Entering The Narcissist’s Maze Of Confusion
All pathological narcissists, when they look into the mirror, see a superhero; someone who is intelligent, assertive, mentally healthy, highly attractive, and worthy of admiration. I don’t think they seem to care if they are particularly seen as friendly or likeable. They believe that they are more intelligent, and indeed more competent than everybody else, especially when it comes to their co-narcissist caretaker victims. So naturally, to them, they have earned the right to be in their prestigious seat.
The amazing thing is that narcissists do seem to make a good impression on people at the beginning of the relationship (during the Idealisation Stage), even with those people who pick up on their narcissistic cues. In the beginning of the relationship, the pathological narcissist is excitingly intense and appears to be full of spontaneity. However, due to their negative interpersonal style, it does not take long before healthy individuals come to view them in a negative light. Those who are most in danger of their seduction are people that have already been conditioned by another narcissist sometime in the past, especially as a child.
These damaged individuals tend to tolerate them and accept their behaviour as quite reasonable, and so they will enter the dance (especially those that have learned to do so in the earlier previous relationship). To fully understand narcissism, research needs to take broad multiple perspective approaches to get to know what a narcissist is like, both on the inside and outside. For example, there is a need to study the narcissist’s personal self-perception. How they see themselves, and how they think others see them, especially their poor interpersonal style.
It is useful to know how important it is for all narcissists to shine. If they cannot shine in a person’s company, they are likely to lose interest in them and move on to a new source of supply. Not being seen to be special seems to cause them unease and distress. For that reason, they are particularly drawn to seek out co-narcissist victims, many of whom are empaths. These individuals are willing to accept them as they see themselves, they are not going to compete for the limelight or attention that the narcissist craves, and they will compassionately hold them with a good heart. It is important also to know, that in the early stage of all their new relationships, the narcissist gets all the positive feedback that they are looking for, this ultimately confirms their sense of entitlement and superiority.
Of course, as the relationship progresses, their less attractive characteristics begin to slowly emerge (i.e. envy, exploitation, arrogance, etc.). Generally, narcissists do not expect long-term relationships, they have grown accustomed to people coming into their lives and leaving them. In these short-lived relationships, they are not necessarily looking for approval or concerned about what the other person feels. Therefore, all things considered, they are unable or unwilling to change their negative behaviour. Getting their needs met is their end goal, not genuine reciprocal relationships. They are not interested in making any changes to their conduct. Therefore, all the changes for accommodating the relationship will become the responsibility of the caretaking co-narcissist victim.
As co-narcissist victim, it automatically becomes your responsibility to make monumental changes that aid the relationship along with your narcissist with the least conflict. So much of the caretaker’s time goes into keeping the relationship on an even keel and this tends to keep the focus off what you need from the relationship. Unfortunately, the relationship rests on a foundation of fantasy. You met the beautiful Dr. Jekyll side of your narcissist in the beginning of the relationship, and you long for that side to return so that everything will then be alright.
In the meantime, the co-narcissist keeps the tragic secret of the dysfunctional partnership from not just the world, but also from their own self by repressing the reality of the problem. By doing that, the caretaker is isolating themselves from concerned family and friends. They have caught sight of the elusive Mr. Hyde, and feeling their warnings are falling on deaf ears, they begin to withdraw their support, and with it the likelihood of much-needed reality checks for the victim.
When one takes on a caretaking role in their family as a child, there is every likely hood that you will continue to take on that role in all your adult relationships. It becomes second nature to you, and you are unlikely to be even aware of it, putting everybody’s needs before your own. This can present itself in many ways. For example, growing up with my pathological brother, I was intent to make myself invisible. This spilled over in my not wanting to cause any trouble anywhere, i.e. with any authority figures, especially my parents and teachers. I became a little helper (i.e. cleaning the house, shopping, putting on the dinner, obliging, setting up visits to the elderly, etc.).
As a defence mechanism, this “pleasing behaviour” was a good way to make me feel safe, and to also regulated my fluctuating self-esteem. I was both uncomfortable with conflict, and sensitive to others pain. So, it does not take much stretch of the imagination to see how I was destined to become the harmoniser who brought peace to the family. But this also affected my identity in the narcissistic relationship with my brother. The consequences for my behaviour is that I became over responsible for my tender years, and this took some of my innocence away.
In many ways, I was a 15-year-old going on 25. I was the serious one out of all my friends, the one who everybody came to in order to solve their problems. Even my friends got in on the act. They discovered that they could go places if I were going too, because their parents saw me as responsible, therefore a good influence on their children. In many ways, this stunted my playfulness, looking out for everybody, watching to see if my peers were drinking too much and putting themselves in any danger. I never learned to depend on others to look out for me, and thus, lost myself in a fog of over responsibility. In this way, most co-narcissists become over responsible and automatically take on the responsibility for others without being asked. This becomes their fixed pattern, their learned behaviour because of growing up in a household with a narcissist. In my case, I was being forced to act more mature than my years could carry.
My brother set rules and expectations for me that he failed to achieve or honour himself. Naturally, this made me angry, and most of the time I was not able to express that unfairness for fear of reprisals. Consequently, even today, I cannot stand by and watch injustice in any shape or form being done to anybody. So clearly, I still have unfinished business to attend to.
