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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Christine

Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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