" and "justice" lead us to need to place the blame somewhere. And guess who's the easiest target when you're still entangled in the tentacles of abuse? Nope, not your abuser.  YOU. It's like your subconscious says: Hey, that person's beating up on me. It sure looks like they're having fun, so maybe I should beat up on me too.

Take all of these juicy dysfunctional messages and boil them up in a pot and what do you get? A prize-winning recipe for self-hatred and self-neglect. The kind that makes you think you have to be the one who was the problem, especially if you've been exposed to more than one narc because you rationalize that you're the common denominator. It's the kind that doesn't even know you have an internal voice, let alone how to listen to it. It's the kind that makes you want to be the problem, because then you might have control over it.

Stop.  Right now.  Stop. 


You, merely by still being here, by surviving so much adversity, are an AMAZING person.  No one else is like unique and wonderful you.  Sure you have flaws, so does everyone.  But you're good at something, aren't you? What is it about yourself that makes you smile? C'mon...there's something. You're kind, or you're smart, or a really good cook.  Something.  What is it about you that you actually like? Really think about it for a few seconds. 

That! Right there.  That good thought about yourself you just had.  I want you to take that thought and pluck it out of the air and put it back inside your heart.  Hug it there for just a moment.  Let yourself smile. And say out loud: "It wasn't me." even if you don't believe it right now. 

And now, I want you to watch this video.  It might not be your cup of tea.  And if it isn't, that's ok.  But do me a favor, instead of writing off the idea of self-love as hokey just because I've sent you off to YouTube to watch some goofy bald dude when there are oh so many cute puppy videos to watch instead and are waaay more fun, instead...Google: "How to love myself."  Find a book that will help you gain self-love.  Read eHow articles. Get a therapist. Do what you have to do to get happy about being YOU.

Because it's the only way you're ever going to get your narcissist's voice out of your head and replace it with your own. They had their turn, and look where it got you.  Now, it's your turn.

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