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Excellent site. Your research and insights are so appreciated. I was in an on again/off again relationship with a classic narcissist nearly a decade until I found the strength to terminate all communication, heal my soul, learn about NPD and its signs/history in my life.
A comment on “… they are not necessarily looking for approval ….” I found it to be the opposite. Almost like flipping “approval” on its head, I was made to feel “we” were co-conspiritors at first. It was “us” against the world. No one else could understand “our” love, friendship, level of fun, intelligence, etc,. I now realize it was just another method of justifying their own behavior by getting approval to be themself via narcissistic supply, which happened to be me at that time.
To all who suffer the heartache of a narcissist: know that you are who you’ve always been – a strong person. Know that you deserve better. CUT OFF ALL COMMUNICATION as soon as possible. You will heal, you will become whole again, you will become wiser and not allow anyone to do this to you again. Be brave. You can do this.
I am so worried for my sister who is married to an abusive controlling man, we’ve seen his rages ourselves in front of us, she’s been married more than 8 years, recently she seems very distressed and almost numb looking, it’s so hard, as we’ve tried to talk to her, and without prying try to help.. So difficult as she doesn’t want to involve us know, I really don’t know what he says to her. He looks so cold at times, I’m frightened for her mental health and her safety.. So want her to talk to someone, but don’t want to push her…
excellent reading and explanation of empath attraction. I did not have a brother or parents who were narcisstic. I however, saw how my mother acted being the one who was shy and silent to avoid arguements. I on the otherhand was always verbal etc. It seems that I was very anxious to help people or be a friend and I was vulnerable to be liked. I also had much sickness which was not the fault of my family. MD and lung cancer. It made me so dedicated and I forgot myself and now in my senior years, although I had a wonderful,beautiful marriage, I find myself full of surgeries and no one to help me. I did not focus on myself. When my dear husband passed away, a professional man that I and my husband knew, started calling me and sending me sympathy cards. he was so sweet and years younger than me but he was a narcissist and a half. I realized there was something funny about him when he talked to me about his backround and sexual encounters but I was still in morning and confused. Needless to say, I wised up by reading about my suspicions and now I am rid of my any hopes of his change. Actually, I cant stand him and I even called him a big narcissist. little did I know that this would be negative supply for him. I hope he stays away from me as I am not a quiet, non-active little empath. I told him to go screw himself!!!!
I couldn’t believe this was so accurate of my (present) situation; it was so disturbing to realise I’d spent 20+ years in a marriage with an Anglican priest who has told me ‘I don’t matter!’ Shown real temper tantrums to small incidents; is unable to see his ‘failures’ (8 years as a curate; and 6 Parishes and Dioceses in 20 years – moving – moving – and blaming me openly to others for his own failures in professional / pastoral relationships. Asking for help from seniors in Dioceses I’ve been told I was to look after him; Implication I was a ‘bad wife’ for being a priest myself and Diocesan Bishop’s blaming me for the rows and disturbances my husband causes in ‘new’ Parishes – 1 refusing to shake my hand very publicly at a clergy dinner in his house – and the concern of Church authorities simply to move the problem on – dead cats over the wall syndrome. I’ve abandoned my own needs, career(s); family and friends; interests in art, theatre, the environment and spend hours every day sitting at our kitchen table trying to help him see his way through or out of a problem and have sacrificed this week my precious week away as I felt I couldn’t get away from him. Now aged 69 – I’m dependent on this helpless baby (he’s 9 years younger) who’s thrown away our money, security, home and my personal finance and my pension, for my daily needs. I’ve developed RA and I’m in constant pain and emotional distress – but I need to break away and feel such an idiot for listening to the views of a judgemental Church (towards women) and not leaving before it got too late? As late as this? Thank you for the article.
Hello Christine ,
All so true and like the former comment, like reading about myself.
How is this pattern programming broken? I think I have stopped auto people pleasing, taking responsibility, aware of need to set boundaries, disengaging as much as possible from Narcissistic neighbour etc but the needs of my elderly, unwell cat now come first, so I know i still have a long way to go. Meeting needs caring for others at expense of self is exhausting. I am very worried about the effect this is having as I just want to sleep all the time and not have to face life.
Would you please write an article on the effects of this pattern and how to overcome chronic fatigue as without energy, well being it does not seem possible to change the pattern. I worry it will lead to break-down, reclusion, catatonic paralysis.
My counsellor is a Buddhist and referring to meditation. I have just sent a very good video link on Narcisstiic abuse and how compassion can become TOXIC that also seems very relevant to this article. Be good to have your view on this please.
Valued thanks for sharing and clear insights as always,
Christine, it was like reading about myself in many ways. I had a narcissistic mother and an uncle who is in the psychopathic area. thank you for writing this.
Christine- I have appreciated your profound insights of Narcissistic behaviors and personality, and your disclosures of personal experiences with your brother. I have a masters in counseling psych. so understand a bit about personality disorders in general, and have 2 stepchildren and my husband’s ex wife with narcissistic personalities. I will use your info. to better understand the adult damaged children.
It is difficult as they negatively impact their spouses, children and father (my husband). It is so hard to watch damage happening, but feel it unwise to “out them” to anyone. Again, your info. helps me cope.